Ice Cream at the World Peace Cafe

The other day, a friend and myself headed out – passports in hand – into the depths of South Yorkshire. We were heading for Kilnwick Percy Hall, home of the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre. It’s not far from the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and has roughly 50 acres of gardens, woodlands, lake and parkland to explore.

It was incredibly hot. Too hot really for a comfortable walk, but the cafe is accessible, and serves great food and ice cream.

Lynn and I walked round the walled garden, then on to St Helen’s church – and from there along the lakeside under the dappled shade of trees.

It was good to spend time looking, with no pressure to produce anything.

St Helen’s Church, Kilnwick Percy


Sometimes I find that being out with another photographer, or group, can make me feel like I have to come back with ‘something’ – the need to ‘get that shot’ – this trip was nothing like that. I made very few pictures, and spent a lot of time in the quiet of the surroundings just ‘looking’. I felt no real need to socialise either (even though we spent the entire day together), and so, the few images I did make I think are better than the usual.

National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson is famously quoted as saying “If you want to make more interesting pictures, stand in front of more interesting stuff”.. I think I spent time looking for what I thought was ‘interesting stuff’. It makes a difference.

My advice to photographers generally now is this: create for yourself, and not for others (when you can), and many books I have read state the same. The second piece of advice is: Slow down. We rush too much, we rush to upload all the images we took on a day. Take time to sleep on it, think about what you have achieved and if it means you format the card, and save nothing – well, there’s no shame in that.

I’m reading a book by photographer Guy Tal, and here’s a quote from his book that particularly resonated with me…

The greatest conquest is the conquest of fear
The greatest courage is the courage to start over

So maybe format that card, and start over…..

With thanks to Lynn Haith for driving, putting up with my avid ice cream eating, and getting us both home safe……

It’s Wednesday….

It’s Wednesday again already and it’s hot and humid and close. Yesterday we had a huge downpour and I had to run about in bare feet trying to get the washing in. Of course I’d done all the bedding, so it was all big stuff, but the raindrops were bigger.

A neighbour has a digger in his garden today, and just watching it somehow makes me feel even hotter, it’s really been one of those mornings…..

Everything sounded awful, everyone is niggly, the news makes it sound like the world is coming to an end and none of the staff in the local supermarket are wearing masks, even though all the shoppers are.

It’s only shopping, I remind myself, it’s all going to be OK….

Later, I’m at the computer, with a breeze finally coming in through the window and I’m looking at pictures I took with the drone over the last weekend.

We had a friend over to stay, and it was weird having someone who is not a household member in the house – but it did allow us (if we need to be allowed) to have impromptu drinks in the afternoon – sat around a table in the garden for hours and hours chatting about everything, and nothing…

The ridiculously early start on Sunday morning (getting up at 3am) was invigorating. Cool air, gorgeous coloured skies, sand underfoot, and a gentle sea. An amazing number of people about in fact. Kids who hadn’t been home all night – still dressed in skimpy clothing for evening, (asking why I had a helicopter with me!), and other folk who had been for an early morning swim, jog, walk, saunter, bike ride or workout.


Two ladies with a little girl sat on the steps looking out to sea, told me that they had driven for over an hour to get there to watch the sun come up. The youngster having a great time paddling and digging in the soft sand. She didn’t care what time it was (there was a breakfast treat to look forward to). A teenager too, sitting in the car refusing to move. Hair tugging, absorbed in her phone, missing the dawn of a new day.

There they all are in the photo below, right at the bottom, near the middle….. you’ll have to look closely….


Which reminds me of things that I love.

Friends who come to visit, sunrise, early mornings, colours in the sky, drone flying, watching the tide go out, small dogs in coloured jackets, out of the blue text messages, people saying ‘thank you’, and overhearing bits of conversation, like these two walking past me on my way back to the car…. “if it wasn’t for the books” he said, “she’d never be working in that library”… and there the matter rested as they strolled away……

Shooting in the Round

Results from the Camversation Talk

After the talk with Sally and Glenys the other week, it’s been wonderful to see so many images that have been created by the people who came to the talk (and some from people who didn’t get there live, but have watched the recording.)

