Caroline Shipsey

Monday, 3 December 2007

Exposed - The Exhibition

Following on from my post yesterday I thought I would share my thoughts about the exhibition. It was the images of Joe Cornish that really brought home just how climate change is affecting our landscape.
He works with a large format camera - an 5x4 Ebony field camera, I believe shooting transparencies. His website has a great deal of information about his equipment and methods of working. Although Joe fully embraces digital technology he does not currently shoot digitally.

Anyway, back to the exhibition, apart from landscapes, there were images of properties owned by the National Trust that are being severely affected by the amount of rainfall. Many of these buildings simply weren't built with the extremes of rainfall we now receive, their guttering and roof design can't cope and the end result is evident in damp and rotting timbers. Ludicrously, because many are listed buildings it is difficult to make necessary alterations due to planning restrictions.
One of Joe's images shows ""The ‘permanent’ snowline above 610m (2000ft) in winter is already a thing of the past, as this image of Carneddau taken winter 2005/6 illustrates. Predictions are that by 2080 there may be up to 80 percent less snow with most areas experiencing more runs of snowless winters.""

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Winter Challenges & Climate Change

The winter here in the UK seems to be another one characterized by rain and wind - lots of the former and the latter being very strong. I've had a new camera and lenses for almost a month now and would like to be using it everyday but am generally being defeated by the bad weather. I'm not a fan of 'blue sky thinking', I love clouds and dramatic skys, frost and snow, but theres no way I can create images that please me in driving rain and dull, flat light. There is no doubt in my mind as a simple photographer observing the countryside around me that climate change is making it less likely that I can take photographs as I used to during the winter months.

In 1991 I stood in the freezing waters of the River Barle on Exmoor, the temperature was -8c, cold enough to cause film to become brittle and break ! I would give anything to repeat that experience - here in the south west of England, or to see frost hanging on the trees day after day, the ground rock hard under my feet instead of slurping through mud.

The National Trust has an exhibition 'Exposed - Climate Change in Britain's Backyard' featuring the work of 10 top UK photographers which confirms my thoughts. When I first heard about the exhibition there was a sense of relief - the realization that I am not just imagining it, failing to make the most of the good days, or just being a miserable old ***** looking for any excuse for not taking pictures.

The exhibition is touring the country and is at Bristol Museum until 9th December so I'm off to see it today, I'm excited at seeing the work of the photographers who have contributed but almost scared to see the awful truth.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Blurb Books

A few days ago I received the sample book from Blurb - this had simply been an exercise in seeing how a random selection of images were reproduced, quality of paper, printing, binding etc. I wasn't testing out the convenience of the BookSmart software used for actually creating the book and didn't add any text other than the title.

I have to say I was pleased with the result and costwise it is certainly good value for money, though its important to remember that the service is not aimed at publishing for resale in quantity.

Denises Goldberg's blog
has some useful comments about the BookSmart software - its near the end :) I've come to know Denise through Smugmug/Dgrin, I enjoy her photography and writings and value her opinions which are always considered and thoughtful.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Gift of Time

British Summertime ended officially at 2a.m this morning and we all set our clocks back 1 hour. Suddenly our days feel shorter and the evenings draw in. This, for some, meant an extra hour in bed sleeping - or for people like me there was a whole hour more that I could spend doing something I enjoy, walking, reading, browsing, whatever - I could do it without feeling guilty.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

PhotoBooks - the way to go ?

This week saw the announcement that Smugmug, who host my website and photos, has joined forces with Blurb the POD photobook printers. At first look this seems like a great union but a quick look at the Blurb forum shows that all is not well in the customer service dept. at Blurb. Now as SmugMug excel here I suspect that any Smuggers using Blurb would find this very hard to accept. There's no doubt in my mind though that SmugMug would not associate themselves with anything less than 1st class,so I'm sure any shortcomings will be resolved. I've been considering using one of these POD services myself for sometime now, but the major consideration apart from quality is always shipping to the UK from US companies. Still thinking around this because ......

