29 Jul 2017

Summer wildlife and curly hearts

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?  
David Attenborough

We managed to get a lovely two week break in the English lake District in June and I’ve been spending the time since in catching up the backlog of orders and trying to get some of my pieces remade to replenish shop stock.

Consequently, I haven’t yet had time to work through my photographs from that fortnight, although I’m looking forward to doing so.  If truth be told, I haven’t worked on the last batch from September yet either, so may well publish a gallery featuring images from both, when I do get to it.  For the first few days we were away, we were in the middle of the really hot spell mid-June and our decisions of where to go and what to do were determined by finding shade and a bit of a breeze.

The local heron's favourite roost after breakfast to do some preening and let his meal settle.
The local heron’s favourite roost after breakfast to do some preening and let his meal settle.

One of the perils of staying in a static caravan, which is something we truly love for a variety of reasons, is that being a tin can with modest insulation, they much reflect the outside temperature and it can change much more rapidly than it does in a brick or stone house.  And whilst in the hot sun most of the day, it ends up like being inside a roasting tin, so we did spend as much time out and about as practical over those few very hot days.  But once the garden was in the shade of the caravan itself in an evening, the nearby river and trees made it absolutely delightful.

The first photographs I have worked on are some wildlife images, although it’s also true to say that they’re not stunning quality either.  We had several lovely evening visits by wildlife – from an unusual group of 5 red deer hinds, who only appeared at dusk on two evenings when it was absolutely torrential rain, a green woodpecker who roosted in a nearby dead tree – which is an absolute magnet for birds of all types and is the focus of much of our bird watching.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker youngster waited to be fed. He was actually perfectly capable of feeding himself, which he happily did when no one was watching.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker youngster waited to be fed. He was actually perfectly capable of feeding himself, which he happily did when no one was watching.

We were also visited regularly by a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  Mum was very timid, but when Dad was on duty, he was more tolerant of my taking photos and junior didn’t seem to even notice us.

The red deer, shown in the gallery below was taken on a digicam which doesn’t have the image quality of my DSLR, but does have more than twice the focal length – which was necessary on this occasion.  It was actually significantly darker to the eye than it looks in the photo, which was taken just before 10pm on a truly miserable day and the shutter speed was only 1/8 second, through a window, although I did use a tripod and the self-timer to minimise camera movement.

The green woodpecker also came well after 9pm as that was obviously her bed time.  She would land on the dead tree, considerately calling loudly as she arrived, to alert us and then she’d spend at least 15 minutes very still on the trunk, just leaning back and looking around.  Once she was happy with the situation, she’d rapidly scurry around the trunk and pop into her bed chamber.  Some nights she wasn’t happy and she’d fly off, occasionally to return later, some nights preferring another roost.

One evening she took to her bed and I was washing up at a window immediately in-line with the tree and she started making a real din, screeching and calling from within her roost and on looking up I saw a tawny owl land on a side branch of the tree, looking directly at me.  The green woodpecker obviously knew he was there and vocalised her objection, at which the owl took off and she left her roost and we never saw her again after that – she must have decided that it was no longer the des res she had thought.

The only way I could capture any of her activity, due to the late hour and distance from me, was to use my superzoom digicam on video mode, which for some reason gave much better results than still shots, so the photos below of her are still frames from videos I shot.  If I can fathom out the best way to post some video here (the files are HD and rather large) I’ll add those too, as her rapid disappearance into her hole is well worth seeing.

Lake District Gallery:

I’ll add to this gallery as I work on suitable images – so for now, this is just a start with a few wildlife photographs.  More to follow.

Recent Work Gallery:

I’ve needed to replenish stock of some of my curly heart pieces and whilst on a roll with them, I’ve added a couple of new variants too, with a shiny bronze pair of earrings, a garnet wrapped pendant and a smaller version of my beaded pendant.  Truth be told, that was an error as I intended making my usual size of pendant and looked at the wrong line of sizes in my design book, so it may well be a one of a kind pendant.

26 Mar 2012

Maybe that was summer?

Here in the UK we’ve just had an unseasonably early warm spell – wall to wall sunshine with lovely warm temperatures and the summery feel was further enhanced by the start of British Summer Time when the clocks are put forward, giving us longer evenings in which to enjoy it all.

