A couple of close ups

Here are a couple of close ups following on from my ‘looking a bit bare‘ post, which explored the local nature reserve before it bursts into life again in spring.

I deliberately went out in what could have been rainy conditions. The idea being the lure of capturing some water drop images. Just to prove things dont always go as planned:

Not quite what I was expecting

These two leaves were covered in water drops and looked far more interesting than I managed to capture here. Not only did I fail to get the scene I witnessed, for bonus points points I managed to mess up the focus as well. There are no excuses here. I should have taken a few more shots from different angles. Don’t know why I didn’t, it wasn’t like I was pushed for time. So much for working the scene.

Here is a slightly more sucessful image:

water drops on leaf

Better but still room for improvement.

Having caught the water drops on the leaf edge I didn’t notice the pointed leaf on the right. When I want to waste of couple of hours editing I will try to clone out the offending article :).

A little bit down the trail I found this fungi:

I am fascinated by the different types and shapes of fungi but haven’t a clue as to any of thier names. Note to self – research types of fungi.

So in terms of photography no award winners on this trip. But it doesn’t matter. I was out with my camera getting some fresh air and enjoying the great outdoors.

A decent picture is just icing on the cake.

Stay safe.

PS: Here’s the modified version:

Water drops on edge of leaf

The ‘improved’ version

Version 2.1

Looking a bit bare

Looking a bit bare…. is how I would describe the local nature reserve.

Instead of posting about gear – I actually did a gear post and took it down again – I thought I would post about how different the local nature reserve looks before spring comes.

Stream and sparse undergrowth

Looking out from the bridge

You can’t normally see across here due to the vegetation.

Opposite view to above

Once all this has grown back I will take some comparsion views. Later in the year these two areas will become a hive of insect activity and in due course home to damselflies and dragonflies.

right angled tree branch leading to spiral pattern

Is there a photo here?

I’m sure there is a photo here but I haven’t found it yet. I normally try to work the scene but currently a decent shot here evades me.

For a final shot we have Woody doing his thing:

Hers to getting a bit further a field in due course.

Stay safe.

Catching a Sunrise

Catching a sunrise proved a bit harder than I thought. On a nice but cold morning I thought of incorporating some exercise with a photo session. Thinking I got up early enough was my first error. It took longer to defrost the car than I anticipated. With the windscreen clear I set off on the short drive to my chosen destination.

The car park was covered in ice as I pulled in. Any thoughts of getting out again were quickly put to one side while I wrapped up and gathered the camera gear. The car thermometer put the outside temperature at -3 degrees C (note to self figure out how to do degree sign on the laptop).

A short walk later and this was the view:

Contininug along the in places very icy path I came across some grouse.

grouse

These two seemed to be calling each other from either side of the path. Within a few seconds they had disappeared back into the undergrowth.

While most people use sleepers to build a bed or wall in their garden, at some stage it would appear they were also used for fences:

I don’t know how long these have been here, but the weathering would suggest some time. By now the temperature had increased to just above freezing.

Time to call it a day and see if the car will get out of the car park. Spoiler alert, it did.

Stay safe.

PS. found the ° symbol. Eventually.

 

Snow scenes

Some nice snow scenes resulted from the recent weather. Observing lockdown restrictions here in the UK,  I went for a local walk and came across the following:

snowy scene

The snow had turned the fields into a white barren like landscape. With no wind and suitably wrapped up for the conditions it was quite pleasent. I would estimate that there was a good 6 inches of the white stuff around. Maybe deeper in places.

snowy countryside

Rather than take the DSLR, I popped the Nikon V1 in my pocket and just in case had a spare battery. My current cameras are pretty good in respect of battery life. But not knowing how long I would be out in the cold, I took a spare. In fact I always carry spares no matter the weather but very rarely need them. You can bet the one time you don’t have a spare, you’ll turn the camera into a paperweight just as that banger of a photo appears round the next corner.

snowy countryside

Talking of things I normally carry: filters. I have a small ND Grad for my Nikon 1 gear. On this occasion it was still indoors nice and warm.  Given the snow and the time I went out I should have known better. With the filter I could have calmed down the right side of the above photos a bit. Ah well, next time maybe I’ll grab the whole bag of gear rather than just the camera. Being Nikon 1 it’s not like it’s an ardous weight to carry around.