There is nothing quite so thrilling as seeing 'your'photographs in a 'real' book. I can write from experience having twice had books published back in the 90's. Images of Exmoor (1992)was the first color photographic book published by Exmoor Books, a joint partnership between Exmoor Press and the Exmoor National Park, and was followed by Images of Exmoor - Coast & Combe in 1997. The photographs in both these books were taken solely by myself and former husband Tim, the books were commissioned and we received royalties on all sales - quite an achievement for a couple of dedicated photographers with no formal training! Amazon currently have 6 copies listed, including 1 copy as 'collectible' with the comment 'signed by both authors'.

clipped from
Images of Exmoor
Images of Exmoor
by Tim Shipsey and Caroline Shipsey
(Paperback - Oct 17, 1997)

4 Used & new
from $28.14
blog it

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Eileen Margaret Parker 17.10.1911 - 22.10.2007

She is Gone
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

My dear Mum finally passed away yesterday afternoon, Monday 22nd October. A huge part of my life is now gone and I will miss her so much, at peace now with Dad and York.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Smugmug Monday

This is a quick round-up of some interesting happenings at Smugmug and on the Dgrin Photography Forum just in case like me you find it hard to follow it all.

Last week saw the launch of Where in the World is Smuggy competition inviting creativity in flaunting Smuggy in interesting and unlikely places in return for a fantastic weekend break in Napa Valley.

The first pictures from the Dgrin Shootout at Glacier National Park can be seen here. WoW - these are some really stunning images.

Next years Dgrin Shootout at Arches National Park is announced - details in this thread.
TUESDAY 9th OCT - UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE : This is now fully booked but you can put your name on a waiting list - email DavidTO, NO pm's.

You might still be able to book a place on the Dgrin/Marc Muench Photo Workshop at Shenandoah National Park.

Finally there is the API competition details here, all developers get a free lifetime Pro account at Smugmug and could win themselves an iPhone.

The results of LPS #13, semi finalists are announced, you can see the images in this thread.

At Smugmug Corner on Sean Sherstone was featured, this is the 5th in a regular weekly spot for Smugmug photographers. Beautiful images and an interesting insight on the life and background of Sean.

Visit Dgrin because there really is huge amount of information and it is a very friendly place. There are forums for Macro, Smugmug Customization, Contests and Challengesand one that I have avoided (being of a rather delicate nature) The Whipping Post. However, when browsing today I discovered that a picture of Trees and Fog had been submitted for critique, well its good to know that I am not alone in my foggy world.

Featured Smugmug Customization - "How to Smugmug default settings"

Monday, 1 October 2007

Monday Mendip Mist

Its being generous to call it mist, more like drizzle and fog. As this is supposed to be my photography blog you might expect that I would illustrate what I mean. Let me tell you, its bad enough having to look out of the window and see this dismal weather without having a collection of photographs to remind me of it. There is absolutely nothing attractive about it and I've no intention of wandering around in the rain in the hope that a stunning image will form before my eyes. This is the kind of rain that penetrates your camera bag, sends huge drips down your neck and mud splashes up your legs.

If I drive just a couple of miles down hill its like being in another world, almost not raining, clear skies, ok they are grey, and about 5 degrees warmer - fahrenheit that is. Centigrade doesn't sound as impressively different. May I plead with the weather Gods - send me a winter of frost, lots of it, day after day. Add to this some fog, YES REALLY, and we will have such beautiful formations that I will be in photographic heaven. No more of these dull, damp and mild winters please, they are death to a landscape or nature photographer - I don't want to die this winter. What do you mean 'Get Creative' - come and take a look and see what you can make of it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Reasons to blog ?

I'm really not sure why we blog - I would never have thought of leaving my diary around so that all the world could read it, so why am I doing this ? Well for today's contribution I have the highly entertaining Laughing Gypsy to thank and also BlogRush. The former is a photographer and the latter is supposed to be a way of generating traffic to my blog, which I hope would lead on to my website, and then with any luck to the sale or two. I've always thought that if you are an entrepreneur at heart or just plain unemployable then the best way to be sure of an income is to have your eggs in several different baskets. Then if you smash them all in one basket at least you have the others to sell. Well my photography basket, as in my website, is yielding nothing just now - zilch, so are my eggs broken and I just can't see it ? I am now going to begin a very serious campaign to remedy this........hmmmm scrambled maybe, poached....
Ah another thing - I think even less people read my blog than would my diary - so is there something to be learned from this ?

Monday, 24 September 2007

Monsters in the Forest

For several weeks now there has been a "thinning operation" taking place in the forestry at Stockhill where I often walk. As forestry plantations go this is a particularly attractive area and is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and families. However, the "thinning", which is supposed to be for the benefit of all, has in the uninformed opinion of many of us, wreaked havoc across the whole area. Mostly the public have been kept out of areas where the work is actually taking place and we only get to see what remains after the machinery has done its worst. It seems like the whole forest is a massive disaster area with piles of brushwood and deep tracks in the undergrowth cut through by the machinery. It is quite upsetting to see, especially as I have taken many beautiful photographs there. I was walking there at dusk last night when suddenly, through the gloom, I saw this monstrous tractor with a huge arm extended before me, it was parked amongst the trees, quietly sitting there like a sleeping beastie just waiting for its next victim.

