Posts tagged “English Countryside

And now for something completely different..

Sometimes it’s just fun to see where things can go with a photograph.  This is one of my most sucessful images turned into a jigsaw then blown apart using the 3D tools available within Photoshop to reveal the gem of the photograph, within a globe, and with a photograph of the Milky Way I took behind.  I had to photograph my own hand and then isolate it to create the illusion of the hand holding the globe.  Why, well why not?  For those curious, this is the engine house used in the opening titles to Poldark.

Book Covers

I was informed today of another two book covers I can add to my name.  One of the books is  La Tour de Malvent by Gilbert Bordes.  The cover can be seen below.  This cover is taken from a photograph I took of Roche Rock (A print of which hangs in my hall) taken a mile from my then home in Cornwall.  This hermitage and chapel dates back to the 12th century and was used as a location in the Hollywood Film, Omen III – The Final Conflict.  It’s an interesting place to visit and has a lot of history and folklore surrounding it.  Having been there before first light for a dawn shoot, I can testify it’s not somewhere you really want to visit, in the dark, on your own.  The imagination really does start to do overtime. :-)

The other, Ildarnet by S. K. Tremayne is to be published in Denmark and I do not have a copy of that cover yet.  However, it is the same image that was used for my first ever book cover.  The photograph, one of my favourites of all time, I’ve included below.  This picture has been incredibly good to me.  Regular followers of my blog will have seen it quite a few times now.  This was one of the first pictures I took when I picked up a digital camera for the first time, just under four years ago.

The picture happened.  It was a cold, grey, miserable day in December and for those of you who know Cornwall, you’ll know just how miserable that can be.  However, I’d ordered myself a Christmas present from Amazon.  I had my shiny new Nikon D7000 and I was going to get out there and take pictures regardless of the weather..

As it turned out, I was in the right place at the right time.  The conditions, that on the face of it were not particularly promising, proved to be perfect. As I was setting up my tripod on the sand, a shaft of sunlight broke through the heavy cloud, hit the engine house and I had my picture.  I’ve been chasing such conditions ever since. This is why it’s so important to just get out there and take pictures. The more pictures you take the better.  You just never know when you’re going to be in the right place at the right time to capture that special image.

If you’re considering joining an agency to make your pictures available for things like book covers, check the small print.  Make sure that you know what you’re signing up for and what rights you might be signing away.

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Happy New Year + National Geographic Photo of the Day

Tewkesbury Mill by Adrian Theze

My blogging birthday is coming up so I’ll save my round-up of the year until then.  For now I’d just like to wish all those who follow my blog, comment visit and who make my blog what it is, a very happy, prosperous new year.

I’m ending the year on a bit of a high as I made National Geographic Photo of the day on the last day of the year, couldn’t be better than that really.  You can see my photo on the National Geograhpic website here.

It’s a photo that will be familiar to some of you, Iceland has been good to me this year. I posted the picture on my National Geographic ‘Your Shot’ page and thought no more of it.  It generated quite a bit of interest however, was favourited by a couple of NG’s editors and chosen for the National Geographic Daily Dozen.  A few weeks later, I received an email from one of the Editors asking me to write a bit more about the photograph as they’d like to make the photograph ‘Photograph of the Day’ on the last day of the year.  Here it is again..

National Goegraphic Photo of the Day by Adrian Theze70mm f/11 1/15 sec ISO-100


The following photograph was taken a couple of days ago at Tewkesbury Mill.   The flooding in certain parts of the country in the last few weeks has been horrendous and my heart goes out to all those who’ve suffered loss.  It can’t be denied that this temporary ‘water world’, in parts, can be very beautiful though..

Tewkesbury Mill by Adrian Theze24mm f/8 13 seconds ISO-100

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Corfe Castle at Christmas and a Merry Christmas

Corfe Castle at Christmas by Adrian Theze

The picture below is of Corfe Castle in Dorset, all lit up for the Christmas season.  The castle is in ruins not so much because of its age but rather it was on the wrong side during the English Civil War.  While much of Dorset was under Parlimentarian control, the castle, owned by Sir John Bankes, attorney general to Charles I and of course a Royalist, was held by Bankes’ men whilst he was away in London with Charles.   Bankes’ wife, Lady Mary Bankes remained at the castle with her children.

