Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"I Wish I'd Said That"

Every now and then I hear an expression that makes me sit up with envy and utter 'I wish I'd said that'. Last night a drama on BBC1 provided the line:

'He had breath that would take the fur off a badger'

That doesn't leave must to the imagination. As a line it's is right up there with another of my favourites, from a French film:

'Like looking up a mole's bum.'

Some of my lighting on drama productions has probably induced that feeling in the viewer.

The Black Sock Policy

One strange side effect of having a Black Sock Policy - I only buy black socks - is that I can never have more than one odd sock. This simple mathematical premise has only just occurred to me but it's true; whenever I have one odd sock and I lose another, I've got a pair again. Isn't that wonderful? It only falls down when I'm down to my last sock.

I used to favour socks of all sorts but in the end they became too frustrating. It's OK if you don't mind pairing a reindeer with a frog or Dennis the Menace with a kangaroo but that's only fun for so long. That said I used to work with a guy who deliberately wore unmatched socks as a fashion statement. I asked him what he did when he opened the drawer and only found one pair left and they matched. He didn't seem to understand the question. Perhaps that's why he worked in Production and not Operations.

Today's image by chance does link to the above since it involves a pair of fours. But, and this is important, it didn't have to. No, Sir, the Age of the Tenuous Link is over. On the first level of consciousness at least.

Monday, January 30, 2006


The human memory is not a reliable storage medium, prone to loss and distortion, and fettered by an unreliable read/write mechanism. How much more useful it would be if we were equipped with USB ports on the side of our heads which interfaced to external hard disk drives. I'm not sure what operating system we would use but I'm sure the old joke about Windows would hold true - every few days we would need to be knocked unconscious so that our brains could reboot.

This stream of thought was triggered by exasperation. For five days I have been reminding myself to ring up for a repeat prescription and I’ve still not remembered to do so during the restricted hours that the dispensary insists upon opening. In my defense, I have to say that this window of opportunity is so slim that stopping to sneeze or tie a shoelace up would probably take me outside it. In relation to British doctor’s surgeries, the word ‘convenience’ has no meaning (although it is a useful place to pop into to answer a call of nature if you’re caught short).

What has all this to do with today’s image of a gate and some water?

Absolutely nothing! Oh, the freedom of it all!

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Peter and I, along with his son, Ian, had a BDO yesterday - a Boys' Day Out. This is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) and they are very popular - I made a note of this fact on my PDA during the week. It's difficult to avoid them; both Peter and I used to work for a big one, I drive a CRV and the government couldn't survive without them. It's the magic of threes again.

I thought a couple of images of a BDO might be helpful. Peter, well insulated against a biting north-easter and with a fully-formed Prat-Hat, is busy photographing something rusty - rust is very popular this month. I'm trying to make myself both thinner and softer in a window - one of those aims was achieved.

Still it was fun and ended up in a teashop where we had TAC (tea & cakes).

Bulbs & Boredom

I have just spent a few days lighting a poker tournament for television. It would be fair to say that I get bored at times and when that happens I play. I've lost count of the number of objects I've photographed while sat in my little control room (that's a flash name for it - it's more like a store cupboard).

The images today are from my forthcoming book; '101 Things To Do With An LED Torch'. I've always liked the challenge of lighting with a single light source. The curves are pretty neat as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Colour of White

The results of activity in the human brain often show it to be a very fallible organ - just look at the 'theory of intelligent design', for example, or reality television, personalised car number plates, the Health & Safety Executive. Someone somewhere, outwardly sensible and rational, we hope, must have thought these a good idea. And they're not.

However what the brain is good at doing is the bits it doesn't usually expect us to think about, like breathing or what the colour of white light is. In today's image a warm coloured tungsten table lamp is sat next to the cold light from a window facing north. The contrast is very obvious, to the camera, at least, but not necessarily to the innocent bystander. I notice it because I'm trained to - I have to correct these differences using coloured filters (blue or orange in various strengths) when I'm matching lights sources for television cameras. But, generally, we don't notice these things as we go about our daily lives. We might think it strange that the light from a television set seen looking in through a window at night looks blue but doesn't when we sit in front of it. Mostly we don't notice. The brain and its mate, the eye, sort it out, leaving us to get on with our lives.

