The Last Blog of the Year

Well, that’s 2021 nearly over……  Just as I thought we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Omicron comes along and we take two steps backwards again.

Still, visiting the vaccination centre yesterday, it seemed that all was going well… lots of folks around to direct, in and out quick jab, and the 15 minute wait after, and I’m too far away to overhear any other conversations going on….. shame…….

I’ve tried to be true to my own photography, and though I admit to being influenced by many others, I’ve tried hard to make my images my own.

Oscar Wild said “A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is.  It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want.  Indeed, the moment an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman.  He has no further claim to be considered an artist.”

I like to create using all the tools I have to hand.  Tools from Adobe, plug-ins, and anything the camera will do too.  I am not a purist in the sense the some photographers are.

I create for me first, and everyone else second.  

It’s funny isn’t it – we see the difference between creative writers, fiction writers, and journalism – we can all appreciate the difference in their styles, and we weave a fantasy in the books we read that we know are just a story.  We can adjust our mental attitudes and realise the difference between fantasy and fact.

We need to do this with photography too. Some images we make are fact, and some are fantasy. Both have a part to play.  

Remember though that the more personal your images are, the fewer people they will please.

Be yourself, and your style will follow.

As we approach the end of 2021, I look back and think of all the things I’ve learned, all the people I’ve met, and all the photographs I’ve taken – (not as many as in previous years I see)….  but there are still many things that I love..

Friends to go walks with (cake walks?) oh yes…… the wonderful zoom meetings, sharing my work, and also seeing some marvellous pictures created by photographers who are so brilliant. Friends who have driven me around from place to place, learning new things, finding my own creative voice.

Getting out with the dogs, enjoying the company of my lovely husband, whose patience knows no boundaries.

Christmas, tinsel, crackers, and books. Strictly Come Dancing, and sunshine and snow. Blue skies, trees, rain, grass, nature at its best, and all the rest that I can’t possibly put down here.

Take care over Christmas, enjoy the break, and hopefully we will meet again in the new year…..

Buxton

Did Leonardo worry about Mona?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with trips up and down Lincolnshire, and Derbyshire and Nottingham – plus a two days out in South Manchester.  I’ve spoken to a lot of photographers who have been to my talks, and it’s surprising what topics come up.  The same things seem to get rehashed over and over, but sometimes something surprising crops up.

We were talking about photo comparisons, and how people put images on Facebook, or Instagram, or what have you…. And ask which image is best – the black and white or the colour….. and I know we’ve chatted about this before on here, but it’s worth reiterating at this point, that the best image is the one the photographer likes best.

Someone mused to me that maybe Leonardo DaVinci might have asked his compatriots which smile the Mona Lisa should have – big beaming, no smile at all – or should I go for the enigmatic one?

Interesting to think though – did he decide on his own, or did he ask someone?  I willing to believe that by this time in his career, he made his own mind up…..

And so should we…. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we need to stop worrying about what other people think.  I know that we want to feel ‘accepted’, but we also need to be brave, and experiment – don’t let rules get in the way of your photographic life, and your vision.  Nothing these days is completely original, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.  To copy is to learn.

Decide what you love, and copy what you love.  Don’t be afraid, blend your ideas.

When asked which picture is your favourite….. the answer has to be “the one I will take tomorrow”..  because when you spend too much time trying to please everyone, in the end you will please no-one, not even yourself.


Today though, is cold and wet, the clouds are scudding by, and it’s a bit too cold for me out there. The dogs are damp and the sound of snoring (albeit gentle) comes from behind me. The girl dog snores, the other silent till a dreaming rabbit goes past……. We’re back from breakfast out with friends, and I think of things that I love..

Of course, breakfast with friends, clouds in the sky, dreaming dogs – twitching in their sleep – comfy beds, hot tea, chocolate straight from the fridge, improving weather and bike rides…… and the possibility of some photographs to come…….

Bring it on…………

Autumnal Thoughts

I may be wrong (and I usually am), but I reckon there are a huge number of people out there, who have never known life without the internet, or ‘smart’ (and I use the word advisedly) phones.

I remember, for example, when the news was only on a few times a day, and most information needed to be looked up in a real live book – with pages and everything…… some of us even had a set of encyclopaedias in the house…..