Parliamentarian forces planned to infiltrate the castle’s garrison by joining a hunting party from the garrison on a May Day hunt, however they were unsuccessful. The Parliamentarians gave orders that anyone joining the garrison would have their house burned and that no supplies were to reach the castle. Initially defended by just five people, Lady Bankes was able to get food through and swell the garrison to 80. The Parliamentarian forces numbered between 500 and 600 and began a more thorough siege; it went on for six weeks until Lady Bankes was relieved by Royalist forces. During the siege the defenders suffered two casualties while there were at least 100 deaths among the besieging forces.

The Parliamentarians were in the ascendency so that by 1645 Corfe Castle was one of a few remaining strongholds in southern England that remained under royal control. Consequently it was besieged by a force under the command of a Colonel Bingham. One of the garrison’s officers, Colonel Pitman, colluded with Bingham. Pitman proposed that he should go to Somerset and bring back a hundred men as reinforcements, however the troops he returned with were Parliamentarians in disguise. Once inside, they waited until the besieging force attacked before making a move, so that the defenders were attacked from without and within at the same time. Corfe Castle was captured and Lady Bankes and the garrison were allowed to leave.  In March that year, Parliament voted to slight (demolish) the castle, which involved bombarding the castle with a great deal of ordnance giving no chance that it might be a stronghold in any future conflict.

This is a much photographed landmark in the Dorset countryside as I’m sure you can imagine.  The National Trust now floodlight the castle during the week before Christmas so this seemed a fitting image for this post.  I had to provide my own floodlighting for the mile marker (which looks rather unfortunately like a gravestone) and surrounding foreground.  I used a torch to ‘paint’ the area during the long exposure.  A very useful technique.

The marker has advised travellers for hundreds of years that it is just a half mile to the village of Corfe.  This information would seem a little superfluous as the village and castle can be clearly seen and it really is a big chunk of stone to have to haul up a hill.  I can only assume this area was at one time, densely forested.

The slightly hazy appearance of the floodlighting around the castle’s main tower is due to smoke from traditional braziers used to give light and atmosphere for visitors at this time of year.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the Christmas season.  Whether you celebrate or not, enjoy the holiday! :-)

Please click on the image for a clearer sharper view..

Corfe Castle at Christmas by Adrian Theze18mm f/16 60 seconds ISO-100

I mentioned the Jurassic Coast and the fact that Dorset is famous for fossils in my last post.  The picture below shows some fossils that were found on the beach at Lyme Regis last week.  I’m grateful to a very good friend with a much sharper eye than me for finding them and, being a bit of an expert on fossils and geology in general for explaining what these are.

These are complete ammonites (not just impressions in rock) that would have been happily swimming in the ocean 150 million years ago or more.  I find that quite difficult to get my head around but there it is, fossilised shellfish as well as some vertebrae from a squid-like creature the name of which I’ve forgotten.  One of the ammonites you can see is encrusted with iron pyrite, otherwise known as fools gold.  How nice it would have been if it were the real McCoy.. :-)


Merry Christmas

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Dorset and the Jurassic Coast..

Portland Bill, Dorset, Adrian Theze

I’m really enjoying a break before Christmas in Dorset, only a couple of counties east of Cornwall but so very different.  I’m here with Poppy, her BB with Lottie the white German Shepherd.  It’s great to be exploring a very different coastline.  Dorset is of course famous for it’s Jurassic coast and the numerous fossils that can be found here.

Mary Anning found the first Icthyosaur skeleton at the age of 12 and became quite a celebrity.  Despite having no education, she became quite the expert on fossils.  Fossils were the family business in Lyme Regis, sold as curios to the wealthy middle and upper classes.  Lyme Regis had become a very fashionable holiday location in the late 18th and early 19th Century.   This was, to a large extent a consequence of the French Revolution which had made travel to Europe (the preferred destination for people with a bit of cash prior to this time) a little problematic to say the least.

The fossils found here generated a huge amount of interest not least because at the time, the majority in England still believed in creationism and the discovery of the fossilised skeletons of these strange creatures raised lots of doubts about the age of the Earth (a tad more than 2000 years old clearly) and the origin and nature of life on the planet.

The following pictures were taken despite the very grey and largely wet conditions we’re experiencing here in Dorset but then, it is December.. :-)

The picture below shows the back of the fisherman’s college which forms part of the Cobb, the name for the sea wall at Lyme, made famous by Meryl Streep, standing at the end, waiting for her French lieutenant..

