Tag Archives: nature

The Little Marks We Leave

At the time of this post, ten months have passed since my wife died – and there are still (it seems) a million and one ‘things’ of hers that need to be moved on. She liked to collect all manner of ‘things’. Whatever they were, there were (are) always too many of them to fit into our small ‘modern cottage’. Not only were the common areas of the house full-to-bursting, so was the attic too. And only towards the end of her life did she finally stop, sometimes, to ask herself: “Do I really need this?” Or, more often: “Tooty says the loft is full; do I have anywhere to put this?”

I can’t imagine how many items I have passed on to charity since then – but it’s lots. Multiple car-loads. And still it keeps coming. Most of her books are now sitting on complete stranger’s shelves; but a few – the oldest tomes – are still here. This is one of them…

It’s a slim volume that was first published in 1937. This is a later copy from 1949.  At 108 pages it’s hardly exhaustive, and wouldn’t really do as a proper reference book. But the flowers are beautifully drawn and painted, so really it’s an art book. On the inside cover this appears…

Clearly it was gift – from someone I will never meet, to someone else I will never meet (unless in the afterlife). In one of my often melancholy moods this made me feel a little sad. I wondered who these people were, and what happened to them. Then, as I turned the brittle pages – many of which are coming away from the dried-out spine – I found this…

One day, after receiving this gift, the recipient carried this book with (her?) and decided to collect specimens, which (she?) pressed between the relevant pages. Here is a sample of Chicory from rural Britain circa the early 1950s.

And here is some Corn-Cockle…

Lastly comes the Cuckoo Flower…

The absence of any more samples suggests that only one expedition was undertaken. But, perhaps for just one foray into the countryside, this book was precious to it’s owner. Precious enough for it to have survived and pass through any number of hands since that day. It certainly caught my wife’s eye and has survived her. So what do I do with it now? What we leave behind comes in many forms – not all of them with physical properties such as this book. They are little pieces of us: pieces that cannot die. For now I will keep this on my bookshelf. But it (the book) has nothing to do with my wife: she was only ever a custodian. Eventually (through charity shops or auction) I will probably pass it on to someone else that I will never meet: and they will wonder who the two names on the inside cover belonged to, and they will find the pressed flowers. And maybe they will add to them.

Wallpaper 628: Meadow Hunting

Normally my photos struggle to gain ten ‘likes’ on Flickr (after all the standard is terribly high, and there’s some very fancy cameras out there). This one seemed to follow the usual path – until I’d sat myself down to breakfast – to discover that, over night, fifty people had found this nice enough to let me know. Captured the essence of Summertime perhaps?

Wallpapers 625, 626 & 627: Tranquil / Hare Today / Flee!

As I stood, stock-still, in the middle of a sun-drenched meadow – framing this shot…

…a movement at the periphery of my vision made me pause a moment longer. I was then able to watch as a lone Hare loped towards me in a stop-start fashion – eventually arriving before me and totally unaware of my presence…

Unfortunately my autofocus chose that moment to ‘beep’.

Did I ever mention how much I dislike autofocus?

A Lifeline for Nature

In England many farmers are paid to leave parts of their land fallow for several years, and turn it over to nature. Some go so far as to sow seeds of plants known to be of benefit to endangered species. The results have been very heart-warming to those who give a damn about the creatures that share this land with us. And areas that would otherwise be an uninteresting mono-culture, look like this…

And this…

If we keep this up, who knows, we may yet save the world from ourselves.

Photography as a Coping Mechanism

I was well aware that my wife’s death was imminent: it was a long time coming. But when, that September morning, I walked into our room, and checked for (but failed to find) any sign of breathing, it still came as a devastating surprise to me. At any time leading up to that moment the scenario had always remained hypothetical – even to her, despite it’s absolute certainty. Now ‘The Event‘, as my Son had labelled it only a day earlier, had occured. Not being a complete dunderhead, my higher functions took over and I took care of the situation. Her Doctor had been expecting the call, and came round the house as quickly as she could. She, in turn, had called others, and by the time she arrived, so had personnel from the three agencies that had been caring for her. Then, having called a funeral director, I finally took a moment for myself. As the Doctor was making Linzi’s passing official, I took a few moments for myself. My Fujifilm Finepix SL300 lay upon the kitchen table; so, taking it with me, I went into our sunny garden to take a picture of something with which I could associate my beloved wife. I took this  photo of some berries…

The reason that I mention this now (November) – two months later – is because (at that time) I needed to share my very raw grief with the world, and so posted the photo on Flickr. Tonight, whilst perusing my portfolio of shots on that platform, I stumbled upon it. Because she had planted the bush upon which these berries grew, I had dedicated it to Linzi. So now, as Autumn looks towards Winter, and the berries have been eaten by the wild birds that Linzi had planned to feed, I re-dedicate this picture to her. I titled it ‘Life Continues’.