I actually just weighed my N1 bag. Any guesses?  1.4kg all in. Thats a body, four lenses, (two zooms, two primes, equal to 28-300mm), spare battery, gps, mini tripod, spare sd cards and filters. Should of just grabbed the bag eh?

All of the above images were overexposed by two stops. I least I remembered to do that 🙂

Stay safe.

Happy new year

Happy new year. Lets hope it will be better than the last one.

I actually started this a couple of days ago… then left it. I didn’t want it to be another ‘heres my favorite, worst, best, accidentially shot jpeg of 2020’ posts. I also didn’t want to include that over used word starting with U.

We all have our reasons to say goodbye and good ridance to last year.  

It is just a bit unfortunate we are starting a new year with yet another lockdown. Lets hope the vaccines that are slowly being rolled out will provide a welcome end to the chaos of this pandemic.

Due to lockdowns and tier restrictions blog posts and new images maybe a bit more intermittent.

Waskerley Way

Wherever your path may take you have a safe, enjoyable 2021.

What a year

What year 2020 has been. We’ve been locked down. Then released then locked down then…..reduced to tiers. Christmas day we have a ‘relaxaton’ for 24 hours, down from the orginal five days. With every chance of another lockdown in January.

Like many others our Christmas plans were thrown into turmoil. Dissapointing didn’t even cover it. Just to make sure Covid-19 appears to end the year with a mutated more transmissable variant.

Photography wise, even suffering lockdowns there was limited opportunity. Perhaps not travelling as far as we would normally, did we find a new respect for more local areas? You know, the stuff we passed every day without thinking about it. Is it now looked at differently? Not taken so much for granted?

We will take anything for granted in 2021?

 

The TMMA Christmas tree

The Tmma Christmas tree. Yes that is Garfield under the Angel, a TMMA household tradition.

 

Whatever rearranged Christmas plans you might have… heres to a merry Christmas and a better 2021…. Cheers

Blast Beach Seaham

Blast Beach, Seaham

A recent opportunity led to me exploring Blast Beach in Seaham, County Durham.

The beach was once so polluted from local mining operations that it featured as a desolate landscape in the sci-fi film Aliens 3. After a monumental clean up it can now be enjoyed as a ‘proper’ beach again.

Blast beach

Blast Beach 1

The nearby free parking leads across the top of the cliff and down a very steep and sometimes slippery path (the dip in the cliff face, photo above) The access I’ve found so far is only suitable for the able bodied.

A wander along the shore line can reveal some interesting items:

Londonderry brick

Londonderry brick

This well eroded brick still clearly shows its place of origin. You can only speculate as to how this turned up on the North East Coast of England.

Blast Beach layers

Layers

The above photo shows remnants of the deposits on the beach in different coloured layers.

Blast Beach

Arch

There could be some interesting opportunities for long exposure photography but it will require some return trips. And not leaving the tripod in the car.

A short walk (and even shorter drive) will find you in Seaham. There is a harbour and lovely Promenade with numerous places to stop and have a coffee or meal. Even better when we don’t have to worry about the dreaded C word. I’ll do a separate post on Seaham in the new year.

Being on the North East coast at this time of year (actually anytime of year) I would advise appropriate clothing.

There can be a quite bracing wind 🙂

Out of lockdown reduced to tiers

On December 2nd England will come out of lockdown and be reduced to tiers. Essentially most of us will be in tier two, with the (broadly speaking) south east tip, middle and north east areas in tier three. Cornwall, The Isles of Scilly and Isle of Wight will be in Tier One. At least thats how it stands at the moment.