Incidentally, I wouldn't like people to think that the brain is perfect when it comes to colour. If it was, you would never see anyone wearing a combination of red and purple. But you do.

Ode to an Expiring Biro

This pen is nearly out; inkless, no more
To write my words across the virgin page,
Or doodle nonsense in the margin, if,
Some mindless fancies do my thoughts engage.

It's served me well, this slim clear Perspex stick.
Made plans, signed cheques, whatever I'd desire,
Scribed chapters of my book, that irksome beast,
That taunts my waking hours, raises my ire.

O, that it had the will to carry on,
Could find some great reserve to fill its point,
Become the mighty weapon it once was,
And with deep blue, my purple prose anoint.

Alas! A fitful stutter, broken line,
Its final words must now be near at hand,
The reservoir's run dry, an empty shell,
Quick! Something clever for its grand last stand.

But nothing comes, the moment's past and gone.
Our joyous times are over, c'est la vie.
Into the bin you go, my faithful friend,
I'll go and buy another, after tea.

DJC-B, January 25th, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Threes & Fours

I see my mate, Peter, is on a three again today so I thought I'd follow suit - or is this a four? Four finials, four columns, three bays - which dominates?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Grinding Away

One sure way of keeping your neighbours on their toes is to nip out into the garden in the dark and do a bit of metal grinding. Never fails.

Flaunting It

A shopkeeper in a small English country town cocks a snoot at traditional street accoutrements and, in doing so, adds a splash of red to a dull winter's day.

Iron Things & Their Shadows

The weather has returned to normal after its euphoric outburst yesterday. It is gloomy and raw. I cycled into Pershore at lunchtime and, for the first time, wore the headgear that Peter has kindly given me to keep my ears warm. In doing so I ignored the apt rhyming couplet:

Wear a woolly hat
Look a total prat*

Oh how true that is when you have the bone structure of a football!

I took no photographs today worth mentioning since I have entered a 'prima donna' phase and am refusing to play if the light's not right. It won't last. I'll soon be back to trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear; by the way, why would anyone try that?.

However I have a couple of recent images to throw into the melting pot on the theme of 'iron things and their shadows'; I really must do better with titles.

* Prat - The word is commonly used in the United Kingdom to refer to an idiot. For example: "don't be such a prat". It is also a component of the word "pratfall." Elsewhere it can mean 'buttocks'. Either use is appropriate in this context.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Some Images with Trees

It would be untrue to say that the area around the confluence of the Severn and the Avon sparkled in crisp winter sunlight today because it didn't; it wallowed in mist and fog. However up on the hills all was sweetness and light, Bredon and the Malverns floating above a sea of white. I did take a few shots of this vista but, as is often the case in landscape photography, what was pleasing to the eye was anathema to the camera. I deleted them all.

The trees on Bredon Hill looked more rewarding and so I decided today was a tree day. To be honest I've no idea what most of the trees we saw are called although at least one of them is a beech. I'm fond of trees against the skyline particularly on a bank where the effect of long winter shadows becomes very pronounced.

Reflection shots are always a crowd pleaser (I'm big enough for a crowd and they please me).

I'm not sure what to say about the roots. I actually took this picture in January last year but I've no doubt it would have looked the same today if I'd ventured a few yards down the footpath towards Elmley Castle. There's a touch of the Ent from 'Lord of the Rings' about this image - a giant clawed foot anchored to the hill, syphoning energy and sustenance into the canopy above and wondering what it might have for pudding - a juicy fungus perhaps or some squirrel brûlé.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Lattice Bridge

Yesterday's lattice window found an echo today when I went exploring in the town of Lydney in the Forest of Dean. I came across this footbridge that leapt out at me as a photographic subject. Firstly it was rusty and I'm a sucker for anything with a bit of rust on it. Secondly it was criss-crossed by diagonals which I think are very dynamic in image making. Thirdly, it looked decrepit and was surrounded by rampant greenery.