I’m now inordinately glad that I said yes to having my bit recorded.  No-one pushed me to say yes, but I’m so pleased that I did. 

The shots taken ‘in the round’ give of course, anything from a 180 degree to 360 degree of combined images which takes pictures to a whole new level.

These are things that have been photographed a million times before, but sometimes not in the way you expected.  Multi shot images create a whole new way of ‘seeing’ things, and the results are usually completely unexpected.

The thing is, that by changing the ‘where’ and the ‘how’, a whole new look and meaning can make themselves visible to you – it can be a revelation.

Dave Balcombe sent me the image below of the Market Cross in Wymondham, he said that he only used 13 individual shots, and didn’t follow any strict rules.   The only critique that I offered (at his request) was to reduce the number of text references to a ‘certain’ bank, that repeated throughout the final picture.  Other than that, the image was lovely.  

He tells me that this is his first attempt at this style of photography and was inspired by my talk though he has seen this style before and admired my RPS A panel, he tells me he will try again, now he has the idea.

With his kind permission – I show it here:- he says that this is not too far from where he lives and so will be able to return easily and shoot it again.

Market Cross, Wymondham by Dave Balcombe – used with his permission

What do we see?  Windows that have their own worlds inside, the patterns of the stonework in the foreground, the balance of the trees either side of the cross.  The whole image is transformed into almost a kaleidoscope of shapes, rather than a single cohesive one – and yet it works.  You can see exactly what the image is about – it’s a totally different take on a subject that I would think has been taken a million times before. 

Dave was open to seeing this, he didn’t look past it, he stayed sensitive to what was literally right in front of him.  

Thing is, he tried something different – and it worked……. remember that as you go about your daily photo life……

So next time you go out and shoot something that everyone else has photographed, make it your own. Find a new point of view, or choose a different time of day, or combine images, or all three. The more you look, the more shots you take, the luckier you will get – but whatever else you do…….

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

‘Freedom Day’, Maybe….

Today is the same as yesterday and the day before – we’ve not quite unlocked fully, but apparently we will do next week.  Maybe I’ll be able to bin the hazmat suit finally, (it was too big for me anyway) and open another bottle of wine, but keep the mask… which actually makes it a bit harder to drink – never mind.

I wonder what my daughter will tell her kids about the last year or so.  Maybe she’ll make it sound like it was fun…..   It’s been a bit like being stuck in an ever repeating sitcom….. without the laughs, or maybe there were a few laughs….….. moving on……. 

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a lot of time overeating during the pandemic, maybe a bit of over… well over everything really.

I have also apparently lost the concept of time. Can’t remember when I last wore a watch. It’s like we’ve been trapped in an online life, and infinite loop of despair, with no memory of a time before – and suddenly it looks like it’s going to end, and it’s actually a bit scary !

So, after all these months of booking speakers for the camera club, we find we are slowly struggling though the sludge to the end.  I’ve got another three I think before the end of July, and then we’re having a whole month off…. Wonder if I’ll miss it, and wonder what will happen next.  

At the moment though, I don’t fancy sitting in a small club room with folks breathing over each other..  I’m distrustful, I know……

At least the inspiration that has come from other photographers and artists has kept me going, especially in the last few weeks, and the last two speakers to come are both experimental, and artistic at the same time.  So that’s all good then.

Plus for the first time I really felt that I’ve had my fill and monies worth of the RPS – from being a far flung organisation somewhere on the edge of the galaxy, they came full circle and put on loads of events (albeit online) that were brilliant… fingers crossed all that will continue…. 

Of course there’s been the online zoom social meetings, (and a party, that was interesting) as well as the photo meetings….  and I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff…… like how to plait wheat, and make basic corn dollies….. yes really, and I’ve got two hung in the downstairs toilet to prove it.