So has our second lockdown worked? Depends on how you look at it. We can go to the gym or the hairdresser but not mix with different households indoors. At the beginning of November half the country was in tier one, meaning we could mix indoors in homes or pubs and restaurants. Provided you kept to the rule of six.

So a bit of a mixed bag of results then. You can go shopping but you can’t see family members that you don’t live with. These new tiers will be reviewed every 14 days apparently. The (almost) good news is any restrictions will be relaxed to allow a  Christmas of sorts.

How does this relate to photography?

Currently you can take unlimited exercise. This could be interpreted as going for a walk…oh and i’ll take the camera just in case.

I dont know about you but I like to zone out when taking photographs. I forget about the everyday things and just focus on capturing an image (see what I did there 🙂 ).   Some might call this meditation photography. Seeing as its what I normally do I am not going to label it.

Cue visual break:

River Wear, County Durham

I managed to grab this during some recent exercise.

Mental health is important

In these trying times our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Spending more time indoors than usual could have an adverse effect. Comfort or boredom eating can be a real issue. I normally stay around a certain weight. This year I’ve put on 4 kilos that I just can’t shake. Fortunately at the moment it is not a problem but I’m keeping an eye on it.

Now if only we could ‘weigh’ our mental health as easily. For a lot of us it will not be easy to spot a detoriation in our mental well being. We might need to rely on those in the same household to point out if were getting moody, grumpy, short tempered  etc.

How do we cope?

Try doing something you may not have done before. Maybe get into reading, knitting, modelling (plastic aircraft kits, railways, ships, type of modelling), experiment with some new recipes, search the web for all that (intelligent) stuff you wanted to google but never had time.  This assumes you have shot macro of everything in your house already 🙂

If things do seem to be getting too much could I encourage you to seek outside help. There are plenty of organisations and charities that can offer advice on well being and possibly more practical help.

But were at the end of it now..aren’t we?

We are coming out of a lockdown into what for most of will be tougher restrictions. So I would say no we are not quite at the end. Personally I reckon round about spring might be a good target.  Talking of seasons as a photographer I have mixed feelings about winter. There can be some nice opportunities photographically speaking BUT I absolutely hate the short days and long dark evenings.

Lets look forward to getting out and about and enjoying some beautiful scenery again.

Stay safe everyone.

A couple of UK mental health resources that maybe useful:

www.mind.org.uk

Www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines

I had to say it…

I had to say it…. In my last post entitled – It seemed to be getting better – I forget to tell Covid-19 that it was the heading of a blog post, not a challenge.

Large parts of the UK have had new restrictions imposed on them. Although inconsistent messages appear to be put across to the masses.

But this is a photography blog so lets get back to that. Unfortunately our latest escape became a non household mixing holiday as well, so our numbers were drastically reduced.

So the wife and I toured a part of Scotland we had only previously driven through.

Out of seven days we only had one day of rain. Not too bad for Scotland. The light wasn’t too bad either.

Loch, Oban, Scotland

Loch, Oban, Scotland

It seemed to be slightly quieter than we would have expected, although most of the places we visited were new to us. Having been to Fort William and Glenfinnan before they appeared to be the usual hot spots. Yes they are a bit of drive from Oban. We like to get around and explore when on holiday. It gives us an idea for future places to visit (think of it as scouting) or avoid depending on what we are after.

While the holiday wasn’t what we planned, we feel fortunate to have managed to get away at all. For our next Scottish holiday we are considering another area we havent visited much – the eastern coast. That will be next year when hopefully we won’t be talking about Covid as much.

Between coming back and doing this post there is talk of new restrictions for the Scottish Central region and something similar in parts of England.

Being in October now, it makes you wonder what sort of Christmas to expect…….

I’ve added a collection of other images of Oban in the 12 Pics series available here.

It Seemed to be getting better

It seemed to be getting better…then as we all start to get out and try to reboot the economy …. it got worse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we relaxed a little bit too much and gave the dreaded COVID-19 a chance to resurge. You only have to look in the local supermarket to see a lack of social distancing.