Monica is always accusing me of carrying a pin around with me so that I can prick people's bubbles. I'm not against using it on myself. My disappointment today was with the intermittent sun and the direction of what sunlight there was. I would have really liked a strong kick of light down the steps towards camera to bring them to life. As I'm not a god, I had to rely on what nature, a fickle mistress at the best of times, had bestowed.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I never tire of photographing windows and this is one which particularly drew me. Maybe it's the indistinct sense of what lies beyond that got my attention.

I'm not sure of the age of this window although it's set in the wall of a medieval church at Stanley Pontlarge on the edge of the Cotswold Hills. It may be a Victorian replacement of an original. Whatever, it is a design that has the feel of a country piece, that faintly derogatory term that antiques dealers use for something that didn't emanate from a master craftsman in London. The window has an oddly beguiling symmetry. At first glance the panes look haphazard but then you perceive there's a plan.

It can be very difficult to overcome the desire for symmetry if it's imprinted on your brain. I know that when I'm lighting an act, particularly a band or a solo singer, the urge to balance a bank of lights on one side by an identical bank on the other is almost overwhelming. It is something I resist, not always successfully.

A Burst of Colour

A burst of colour, courtesy of the sun and a Victorian craftsman.

(For life enhancement - use as required)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Daily Column

The requirement to write a daily column for this netlog is not set in stone (tenuous link to image). I've now completed fifty continuous days and reached the goal I set myself at the beginning of December. Fortunately for all concerned I recognise that I'm at risk of becoming an obsessive-compulsive and exhibiting the sort of behaviour that leads to an interest in wearing fawn cardigans and doing things at set times each day. In order to forestall this fate I'm taking avoiding action. Journal entries may become less frequent but hopefully no less irrelevant or silly.

Silliness is an essential ingredient of life as we know it. So is stupidity apparently - ask the Australian who got stuck inside his washing machine. I strive for the first but not the second although there are no guarantees - I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to open the front door of our house using the remote control for the car.

Researchers in the United States have reported on the positive effects of laughter on arterial blood flow. It not always easy to get a laugh out of modern life - try driving round the M25 or phoning a customer care telephone line - but it's worth trying. Start small. Go for the minimum of one chuckle a day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sweet Swan of Avon

"Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear"

Ben Jonson, 1573? - 1637

Deep Water

Another splash of red image; in fact, if I'd thought about it I could have added a real splash and a few more ripples.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Leaf in the Bush

Not surprisingly it was quite a challenge to get this leaf in focus in amongst the spiky branches with my camera set to auto. I ended up pre-focusing on the foreground by depressing the shutter release halfway and then thrusting my hand into the bush to what I guessed to be the required distance to get the leaf sharp. It seems to have worked but I don't recommend it with this type of plant unless you're carrying something to staunch the flow of blood. How we suffer for our art!

Monday, January 16, 2006


My son-in-law, Dave Junior, has the whole of his first novel mapped out, characters, plot-lines, all sorted. He's a clever chap. Whereas my writing skills are less comprehensive. I write openings. Sure I've knocked out a few short stories and the first thirteen chapters of a novel but I can see the buffers looming up even before I start. Openings are my thing.

Here's one of them:

The entrance is discreetly sandwiched between a gentleman's outfitters and a defunct cafe. It is a simple opening, framed by an arch of rust-coloured wood, blotched by patches of mould and decay. Written across the lintel are the words ‘Independent Chapel’ in a blocky Victorian script. A woman stands in front of the wrought iron gate that guards the access to the cobbled passage beyond. She is slim with shoulder length blonde hair and she holds, in her left hand, a street map. With her other she pushes against the gate. It reluctantly swings open. As she passes into the passage with its rendered walls, painted a deep chocolate colour, her foot brushes against a dog's water bowl; it is empty. Ahead of her, barely visible in the gloom, is the entrance to a building. She can see a flickering glimmer of light creeping out from under a heavy studded door.

I'd obviously been reading something Dickensian that day. I did make this opening into a whole chapter but I'm now lost in a sea of indecision. Where does it go?