Soon be time to go outside again, maskless, in the garden, and then the dogs will need a walk.  I tried to take my camera once on a dog walk – didn’t do very well – I spent more time watching them leap around like the demented animals that they are, than taking photographs, oh and avoiding other people who also seem to think they should walk their dogs too, who might just want to TALK to me.

This weekend though, we have guests… it’ll be a bit strange having other people in the house, overnight, who doesn’t normally live with us.  They take photos though, so it’ll be OK.

What’s the point of this?  Well I just thought I’d put it out there that I’m still experimenting, and playing – we adults, we don’t play enough do we?  In my talks, I advocate playtime, but for some grown ups it’s a hard thing to do.  I’ve a couple of friends who are avid gamers, but not photographers… I like playing with software and cameras, and pushing boundaries where I can.

Trouble is, we can get too fixated on the so called rules …. I keep saying, ‘there are no rules’, this isn’t a sport, it’s supposed to be fun (unless of course you’re doing it for a living).  I used to do it for a living…… and what I did, well, no editing was allowed…. 

I got fired once, from a company I didn’t work for – I was out there taking photographs of a building for a business (who will remain nameless).. security (who hadn’t been told I’d be there), thought I was a member of staff sneaking out early…. I got hauled into the office and was actually officially reprimanded, till someone from HR came along and realised I wasn’t actually an employee.  This was a good rule…. ‘Keep your staff in line’.  The other rule they had was that all staff had to wear shoes, not boots, not even in winter – I digress.

I’ve actually forgotten the purpose of this post now… so I reckon I’ll stop…… Here’s a photo for good measure that I took on our first club outing in 18 months…… I might have slipped – waved the camera round a bit, or maybe it was the gin….. who knows……..

Cleethorpes Country Park

Keep shooting, and taking the pills as necessary – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

A Friday – early July

It’s been an odd week. Hot, humid and not very brilliant for taking photographs, and I am not even inclined to sit in front of a computer editing ‘stuff’.

It’s also been a busy few weeks in terms of talks and judging that I have been asked to do, so actually more computer sitting has been involved – my office seems to get really warm in the evenings but it has been great to either listen to other speakers, or join in and speak myself.

I’ll add a caveat at this point. I really hate listening to myself, so talks that I’ve done, that have been recorded, I tend not to want to hear again – but when it came to a talk last week with Sally Sallett, and Glenys Garnett, and both said they were happy for it to be recorded – I gave in, and had my bit recorded too.

Funnily, although I’m happy to talk photography any time anyone asks me, ad nauseam, this time I was nervous – I’d practiced – I’d sorted out what I was doing, I had everything set up, and ready to roll, and still I felt acutely that what I was about to present wasn’t going to be as good as the other two ladies I was with….. don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Anyway – to cut a long story short – talk time came, it went, and it was utterly, ridiculously brilliant. Glenys and Sally were consummate professionals, and I think my bit was better than I thought it would be…. The feedback from the attendees was completely positive, and the great thing is that I’ve been sent images that people have created following on from the talk- and they have all been really good.

It’s truly wonderful when you show people how to do things, and they go away, apply those techniques – and then the images they produce are testament to not only how they have been taught, but more importantly, how they reacted to the ideas they were given. To see images that are well produced is a thrill beyond words.

Many years ago, at my first camera club (which will remain unnamed) I asked a photographer how they had done something (no idea even what it was now) – but I remember his reply so clearly. He said “if I tell you, then you’ll know” and he walked away, it was so frustrating and in equal measure, disappointing.

From my point of view, there are no secrets in photography. As an artist, and photography is an art form I believe, you should create what pleases you, but it shouldn’t be a secret how you did it.

So, get out there and create what makes you happy – feel free to experiment, to use colour boldly. Add grain to images if you want to, there’s no rule that says images should be noise free. Make dramatic black and whites, be abstract. Play with your camera, and your software. Make your own dreams come true.