Now we can only meet in groups of six or less (with certain exceptions). The devolved governments in the UK have slightly different rules so you have to keep track.

Local lockdowns are looming in greater numbers and once again the tourism and hospitality trades are holding their breath.

A lot of people are being affected by the consequences of this pandemic. The normality of a year ago seems a distant memory.

Wherever you might be reading this please think about your actions and can I encourage you to keep a check on family, friends and neighbours, both physically and mentally.

Stay safe.

A Scottish holiday

We regularly go away for a Scottish holiday. If you’ve ever been to Scotland you will know the weather can be …unpredictable. You might need everything from suncream to a raincoat in a single day.

Our recent getaway just as lockdown restrictions were being lifted resulted in a nice break. So grateful to be able to go on holiday we weren’t really too bothered about the weather. After all there isn’t much you can do about it anyway.

While sunshine would have been nice it really seemed to elude us.

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

The above scene was typical for the week. From a photographic point of view the light was flat. Here is another example:

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Apart from a lack of decent light for photo purposes we had a good holiday and enjoyed ourselves.

The slight drawback of going anywhere on holiday in the UK is you never know what the weather will do. In the past we’ve been camping and it’s rained for a week. Equally we’ve had glorious sunshine and everything in between. In a normal holiday  season that is one reason people tend to go abroad. You have a much better chance of it being warm and sunny.

Unfortunately this has been anything but a normal season, as anyone working in tourism and anyone taking a holiday will testify.

To finish on a more upbeat note here is the final picture for this post:

Sheep scottish highlands

Sheep with an itch Scottish Highlands

This little chap had an itch that needed scratching…

Whatever and wherever you may go on holiday this year enjoy yourself.

Lockdown is easing at last

Lockdown is easing at last here in the UK. Although England appears to be slightly in front of Scotland and Wales in certain restrictions.

It can’t be easy for people who have to make the decisions to get life back to normal. Too quick and there could be a second spike. Too slow and the economy will be permanently crippled. Lets be honest would you want to weigh up the factors and decide? Whatever you do someone won’t be happy.

In terms of photographic opportunities before long we are only going to be limited by the great British summer. The weather has become somewhat unsettled with parts of England getting sunshine, hail, rain, thunderstorms and lightning. It’s as if it knows 🙂

[cue visual break]

Lake District, England

Lake District, England

It’s a shame that as we get our freedom back there is an increase in litter and unsociable behavoiur in certain places. Perhaps being ‘locked up’ for three months people have forgotten how to treat our countryside and beaches.

Lake District, England

Lake District, England

Wherever you are and wherever you may go taking photos, let’s enjoy the fact we can go out and visit different places again.

We might even be able to have a holiday and put the abysmal start to 2020 behind us.

Heres looking forward to the rest of the year.

 

Actually managed to get out

Actually managed to get out ….. for the first time in a while.

Due to the easing of Covid related restrictions we drove down to the beach and had some nice sea front exercise.

Despite pictures in the UK press, everybody was sensible and observed social distancing. They also appeared to be enjoying the weather and opportunity.

Fortunately we went out relatively early. It looked like it was going to get really busy.

Just being out really lifted our spirits. We are looking forward to being able to do this more often. It seems like Covid has dominated the first half of this year.

Lets try and make the most of what’s left in what promises to be a different normal.

Is the end in sight?

Is the end in sight? The end to lockdown that is. There are some quite confusing reports in the media regarding this, but there is also the implication that we (in the UK) could look at a potential relaxing of the rules.

I’m sure everyone would welcome less restrictions. What form that will take is anyone’s  guess at the moment.

[Cue visual break]

It will be nice to get out and about again. One thing we miss is popping out for a drive and hopefully taking some pictures as well. That comes a close second to seeing the kids. While grateful of the ability to FaceTime is not quite the same.