And another:

The dog sniffed curiously at his master's backside. It was a habit he couldn't shake off despite the inevitable swipe across his muzzle. Thwack! There it was. Holding back a whimper, he slunk off to find a doorway he could lie across inconveniently.

Do I make that into a dog's point-of-view story? Do I know anything about dogs? Do I want to? I've probably got a dozen or so openings hidden away. I wonder if there's a market for them? Openings-R-Us?

The trouble with the whole writing thing is that I've been reading a lot recently and I find it very counter-productive. I don't get inspired by other writers, just deflated. The one's I like to read are too damn good at it.

None of the above has much to do with today's picture which is yet another of my Snow Gum shots from Australia's Snowy Mountains. I suppose books are usually written on paper and the main component of paper is wood and wood comes from trees. It's a thin thread of connectivity but it's all I have.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This Palace of Dim Light

And so to the interior of Tewkesbury Abbey. For a change, and in a spirit of generosity, I actually bought a photographic permit at cost of £2. It saved me being castigated by the church wardens and meant I wouldn't have to run and hide if my flash went off accidentally. I never use the flash but the Canon Ixus 50 doesn't seem to allow me to switch it off permanently and I keep forgetting - Peter has suggested masking it with a bit of tape. I might get round to that one day, if I can be bothered to.

There is a misquotation from Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' which suits both the lighting ethos I developed early in my career and the abbey - 'This Palace of Dim Light'; it also fits nearly every Italian church and many French ones I've been in. Tewkesbury is Norman, small windows and heavy stained glass. How we photographers yearn for the expansively lit splendour of Northern Gothic!

The organ started life in the seventeenth century - what attracted me was the 'splash of red' on the ceiling and the juxtaposition of the cool and warm tones. This also applies to the close-up image of the pipes and that of the tiled floor.

I went back inside when the sun came out in the afternoon but it had made little difference to the interior and its air of mystery. Now that so many of us no longer have the need for the crutch of religion and have cast off its oppressive yoke, are we still capable of building edifices like Tewkesbury Abbey? Can we still strive for that manifestation of perfection, glory and wonder that our ancestors did? And if we can, will our creation still be standing, essentially intact, in one thousand years time?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Bit of Fluff

I felt the urge to publish another picture this evening and I thought, 'why not, I make the rules'.

So here's another leaf composition. Yes, I realise I'm treading on Peter's turf, scuffing my boots through his autumnal debris.

It'll pass. I'll soon be back on my staple image-forming diet of man-made objects.

Return to Tewkesbury

Enough of trees, leaves and mannequins. A bit of architecture today. The first picture I published in this journal was of the gates to Tewkesbury Abbey. Now I'm getting a bit closer with some images of the west end which I took in a welcome burst of sunlight towards the end of the day.

There's nothing much to say about Tewkesbury. An average town with a supremely unsympathetic shopping development centred on that blight of British retail, a branch of Tesco's. Also I couldn't find a decent breakfast - enough said.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shopping - A Guide for Retailers

I've never found buying clothes an easy task seeing that many menswear stores seem to have a wimps-only purchasing policy. For instance, if I want a pair of Levi Jeans (which I sometimes do), I have to go to Canada where the men are obviously men. This is not a cheap outing and so has to be carried out under some other pretext, like a holiday or my youngest daughter's wedding*. In reality I know I'm only there for the jeans, and the chance to photograph incredibly long freight trains gliding alongside rock-strewn rivers, slipping through vast forests, their horns echoing back from the omnipresent snow-capped mountains........

Where am I?

Oh, yes. At the Touchwood Mall. I'm shopping for clothes with Monica. Obviously I'm not after anything for myself - I can't cope with that level of disappointment. Actually I’m not really shopping. I'm acting more as an accessory to the shopping. I'm providing transport, meals, opinion as to whether bum looks big in any particular garment, colour suitability (I can't stand beige, fawn or yellow) and other ancillary services.

