Wednesday 24 November 2021

Weird Autumn

It's been a weird Autumn this year - warmer, wetter and windier than usual - and it's about to get a whole lot weirder! After walking around in this dragged-out season for several weeks I become restless and start to search for something different, usually aided and abetted by my long telephoto lens. I'll add a few notes after each picture for the baffled and confused......

Windy days take the leaves from the trees but give a few opportunities for taking something slightly different. This what happens if you leave the shutter open for a sixth of a second to allow the movement of the leaves to blur a little on the finished photo.

A more straightforward picture but with the background out of focus; it's just what happens when you photograph small things with a long lens.

The above is actually two photos; one in focus and one wildly out of focus, blended together in the computer to give a nice dreamy effect.

If you focus on the little "sun-sparkles" on running water and use a slow shutter speed they trace strange hieroglyphics on the water's surface.

A single little leaf bent over and bearing strands of cobweb. The background is the sun reflecting off of wet ivy leaves, again way out of focus.

Nothing but the sun shining through a couple of oak leaves.

In focus, out of focus and way, way out of focus. It's fascinating to search out miniature scenes like this; just a slight movement to one side changes everything. Of course if anyone's watching they will think I'm mad - a conclusion you may have already reached yourself!

So at other times I just point and shoot, Billy the Kid style, and ask questions later. Occasionally I like the result.

Two leaves that I picked up on a walk and took home. I scanned a picture of them on my photo-copier. The background is another photo, just very blurred sunlit leaves. Then I put the two together on the lap-top.

The odd abstract pattern above is merely the reflections of leaves and blue skies on the stream near my home.

Circles like the one above are formed by an unfocussed highlight in the background. Photographers call this "bokeh".

More "bokeh" here. And here's another clever trick......

It's done by deliberately moving the camera while taking a photo - the opposite of what you're normally trying to do. I don't usually like the results but this one, using upright trees, a picket fence and autumn colours looks OK to me. And there's more....

If you zoom the lens while taking a picture you get results like the above....sometimes!

You should be able to work that one out for yourself by now. I hope you've enjoyed that slightly different take on Autumn. Don't worry this is not going to turn into a technical blog about photography - I just know that some of you will want to know.

Take care.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

The Village Beat

A few photos from my early morning walk, starting before dawn and home again by 09:15. Just a stroll from my house, mostly on the footpath beside the little chalk stream that runs just behind the houses.

That's how it looked this morning as the sun rose and then glowed. There was just a hint that a low mist was going to form but that never really happened today. It was all so autumnal that I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw this as I neared home....

Talk about getting your order in early for Christmas!

Take care.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

The Valley In The Forest

The tiny village of Santon Downham hides away in the midst of lowland England's largest commercial forest, Thetford Forest, and through some quirk of micro-climate, often records the lowest overnight temperatures in the region. Surely there must be some autumn colour here.

Although almost all of the forest consists of drab conifers, there's a strip through the centre, roughly following the River Little Ouse, where the natural tree-scape is maintained.


At the moment it's the beeches that are showing the best colour, though they are always indecisive trees with brown, gold and green leaves frequently sitting next to each other on the same twig. Meanwhile the birches are now almost bare and some oaks are still stubbornly green.

We made our way eastwards, observing the trees as we went.

We saw a few trees like the one above, growing up through a dense thicket of suckers (saplings growing up from its own roots). While some trees, including birch and beech, often spread by sending up clones from their root system, I think I've read that when they grow up from the base in this way it's a reaction to stress - perhaps it's been browsed by deer or else it's undergone periods of drought, which could happen in an area of such sandy soils. I'd love to know.

We soon reached a point where we crossed the river on a rather rickety footbridge and then returned along the south side of the valley.


Occasionally a deciduous tree tries its luck growing amongst the conifer plantations. 

In many places the Forestry Commission tolerate or even encourage the native trees to grow around the edges of their plantations and beside the public paths. For although the forest was planted after the First World War so that the country might be self-sufficient in timber, it's now also managed for recreation and conservation.

The forest is well-known to bird-watchers as it contains a number of species not seen elsewhere in East Anglia. Goshawks, Woodlarks, Crossbills, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and Siskins can all be found (though I've only ever seen one Goshawk in all the times I've been there - and I count myself lucky to have seen one!) and the rare Stone Curlew nests in the open spaces around the edge of the forest.

Some of the paths are so sandy that it's like walking on a beach; the land was used for forestry as it was of little agricultural value.

I'd better show you this Little Ouse that I keep talking about. Here it is approaching Santon Downham. The river forms the official boundary between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, though things are rather confused around here - Santon Downham and its church lie in Suffolk, but the village has a second church, now redundant, which stands over the river in Norfolk.

And above you see the road bridge which Santon Downham folks have to cross to get into Norfolk, and visitors also have to cross it to get to the car park, as that's in Norfolk too.

I'll finish off with a couple of pictures of Santon Downham itself. I'm always meaning to take some photos but there always seem to be parked cars or vans in the way. Today there were inconvenient dark shadows but I took a couple of shots anyway.

Take care.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

A Yellow Wood

In our English woodlands the heavy greens of late summer slide slowly and almost imperceptibly into gentle browns and yellows. This yellow wood has many old roads within it and we chose several of them to make a day's pleasant walking.

We're in a small, surprisingly very wooded wedge of country, just south of the town of Hertford. It's usually referred to as Broxbourne Woods, though each of these contiguous woodlands has its own name and character. We made our way steadily beside Danemead Wood, around Hoddesdonpark Wood, through Benfield Wood and Wormley Wood, and with brief excursions into Westfield Grove and Derry's Wood.

These are all far from wild areas, having been worked and exploited for centuries. There are ponds, banks and old hedgerows which speak of a complex history - far too complex for me to figure out anyway! So lets just wander along, enjoying the colour and details....


So none of your gaudy reds and oranges, just the gentle, understated shades of brown and yellow that are typical of Oak and Hornbeam woodlands like these. There were quite a few fungi which seemed to appear wherever we stopped to look for them (though several of my pictures were taken on one decaying log, and the fungi look different depending on how the low sunlight is illuminating them). And a nearly pristine Red Admiral butterfly putting in a very late appearance.

Take care.