The Cobb, Dorset Adrian ThezeSony A7R 27mm  f/4 1/100 sec. ISO-100

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beach huts at Swannage, Dorset, Adrian ThezeNikon D800 24mm f/11 1/50 sec. ISO-100

Durdle Door, an arch in the Portland limestone rock, possibly formed as long ago as 150 million years with the sea surging through..

Durdle Door, Dorset, Adrian ThezeNikon D800 14mm f/11 1/50 sec. ISO-100

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Portland Bill, Dorset, Adrian ThezeNikon D800 36mm f/11 1/30 sec. ISO-100

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All Mapped Out..

Truro and Falmouth Ordinance Survey Landranger Map photo by Adrian Theze

If you want a map with lots of detail, great if you enjoy hiking, cycling or just enjoy a nice gentle stroll, the map of choice in the UK is Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain and is one of the world’s largest producers of maps. Since the first of April 2015 it has operated as Ordnance Survey Ltd, a government-owned company that is 100% publicly owned.

The agency’s name indicates its original military purpose, mapping Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. There was also a more general and nationwide need for maps in light of the potential threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars, reflected in the inclusion of the War Department’s broad arrow in the agency’s logo up until 2015.

Ordnance Survey mapping is usually classified as either “large-scale” (in other words, more detailed) or “small-scale”. The Survey’s large-scale mapping comprises maps at six inches to the mile or more (1:10,560,  superseded by 1:10,000 in the 1950s) and was available as sheets until the 1980s, when it was digitised. Small-scale mapping comprises maps at less than six inches to the mile, such as the popular one inch to the mile “leisure” maps and their metric successors. These are still available in traditional sheet form.

This year Ordnance Survey decided to update their cover photos and I’m really pleased to say that one of my photographs will now adorn Map 204, Truro and Falmouth, part of the very popular 1:50,000 Landranger series.  The picture was taken of Fowey from across the Fowey River on a footpath known as Hall Walk.  You take the Bodinnick Ferry from Fowey and a little way up the road, the foot path begins on your right.

I’ve done a bit of cut and pasting to show how the map will look (roughly).  The photograph was taken on one of the most glorious June Mornings I can remember.  It was just a perfect day and to have that day immortalised (well nearly) on the cover of a map covering my area of Cornwall, that makes me happy.  This is a walk that I couldn’t manage today so it’s extra special and it’ll be very nice keepsake to have.  The new maps will be available from February next year.  I hope many visitors to the area will enjoy days similar to that one, although it has to be said, over the last few years these days, weather wise have been rare.. :-)

Truro and Falmouth Ordinance Survey Landranger Map photo by Adrian Theze


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A Couple more Castles..

My last post was about Chepstow Castle.  This post is about another couple of castles, one English and one Welsh.  Goodrich Castle is an English castle whilst Rhaglan, like Chepstow, is a Welsh castle.  All three of these castles sit on the border between the two countries and one can begin to get a inkling that there may have been a great deal of conflict between the two nations in the medieval period and later sadly.

Goodrich Castle is a now ruinous Norman medieval castle situated to the north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, England, controlling a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. It was praised by William Wordsworth as the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire” and is considered by historian Adrian Pettifer to be the “most splendid in the county, and one of the best examples of English military architecture”.

Goodrich Castle was probably built by Godric of Mappestone after the Norman invasion of England, initially as an earth and wooden fortification. In the middle of the 12th century the original castle was replaced with a stone keep, and was then expanded significantly during the late 13th century into a concentric structure combining luxurious living quarters with extensive defences. The success of Goodrich’s design influenced many other constructions across England over the following years. It became the seat of the powerful Talbot family before falling out of favour as a residence in late Tudor times.

Held first by Parliamentary and then Royalist forces in the English Civil War of the 1640s, Goodrich was finally successfully besieged by Colonel John Birch in 1646 with the help of the huge “Roaring Meg” mortar, resulting in the subsequent slighting of the castle and its descent into ruin. At the end of the 18th century, however, Goodrich became a noted picturesque ruin and the subject of many paintings and poems; events at the castle provided the inspiration for Wordsworth’s famous 1798 poem “We are Seven”. By the 20th century the site was a well-known tourist location, now owned by English Heritage and open to the public.

