27 Aug 2018

Tinkering with cameras again – old and new

More varied than any landscape was the landscape in the sky, with islands of gold and silver, peninsulas of apricot and rose against a background of many shades of turquoise and azure. Cecil Beaton

The sky in the top JPEG version was blown and an unpleasant colour. RAW development improved the sky, lifted dark areas and allowed better differentiation between the colours in the landscape.
The sky in the top JPEG version was blown and an unpleasant colour. RAW development improved the sky, lifted dark areas and allowed better differentiation between the colours in the landscape.

I don’t have much to tell you these days, as my husband has been poorly and his treatment and recovery have been a dominating feature in our lives for the moment.  But as I’ve been restricted to home for a while, I have been tinkering with various cameras and images and we managed to get away to the Lake District in June, so I’ll just post a gallery of recent images below.

I posted last time that I’d got a new Panasonic pocket camera and was tinkering with that, but since then, my lovely little DSLR has died and probably can’t be repaired economically, so I’m on the look out for a second hand one eventually, as it was just ideal for me.  In the meantime however, I’ve added a larger bridge camera to my collection and am looking forward to getting to know it soon – I haven’t had opportunity to get out with it yet and frankly, it has largely rained since I got it a week ago.

I have however been playing with some images that I’d not yet published and trying different pieces of RAW image file development.

This evening shot was exposed for the sky, but it still fell a little flat compared to reality and at the expense of the foreground. Everything was improved with some localised adjustments during RAW development.
This evening shot was exposed for the sky, but it still fell a little flat compared to reality and at the expense of the foreground. Everything was improved with some localised adjustments during RAW development.

I hadn’t been happy with the results I was getting, so decided that I’m going to have to pay for a decent piece of software, so have been trying it before I pay for the full version.

I’ve been delighted with the results and some of the images in the gallery are the result of getting a decent image from a shot that initially looked lost.  I do love that process of taking something that looked hopeless at the time of taking – usually because of an extensive dynamic range in the scene – and getting a nice resulting image from it.

I’ve been especially delighted with the results that I’ve been able to get from my pocket camera  Considering that it has a tiny little sensor, it’s astonishing to me that I can retrieve blown cloud and sky areas, as well as lightening deep shadow areas to show hidden details, from under trees and the like.  It’s a bit of a dark art and both a joy and a frustration in equal measure, but I can’t relinquish that overwhelming need to tinker with images.


I’ve published some of these photos larger than I usually do in my blog, so the pop ups when you click to view the images should be pretty much a screenful in your browser.  Some originals are also perhaps a little larger than this (especially the landscapes), so if you want to enjoy more detail, right clicking the image will probably give you the option to open it in a new window or tab.  If hovering over the image with your mouse produces a (+) icon, clicking it may make it larger still.

The photos below are just a selection of images that I’ve taken or worked on recently (hence the mix of seasons shown).  Whilst slightly disjointed as a collection, they do pretty much represent what I like to photograph.

30 May 2018

Finally some sunshine and colour

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
John Steinbeck

I really haven’t had anything to say recently.  Well, don’t let that lull you into thinking I’ve been silent; far from it.  But I just haven’t had anything interesting to contribute recently.  Certainly nothing anyone would want to read about.

But I’m feeling much more inspired after some days of early summer sunshine (and quite warm some days too), extra hours of daylight giving rise to long evenings and remembering that I love photography again.  The winter with its early wetness and later cold and lack of light wasn’t one for getting out very far and I just stopped carrying my camera routinely, so didn’t have anything to show you – I haven’t taken a photograph for weeks.