Enjoy your art life.. and remember that photography isn’t a sport – there are no rules, only guidelines.

Things are different now

Those of you who know me well, or even not so well, might know that I had to reformat the hard drive on my main computer. Wiped everything off, and started again…. why this radical thing? Well, the boot up time (which should be around the 20 second or so mark), had got longer and longer, and the computer was taking anything up to 4 minutes to be in a useable state.

I spent ages on the phone with Apple, and in the first instance just re-installed the operating system. It helped, but not a lot – and in the end I bit the bullet, backed it all up (again), and hit the delete button.

Wiping the data was the easy part – I’d even remembered to ‘switch off’ Adobe, so they didn’t think I was trying a reinstall on a third machine. Anyway – it went pretty well. The ‘delete’ didn’t take long, but grief……… getting back all my software….. well, let’s say, I might have said a few rude words.

I ‘thought’ I’d made a note of all the stuff I had, down to plug-in software, actions and brushes. Some I had made, and some I had downloaded (acquired) years ago (it’s amazing what you find when you look hard).

The really frustrating part is that on my old machine, I am still running an older version of On1 software. Version 9 – upgraded sometime ago to version 10.

My new Mac had originally accepted this software, copied over direct from the old one last year. With a clean install of the OS though, I couldn’t find a download from On1. An email to them though helped, and they sent me the correct link, but I found that this older version is now incompatible with ‘Big Sur’ – and On1 have no intention of updating their product (that for them is out of date) so I can use it.

A bit of thought, and I decide that I can probably live without it. I’m certainly not paying for it again – or at least another upgrade…

One or two other bits also don’t work any more – and I decide that the issue is that since getting a MAC back in 2007, I’ve just used the migration tool, to copy one drive onto another. A close inspection of the library showed me rubbish going back to my first machine, but I’ve no idea why On1 worked before the new install….. anyway……

Roll forward 10 days and it’s all finished. Boot up time is back to around the 20 second mark. I’ve got all my Adobe stuff back on, and even the Google free NIk Collection worked albeit in a haphazard way. In a moment of enthusiasm, I upgraded that to the DXO Nik Collection 4. Well, it was on sale at a discount – I didn’t realise they only released this new version this month (June 2021).

The end result is great – well worth the hard work. The moral of the story is to maybe not use the migration tool again going forward.

Anyway, I am back up and running, that’s the important thing. Let’s get some images made now.

Fields near Red Hill Nature Reserve

It’s Thursday

Yesterday, whilst driving, I came across a field of flax.  If it’s a common crop, I’ve not noticed it much before, but this one was stunning.  In amongst the pale blue flax flowers, are poppies.  The red and blue, against the paler blue sky, it’s beautiful.  I’ve only got my mobile, but I do my best – and make a note of where it is, to go back tomorrow and take my camera….. but now, writing this – it IS tomorrow, and it’s raining.  


It’s Thursday and it’s the middle of June.  It’s been so hot and dry lately, but today marched in the way it intended to go on. Wet, and dull.

I’m out with the dogs, getting wet, and then even wetter, as, in a moment of madness, I decide to take the long route through an uncut field.  The grass is long, very long, and wet, and suddenly I’m soaking from the bottom of my coat, to the top of my wellies, and I don’t care. 

The heat of the last few days has been partly washed away, and it’s quiet.  I walk through the morning like I’m the only one alive, and look at the crops in the field, the horses standing, bored in their field, and then watch the dogs, running round, glad to be alive, demented in their morning excitement that it’s cool enough to run, and that the grass is long enough for them to roll in.  

They’re both covered in grass seed when I get home – towelling them off makes me warm – warmer even than when I was walking, and whilst I’m drying them off, I think of things that I love…..

The smell from a happy wet dog, the way they push up against you, trusting.  Long grass, wet cool days after hot dry ones,. Cups of hot tea, the sound of people talking in the distance, catching snippets of conversation.