Goodrich Castle I35mm f/11 1/250 sec. ISO-100

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Goodrich Castle V35mm f/11 1/125 sec ISO-100

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Raglan Castle is a late medieval castle located just north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south-east Wales and is probably, bar Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland that I visited a while back, my favourite castle of all that I have visited in recent weeks.  Rhaglan Castle, like the village of Rhaglan has two names, one English – Raglan and one Welsh – Rhaglan.  This seem just a tad bizarre to me so as the castle is in Wales, I’ve gone with the Welsh spelling and included the h.  To see all the signage associated with Rhaglan displaying both spellings seems completely bonkers to me but there you are.

I really liked Rhaglan and like all the heritage sites I have visited in England, Scotland and Wales recently, it is immaculately maintained and preserved. Construction of the castle started about 150 years later than most castles of this type.  Very much a Johnny come Lately and as a result, has some very modern features not found in other castles of this type.  Huge bay windows is one example.

The modern castle dates from between the 15th and early 17th centuries, when the successive ruling families of the Herberts and the Somersets created a luxurious, fortified castle, complete with a large hexagonal keep, known as the Great Tower or the Yellow Tower of Gwent. Surrounded by parkland, water gardens and terraces, the castle was considered by contemporaries to be the equal of any other in England or Wales.

During the English Civil War the castle was held on behalf of Charles I and was taken by Parliamentary forces in 1646. In the aftermath, the castle was slighted, or deliberately put beyond military use; after the restoration of Charles II, the Somersets declined to restore the castle. Parts of the castle were then carried off and used to build local houses and this accounts for the castle missing huge chunks of stone.  The castle then became a romantic ruin, and is now a modern tourist attraction protected and superbly maintained by Welsh Heritage.

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Rhaglan Castle35mm  f/8 1/320 sec. ISO-100

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The First Post of Many More I Hope..

My thoughts and deepest sympathy go to the families of those who lost their lives in the latest terrorist atrocity in Paris.  As mature, liberal democracies in the West, we stand, for the most part, for freedom and tolerance.  People may face discrimination but they do not live in fear because of what they believe, what they might say, or who they are.  If we lose sight of this tolerance, the terrorists win.  I don’t know the answers, I just try to focus on the beauty I find all around me and wonder why…

Happy Birthday Cornwall Photographic

I used a title very similar to the title of this blog 3 years ago today when I wrote my first ever blog post.  I did so at the suggestion and encouragement of a good friend and fellow blogger Marina.  As it’s turned out, my hopes expressed in that first post have been realised. I have now written 377 posts and counting.  I never imagined for one moment when I started this blog that anyone would actually look at it, but on one day alone last year I had 1,481 views, over 105,000 views in total now.

I bought myself a DSLR camera for Christmas 2012, the blog came along in the new year as a place I could post the pictures I had started to take. Up until this point, I’d taken nothing but snaps at family gatherings and on annual holidays with a basic point and shoot. I’d been interested in photography in my early teens.  My parents gave me a Zenit SLR.  No auto settings of course and I learned the principles of exposure using a hand-held light meter.  But, my initial interest in photography gave way to bikes and cars and the usual stuff. Determined to find something I could do despite my illness, I’d decided to take up photography again, reigniting that early interest. Both the photography and the blog have been a godsend.

I knew that I was embarking on a journey with my new DSLR hence the blog’s title. I didn’t realise at that time however, what an amazing journey it would be.

I’ve posted a lot of pictures in the last three years. Some I’m very proud of, more than a few not so much to say the least but good, bad or indifferent, they are all an important part of the story and the journey.

This last year has been incredible. From my first tentative steps with a DSLR three years ago, I’ve been shortlisted in a couple of major international photography competitions.  I became a Licentiate and then an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.  I’ve been published in magazines, the latest being the February edition of Classic Boat, my images have been used in national and global advertising campaigns and one of my photographs has just been selected to join 99 others (chosen from more than 3.500 entries) to tour the country in a Royal Photographic Society Exhibition this year.  I’m really not sure any of this would have happened without the support and encouragement of the WordPress blogging community.  Having somewhere I could share what I was trying to do and to get such positive feedback, I have no doubt is what’s kept me moving forward.

I’ve made some very good friends here in the last three years and hope to make many more in the coming years. I would like to thank everyone who has looked at, followed and commented on my blog.  This is, as I’ve said, a wonderful community of supportive, encouraging people. I’m now looking forward to many more posts as the journey continues..

