Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024

The bluebell season is here and is earlier than normal.  Usually the flowers are in full bloom around the May Bank holiday weekend.  This year their arrival appears to be 1 to 2 weeks early.  A blue carpet of bluebells is always stunning especially when set against the backdrop of the woodland.  This year I went to Hay Wood as a fellow photographer had taken a picture of the blue carpets of flowers and the scene looked stunning.  

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
The blue carpet of bluebells.

Hay Wood is part of Forestry England and is a small wood which is near to Baddesley Clinton. The latter is an outstanding National Trust property which is always lovely to visit. We are fortunate to have Hay Wood nearby.  The bluebells appear on specific patches to the east and west parts of the woodland.  The easterly display was at its peak and even though I was there around midday, the light was wonderful.  The new shoots of green leaves glistened in the sun and the bluebells contrasted against the trees rising upwards.  

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Light and shadows highlighting the scene.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Bluebells around the trees.

The bluebells to the west of the wood looked beautiful and they were still flowering.  More photographs of the blue carpet were taken.  The western part of the wood has a public footpath that links with St Michael’s church that is adjacent to the Baddesley Clinton estate.  I visited the church as there is the opportunity to take a picture of the bluebells in the foreground and the church providing the background interest.

Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
A solitary bluebell plant with a backdrop of green and blue.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Old tree trunks add interest to the scene.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
Muddy paths led to the bluebells.
Bluebells, Hay Wood, Near Baddesley Clinton, April 2024
St Michael’s Church, Baddesley Clinton with bluebells.

All these pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100vi and  I bracketed the exposure of the pictures.  The 3 photographs were merged with the HDR function in Lightroom.  Some adjustments of the shadows and highlights plus dodging and burning were made.

If you enjoyed these pictures of the bluebells then please follow the links below to see previous entries in my blog.

Flight over volcanoes and northern lights, Portland to Reykjavík, Iceland Air, Nov 2023

Flying back from Portland to Reykjavik on Iceland Air was an experience.  Having a window seat on a clear day provided uninterrupted coverage of the Pacific Northwest landscape.  As the pilot turned the plane north eastwards, we were able to view the snow-capped peaks of Mount St Helens, Rainier and Adams.  We were on the wrong side of the plane for Mount Hood but caught glances of the mountain.  The highlight of the flypast was crossing over Mount Adams with Rainier in the background. The light was clear and bright.  It is possible to distinguish the features in the mountain and where previous lava flows had occurred.  All three are active volcanoes with Mount St Helens erupting in 1980.  

Flight over volcanoes and northern lights, Portland to Reykjavík, Iceland Air, Nov 2023
Flying over Mount Adams.

Eventually the night came and we entered Canadian air space.  There was one more exciting view to see on our flight.  As we crossed over the North West Territories we saw the Northern Lights flickering above the clouds.  Taking pictures of the Lights is interesting as to the naked eye there is a faint glow.  I then pressed my iPhone15 against the window to remove reflections.  Fortunately the cabin lights were dimmed.  The long exposure coupled with the sensitivity of the iPhone reveals the green colours of the lights as shown in the pictures.  The lights lasted for about 10 minutes and then slowly faded.  This was a memorable flight for sightseeing.

Flight over volcanoes and northern lights, Portland to Reykjavík, Iceland Air, Nov 2023
The Northern lights seen out of the window.
Flight over volcanoes and northern lights, Portland to Reykjavík, Iceland Air, Nov 2023
More Northern Lights.
Reflections in Floodgate Street, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023

Such great news. My picture “Reflections in Floodgate Street” was highly commended in the 2003 UK Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.  This year I had two pictures and I was also commended for my picture “Fog in Gas Street Basin“. Both pictures feature in the Cityscapes section of the competition. This is the second year running that I have made the UKLPOTY book and I am very pleased with my achievement. I have written a fuller account of the background of both pictures together with some photographic tips and reflections on entering Landscape Photography of the Year.

Reflections in Floodgate Street

A classic picture of early morning on Floodgate Street in Digbeth. Not many people are stirring at this time and the lights do not turn off until 15 mins before sunrise. These old industrial buildings are a mixture of small businesses during the day and lively nighttime venues at night. The area is also well known for its street art and many artists have put up murals on the walls. The street got its name from the use of two “floodgates” that were used to stop any flooding from the nearby river Rea. This area of Birmingham was known for its wells and springs hence the street name.

This early morning picture was taken during a chance visit to Digbeth, Birmingham.  I took advantage of the rainswept streets which provided reflections of the old industrial buildings and street art.  I love the warm streetlights contrasting against the blue hour sky.  