But it's OK. To be honest, I don't mind as long as there's somewhere to sit. It amazes me how many women's clothing shops don't provide this basic necessity. Surely it's not rocket science. Sit the husband in a comfy chair, provide a paper or a decent magazine (one of the racier women's journals will do - Cosmo for instance), keep him warm or cool as required, perhaps offer a coffee. It's so simple. I'm good for a couple of hours under those conditions. Mon can browse to her heart's content and may even buy something.

Today I am ensconced in the John Lewis department store in Solihull. I've read the paper, eaten two cheese scones, advised on the clinginess of a purple skirt and found an image for today. So I'm well pleased.

A splash of red is an ongoing theme but I'm not so sure about the group of four mannequins. Odd numbers rule in image making (but not in social groups - now that's interesting). I need to adjust my perception........

Sorted - I can relax.

It's a singleton backed by a group of three. Sleep easy.

*(That's a joke, Louisa. Your wedding was beautiful - the jeans and trains were a bonus!)

A Political Aside

I've supported the Liberal (Democrat) Party for forty years, in a loose, non-commital, no money involved sort of way. Now they're trying to elect a new leader and, to be honest, I don't believe any other party could offer such an uncharismatic, no hope group of individuals for selection (and looking at what the Conservatives offered their supporters recently, that's a very dire position to be in). Surely there is someone amongst their small ensemble of MPs capable of energising something greater than a 1.5 volt battery.

Still, what does it matter? Will we notice? They're politicians; self-service rules and not just at the supermarket.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Atkinson Grimshaw

For over twenty years I have been drawn to the paintings of the Victorian artist, Atkinson Grimshaw. I suppose I feel an affinity with him because my own craft involves painting with light and it is in the effects of light and the creation of atmosphere that Grimshaw excelled.

I was thinking of him yesterday when I took this photograph in Cirencester Parish Church's graveyard. The picture of his that I had in my mind was 'Tree Shadows on the Park Wall, Roundhay Park, Leeds'. I made use of the sun to form the shadows but Grimshaw depicted a lot of his scenes lit by moonlight - I'm not sure I'd want to spend to much time in this location late at night. He also used figures to give the picture scale - I had no-one to call on and I'm not sure I'd have had much success going out in to the street and inviting passers-by to join me amongst the tombstones.

Still you never know, there's some strange people about.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Two Leaves

Today's picture is a lovely example of how people can read different things into a simple image. I took this photograph in the old churchyard behind Cirencester Parish Church where burials ceased in the mid-nineteenth century (it was full). The sun had at last broken through and I was on the look-out for shadows and light kicking off objects. I spotted these two leaves lying on an old gravestone, beautifully lit from an upstage sun. In I went, as happy as Larry (who was he?).

I showed it to Monica this evening. She liked it but said it looked contrived, an observation to which I took umbrage.

'Why,' I said, 'I never touched it.' (See, you're getting dialogue as well now).

'Because,' she replied, 'the stone is inscribed to Samuel and his wife. You've put the second leaf on top of the first. And it's smaller.'

But I hadn't. The symbolism of the image had swept past me without disturbing a single brain cell. And I thought I was observant.

It's also a bit spooky but we won't go there.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Please Ignore This Notice

One certainty in life is that if you put up a notice marking your personal space, people will ignore it. Even if you ask nicely. I've had a good look at this image and I can't identify a single piece of camera equipment in the rack. Lighting, on the other hand, have run riot with gel frames and someone is also thinking about a little shelving scheme somewhere.

What Henry the Vacuum thinks is anyone's guess but he looks happy enough.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back to Lyme

I think I'm in the grip of Seasonal Affective Disorder as I keeping searching through images from the last few months to find any that have a glimmer of sun in them. I've come across a couple that I shot in Lyme Regis back in October. One of them falls into the 'postcard' category, the other into the 'reflection for the sake of it' group.

It's a tricky time of the year for the photographer-on-a-bike. It takes a real effort of will to get on the machine in the first place, encumbered by four or five layers of clothing (yes, I know all about layering). Then I cycle into town and back, about ten miles, and how many pictures do I take? Usually none - it has to be pretty worthwhile to persuade me to get my gloves off. Still I always find that if I go out looking for them, nothing appears.

