22 May 2012

Ladybirds and pine shoots

Further to my previous post about the emergence of spring flowers and the bright optimistic green of new foliage, I’m going to make a quick interim post with a couple more photos on that theme – and my next post will be the work in progress blog that I’m working on. I apologise for getting side-lined, but if I don’t post photos I’ve taken here, they just languish un-loved as files on my hard drive.

We’d had such a lovely day last Saturday on our day out that we decided to avail ourselves of another favourable weather forecast for Sunday and do it all again. Just because we could.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view, or if your browser supports it, click to open in a new tab to see them at the size I prepared them.

The bright green new shoots of the pine trees had developed tangibly in the intervening eight days and were starting to stretch out as new branches. It also must be the time of year that ladybirds emerge and we saw more in that one walk than I’ve seen in a long time. This particular young tree was especially abundant and I was able to get quite close to take some photographs. I loved the abstract of them against the vibrant green textures.

We also saw more of the delicate Pink Purslane flowers I posted last week too – they do seem to like to nestle against fallen rotting logs and where they must get occasional patches of sunshine too. The day was largely ‘fine’ but we did get odd flashes of warm sunshine through the trees and it’s always such a delight to me to see the patterns that form as it fingers its way between the trees to the forest floor. One of my very favourite things.

It doesn’t take much to make me happy and re-charge my flagging spirits.

14 May 2012

Spring green – such an optimistic colour

Firstly, apologies, I did promise that my next blog would be on the stages that a piece of copper clay goes through, but I need to retrospectively take some photos on another piece, for stages I overlooked when making the piece to be featured – a decision I only initially made once I’d started and progressed with the piece.

But we did get out on Saturday for a nice walk and some very welcome fresh air and I wanted to post the photographs I took, if only so that I can find them again.  That is, if the new ‘streamlined’ Blogger interface will allow me.  If it’s as slow and tedious as the last post I made proved to be, I may well not include many images after all!

Please click on any photographs to see a larger view.  If your browser has the option, clicking to open in a new tab or window will allow you to see it at the full size I prepared it at.

My husband had commitments in the morning, but when he returned, the weather was looking pretty decent, so we hurriedly decided not to waste any more of the day and made and ate some lunch, got ready and packed some refreshments for later in the day and headed out to one of our favourite spots, at Beacon Fell in Lancashire.

The young pine trees were all exploding with vibrant new foliage.  Trees in the better light were further progressed, but those in deeper shadow still bore their little papery sheaths over the new growth of needles.  The green of the emerging needles was almost unnaturally bright and in stark contrast to the darker older growth.  As I understand it, they only grow in this manner as young trees, developing needles differently as they age?

It’s a Lancashire County Council run forest park with a visitor centre, toilets, cafe that also serves ice creams (we had one and made like we were on holiday), lots of car parking salted throughout the woodland (and even using the main car park only costs £1 GB Pound per day) and an infinite variety of walking, with miles of well made paths snaking and criss-crossing through the trees and adjacent moorland – meaning that you can walk as much or little as you wish – with many paths with disabled access, there’s something suitable for everyone.  It’s our default ‘day out’ location as it’s about 20 miles from home, has everything we need, is open all year and I suspect that we often head there, because the drive to it is a pleasure in itself.  Perhaps our favourite time is in winter; on crisp clear days, especially mid-week, when we often have the place much to ourselves.  Sunny summer Sundays, not so much.

This little group of beech trees were just opening into leaf and catching a ray of sunshine – very momentarily – through the dense trees.  The colour was pure optimism; the brightest freshest perfect green of a new generation, in sharp relief to the brown of their past-foliage underneath, which will go on to decay and nourish the tree for the future.

We’ve visited so often over very many years (Mr Boo was in a Scout party that helped lay some of the paths, over 40 years ago) that we must now have seen it in every possible weather and time of year.  But each time we visit, there’s something different of interest and each season has its own particular pleasures.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am especially fond of the wild species that grow at this time of year  – and especially those in deciduous woodland – the small delicate flowers that blossom on the woodland floor before more robust vegetation will steal their light.  We rounded a corner to find this lone little patch of delicate pink flowers, amongst the fallen, moss-engulfed logs, which I think are Pink Purslane, looking a little like a Stitchwort, but pink.

This weekends particular pleasure was that gorgeous emergence of spring flowers and early foliage, when everything is at its most pristine, with the promise of summer to come, but before leaves have been ravaged by weather and insects – when everything is at the most perfect and the colours most intense and vibrant.

In looking through my wild flower books to identify the plant above, I was struck by the gorgeous names of old fashioned English wild flowers, such evocative and descriptive names as Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Nipplewort, Frogbit and Butcher’s Broom.