These are a few of my favourite photographs from the past 3 years, some because I like the pictures, others for their associations.  This is the beauty of photography, we capture a moment and we have it to hold for ever..

Click on any of the images for a sharper, clearer view.  This will open a slide show :-)

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Always carry a camera..

I recently bought a Lumix LF1.  It’s a super little camera for £150.  I like the fact that it has a viewfinder so in sunny weather, I can still frame a shot and I like the fact that if fits in my shirt pocket.  I like that it shoots RAW and I can have full manual control which with a little point and shoot, can make all the difference between getting a shot or not.  These little cameras in my experience do tend to blow out skies when the conditions are a little dull as they were this afternoon so I took over.

The main reasons I bought this little camera though is that I can always have it on me and when I see a shot, out and about, it can be just about anywhere, I can press the shutter and if it’s a shot I like, as with this one, I can return with my D800 and tripod when the conditions are just right..

This shot won’t win any prizes, the quality isn’t quite there on full zoom but I’m really quite pleased with this and I’m really looking forward to returning.  A bit more colour in those leaves and perhaps a sunset.. Hmm.. I like that idea.. :-)

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Nuff respect..?

I visited Trebarwith Strand a couple of weeks ago.  It was blowing a gale, the sun was shining and the sea was rough.  Lots of people were watching the spectacle, taking pictures with phones.  Up on the rocks, a couple of youngsters were really not giving the sea ’nuff respect’ to use the colloquial expression.

Standing so close to the edge with a rising tide, these two were lucky to get a warning.  The next wave may well have swept them into the sea..

Please give the sea the respect it deserves, always!  Far too many people drown each year around the coast of Cornwall.


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Just one day left to vote..

There is now just one day left in which to vote for the best ‘People’ photograph in the latest Digital Lightroom photography Competition.  Photographer David Penprase judged the initial round and gave us 12 shorlisted photographs.  It is now down to a public vote as to which photograph wins the competition.  It’d be great if you could take a moment to look at the pictures and vote for the one that you think deserves to win. Appreciate it, thank you..

The pictures below were taken at Perranporth and Porthcothnan, Cornwall :-)

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Cornish Sunrise

Something prompted me awake at five a.m. this morning.. Whatever it was I was glad of it.  Perhaps a photographer’s sixth sense?  When I looked out and saw the colour of the sky I knew I’d have to take a picture or two and share them here.. :-)

Tremodrett-Roche-Sunrise70mm f/9 1/8 sec. ISO-100

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Wind Turbine Sunrise

70mm f/22 0.6 sec, ISO-100

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Bedruthan Steps – The Longest Day..

Rather like buses, you wait forever for a Chillbrook Sunset and then a whole bunch of them come along at once.  Well, I couldn’t ignore that here in the northern hemisphere we had our longest day yesterday.  Always a bittersweet moment but one I thought I’d record this year.  So, yesterday evening I decided to head out to Bedruthan Steps, on the north coast of Cornwall, to record the sun going down on the summer solstice.

A solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator.  During the June solstice it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. This happened at 11.51 AM BST (British Summer Time, one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time).

Sunset was at 9.34 PM, according to Google for my location, so I set off at about 8.30 to see what I would see.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Armed with a 14-24mm lens, a Lee SW150 filter holder and a Lee 150-170mm .6 ND Grad I was all set.  At 14mm, I was able to frame the setting sun and the magnificent Bedruthan Steps, reflecting the dying rays of the sun.

Click on any of the images for a clearer, sharper view. :-)

Summer Solstice - Bedruthan Steps14mm f/8 1/25 sec. ISO-100 – Taken at 9.22 PM

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Bedruthan Steps - Summer Solstice I14mm f/8 1/15 sec. ISO-100 – Taken at 9.35 PM, the sun was setting a few minutes later at sea than inland of course..

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40px spacerAnd the day was done.. In the final image above, you can just pick out the light from Trevose Head Lighthouse on the farthest Headland.

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The Remains of the Day..

A week or so ago, this windmill appeared on my horizon.  I say my horizon, this is the view from my patio.  The wind turbine is about half a mile away so that should give you some idea as to the size of this thing.  I can’t say I mind it particularly.  It’s certainly preferable to the landscape being smothered in solar panels..