Post production notes – Straightened, contrast, highlights and shadows adjusted: texture, vignette and unsharp mask filter applied, levels lifted

Taking pictures of Urban landscapes 

Go low for the picture is always great advice, a smaller camera or phone allows you to do this.  The low viewpoint with a slight upwards angle provides a different view of an everyday scene and gets the viewer’s attention.  I will sit down or kneel to see the viewfinder, as phones and some older cameras do not have a tilt screen.

Reflections are always fascinating for the viewer and so look for windows, puddles or shiny surfaces.  The time after a spell of rain is a good time for mirrored views.  However, combining both the low viewpoint and water puddles may be challenging for the photographer and camera!

Fog in Gas Street Basin

Fog in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023
Fog in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, commended UKLPOTY 2023

On a foggy day in January, I was lucky to find myself at Gas street canal basin in Birmingham City Centre which is a popular place for photography. The fog had created a ghostly backdrop around the area. The water was very still providing a perfect reflection. The old buildings stood out and the flash of yellow strips on the canal boats provided some welcome colour in the fog. The modern hotel in the background is faded providing an interesting background canvas. The eyes are drawn to the trees in the centre of the photograph and their reflections in the water. If you look carefully, there is a lone person in the picture admiring the view. This was an opportunistic photograph as the fog rolled in changed the nature of the scene.

Post production notes. This was taken on my iPhone and there was adjustment of the highlights and shadows and small minor changes of contrast. Some dodging of the colours on the boats was done to lift them out of the fog.

More reflections on UKLPOTY 2023

My second successful year in the LPOTY competition and I realise which of my photographs are getting the love and why this is the case.  I dream of being successful in the classic view category.  Pictures of beautiful mountains, gorgeous light and a lead in that takes your eye into the picture and beyond.  However it looks as if my skill set is photographing the city.  I love nothing more than wandering around the streets with my Fujifilm x100v and my iPhone.  Also the best time to be out and about is at daybreak or sunset.  Why is this? The light is magical at these times of day.  The trouble is that cities are very quiet in the morning and staying safe is important.  At night they are crowded but the quieter spots are where the light dwells.  Again staying safe at night is key.  

Try to be different in your picture taking.  Even just thinking of taking a different picture starts you thinking on how to photograph an urban scene. Often this may not work out and you can go home frustrated.  It is easily said but do not despair as that next picture is just around the corner.  Be ready for it and when you see the scene, grab the opportunity.

I also enjoy looking at other people’s pictures and also where possible watch how they take their photographs.  Learning from others is important. Any advice helps and I always listen to what people say. I have two photography friends, who have taught me the following. First, exercise patience and wait for those opportunities to arrive as they will. Secondly always look out for the small things as they matter and you have to be ready for them. 

My entry to LPOTY 2022 “Regency Wharf” is highlighted in this blog and you will see that Gas Street Basin features again.

This is the Amateur Photographer news item where they select their favourite images and ask the photographer to provide two tips.

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Aurora Borealis – Poster

Aurora Borealis – Poster

So I have been to Iceland but did not see the Aurora Borealis as it was too cloudy. I did…

Alder Lake, Washington State, November 2022

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) organise a Photographic competition every 2 years. This is a very prestigious photographic exhibition, and the judging is very competitive.  Two years ago one of my Lockdown photographs was selected and I was very pleased to have been selected.  This year my picture of Alder Lake in Washington State, USA was selected.  The picture was also given a good “hang” meaning it was in the centre of the room and therefore more accessible for viewing.  Although I did not make the final prize selection, just being selected means a great deal.  I am only now, at a late stage in my life, making the most of my photography and I am enjoying every moment.  There were several other photographers and friends that I knew at the private view in the gallery which made the evening more enjoyable as well.

A selfie in front of my picture

You can learn more about the work of the RBSA on their website.

More pictures from my time in Washington State that include the picture are included in a previous blog entry.

Looking back, my last entry in the RBSA competition was ‘Mystery in the Fog’. The photograph was one of several photographs that did well in 2021.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023

Scotland is a wonderful place to always visit and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a weekend on Loch Lomond in February with Sandy.  Having flown up on the Friday morning, we picked up our hire car and made our way to Duck Bay on the bonny shores of the Loch.  A magnificent rainbow greeted us set against the backdrop of Ben Lomond.  I knew then that it was going to be a lucky weekend.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
A rainbow at Duck Bay with Ben Lomond in the background.

So much to see around the shores and following Duck Bay, we headed over to the east side of the Loch. When we arrived at Balmaha, the low sun was reflecting off the water creating beautiful light reflections.  I love visiting such places out of season as the places are quiet and you have the place to yourselves.  Balmaha houses the Loch Lomond coffee house and the pub serves a tasty bowl of soup. After a stroll around the Lochside we drove back to Balloch.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The lovely view over Balmaha on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond.