It does tend to lull you into thinking that summer has actually arrived, but the ice on the car this morning soon put that idea to bed. But it did present an ideal opportunity to make a start on my post-winter tidy of the garden and start preparing it for summer and we took the opportunity yesterday to take a proper day off and escape to the Lake District for a day in one of our most favourite places.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

I love this particular spot, the lighting is always lovely as the path meanders through the trees, but it’s hard to do it justice; sometime you just have to be there.

We usually spend a long week over the Easter period up there and always very much look forward to it through the winter months, but this year we’re having to fore-go it for a variety of reasons; but largely because my husband has to undergo surgery shortly and they’ve scheduled him for next week, just before the Easter bank holiday weekend.

The sun was rather hazy initially as the early morning mist burnt off the sky, but through the trees that did give everything a lovely glow.

In order to minimise the time off work at a busy time of year and to protect his regular salary, we’ve decided that taking some of his recovery period from his holiday allowance is a better use of the time on this particular, unusual, occasion.

So, mindful of not being mobile for some time and not getting such an opportunity again for a few weeks and the really glowing weather forecast, we set our alarms early on Sunday morning, packed a picnic and headed to one of our favourite spots along Thirlmere near Keswick. The roads were decently busy on the way up and we expected a lot of other people to have had the same idea and thought it might possibly be busy, but we pretty much had that particular place to ourselves. In fact, we didn’t pass another soul on our favourite lake-shore walk – we usually pass at least a couple of local dog-walkers, who love that spot as much as we do.

As the afternoon drew on, the light had a fabulous golden golden glow.

So, it couldn’t really have been much better for us. If I’m really picky, the sunshine was hazier than it had been the day before when we worked in the garden and the modest spring cold I have was seemingly further irritated by tree pollen, but on balance, it was a pretty fabulous day. We did all of our favourite things – walked amongst trees, listening to the birds, took a few photos, ate a good lunch sat outside in sunshine, snoozed a little, read a little, walked some more, ate some more and headed home to a great nights sleep after all that fresh air. For me, life doesn’t get much better.

The day had started with a decent breeze, but by early evening, it had either dropped or changed direction and Thirlmere was beautifully calm and the reflections were quite fabulous.

Further work with Copper Clay this week:

I’m really enjoying my continuing tinkering with copper clay this week – it has been a steep learning curve and it is evident that my tried and tested routines and methods with copper sheet and wire will need some revision when using the clay for components, but it does add a lot of new facets to what I can achieve and opens up a whole host of ideas to try – like my mind doesn’t already overflow with more ideas than I have time to make reality.

Copper clay flat ‘button’ beads given an uneven shape and a light imprint of a flower design, double wrapped on a balled headpin.
7 Jul 2011

We managed to eat lunch al fresco every day

I apologise for my posting tardiness of late, but between work commitments and a recent holiday, I haven’t been able to find the time to do it justice – or if I’m honest, I’ve not really had anything much of interest to say.

So, for now, I’ll just post some photographs from our recent ‘summer’ stay in the Lake District. Incredibly and unusually, after our lovely spell there over the Easter period, we also had largely gorgeous weather this time too. There were odd periods of rain or occasional showers, but they never happened when we were actually outside and it didn’t divert us from our plans.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
Sea Thrift growing along the shoreline at Arnside in Cumbria, one of my favourite spots to feel the breeze through my hair – and on this particular evening, there was a lot of breeze to feel. Combined with dampness it made a right old mess of my hair.

We can always get a snapshot of the success level of a holiday with regard to weather by how we eat our lunch – we are almost always out for the day, with a recent habit of doing our walking when we arrive at our chosen location, taking a snack to eat with us at a suitable spot part way along our route, returning to the car for lunch, which is often quite a bit later than lunchtime by then.

The goldfinches just loved the seeds from the thistles growing in the orchard beside the caravan.
I’ve seen Mum doing this, how hard can it be?