This is an HDR image made using Photomatrix.  There are 4 exposures combined here with exposure times ranging from 1.3 seconds to 30 seconds, all at f/8 and ISO-100.  The focal length was 66mm.  I hope you enjoy the sunset as much as I did.. :-)

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This has got to be one of the most photographed of all plants, the seed head of the dandelion and with good reason, get close and you really begin to see what an amazing plant it is.  No wonder it is so successful, in my garden at least.. ;-)

Dandelion24mm f/2.8 1/320 sec. ISO-100

Weed bed24mm f/2.8 1/200 sec. ISO-100

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I’ve taken this picture before and I expect I’ll be taking it again.  It’s always different. This is what I woke up to this morning.  I love these misty late spring/early summer mornings.  When the day starts like this, it’s got to be a good day and it was.  I hope the same for you..

Morning..24mm f/9 1/500 sec. ISO-100

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Leading you..

..up the garden path.

I’ve been visiting with Poppy this last week.  With the Royal Photographic Society distinction exams being held in a suite at the NEC, Birmingham, staying with my friend in Malvern, about 40 minutes drive away from the NEC, was not only hugely convenient but a great chance to catch up and to go out and take pictures together.

Yesterday, we were in the Malvern hills for the sunset but we were a little early so we decided to go looking for a good spot for some other pictures.  I suggested we go down onto the plain on the western side of the hills as the late afternoon sun would be casting a nice soft light.  We drove down and at each junction I just followed my nose suggesting either a left or a right turn.  Some part of me seemed to know where we were going   Seeing a sign for Coddington, I felt that Coddington was where we should go.  What a great name for a village.  Passing a lane that had a sign saying ‘dead end’ and ‘Bush Farm’ we decided to take the right and drive down the lane.

As we were approaching some farm buildings we saw an elderly man carrying a bucket.  At his heel, following faithfully, was a collie sheep dog.  Poppy stopped the car and I wound down the window asking if would be OK to take some pictures of the farm.  ‘I don’t see why not’ the man replied so we drove a little further on and parked the car.  We set up our tripods and started taking pictures.  The man came back down the lane.

‘Let me show you something very special’ he said ‘follow me’.

We followed onto the farm, through an arch and around the back of the rather lovely farm house.  Here we were treated to a lovely view of the Malvern Hills.  Feeling very privileged indeed, we started to taking pictures..

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Back into the farmyard we noticed the faithful sheep dog’s kennel cleverly cut out of the wood pile.  This photo opportunity was a real gift.  As is the way with collies generally, she was a lovely dog and seemed quite happy to pose in her kennel..

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Moral of the story, when you’re out taking pictures, if you need to get onto farmland or take pictures of farm buildings, it’s good to ask permission.  You never know what this might bring in the way of bonuses.  We were very lucky.

As we were leaving the man said

‘It’s a shame you were just a little too late to capture the light.’  I replied with

‘the late afternoon sun especially makes for some very nice photographs’.

‘It takes all sorts’ he said.

Thanking him again we left.  I will make a point of sending a print when I return home.  An opportunity to show him why the afternoon light is so special.. :-)

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This is a photograph I took at Porthnanven (Dinosaur Egg) Beach in the Cot Valley..

Cot Valley
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Hole in the Wall..

I took a trip to a little beach yesterday that is used mainly by local people and at this time of year, local people exercising dogs.  It’s a super little beach and allows superb views of St Austell Bay.  There’s a nice stretch of sand with some rock pools at low tide and safe paddling for the little ones.  However, access to the beach is gained through a small tunnel under the railway and yesterday, this tunnel was flooded.  Using my stick to guage depth, I gingerly started wading but with water threatening to overflow my wellies (rubber boots) with every step, it took a while.  But probably because of the flooding, once the other side, there was nobody in sight, despite the half-term school holidays.

From the beach you get a good view of the sea wall that protects Par docks.  When I was a child, large ships used to dock here to collect the china clay, dug from the local hills, for export around the world.  Par docks is no longer used for the loading of china clay and there are plans for its redevelopment as a luxury marina but there is a lot of local resistance.

I was surprised and shocked to find that as a result of the recent storms, there has been a huge hole punched through the sea defences that protect the docks.  The huge chunks of granite that make up the wall, have been in place for generations and weathered countless storms but this winter has been exceptional.  The granite blocks lay strewn around, clearly tossed aside as of no significance, such is the power of the sea. :-/

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To give some scale to this image, the square block of rock on the right-hand side in the foreground made a comfortable spot to sit awhile..