Our destination for the end of the day was Loch Lomond shores. Whilst it is very commercial and more concrete than aesthetics, it is redeemed by the views of the Loch. Also I saw that renovation of the Maid of the Loch steamer was gathering pace and that the paint work had been stripped off and the metal was showing.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Loch Lomond Shores
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The Maid of the Loch under restoration.

Saturday morning threw up some colours in the sunrise and an early morning photographic stroll allowed for some interesting long exposures.  We were staying at the Cameron House hotel and the grounds gave excellent access to the loch shore.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Early morning view of Loch Lomond.

After breakfast, we set off for Inveraray to visit the prison museum.  This attraction was excellent and gave an insight into the past society and the harsh life people led in the Highlands especially if they broke the rules.  There was a restored black Mariah which Bill one of the staff, showed us and also provided an excellent account of life at the prison.  It was an enjoyable drive along the Loch. After every turn on the road, there was spectacular scenery just asking to be photographed.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
This is Bill dressed up as one of the prison guards at Inveraray Jail
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Bill telling us about the Black Mariah prison transport.
Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Inverary on the Loch Fyne shore.

My favourite picture of the day was stopping at the layby “Rest and be Thankful”.  There was a glimpse of the sun which lit up the valley and highlighted the old military road and the roadworks on the side of the mountains.  I just stood there for several minutes taking in the beautiful scenery.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
Rest and Be Thankful.

On our last morning, the weather was dull with a great deal of cloud cover.  As I wandered along Duck Bay looking for photo opportunities, I passed by many people huddled together talking in low voices. I wondered what they were doing.  Undeterred, I found a good spot on the Loch shore and set up for a long exposure.  I found an interesting stone in the water and lined it up with the island in the background.  A very peaceful scene.  As I was taking the photograph, two women in wet suits ventured into the loch and I found out that they were freshwater swimmers.  They agreed to have their photograph taken.  Whilst they were well prepared for the cold waters, a man followed soon after and he looked unprepared and a likely candidate for hypothermia from the low temperatures.  

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
A Sunday morning swim in a cold Loch Lomond.

On my way back I then realised that all the people who were standing in huddles had transformed into swimmers.  I realised that a favourite Sunday morning pastime is to venture into the cold waters around the Loch. This is not something that I would enjoy.

My final picture is from Firkin Point which I had not stopped off at before on my visits to Loch Lomond. I discovered the lone tree over the Loch. The afternoon had closed in and so the picture leant itself really well to a black and white processing.

Loch Lomond Weekend February 2023
The lone tree at Firkin Point.

I you enjoyed this account of Loch Lomond then be sure to read these as well.

Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills are on our doorstep but surprisingly I have never walked over them. As our family holiday will be based in Loch Lomond, Scotland for a week in August, it was time to get some practice hiking done. In preparation for the walk, I purchased some new hiking boots and I wanted to break them in for a few climbs in Scotland. My daughter, Sian suggested the Malvern Hills and so together with Jim her husband we picked a Saturday morning in July. The spell of hot weather had broken but the forecast for the chosen weekend was rain and thunderstorms which was a worry. Fortunately such weather conditions never materialised bar a few occasional drops of rain.

Malvern Hills
Looking south from the Summit of British Camp

Our plan was to get up early and head for British Camp which is in the southern stretch of the Malvern Hill chain. The car park was empty when we arrived and even the Malvern hills Hotel over the road was very quiet. I was advised to start with this area of the Malvern Hill as some consider it to be the most interesting hill because of the large iron age hill Fort carved into the area. It is a quick hill to climb and once on the summit you have a commanding view of the surrounding geography. Looking North you see the hills in the following order, Black Hill, Pinnacle Hill, Jubilee Hill and Perseverance Hill. In the distance you can make out the highest of all the hills which is the Worcestershire Beacon. British Camp provides a super view, and my camera captured the scene well.

Malvern Hills
View of the Malvern Hills from British Camp

My camera for this adventure was the Fujifilm x100v. It is weather proofed, and ideal for the conditions on the hills over the weekend with the occasional drops of rain. The camera as you will have discovered is very versatile and produces excellent pictures as you will see from this blog. I had looked through many pictures of the hills and I had seen many postcard views. Also I knew that I would have difficulty matching any of the drone fly throughs or pictures that have been published. As always, I use my pictures to tell a story. The main story was the hiking over the hills and therefore some classic “here we are” people pictures are used in the story telling.