Now though, we have a 24 hour rolling news, which repeats itself every hour or so, with them looking frantically for new things to talk about all the time. No matter how trivial or banal.

Photography is going the same way. “Quick quick” they yell, get that image sorted NOW! Don’t wait and see how it works, just post it for the most ‘likes’….

Don’t hold anything back…

Oftentimes, I go out (and this mostly when I’m on my own), and I can spend a long time just looking, and this before I even get the camera out of the bag, never mind press the shutter button.

Whilst I was out at the beach the other day – I stood staring at the sky, the dunes, and the sea – the smell of salt air was all around, and the wind was lifting my hair. Clouds scudded across the sky, and I waited, breathed, and watched. Gulls wheeled about, and redshank skittered around the water as the tide receded.

Next to me, a lady wandered up. “What are you doing?” she asked…. “Nothing”, I said, “just watching”.

“Why?” she asked “Are you not taking any photographs?”. “I will, eventually” I said, and she wandered off, obviously confused, back to the car, after taking one quick shot with her phone.

Taking photographs, making music, writing – you have to be ‘in the zone’, and it may take time to get there. Once in though, it’s a delight – time goes past, and fast, and before you know it – it’s time to walk home for tea…..

I see this a lot, with folks not taking the time to really look, smell, taste, experience the when of where they are. They miss the sounds, and sensations beyond the narrow view of a car window. They can be in a place of amazing beauty without actually really being there. When we don’t pay attention to our surroundings, we may as well not go in the first place.

Autumn is well and truly underway now – the leaves are turning, and it’s time to get out and look at this new season. Who knows what the coming weeks will bring…..

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……

‘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.

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…..

Get out and shoot

Go and shoot they said, the weather will be great they said…… It was lovely when we set out.

In the talk that I give, I discuss the weather, the vagaries of shooting and the stuff you forget to take with you. I also talk about attitude, and what you do at the other end of your drive when things don’t turn out as you anticipated.

It was a fabulous morning, a light mist hanging over the fields – not light yet properly, and the idea of a low mist, a high tide, and the ‘Sound Tower’, one of the Structures on the Edge – down on the coast, kept me moving.

It’s about 30 miles to where we wanted to be – around a 50 minute drive along winding roads, and with the fog getting thicker all the time, there were thoughts about turning around and getting home for a bacon sandwich…

“Carry on”, I said to myself, “Practice what you preach”…. “Wish I’d brought my ‘normal’ camera” I thought, and not the drone….

Still, it looked like it might be OK. We parked up, and wandered onto the beach to be met with a wall of sea fog, but with the sun making a brave effort to poke through. “We’ll launch” we said….. and up we went……

What I didn’t think about was the transmission issues in fog between drone and transmitter…. should have done of course… and at one point it sat in the sky and refused to land – a moment of panic to be sure, but all was well and down she came – I thought better of a second attempt, and only took a couple of images…. here they are…..


The light turned out lovely, and I did get the bacon when I got home…. maybe I will check the forecast in a bit more detail next time before I leave the house……

Wrong weather, wrong mood, wrong camera, wrong lens…….. good photo !!!

I think……

Keep Going Back…

Sometimes you just see things, and have to take a photo – and sometimes you take something out with you to shoot – just in case – and get something unexpected.

This week, on the last sunny and warm day (I suspect) of summer, I headed out to the local woods with a glass ball in my camera bag.

I spent some time looking at the woodland, and playing around with light and shade….. then remembered I’d got the ball with me….. I jammed it in between a couple of tree branches and was delighted that I could see a view of the wood through it… of course, it’s a lens, and everything was upside down – so I’ve reversed the image…..

The woodland is small, no more than a few hectares, yet I find myself returning again and again. Last winter was when I first discovered it, and I played around with the lines of trees against the stark winter sky – in the summer, the canopy is so thick there’s little light getting through to the ground.

I’m looking forward to seeing it in the autumn.

Always go back to places you’ve visited before, it will be different every time, and there will always be something new to see.

In this small woodland, maintained by the woodland trust – work goes on all year round, and views I saw a few months ago, are just not there any more – but there are new ones to investigate.


Keep going back, keep looking…..

It’s not over till you quit, because you never know where the next picture will come from.