Of course, being an inquisitive photographer, always on the lookout for the next picture, I naturally had to have a peek through the wall.  With a huge effort, I managed to traverse the boulders on my back-side to get a look at a rarely accessed area.  This side of the sea wall is off-limits and protected by security fencing and razor wire..

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Otto Von Munchow, on his blog In Flow, has today launched the 6th round of his search for the best photoblogs on WordPress.  Check out the latest round and vote here.  It would be so good if the whole blogging community could get behind this poject to ensure we have a unique, representative and valuable resource to access the best examples of photoblogging out there.  If you visit Otto’s blog, you’ll also find links to previous rounds.

Otto has been incredibly generous with his valuable time in going through hundreds of nominated blogs and starting to whittle the list down to a manageable size.  The least we can do I think, is visit the blogs and take a couple of minutes to vote.  You’ll be treated to some incredible photography.. :-)

It’s all down to the Mica!

I’ve posted a couple of pictures lately showing water in the clay pits here in central Cornwall of the most surreal and vivid blue.  Several people have asked the question, what makes the water this beautiful yet rather surreal blue/green/turquoise colour?  I thought it must be down to minerals or chemicals left over from the clay workings.  I was right in one sense, it is a mineral but not the copper I suspected.

I gave Imerys, the company that operates the china clay works, a call and spoke to Chris Varcoe. He told me the water in the bottom of the pits is a mixture of china clay, water and mica.  Mica is what’s left over when the china clay, or kaolin is separated from the decaying granite rock using high pressure water.  We’ve all seen mica, it’s what they use to make glitter and is a key ingredient used in the billion dollar beauty industry.  Unfortunately that mica doesn’t come from the clay pits of central Cornwall, it’s a waste product here.  The mica used in the cosmetics industry is largely mined in India, often by children.

Mica is a highly reflective mineral as we’ve all seen and when you mix it with china clay in suspension, it reflects light giving the water this vivid surreal colour.  Water reflecting light is what makes the ocean blue, mix in some mica and a bit of china clay and the reflectiveness is greatly enhanced.

For those of you with a scientific bent, the mica group of sheet silicate (phyllosilicate) minerals includes several closely related materials having close to perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition. The almost perfect cleavage, which is the most prominent characteristic of mica, is explained by the hexagonal sheet-like arrangement of its atoms giving the mica its reflective properties.

It’s worth noting that this mixture of china clay in suspension and mica is a little like quicksand and extremely dangerous if you find yourself trying to swim in it hence the danger keep out signs and barbed wire fences everywhere.  A timely reminder to an inquisitive photographer who might be tempted to get a little too close. ;-)

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Spring has Sprung..

The grass is riz.. I wonder where the birdies is..

After all the dreadful weather we’ve been having, today was warm and bright and decidedly spring like.  Another fine day for photography so despite lots of chores to do, I drove out to the clay burrows and photographed this disused pit.

I know it’s all wrong (not that the rules of composition are not there to be broken) the horizon is in the middle creating a rather static picture, (at least that’s the argument against a middle horizon) but what  drew me in to this photograph was the way the clouds were just hung there.  It reminded me of those drawings children do with the block of sky across the top, the ground at the bottom and a big white space in the middle.. :-)

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Oh, I better finish the ryhme..

The little bird is on the wing,
but that’s absurd, the wing is on the bird! :-)

Saturday, Dawn, Trebarwith

You may have seen my pictures from Trebarwith Strand in previous posts.  It’s a place I like to return to.  With all the terrible weather we’ve been having I wondered how the little village was coping.  I was unable to park in my usual place and set up on the rocks down on the beach because the waves were crashing over the the little wall and onto the road but because of the rocks I’ve photographed often, the waves were really a spent force by the time they reached the road and with the exception of the public toilets that looked as though they’d been flooded repeatedly, the small businesses that cater to the tourist trade looked like they’d weather the storms without damage. To get a couple of pictures I drove up to the Port William pub that sits on the cliff.  With so little light and wtithout a tripod, I upped the ISO to permit a hand-held shot, hence the rather grainy appearance.  I hope you enjoy the picture nonetheless.