Malvern Hills
Sian and James on the summit of British Camp

With the Malvern Hills having been photographed many times before, I was interested in seeking out different views i.e. low down or interesting close ups. Any landscape pictures taken including points of interest in both the foreground and the background. The camera was set on Aperture priority and swapped between f/4 for closeups to f/11 for the landscape views. The sky was a touch gloomy but there was the occasional sun that broke through. Furthermore once you are up on the hills then you can see for miles and miles. The Fujifilm camera is ideal for this story telling as it allows quick pictures of the scene to be taken. It is not ideally suited for landscape photography but you can see if used within its strengths then you can get a good view.

Malvern Hills
Getting ready to hike Pinnacle hill.

Back to the walk, leaving British Camp we hiked up Black Hill with its steep incline and then onto the other peaks. The Malvern hills offer wonderful vistas of the surrounding countryside and on this walk, the air was clear, and you could see well into the distance. It was good hiking over the hills, but I was not fully fit for this type of activity. By the time we got to Perseverance Hill we were very tired, and we could see the Worcestershire beacon in front of us. We made the decision to turn back and the beacon would have to wait for another weekend. Coming back I took several pictures of the wild flowers and the views over the different counties on either side of us.

Malvern Hills
Lone Tree on Perseverance Hill and British Camp in the Distance
Malvern Hills
The grassy verge at the summit of Pinnacle Hill

Back at the car it was a relief to sit down pull the boots off and get ready for the journey home. The Malvern hills are a must as they have everything you need for a good hike. Luckily the weather was just right and we did not get too hot walking over them. We will be back not only to scale the Worcestershire Beacon but to visit the pretty town of Malvern on the side of the hill. Enjoy the pictures and would love to hear about your experiences of hiking over the Malvern Hills

If you are interested in the shoes that I had brought then I recommend the new Inov8 Roclite 345 Gore-Tex Walking Boots which I got at a great price from I like these shoes as they are light and have great grip.
For up-to-date details of the Malvern Hills are covered by several good websites but I found this one to be the best.

I love Stratford-upon-Avon and have visited it many times over the years. There is so much to see including the beautiful walks around the River Avon, the Shakespeare properties and the pleasant shopping area of the town. I thought that I knew all about Stratford until this weekend, when my daughter and her family invited me for a walk around the Welcombe Hills.

Up to the Obelisk
Paths up the hill

I drove into Stratford from the A46 roundabout and then before the retail park turned left and made my way through a housing estate. I passed through some old gate markers and then up a road to a small car park. You do need local knowledge to find the place. You are then at a gateway to the start of a walk passing through spectacular scenery. Initially we walked along a field leading to a group of houses. One was of a mock castle design. We then passed into another field on our way to the obelisk. We passed the Welcombe hotel and climbed up to the obelisk. There were many runners out and about as well. From the top of the hill, there are commanding views of the Warwickshire countryside. The structure was erected in 1876 by Robert Needham Philips to honour his brother Mark Philips and further information and links to Shakespeare are documented on the web.

Map of the hills
Beautiful scenery and views

Following on from the obelisk, there is a walk over fields and there are many farm friends in them. We then passed through a wood where there were several tree houses probably made by scouts. We then made our way down over more fields admiring the views of Stratford upon Avon and picking out different structures. Eventually we came upon a fallen tree that my grandchildren love to call the broken tree and we stopped for a picnic. The tree had lots of different shapes and the bark provided a range of textures that proved a good vehicle to photograph.

We are watching you
Granddaughters hands on the tree bark
Broken trees

After that it was back to the car and a short journey to my daughter’s mother in law’s house for some well deserved bacon sandwiches and cake. If you are interested in following my footsteps then details of the Welcombe Hills is part of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

Time for Sunday Brunch

We spent a delightful morning in St Agnes followed by a trip to Wheal Coates Tin mine. These pictures are rather special as I have wanted to visit the Tin mine and see it for myself. The scenery is beautiful but the thoughts go back to all those people who worked these mines over the years. This is owned by the National Trust and looks impressive against the natural backdrop of the sea. The colour of the heather adds to the pictures.

Cornish Streets
Red box, White house
Flowers in the street
The path to the mine
The mine appears
Od Buildings
Wheal Coates mine and its stunning backdrop
Reach for the Sky
More stunning scenery
The picture that I love

The North Cornish Coast is spectacular, and we visited only a small section of the coast around and to the north of Newquay.  My favourites were Watergate Bay and the Bedruthan Steps.  Unfortunately, I did not have my filters with me for the steps, but I was still able to capture the water flow in slow motion.  There was not that many sunsets but the opportunity to be by the sea was just great and a few pictures tell the story.

Biking from home to Coughton Court for a photographic visit.  Each time I visit the National Trust property, I always spot something new to see.  The house is full of interesting rooms and the views from the Tower are wonderful.  There is also recounts of the history of the Gunpowder plot.  These pictures give a small insight to what I saw around the house and the beautiful gardens.