The new normal in whatever form it may take should allow for some photography. I will be a bit rusty though. There’s only so many macro shots you can take in the garden before you lose the will to press the shutter.

While we wait in anxious anticipation let’s be sensible when we get the chance to go out. The risks won’t have totally disappeared just lessened somewhat.

We are looking forward to enjoying a holiday in a few months. It was booked last year when Coronavirus wasn’t a word you heard. Little did any of us realise the far reaching effects it would have on so many people.

If you have a getaway your looking forward to I hope you still manage to enjoy it.

Whenever it may happen and whatever form it takes for now here’s to lifting the lockdown.

Stay safe.

GAS and Covid 19

GAS and Covid 19 make a dodgy combination. We are a few weeks into lockdown here in the UK with, at the time of writing, at least another three weeks before even thinking about lifting restrictions is on the table. (I’ve provided some images for visual breaks).

Thanks to the NHS and all the key workers

Now before I go any further here is  A BIG SHOUT OUT to the NHS workers and all the other front line staff and key workers for all their efforts. We finally get to realise that we need dustmen, drivers and shop workers. The efforts of Doctors, nurses and other emergency services, care and council workers do not go unnoticed. They were there all along. We just didn’t think about it, didn’t need to maybe? Well we do now. Thank you to fellow care workers, our brilliant NHS and everyone else keeping us going through this pandemic.

Back to GAS

Now back to GAS (Gear Aquisition Syndrome, in case you were wondering) during  lockdown. With the benefit of technology we can continue to shop on the internet to satisfy our cravings for consumerism. It is a lot easier to think about buying gear you don’t need when you have found that elusive pack of nine toilet rolls. You can go easy now. In more ways than one.

So for those of us privileged enough not to have to worry about having supplies in the house it suddenly gets mundane. We get bored after binge watching our favourite TV series. What do photographers do next? We think about all the indoor challenges we can photograph. At the same time those niggling thoughts of whether we have the right gear start to creep in.

Do we need that new lens? Is 24mp really enough to capture the abstract of the dining room mirror? Is that tripod we hardly use really any good? Do we need a new carbon fibre one? The list goes on. It might be a coping mechanism though. Whatever you use Im not knocking it. We all need a way through this. Some might buy stuff, some might have a drink or two, some might write an article on a blog. Some might do all of the aforementioned. 😉

Ullswater

Ullswater, Lake District, England

Bizzare or what?

Is it bizzare that we actually look to increase our collection of gear when we know its not going to go outside for any meaningful use for at least three weeks? Yeah… I think it is to a certain extent. Although you could say there is a nice sense of anticipation.

In some respects we can, via online shopping, keep a little bit of our decimated economy going. I like to keep an eye on certain online stores and on the face of it they still seem to be doing not too bad. Unfortunately the bricks and mortar stores that were in trouble before the Covid lockdown hit are either struggling or really struggling. Some names have gone under Kath Kidson and Laura Ashley amongst them.

We have friends in the leisure and tourism sector. We hope they can weather out this storm. All the areas that rely on tourism are going to hope for an end to lockdown sooner rather than later. To all our friends in the care sector we trust you will also cope and come out stronger.

Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria

Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria

Hows it going to look post lockdown?

It is difficult to see how things will go back to how they were. Everbody in all walks of life are/will be affected to varying degrees. Tourism, retail and manufacturing are going to be feeling the consequences for a long time to come. They wont be the only ones. Hospitality and eating out could change in ways we can only imagine at the moment.

What about all that gear we bought when we couldn’t get out? We will keep it, sell it part exchange it? Guess we will find out.

Hopefully we will at least start on the post lockdown journey soon. We can escape the confines of our houses and take some photographs. Maybe just get some food from a take away, (pie and chips anyone?) enjoy it on a beach and contribute to local economies and local tourism.

When we do, lets not take it for granted, lets be grateful for what we have. Take in the beauty of these British Isles and realise that it is all a bit more fragile than we thought.

Stay safe.