Sometimes we eat where we’ve parked, often we move to a favoured spot where we know a good sheltered or quiet place to park or where there are picnic tables. If there are no picnic tables, we have a system of setting up a ‘table’ in the hatchback of the car and eating lunch there standing up. It probably sounds a little odd, but it works really well and we’ve practiced and perfected a technique that really suits us. We also have an [unfortunately] practiced technique for eating inside the car where conditions outside are unsuitable.

The skies were largely blue with fluffy white clouds, which made a delightful change.
Perhaps if we took ready-made butties for lunch, life would be so much easier, but where’s the fun in that? We tend to take fresh bread and an assortment of cheeses, meat and pate and just have a little of whatever we fancy.

It has always been a bit of a challenge having to organise fresh bread or needing to shop every few days when you don’t have much of a freezer, but the last couple of trips we’ve used part-baked rolls that have a long use by date and can be baked fresh each morning whilst we have breakfast. We supplemented this by making our own bread too (an easy soda bread where we measured and took batches of the dry ingredients ready prepared and bagged and just combined with a carton of buttermilk), made life significantly easier and we don’t know why we haven’t thought of it before – it has worked like a charm and freed up that shopping time to be out in the fresh air. And saved us a considerable amount of pennies too – appreciated as this was very much a holiday on a tight budget.

So, judging by that criteria, the fact that we didn’t have to retreat to the inside the car for lunch any day we were away, makes it a pretty good holiday – weather-wise at least. It certainly adds to the pleasure when you’re blessed with sunshine in which to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

I love the tilt screen on the camera that allows me to take low shots like this without getting muddy knees and eliminating the need for lots of trial and error using the self-timer.

I was extremely delighted to snag my first proper dragonfly photograph – taken with the maximum zoom as it was about 6 feet away down a steep marshy bank and I had no option to get any closer – largely as my husband refused to hold my ankles.

Further to earlier comments about my most recent camera, which turned out to be faulty, was returned and repaired, came back seemingly fixed, but wasn’t, was returned and I paid the upgrade fee to get the newer, now currently on sale, model. Thankfully, it performed flawlessly and I realise that my original camera was never right and the problems I had with it from the start were not the user error I blamed myself for, but it was genuinely faulty. So I’m much, much happier with it now and can concentrate on composition and creativity rather than trying to get the camera to focus properly etc.

We went past the pig farm that has an outdoor pen several times whilst up there and this little chap was by far the tiniest piglet in there and he saw me from right across the enclosure and set off to investigate, but was waylaid en route by another piglet wanting to play, so I never got to tickle him.
“OK, own up, who farted?”

On the lane up to the farm we stay at there was a little group of bunnies playing one evening at the field perimeter and we weren’t sure whether they were hares or rabbits – as we have seen hares in that spot previously. I was taking a few shots in far too low light levels, just to give me the chance to identify them properly, when this chap popped his head up out of the long grass – and disappeared again before I got chance to snag him. So I spotted where he’d been and pre-focused, hoping for a reappearance, which he made again briefly. Not the best image by any measure, but it amused the heck out of me.

And as often happens, we were delayed several times with holiday traffic jams:

And you can probably make up your own caption for this particular shot:

“Well, just come back over the same way you climbed over in the first place!”

Full gallery:

The rest of my holiday collection are in one of my on-line photo galleries.

Panoramic photograph of Tarn Hows:

One of the photographic areas that has always fascinated me is in creating panoramas and wide angle shots in general – you’ll notice that many scenics and landscape shots I take are at very wide angles.

I haven’t created a new panorama for a while – although I’m sure I’ve got lots of saved frames waiting for my attention – but I took a series of 5 overlapping frames to test out the new camera’s suitability for this process. Although the starting frames weren’t very good (some were a bit underexposed and dark for starters, due to the huge contrast across the scene), I’ve managed to do some work with them and make something good enough to reassure me that it will work well for me in future. Creating panos requires meticulous preparation when taking the frames to ensure that the individual photographs all have the same exposure and are focused in the same plane and positioned and overlapped so that they will line up carefully to give rise to an accurate and tidy stitch of the individual photographs when brought together.

This is Tarn Hows in the Lake District, from one of the less popular paths. 5 individual photographs stitched together.

If you click through from the image above it will give you a medium sized copy to view, but if you’d like to see it larger, this link leads to a larger version.

