28 Dec 2015

A Mild Winter's Morning in Richmond Park

I'm making the most of borrowing a neighbour's car for the next few weeks by nipping down to Richmond Park when I get the chance. I went last week when there were possibly northern lights visible over London (of course not!), and again this morning - the first nice day for a while. I didn't get up quite early enough (bed too late again), so only got the park as the sun was rising, just after 8am. I had a good wander through some woods, hoping to get some nice rays through the trees, but it didn't quite work, although the light was still quite nice when it finally poured onto the trees and dried ferns.

I walked up a couple of hills past some awesome old trees, and passed a few people walking their dogs.

I got to a spot where the parakeets were extremely noisy, where I'd captured them before. As I shuffled along the path I suddenly realised that I was next to a number of stag deer, many eyes upon me suspiciously (they were pretty well camouflaged in the dried ferns and undergrowth).

By the time I left the park was teeming with cyclists, dog-walkers, joggers and cars - everyone wanting to enjoy the park's loveliness on yet another ridiculously mild winter's day.

23 Dec 2015

30 Day Photo Challenge - Week 4

Still just about managing to take a photo each day for my #30dayphotochallenge - last 10 days!

Day 30 - This Year
Well the challenge is over. I didn't particularly enjoy it, and didn't really get any great shots, but I did it. This Year... well, better than last, but was somewhat overtaken by the fact that I started a day job during the middle of the year, so not as much photography time as I'd have liked. I thought it was only fitting to take a picture of my office, with a little OTT monochrome processing. My office is the one at the top of the shot, as if you'd ever be able to find it from this! Now it's time to have some fun with some friends, camera-free. Until next year...

Day 29 - Time Travel
I had thought of getting off the Tube at Earl's Court to photograph the Tardis that sits outside the station, or photographing the time capsule in Canary Wharf, but neither of those was practical. Instead, I went back in time to a place I used to drink over twenty years ago when I first started working in London - the Princess Louise on High Holborn. It still feels the same with all its little rooms and intricate decorations. So, not really time travel, but it felt a bit like travelling back in time. Here is my lovely hubby, processed to make the shot look a bit old. This would actually have been a better shot for yesterday's topic of candid. Ho hum.

Day 28 - Candid Photo
I didn't actually go out today, until the evening when I met a friend for dinner, as I was working from home. This made the whole candid photo subject a little tricky.

At lunchtime I noticed a woman sitting on the bench opposite my house having a cigarette and reading the paper. I didn't get a particularly interesting shot, but it was the best I could do from the inside of my house!

Day 27 - Feel Good
It felt good to wake up early this morning and head down to Richmond Park (again) in my borrowed car, on the first day of nice weather in almost a week. As it got later more and more people arrived, running, walking their dogs, photographing the deer, cycling. I stopped to look up at some parakeets and then felt a number of eyes on me - the older deer were lying camouflaged in the dried ferns, and they were all checking me out. I particularly liked this one with his antlers covered in ferns.

Tomorrow - Candid Photo

Day 26 - Absolutely Anything
Boys in the Woods. The highlight of my day was a very muddy, squelchy walk in the lovely woods down the road from my parents' house with my boys. It was so mild we were walking in t-shirts! The dog was in much need of a bath when we got home...

Day 25 - I Woke Up Like This
Just woke up Henry to take today's snap. Sometimes when he's been asleep his face is slightly squished to one side.

Day 24 - Christmas
Delicious lunch made by my sister, mum and aunt. Stuffed now!

Day 23 - Out of Context
If I gave any description of this photo, it would give it some context, so I will give no explanation...

Day 22 - Green
I love the plane trees in London, and in the sun they often look pretty green. Their bark is special in that it comes off, protecting the tree from the pollution - which is why they thrive on London's busy streets. Most are probably over a hundred years old, having been planted in the 19th Century, apparently.

20 Dec 2015

Iceland November 2015 - Day 9: From Vík to Álftanes

I didn't have a great distance to drive on my last day in Iceland - just under 200km - but there were always places I wanted to stop, so it took longer than it would take a normal person.

First stop was Reynisfjara beach, where I was hoping the skies would throw me some decent light. It was a typical day - heavy grey clouds with short, sharp showers lasting a couple of minutes each and passing quickly on. Sometimes good for photography, but not so great when they hit you. There was one other car in the parking lot when I arrived, a good hour before sunrise. It wasn't particularly cold, but I knew it was likely to rain, so was wrapped up in my waterproofs. I was still using the spare camera, with the 5D in its home of basmati for a few more days.

There were some good moody clouds in the distance, coming quickly towards me, with sheets of visible rain getting closer and closer. When the storm was about to hit I rushed back to the car to sit it out for a few minutes. It was over quickly, and kept myself and the 60D relatively dry.

Then it was back out on to the beach where I mainly photographed the waves, with the ever-grey clouds in the distance. Soon the crowds started arriving, and by the time I left at 9.45am it was heaving.

I couldn't resist another glimpse of the crashed DC3, and now the track was marked I felt safe that I wasn't driving illegally off-road (the fines are enormous!). As I pulled up a couple of hundred feet from the plane another couple of cars were already there, as usual. I later learnt that it's been featured in a Justin Bieber video (he skateboards on top of it, for God's sake!) which means that it will be visited more and more. On the right hand wing some new graffiti has appeared since my last visit, and I presume that there will be even more when I next see it. There were some weird blueish clouds in the sky, with the sun trying to break through.

I tried a few long exposures, but the clouds weren't really going in the right direction, and the bright patches of cloud blew out parts of most images.