I did a double take when I spotted this large red damsonfly in the garden and luckily managed a couple of photos. I've seen a couple of others since, they seem to visit every day,
I did a double take when I spotted this large red damsonfly in the garden and luckily managed a couple of photos. I’ve seen a couple of others since, they seem to visit every day,

But I’ve made up for it recently.  My husband recently bought me a pocket camera – I’d had one that simply proved too large for a pocket and we found one that was much more ‘fit-for-purpose’ and I’ve reawakened my enthusiasm for photography by getting to know it properly.  Unfortunately I’ve not been outside the garden much recently, so my pool of subject matter is somewhat limited.  But it has been a joy to have some flowers to photograph and consequently they’ve attracted some visitors too.

The large red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) shown wasn’t photographed with the new camera, but with my DSLR with my close up set up – the speed of focus and subsequently taking the shot can sometimes only be achieved with a DSLR with skittish subject matter.  It still wasn’t fast enough – or at least I wasn’t – a few days later when I realised I was looking at a large chubby dragonfly at rest on one of the canes in the garden.  I had my camera in my hand at the time and as I raised it to try and get a shot, it spooked and flew straight out of the garden and I’ve not seen it again since.

The lovely weather recently has given me opportunity to get my little garden into decent shape.
The lovely weather recently has given me opportunity to get my little garden into decent shape.

I’d hardly touched the garden all winter and it was in dire need of a good sort out – it was looking positively scruffy and there seemed to be piles of dead leaves everywhere. I’d lost quite a few plants with the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap we had – plants that had previously survived several winters.  But that gave me the opportunity to refresh a few spots that were looking tired and treat myself to new things instead.  Because my entire garden is in pots, they don’t have the protection of much ground around their roots, so I’m surprised that I haven’t lost more over previous winters.

But thankfully the glorious weather we’ve had recently allowed me get a good run at it.  I think we’ve had more nice days already in 2018 than we had all of last summer – we’ve certainly eaten out in the garden more times already than we managed last year.  I really hope it continues, it’s a joy to have a leisurely weekend breakfast al fresco!

Testing the camera at full zoom:

We did escape for one evening out and a picnic – which resulted in wrestling bread and cheese inside the car as the wind was so severe it would have blown supper right down the valley.  We do have a picnic rule; that if the wind is stiff enough to blow crisps off the plate, we eat inside and this certainly qualified.  It was a favourite spot where we’ve spent many hours watching hares over the years, but last year we had hardly any sightings and I was worried that they were no longer resident in the area, so it was a real joy to watch them again.  I saw three individuals in total.  The one I photographed below got up to stretch at one point and did a large twisting leap into the air, something I’ve not seen them do before, other than when ‘boxing’.

I wanted to test the focus at distance with the new camera as it has a 30x zoom which is a 720mm equivalent focal length.  It’s really frustrating to be chasing a squirrel up a tree or something and the camera failing to focus where you want.  The hare shot below was a proper test in truly demanding conditions – late evening light (and through a car window) with wind blowing the grass about and an area of cow parsley in the foreground that periodically blew right in front of the scene and there was fencing and blowing reeds between me and the hare, yet the camera managed to lock and retain focus where I wanted it to and whilst some of the shots were dire for other reasons, in each case, the focus was at least on the hare.  If you want to imagine the scenario, the landscape view to the right of the hare shot in the gallery is the scene – the bright green patch of grass just about in the centre of the frame is where she was and you can perhaps identify the wire fencing and patch of angled reeds.  So you can see that it was a bit of a stretch for a camera that will slip into my shirt pocket.

I’ll pop my recent photographs into a gallery below, they have captions with them, should they be of any interest.  I’ve enjoyed thinking about photographs again and tinkering with settings and getting to know a new camera.  I’m hoping that we have a good summer and I can continue to bore you with flower and insect photos.  I might even get out and about once in a while too.



22 Aug 2016

Roe deer bucks and late-onset allergies

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.  John Lubbock

I was rather mortified to find that it is two months since I last posted (I would have guessed at half of that), but in truth, I just haven’t had much to say or to show you.  Consequently, the photographs I’ll post in the gallery below will span a few weeks and several trips out and are rather a haphazard collection.  I’ll also add a second gallery of recent work, just to prove that I have been getting on with something.