7 May 2011

The best holiday weather since 1996

That says it all doesn’t it – that I can actually remember the last holiday we had with really great weather – and not that recently either.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
On the Good Friday bank holiday we hit heavy traffic and were held up for some time – Herdwick ewes being moved into pastures closer to the farm ready to have their lambs. Mr Boo christened this photo “Where’s Woolly?”

This was taken over a week later, but only a few yards away so may well be one of the Herdwick ewes above being brought down to lamb. Each ewe only has a single black lamb.

We’ve just spent the extended Easter, Royal Wedding and May Bank Holiday period in the English Lake District and with the exception of one evening with a short-lived downpour – late enough that we’d already drawn the curtains and washed up from dinner, so it really didn’t trouble us – and one day that was grey and drizzly, we had wall to wall sunshine for the entire 12 days.

I’ve always had a bit of a fixation about sunlight through trees, it’s just one of my very favourite things.

Where we stay in a permanent static caravan on a working farm, the bedroom window is on the north east face of the structure and if I wake up with the sun on my face, we know it’s a good start. Unfortunately, that’s a somewhat rarer experience that I’d personally like. Every morning, bar one, the sun kissed my cheeks as the alarm went off. Fabulous.

Ramsen / wild garlic; the hedgerows and woodland were thick with it – the flowers just opening – it gives off a gorgeous sweet garlic smell if you brush the leaves as you pass.

But then you have to get up and to it quite promptly as long, static, metal caravans in full sunshine soon turn into baking tins and whilst the day might start with temperatures close to frost-inducing, the air warms alarmingly rapidly as the sun rises and heats the metal sides.

Our neighbour during our stay – taken through the kitchen window – this spot, nestled against one of the damson trees in the orchard, was a morning favourite as the sun warmed up. Soon after I took this, his brother sidled over and snuggled up next to him.

But it is fabulous to eat breakfast with the patio doors wide open and looking out onto the scenery with the spring breeze playing around you.

One of the very most important things to me is walking through woodland and it was just about perfect last week.

A rare moment of stillness in an otherwise very breezy period.

Walking through woodland along a lake shore and coming across small private (albeit rocky) beaches periodically to perch, catch your breath and admire the view, is about a perfect way to spend a spring day.

The weather was just about perfect for us, lots of sunshine, but cool air and on some days, a distinctly brisk and chilly breeze. Just ideal for getting out and walking, although our lunchtime picnics were a little more lively than ideal on some days. When your crisps blow off your plate and you have to hold bread down, you know it’s time to retreat indoors to eat. Al fresco dining; I love it.

I wish I could have captured the fragrance for you too. There are few things more perfect to enjoy than dappled sunlight on deciduous ancient woodland with masses of wild bluebells.

The trees pretty much fully opened from bud within the time we were there and there’s this short period each spring when the trees are this most magnificent luminous bright spring green – the foliage in the sunlight last week was breathtakingly gorgeous – beech trees especially are the most vibrant fresh colour. Foliage is pristine and un-ravaged by weather, disease or insects and at its most perfect – combined with the lovely clear air and sunshine, the Lakes were about as beautiful as I’ve ever seen them – and I’ve spent a lot of my life there in just about every possible set of conditions.

When we arrived, most of the ferns and brackens were unfurling and within a week, were all totally open

I wish I could share with you the fabulous fresh air, scent of the bluebells and the invigorating freshness of woodland in sunshine, but I’ll just have to leave you with the photos and your imagination will have to fill in the rest. There’s a more complete set of photographs in my image sharing gallery.

I love to sit on this seat around a tree and view the fabulous rock garden with its gorgeous maple trees at Sizergh Castle. I never tire of looking at it.

I love this scene in the castle gardens – the water lillies are just growing.

These flowers are less than an inch in diameter, yet fabulously complex geometric structures.

I was so excited when I came upon this pen of pigs – there must have been 50 assorted pigs of different breeds, colours and sizes, all sunbathing in a pile together – that I almost forgot to take photos – I was too busy trying to stop myself from squealing and jumping up and down in excitement.

Did I mention that I totally love walking through woodland and seeing the sunlight filtering through. I suspect I did.