The sort of photography that I'm into relies heavily on keeping my eyes open, a liking for the quirky things in life and a liberal helping of serendipity - my friend Peter is a master of this approach. The pioneers like Ansel Adams and O Winston Link could achieve their images with tons of equipment and an infinity of time and patience. I usually have to settle for an Ixus 50 and a beanbag. That suits me fine.

On a totally different tack, spare a thought for an overweight cat called Benji living in Hampshire. It's so fat that it couldn't run away when attacked by a pet rabbit. It's now on a diet. Just goes to show that it's a rabbit-eat-cat world.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wood with a Hole

It's too miserable at the moment to go wandering outside so I'm raiding my back catalogue for images. This is yet another from the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. The Snow Gums are fascinating trees with beautiful pastel bark. Colours include pink, cream and green among others - perversely I chose to photograph a dull grey one.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

An Echo of a Past Summer

It's been a cold drizzle-ridden apology for a day in Worcestershire, a day for staying indoors, quaffing tea and powering through a minor massif of hot buttered crumpets.

Or not.

For we're now in the post-Christmas anti-binge period when all excess is ruthlessly quelled and preaching against the abomination that is chocolate cake must be pursued with evangelical zeal. This will last until about the end of the month. Then normal service will be resumed.

Several things inspired me to search out today's image. There's Peter's ongoing homage to 'threes' and a lovely image of a post I found on Blues Mama's blog. Also I needed a reminder of how stunning the summer is. For that I've gone (mentally) to the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Just add the gentle sound of water lapping.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Defaced Door

Somewhere in the City of Wells there is a narrow-minded little zealot whose greatest satisfaction in life comes from finding historical relics ........

........ and sticking stupid little safety notices on them.

One day we must hope that the common man, imbued with common sense, will rise up and smother these petty tyrants in an avalanche of the multicoloured plastic dross that they are so obsessed with.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Dirty Dove

A couple of weeks ago I was in St Peter's Church in Winchcombe. It always surprises me how often my outings end up in churches because I have no religion nor am I ever likely to have. However that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the artistic and spiritual stimulus that a church provides and they often offer arresting images for the casual photographer.

I have to admit that St Peter's does not have the most striking interior of the Cotswold wool churches. To be honest, it's rather plain. The only thing that took my eye was an early seventeenth century wooden font-cover crowned by a dove. A very pleasant woman pointed out that I was lucky to have come on that day as the church had just been cleaned.

I think they missed a bit.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Food Again

Ludlow in Shropshire has a reputation as a bit of a gourmet destination but we don't go there to eat in the fancy restaurants - it's the small cafes and teashops that are of interest. One we've visited several times is The Olive Branch which specialises in vegetarian food. Today that included Leak & Parsnip Crumble and Cider & Walnut Hotpot, both delicious.

After a spell of serious wandering about, we nipped into De Grey's for tea. I like the atmosphere here and the food and beverages are excellent but like the Betty's chain in Yorkshire, I think it's a bit over-priced. There are plenty of others to choose from.

So there you are, yet another blog involving food. It was going to be about hardware shops but I accidentally deleted the photograph I was going to use - nearly senior citizen succumbs to nascent senility.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Splash of Red

Peter commented on how eye-catching a small splash of red was in a picture of the Provencal flag I published on October 30th, 2005. The same could be said of this image of Monica striding through the muted colours of a grove of Snow Gums in Australia's Snowy Mountains. A little goes a long way. If she looks worried, she's probably thinking about spiders.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Powering in to 2006

I thought it would be a good wheeze to see the New Year in with some bells and whistles. I've delved into my archives and managed to find the bells but I'm short on whistles. Instead I've substituted a gorgeous Nathan chime horn and accompanied it with some visual stimulation. It's a big file, about 2 Mb, so it may take a while to download and you'll need to turn the sound up on your PC to get the full benefit. There's an unsubtle hint as to the source of my noisy intro to 2006 in the picture below, taken at Banff, Alberta, in June 2004.

Ringing Out The Old, Ringing in the New