Wallpaper 571: Field Scabious in Divine Light

After the funeral of my wife of Thirty-eight years, I decided to spend the following bright and blustery morning looking for one of her favourite wild flowers to photograph. It’s not really the time of the year for the little bloom, but recent excellent late summer weather had me hopeful. So, taking myself to open chalky downland I began my search. There were a few there, but they were scrawny, ill-fed, and barely recognizable. I was about to give up, when a shaft of light suddenly burst through a dense hedgerow – to reveal the very item I sought, waving back and forth in the stiff breeze. Divine light? I like to think so. Look…

 

Photography: As in Film, So in Digital

Back in the days of my youth, I was, as now, a bit of a happy snapper. Of course then it was all Kodak Instamatics and 110 cartridge cameras. I discovered, quite quickly that there were distinctive differences in film stock. Kodak film gave a bright, colourful print. Fujifilm, conversely, was more subtle, bordering upon clinical. Of the two I favoured the more honest Fujifilm – though looking back through old photos, I wonder if those halcyon days might be better remembered in a more bright and colourful Kodak manner. As I took my daily constitutional today it came to my attention that I was carrying two cameras – made by Kodak and Fujifilm. “Hmmm,” I mused, “I wonder if, in these digital days, the old ways still hold true.” Or, to put it another way, are Kodaks still bright and cheerful, and Fujifilms all clear and sensible? The obvious way to answer my simple question was to pause my route march and take a couple of snaps. So I did. Here are the results. Which one is the Kodak; and which the Fujifilm?

Not a lot of colour here, but those greens in photo number one sure look…er…green . So, yep, judging by this test, it’s the same as it ever was. Maybe I’ll conduct a few more tests, just to make sure. After all – any excuse to show off my photos…

Photography: Sony, Time and Megapixels

It’s generally thought (or should that be, it’s thought generally?) that as time passes, and megapixel numbers increase, cameras (and therefore photograph quality) improve – particularly if those cameras are made by the same company. Well, whilst out and about on one of my country rambles recently, I discovered that the cameras that I’d selected at random just happened to be made by Sony, but two years apart. One was a 7.2 megapixel S730; the other a 12.1 megapixel S2100. The former was released in 2008: the latter in 2010. So, I surmised, the S2100 would produce better shots, and duly chose it for my first photograph. But doubt crept in when I started snapping in a wood near my home. The S2100 pictures just didn’t accurately represent what my eyes were seeing. With no options (except brightness) to change settings in the menu, I withdrew the S730 from my shirt pocket, and gave it free range.

“Was the resulting image better?” I hear you ask eloquently. Well take a look at a series of comparison shots, and you tell me. In each comparison the S730 appears in the top section…

It’s close; but next time I take a solitary camera out with me, it’ll probably be the older model.    

Photography: Zoom Wars

Recently I was watching a squirell fart-arsing about in my garden, when I got the idea to snap it’s image for posterity. But, I asked myself, which of the four cameras sitting on the kitchen table should I choose? Silly question: I chose the Sony HX400v – my best camera. This is one of the results…

Now, every so often (on this blog) I do a comparison between some of my cameras. It’s an opportunity to use seldom-used pieces of kit that, otherwise, tend to sit around in the bottom of my wardrobe enjoying slow degenerative entropy. As I peered into the camera’s screen and studied the resultant portraits of cheeky rodentia, I thought: “Did I really need a X 50 zoom to snap a critter little more than four metres distant?” Answering my silent question, I replied: “Nah – a X 25 would have done.” But would it? I needed to find out. So, grabbing a X 25 Kodak Pixpro, I dashed into the garden, which, annoyingly, was now entirely rodent-free. Then my photographer’s eye alighted upon a nicely-lit bunch of pear blossom – which I proceeded to photograph…

I then reached for the Sony again. This is the result…

I had my answer: long beats short every time. But then I thought: “But what if the problem is that the 16 megapixel Kodak is just a piss-poor camera?” Time to check it against something else. Dashing back inside the kitchen I snatched a Sony compact off the table. But finding the battery depleted, I swapped it for a little, mid-noughties, 7 megapixel  X 3 Casio Exilim compact. Then, squatting in the dappled shadows thrown by the emerging leaves of the pear tree, I took this photo of fallen blossom…

I then repeated the act with the Kodak…

And I realised that the Zoom War would need to continue – only with different combatents. Clearly the Pixpro wasn’t up to the task: it is – to use the technical term – a shit camera. But that’s fine: it’ll give me a chance to snap happily, and show off nice photos of my abode.

Wallpaper 447: Late to Bed

I was up early enough to catch this little guy making his way home. I had to use all of my 50X zoom lens to ‘see’ through all the dead wood and bushes to get this; but as I did so, I realised that this was the first daytime badger I had ever seen in my sixty-one years on this planet. I’ll have to get up early more often.

Photography: The Value of Taking Pot-Shots Whilst Hanging on To a Pair of Chihuahuas

If, like me, you are an unfortunate author/photographer who is unable to sell sufficient books to afford an expensive DSLR, and who, by extension, must rely upon a stupid little screen (that shows bugger all except a reflection of your own handsome visage in bright sunlight) to see what the camera is pointing at, here is a tip. Aim the camera in roughly the right direction. Start snapping indiscriminately whilst zooming in. Et voila…

jun11a 011

jun11a 013

spotted by sparrow

With the zoom lens maxed out at x34 I was pretty pleased with myself – and my photography angel, whom seldom accompanies me upon my outings. Pissed off with looking at earplugs I expect.