I love the tall elegant spikes of Foxglove flowers.
I love the tall elegant spikes of Foxglove flowers.

My husband was taken rather poorly in July with what we initially thought was a severe tummy bug, but at the point where he erupted in a violent full-body rash (you’d think he’d been paint balling naked, his opponent armed with red paint – and no, I have no idea how that scenario might even arise either), I decided that it was rather more than someone just passing on undesirable germs, so called the doctor.  Through a bit of detective work, we speculated that it was possibly a severe allergic reaction to a portion of ice cream he’d eaten, containing chopped pecan nuts.  Thankfully, the suggested hay fever meds caused the rash to retreat very rapidly and subsequent blood testing confirmed a severe allergic reaction to nuts. Rather odd, when he’d both tolerated and regularly enjoyed nuts for over half a century.

So until he can have proper testing and can learn more (the waiting list is lengthy), we’re now manic label readers.  I already read everything for myself, as a diabetic who eats reduced carbs, but it’s surprising just how many seemingly unlikely products we ate regularly are now on the banned list.  Not only is our own supply cupboard looking very different, but it makes eating out, both commercially and in other people’s houses, a rather risky experience, especially when foods that have the potential to prove dangerous might seemingly have little outwardly to do with nuts (meats can be fried in nut oils, sauces thickened with nut flour, added vegetable protein and vegetable oils in recipes can be derived from peanut etc. etc.).  I can’t even begin to imagine what a minefield it must be to parents of youngsters with similar dangerous allergies.

As he already has several chronic and serious health issues, the severity of his body’s reaction to that very small amount of nuts has had a detrimental impact on his overall health, although thankfully he’s now showing considerable improvement.  Consequently, our weekends have been spent trying to recharge the batteries and return him to previous health levels, so we’ve made a point of getting out at any opportunity to visit favourite quiet places.

We might not go far or do much when we get there, but making a point of going out, even if you only sit and read for an hour and listen to birds and the breeze through the trees, enforces a detachment from real life for a while and removes you from temptation to just get on with chores.  The investment of time, we feel, is very well worth doing in this regard.  I’m certain that our policy of doing this regularly has paid dividends in his recovery and certainly does me good too.

Roe deer bucks – 2 for the price of 1:

Hence we found ourselves on Saturday afternoon, sat in the car to shelter from the very stiff winds and intermittent rain, with our books and flask of coffee, just enjoying the peace and watching a group of bunnies chasing each other through the grass.  There was a moment when one running shape registered as odd until my brain put it together and I realised that this was no bunny, but a roe deer, somewhat further away.  It ran the full width of the field in front of us, stopped and ate for a few minutes and then ran towards us diagonally and disappeared into the trees edging the field.

Grasses catching evening sun, as pretty as any 'conventional' flowers.
Grasses catching evening sun, as pretty as any ‘conventional’ flowers.

I was struggling to get decent photos through the slope of the car windscreen, but was able to get out of the car fairly invisibly as there was a sign nearby that I was able to walk in line with and hide behind to get some better photos.  It was a considerable distance, so the shots are significant crops (see below), but you get the idea.   I’d managed to remain unseen by it until two cars tried to pass in the single track road and one revved in frustration and this got the deer’s attention, at which time it must have seen me as it is looking straight at me in the photograph.

A few moments after it disappeared into the trees, we spotted what we thought was the same deer a few yards from where I’d first photographed it, but it couldn’t have got there in the time, or without us seeing it, so we were a little perplexed.  It followed exactly the same route over the field and disappeared into the trees at the very same spot.  I took some more photos through the open car window and it was only when reviewing these later that I could see that it wasn’t the same deer at all.  The first roe deer buck looks to be about 2 or 3 years old with 2 tines or points on his antlers, where the second buck not only has three tines on his antlers, suggesting he’s probably a year or so older, but he only had one antler, his left one being missing.