Dawn Trebarwith

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If you read my last post, you’ll know I was quite upset about a young photography student’s experience with a particular teacher at Truro College here in Cornwall.  I wanted to emphasise that Truro College is an excellent place to study and I didn’t want the antics of one particular teacher to detract from the excellent work they do so I took the post down.

Gunwalloe Church – St Winwaloe

Some time ago, I made reference the Poldhu care home where I hoped I would while away my dotage, wheeled out each morning by a caring nurse to enjoy the most marvellous views of the Cornish coastline.  Well, I got a little closer today, not closer in terms of needing to check in, but closer geographically.  Here it is on top of the cliff..

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Having eaten a fine lunch at the Halzephron Inn, I was actually visiting the little church at Gunwalloe, dedicated to a perhaps a lesser known saint, but a popular one according to one source, St Winwaloe.

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Winwaloe was a Breton saint, the son of Fragan, a prince of Dumnonia, and his wife Gwen Teirbron also known as Gwen the Triple-Breasted.. Hmm. He was the first abbot of Landevennec and Gunwalloe was a chapelry of Breage when first recorded in 1332.  A holy well was once sited near the porch.  The church probably began as the manor chapel of Winnianton which lay close by.  It is the only Cornish church actually sited on a beach.

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The church, which probably started as a chancel and nave (part of the 13th century church perhaps surviving at the west end), has two fonts.  One Norman, of Pentewan stone with a round bowl and a stylized tree of life carving, was found in the churchyard.  The other, with a granite octagonal bowl, would appear to be its 15th century replacement.  The tower may be the oldest feature, perhaps dating to pre 1400.  Other detached Cornish towers can be seen at Feock and Gwennap.

I was surprised and rather saddened to see the CCTV camera attached to the detached tower but these are the times we live in.  I was also saddened to see evidence that the recent storms have caused flooding in the church and talking to a lady I met in the churchyard today, I learnt that the cliff behind the church has been severely eroded.  Tons of rock have been dumped to try protect the cliff that is protecting the church.  I hope that the storms will abate and the church will remain, as it has for the last 8 centuries, a place for quiet contemplation and prayer.


For those of you in the UK, the storms of recent weeks are all too familiar.  For those further afield who may not be aware, the UK has been battered almost relentlessly for the last 6 weeks at least, with unusually deep Atlantic depressions creating winds of storm force 9 or more.  Heavy seas and spring tides have meant misery for many as sea defences are breached.  The main rail link between Cornwall and the rest of the country has now been severed as seas washed away the line at Dawlish in Devon.

You may have seen the photos I took in Porthleven back at the start of January.  Little did we know then that the storms would continue, making landfall every 3 or four days.  This coming week shows yet more storms hitting the coastline and with spring tides once more, many are beginning to wonder if the damaged and seriously weakened sea defences will hold.

I took the video below yesterday morning at Portreath on the North Cornish Coast. As huge waves, dwarfing the 30 – 40ft sea wall, crashed relentlessly ashore.  It is estimated that around 100 tons of granite have now been ripped for the wall and perhaps this video will give you some idea as to why.  It is difficult to appreciate just how powerful and damaging these seas are.  A few have sadly underestimated the force of the water crashing onto the beaches and harbour walls and have been swept to their deaths.

As I’m sitting here typing, the wind is howling outside and I can hear crashes as yet another pane of glass in the greenhouse gets blown out.  I don’t think the greenhouse will last the week, nothing compared to the huge losses and difficulties others are facing.  There are always winners and losers though.  As huge, barnacle covered rocks are smashed about in the surf, the seagulls are having a field day as the shells are crushed freeing up the creatures inside.  As for the hotel trade, it’s difficult to find a room anywhere as people flock to Cornwall to see the storms for themselves.

For a brief moment this morning the sun came out creating a rainbow in the sea spray.  It was all rather beautiful, belying the deadly force behind it..

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The tiny figures on the cliff in this picture help lend some scale to these pictures..

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Please forgive the lack of editing in the video, oh and the video is better than the preview picture suggests.  No way to change that it seems.  I discovered video on my D800 for the first time yesterday.  I hadn’t realised the video would be saved using the .mov extension.  .mov video files use a proprietary codec belonging to Apple and I have yet to find any software on my Windows based system that will convert the video in any decent enough quality to edit.  Hence the video is huge and rough around the edges.  My apologies to those of you with slower Internet connections.