A few pairs of people came and went, as did a couple of showers. I stayed a while, as I always do, and am very glad I did, as the sky suddenly beamed down on the hills in the distance, glowing orange, and gave me one of my favourite views (and shots) of the whole trip. As I said, the light in Iceland can be magical. I also love to be there alone, not watching couples scurrying around taking selfies all the time and clambering over the poor skeleton.

I wandered back to the car and sun poured tiny rays over the sea before it started to rain again. Onwards.

Next stop was Skógafoss, which I usually make a brief stop at when I drive along the south coast. It was particularly busy, teeming with people in brightly-coloured waterproof jackets. There was no sun to give a rainbow, and it began to spit. Always nice to have to worry about not only the spray from the waterfall, but also rain droplets from the sky too. I took a few shots, playing around with various filters and exposure lengths, before continuing on.


I thought about stopping at the pretty rocks out in the bay again, but the light was drab, so I just carried on with my westward drive. I stopped at the side of the road to capture Seljalandsfoss in the drizzle and continued onwards.

I drove on through the towns of Hvolsvöllur and Hella, the traffic thickening as I headed west, and made a left turn down to Urriðafoss. I wasn't surprised to find five other cars there (usually there's one or two, or maybe none) - everywhere else is so busy these days so why not here? I was surprised, however, to find that there were lots of new signs and ropes cordoning off the pathway. One sign stated that you weren't allowed to go across to the island. Because of the large amount of recent rain the water levels in the river were high, so access would have been impossible anyway. I'd loved clambering over there on previous visits - the view from the little island was my favourite. I guess the Icelandic rescue services are fed up with having to come to the help of tourists and photographers who've slipped over and hurt themselves in these places. I imagine it's now in the Lonely Planet guidebook too - it doesn't even get a mention in my 15 year-old one. I wandered along the path and took a few shots, but still the light was grey and there was an irritating light drizzle. I spoke to another photographer who was trying his luck without a tripod - not ideal in this light. He was from Texas, so we had a chat about how my in-laws were from there. It was his second trip to Iceland - when most people come once, I find, they have to come back.

It is quite a tricky waterfall to photograph - with no perfect spot along the bank to capture the whole scene (as I said, the view is better from the island slightly downstream, inaccessible today). The sun came out briefly so at least the hills on the far bank looked a bit brighter. Then it was gone and everything looked drab again, so I concentrated on photographing the wave movements over the shallow rocks (cropped and saturation altered a little in post-production!).

And then it was on my way to Álftanes, where Johannes' coffee and Sigrún's sushi were awaiting me. I'd done that same journey before and knew it took about an hour, and this time I knew exactly how to get there too. There was nothing else to see along the way, and I didn't even bother going into Reykjavík to see the Sólfar sculpture (a first), since the weather was grim. I reached Álftanes at around 4pm as the light was fading. It's always lovely to be welcomed by friends after 9 days of pretty much talking to no-one, or just grabbing three minutes of conversation with other photographers a couple of times a day. Sigrún was busy making dozens of pieces of sushi and rolls - this was the first time I'd had home-made sushi before! Johannes told me how upset their son was when he found out on Sunday morning that they were having sushi (it's his favourite!) but that they'd have to wait until I arrived in the evening. It was worth waiting for!

After a lovely evening of sushi and catching up we all went to bed early. I had to get up just after 5am in order to get to the airport and drop the car off before my early morning flight home. As I opened the front door to pack the car the first thing I noticed was how cold it was (something I hadn't really experienced on the whole trip). The car was covered in beautiful ice. I looked up and noticed some pale green lights in the sky - the northern lights were up to see me off! Once I'd loaded the car I got out a store card to scrape the ice off the windscreen. It took longer than I thought and it was truly freezing. I eventually scraped enough to be able to drive and drove the car a little way along the road to where there was a gap in the street lights. The big tripod was safely back with its owners and the little tripod was packed away, so the only option was to balance the camera on the roof of the car, propped up slightly on my purse! It didn't exactly work, but I managed to get a last shot of the northern lights before continuing on - hands frozen - to the airport.

I was disappointed with the newly renovated airport departure lounge - the fantastic sculpture had gone, and the Icelandic coffee and food places had been replaced with international chains. At least the duty free shop stocked some of my lovely Borg beer, so I picked up a 6-pack of the Icelandic Stout to take home to the hubby (and the usual blueberry and birch liqueurs). The plane took off on time and I was treated to a beautiful view of the sunrise over the lovely freshly-snow-covered hills along the south coast - I could even see the stacks at Reynisdrangar. After days of pretty dreadful weather and no snow it was so frustrating to see the country looking beautiful and white-capped, with clear skies above. Oh well, that's just the way it goes - you're always dependent on the weather and you have to take what you're given! 

It had been a great trip, but I felt it went by too quickly - mainly because of the short daylight hours. Everything felt a bit rushed during the day, as I had to pack my photography into fewer hours. The weather was a bit disappointing too; I don't think I'd go back in November. The magical cold winter's light was missing, and hills weren't white yet, the ground wasn't frosty and the waterfalls weren't frozen. It just wasn't cold enough for me, and I realised that this is what I love about my winter trips - the feeling of crisp cold air through my nostrils and the warmth of getting back inside after a long shoot. There were still a few late autumnal leaves, though, the weather certainly wasn't as harsh as it is later in the winter, and I'd had a good show of the northern lights, so it wasn't bad. But I'll save my winter trips for late February and March next time. In fact the next trip needs to be booked - it might be a short one -with friends - in March, so fingers crossed that the weather Gods will be a little kinder.