Most of the ground in clearings and path edges amongst the coniferous areas had a new bright green carpet of Bilberry bushes with their gorgeous, almost hidden, tiny bell-shaped flowers in a delicate translucent red – what my wild flower book called “nodding globular flowers”. I really couldn’t do them justice and was struggling to even focus properly on them as they truly were nodding in the very brisk breeze, whole branches moving several inches back and forth, so this is the best I managed.  They’re so pretty, it’s well worth bending down and turning back a few leaves to have a look at them – they look like berries at a casual glance.

After our walk, as it was drawing close to the time that they lock the gates on the smaller in-tree car parks, we relocated to one of the quieter road-side spots with a good view, to have a bite to eat and a warm drink and we parked next to a field with a handful of sheep, each with a single lamb.  They must have thought that we were ‘the man’ that brings their supper as they all came galloping over, baa-ing loudly for their supper and were a little put-out that we obviously weren’t who they’d hoped to see.

My work this week:

I worked on two significant – and rather different – projects this week – one was to create some more copper clay components for designs I have in mind.  It’s the sort of work where I have to work in sessions amongst other work, as it takes time to dry enough to handle for filing and shaping, then it needs a little longer to dry thoroughly until it can be fired – then that process ends a little drawn out as I do them in small batches as I’m torch firing – then pickle and polish etc. etc.  This is a batch of finished components between filing and firing; I can’t resist polishing them a little to reveal the metal appearance as it gives me a better idea of how they might look as finished.

I had a couple of orders for rings this week, so once I had my eye in and was set up for ring making, I made a few more to replenish my craft fair stock – going back to earlier designs that I haven’t made for a while.  I don’t know how I feel about making rings – I enjoy the process in itself, but worry about the whole sizing issue – perhaps because my fingers change size a dozen times a day and I rarely wear fashion rings for that reason.  So I worry about someone getting a ring I’ve made and not being able to wear it, even though I know it was sent the size they ordered – what if they measured wrong themselves, or their fingers swell as much as mine do?  Earrings a little longer or shorter than expected wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but a ring has to be spot on.

Of the designs I’ve made over the last few days, I think I might now offer a few of the more repeatable designs on-line and see how they are received.  I’m happy to sell them at craft fairs as people can simply try them on and choose one they like, but on-line has always felt more problematic and a little uncomfortable.  The wire wrapped rings are the ones I’ve sold in person in the past as they can be made with any bead with a hole and inexpensively enough for impulse treats.

I love the colour of these Czech pressed melon beads against the copper and have enough to offer these as made to order rings, along with the more delicate rosebud knot ‘stacker’ variant of my hammered band ring, as shown below.  I’ll see how I feel about them in a few days time.

21 Aug 2011

But it’s only the middle of August

Anyone has read any of my blog previously will have figured out that I like to be outdoors and preferably amongst trees. If I had my own way, I’d live like a hermit in a log cabin in woodland, spending my time as a camera and jewellery making bum without having to worry about paying the bills.

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

I’ll grant you, you were pretty well hidden there amongst the long grasses, but I did spot you!

I’d be quite happy to live the simple life, I don’t need clothes shops or restaurants and night clubs, I’d be pretty happy to have fresh air, peace and quiet and would even be prepared to grow and manage much of my own food. People talk of the ‘Champagne lifestyle’ if you won the lottery. What I’d buy would be solitude. I’d buy the biggest tract of land I could afford and plonk a nice house in the middle of it. I think I’d quite like to be reasonably comfortable – I’d need a hot shower and broadband connection, but I wouldn’t need gold taps or marble floors.

Come on, play fair, we haven’t even had a summer yet!

Even the leaves that are outwardly green, are starting to turn and the green is becoming more golden.

Both of us work pretty darned hard and often very long hours and it becomes very important to us to get outside – either at the weekend or in an evening. So whenever weather is suitable – and often when it’s not – and we have the briefest of opportunities, we abandon chores and head outside. Thankfully, we don’t really have to go far, we have several nice places to walk within a ten minute drive, so come the weekend, we grab walking boots and waterproofs, camera and walking pole and head out.

A significant amount of the bracken is already turning – not just the odd dead leaf, but great patches of it.

We did one of our usual weekend routes at lunchtime today and I was astonished at how many trees were already turning to their autumnal display – many trees were both dropping leaves and turning colour – is it me, or does this seem to happen earlier every year?

I’m sure in the past, you wouldn’t see any golden leaves until well into September. It’s simply not fair, we haven’t even had a summer yet! Summer never seems to have even got going this year and here we are, already tramping over scrunchy dried leaves and feeling a bite of chill in the air.