It was odd that they’d followed the same route across the field, both into view and again out of it, but as it is their rutting season, I wonder if the older male was following the scent of his younger rival, with a view to demonstrating his greater status – and perhaps that’s why he only has one remaining antler, maybe he’s already put it to good use.


Recent work:

Just to prove that I haven’t been entirely sat on my bottom drinking coffee and gawping, these are some of the new designs added to the shop recently.


20 Jun 2016

Daft bunnies, squirrels and a new shop

You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion, or challenge the ideology of a violet.  Hal Borland

They're elusive little critters and their speed and agility outsmart me more times than not.
They’re elusive little critters and their speed and agility outsmart me more times than not.

As we’re not able to get away for a holiday this June, we decided to take the time off in short bursts instead, having a couple of long weekends where we vowed to try and get proper holiday-style days out – with picnics and everything.

Thankfully, for our first such long weekend, there was gorgeous warm weather.  It had been fabulously sunny over the weekend, but by the Monday and Tuesday, it had gone a bit more cloudy and humid and oppressive instead.  But we managed two proper full days out and without resorting to coats or waterproofs, which is always a bonus.

We went first to a new place for us; Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve in West Lancashire, a Lancashire Wildlife Trust wetland nature reserve and it only cost £2 for parking all day.  It was a lovely place that we’ll certainly visit again.  You walk in a loop around the mere, mostly in woodland and there were bird feeding stations and hides at suitable positions, where you can sit and look at the various wildlife using the mere.  There had been kingfishers in residence a couple of days earlier and we sat waiting for a while at their favourite perch but didn’t see any evidence of them.  Regular visitors who came into the hide said they hadn’t been seen for the last 3 days and must have moved on.  Shame, I would have been enthralled to see them that close, I’ve only had two fleeting glances of a kingfisher before.

As we were already near the Merseyside coast, we headed off to Formby Point where there is a reserve for red squirrels and we haven’t been for a while.  It had been a hot day and the National Trust wardens in attendance said it was too hot for the squirrels, so they hole up in their dreys during the day and come out when it cools.  As it was now around 5pm and there was a nice sea breeze, we were hopeful for a siting.  Thankfully, they did decide it was time to emerge and find some food, so we did see many of them scampering around in the trees.  They make it a little easier to spot them as their claws do make a scratching sound in the trees, so if you stand still and quiet, you can locate them by sound.  They move very fast though and many of the photos I got were of disappearing tails or a blur of movement.

The little chap I did get decent photos of (below in the gallery), albeit it a distance up a tree, seemed quite curious about me and kept coming back for a look, so that made it easier for me as at least he stood still for a few moments.

New shop:

My new smart phone responsive web site and shopping cart.
My new smart phone responsive web site and shopping cart.

The time came when I could put it off no longer.  My on-line shop was using a shopping cart system that was now three whole generations behind the times.  Google tell me when I advertise, that I’m missing business because I don’t have a mobile phone compatible site and well over 40% of my advert-clickers do so on a smart phone (which means that they probably don’t actually ‘click’ anything at all).  Add to that the impending PayPal increased security requirements, I decided it was time to look that elephant in the room right in the eye.  I might even go right over there and give his damn trunk a tweak!

So after much hair pulling and gnashing of teeth, my new, smartphone responsive and now fully secure site has been officially launched.  There’s a great deal to it and it takes a huge amount of work to get it how you want it, hence not much new jewellery to report.  Fine tuning pages for the new design will be a work in progress for a little while yet, but all the major stuff has been addressed – and I believe it’s working well.

If you’d like to try it out, I’d welcome any comments as there’s limited value in my own testing as I know how it works and what to expect and if you would like to make a purchase, there’s a launch coupon for 10% off across the shop (gift certificates are excluded, minimum spend £10), valid until the end of June 2016 – just enter LAUNCH10 in the appropriate box in the basket.


You’ll need to view the gallery to see the daft bunnies.