Two cyclists went by whilst I was out, shouting across the two feet or so that separated them, “it’s the distance that’s the problem”  one shouts, “nah” says the other “it’s the fact that he’s got two left feet”, and I’m left, wondering…..

It’s so Frustrating

In January 2019 (literally just before Covid hit us hard), I bought a new computer…. totally jet propelled, and knocked spots off my old one.

I decided to keep the old one, use it as a second screen for the new one…. turns out good job I did.

Thing is, that I started to use MAC computers back in 2007, and each time I replaced it, I used the migration tool to just copy everything across, and it worked. The ‘new’ machine carried it all, and did it faster, and usually more efficiently. What I discover now, is that you can’t do that for ever.

My latest machine, over the next 12 months got slower and slower – grinding it’s way to life each time I turned it on. Boot up times ran to 5 minutes or more sometimes, and no amount of messing would help. I bought extra software to see if there was malware or anything of that sort on there – but no….. and still the upsets, the unexpected quitting of programmes, and sometimes a refusal to even shut down.

A long talk with the Apple help desk a month or so ago helped enormously. I reinstalled the whole operating system, whilst leaving everything else untouched. It did help, but the boot up time was still far too long.

Exploring the library deep in the system, and I found lots of rubbish – including some dating back to my first MAC – 2007. Not good.

The decision was made that I had to reformat and start again. I knew that I could not do a system restore from Time Machine, as that would just put back all the dross I wanted to get rid of…. so last week, I backed up everything I needed, and did it.

Have to say that the system ran really well. Boot up into safe mode, and you have the option to format the hard drive…. and having done that, you are offered the option to install ‘Big Sur’ from scratch. So, a couple of hours later, and I have an ‘as new’ machine. Great…..

What’s taken the time, is not just reinstalling all the software, but making it run like it did before. In Photoshop, finding all the actions I’d added over the years, then fonts, then sorting the layout. Similar with Lightroom.

Then adding back the catalogue for Lightroom, and making sure all my re-added images could be found.

Then of course there is the extra software I collected over the years. I had a copy of NIK effects – when Google gave it away for free. For some reason, pre-format of machine – it worked perfectly – on the new system not at all…. but this was not the only problem.

On1 gave me real issues. The copy I had was version 9.5, with an upgrade later to version 10. I couldn’t find the download for such an old copy. On1 gave me a link, for me to discover it wouldn’t work with Big Sur, and they said they had no intention of updating such ‘old’ software…. so that ends that then. I’m not buying it again. Thinking it through though, I hardly used it anyway… and it actually still works on the other computer, so all isn’t lost.

Everything else loaded in fine, the plugins I’d bought, or otherwise acquired, all work fine.

Was it worth three days work – yes it was – Firstly, it made me reconsider what I actually wanted from software, what did I REALLY need, and what could be effectively forgotten about. Secondly, the machine boots up nicely in just under 20 seconds…….

All I need to do now is reorder the panels in Photoshop to my liking, check that everything works in Lightroom (no reason that it won’t), and get to play with the new version of NIK effects purchased yesterday.

Back to making images again….. can’t wait now…

Odd Things Part Deux

My talk ‘Odd Things’ has been in circulation for over a year now, and I’ve presented it to a LOT of clubs throughout the UK and Ireland. It’s a general talk about creativity, thinking outside the box, shooting for yourself first, and hopefully getting your images noticed.

Part 2 devolves into the history of photography.

From the 1800’s onwards photographers have created, changed and developed images – they have spent time fooling the viewer.  

This talk covers imagery made from earliest times, through to modern day photographers who are making an effort to fool, or confuse the viewer.  

We will talk about photographers you have heard of, and hopefully some you won’t, but I hope it will help develop knowledge of what has gone before, and help you relate to what is going on now.  

Photography is your theatre, and the viewers and judges your audience – how well you fool them is up to you…….

This composite was created in 1850, but by whom? Check it out…..