I certainly like autumn well enough – but what I don’t like is how it sneaks up on you whilst you’re still contemplating summer and don’t feel ready for it to appear yet. We didn’t get a summer propper, so maybe we’ll get an Indian Summer?

22 May 2011

A hidden gem we’ve walked past many times

I’ve just realised that this is my 100th blog post here – I had intended to mark the occasion with something more in keeping with the milestone, but it’s nearly midnight on a Sunday evening and to be blunt, my imagination and flair has totally deserted me, so apologies that it’s not something more worthy.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

Whilst we were away over the Easter period the Fuji bridge camera I had been given for a recent big birthday to use as a walk-around camera when I didn’t want to be weighed down with the bug guns, had developed assorted faults and is currently back with the manufacturer to be looked at, under warranty. There is clearly something amiss with the sensor and a whole collection of small, somewhat intermittent, but increasingly frequent, niggly problems – like it won’t switch off or on, won’t change mode etc. At first I put them down to quirks of the model, but when you lose shots because of them, or get home and find that several frames you took that day were totally out of focus, something really has to be done with it.

The fabulous gardens as Sizergh Castle in the Lake District – I have already published a photograph of this scene from a JPEG file – but having opened up the RAW file and seeing how much better the tonality of it is, as well as how much further detail I have been able to bring out, it has made me question my workflow all over again.

I had been happy with my Easter photos until I opened the ones taken with my DSLR. But considering this camera and lens combination cost about 7 times the amount of my new camera, it jolly well should show it up.

None of the very many photographs I took of this scene with different cameras really did it justice, with the low early evening sun filtering through the spring foliage and warming up the fragrance from the bluebells.

So whilst I’m without it, it has given me the opportunity to work on some photographs I’d taken recently that I hadn’t done anything with yet and to give further thought to some of my concerns over the image files I get from it – and my perpetual quandary since getting it on how best to use it – I’ve never quite been able to get colours right in landscapes (which I think my Easter collection helped me to make decisions) and can’t settle on just working with out of camera JPEG image files, or to do the extra work of using RAW files which give better results, but are more work – and the software provided for doing so is rather clunky to use, somewhat discouraging that approach and the frustration it invariably brings.

Bluebells nestled amongst bright spring green emerging foliage – one of my favourite things.

I was pretty happy with the photographs I took over Easter (largely as JPEGs) until I worked on both some images I took with the much larger and heavier DSLR (which at the time of buying, the cost – with the ultra wide angle lens I like to use – cost about 7 times this other newer camera, so it jolly well should show it up) and also some of the frames I took with the bridge camera in a RAW format and developed into images myself using software – a slightly tedious process, but certainly yielding better results.

So whilst I’ve been tinkering and trying different post-processing settings, which has been a really worthwhile process for me, I found a series of photographs I took before we went away at Easter and had temporarily forgotten about. We moved to this area about 29 years ago when we got married – we commuted to the area for work for 3 months initially, whilst we looked for a house and planned a wedding, moving here properly when we returned from honeymoon.

The area surrounding the reservoir was once farmland with assorted cottages and farms and it’s always fascinating to see the gateposts and walls remaining from such previous occupiers. I wonder how many modern gateposts would withstand the passage of time in this manner

On the moors above us is a reservoir which has a 2Km walk around it and we do this lap very often, having walked it many, many times in those 29 years. And regular readers will know how much I love walking in woodland and how important being amongst trees is for me.

Off to one side is a steep narrow path disappearing into the trees and we only recently set off up that path to see where it took us. I’m actually now pretty cross that we’ve walked past it dozens of times without ever realising that it adds an extra loop into the walk through a most unexpectedly gorgeous wooded area.

It just goes to show that even little gems like that can be right under your nose without you knowing, or appreciating it. I can’t see us missing out that loop many times in future – although I think it might be tricky walking if it’s especially wet or icy – which it often is when we do that walk.

The leaves were just emerging when we were up there in April, but I hope to be back there very soon when I expect that the green will have exploded from what you see in these photographs. I’m really looking forward to it – and to my camera coming home too – I’m sorely missing it.

Turquoise dyed magnesite beads with double coiled antiqued copper. I wanted something with smaller beads to match the large chalk turquoise beads I use in necklaces, for those that prefer a more discreetly-sized earring.

Work-wise this last week I’ve been a good girl and caught up a little on photographing my backlog of finished pieces. I can seemingly make much faster than I can photograph (that’s no doubt more to do with my motivation, making is so much more fun) and list pieces and I find the perpetual backlog really tiresome. But I set myself some deadlines last week and actually met them. I’m hoping to reward myself with some quality bench time to tackle some new ideas this week.