Time to investigate further - I wondered if the Forestry Commission were aware of how things are progressing and what their view is of it. They are the government department responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain's forests and woodlands. I spoke to a very helpful gentleman called Lorne Campbell who is obviously a very experienced forester. In his opinion this operation is tidy and well executed, and whilst there is residual brushwood and mess, he is confident the forest will look much better for it in 2 years time. The area around the All Ability Trail especially will benefit as the trees would encroach on this. So there is nothing more to be said - it is a plantation and needs to be managed. Every 5 years this type of operation needs to take place to allow trees to reach maturity and for regeneration. The original planting was mainly done in the 1940's and 50's with some more recently taking place during the 1980's. I'm not keen on "management" of any kind in the natural world or even in a forestry plantation, I guess I was expecting this to be more like a "mass pruning" event - ah well .......

Thursday, 20 September 2007

A very special lady

Eileen Parker, aged 95 years and 11 months, lies in her bed at the nursing home. The sheet covering her has a few wrinkles in it, each wrinkle defines part of her tiny body, a leg, an arm. Her shoulders are bare, her nightdress reveals the detail of the joints and I can hardly bear to look, it frightens me to see this. Her skin is so thin I can see every vein in her hands and arms, purple blotches cover her body. She needs oxygen constantly and even with it her chest heaves as she takes a breath. She is so weak that just opening her eyes seems to take what strength she has, but, then a smile lights up the room as she recognizes me and she clearly says "Hello my love" this is the longest sentence she has spoken for several weeks now.

If death is cruel then the act of dying is even more so, it has been happening before my eyes for the past 12 months, I have witnessed the finest details of life being lost. At Christmastime the hand not strong enough to hold a pen and write cards as in previous years, the same hand now finding the weight of a cup too much to hold to her lips. Receding gums rendering dentures too big - but she is so weak that any remedial treatment is just too much effort. Spectacles bruise the fragile face. Clothes tear the skin as she is dressed, not through any rough treatment but because she is so very, very frail. Despite all this she is still clinging on to life, I wish I knew why, I wonder if there is some special particular 'thing' that needs to happen before she can just remain peacefully asleep. If there is, then I wish she could tell me, but at this stage of her life questions often cause distress, so I do not ask I just search her face for an answer.

This process is hard enough to observe in an elderly person, so my heart goes out to anyone with a loved one whose life should have been longer but is seeing the life go from them at age 30, 40, 50 - whatever age it is never long enough.

Each time I visit I wonder if it will be the last, everytime the phone rings is it the call that will bring me the news of her passing, and yet she fights on - a very special lady is my dear Mum.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Walking, walking, walking ........

Mostly when I walk I am happy, my spirits lift and any bothersome thoughts just get blown away by the wind, thats why I love it so. When the weather is on the change, and the skies filled with everchanging clouds then that is the icing on the cake for me.

When I left home on Sunday afternoon the sky was grey and dull-looking, but no matter I headed for Charterhouse masts to walk on Blackdown. There was a really strong wind blowing and as I drove up the hill I could see a really dramatic front moving in from the west. For the next two hours the clouds were a delight, the dogs were having a whale of a time and I was happily taking photographs. And so we trundled onwards and eventually made it to the trig point. Sometimes the ground was just too bumpy for Fly to ride in the buggy, so she gallantly hopped along while I dragged and bounced it behind me.

It was a super walk, nice light, loads of pics, happy dogs, walking back to the car in the fading light I had a real sense of satisfaction and achievement. At home I downloaded the pics from my P&S camera and then started with the DSLR - looking good, Yipeeee! It was then I discovered that the full card I had taken from my camera while out walking was not in the bag - pockets, car, NOWHERE !! In a second the joy of my walk evaporated and despair, deep and gloomy, descended. I could remember roughly when I changed cards but I doubt whether there is any chance of finding it in the long grasses and heather that overhang the narrow rutted track that barely passes for a path.

Google Maps to the rescue - I've walked this route hundreds of times but thought it would be fun to try and pinpoint locations, especially where I thought the card may have been lost, sure enough when I returned on Monday morning I found the card sitting on top of a clump of heather. Was it worth going back to find the card ? Take a look at my Mendip Hills Landscape Gallery.

Google Map of the area around Beacon Batch

View Larger Map

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Smugmug - the Ultimate etc etc - A Tribute

I have 2 websites for my photography and both are hosted by Smugmug. Just in case anyone has not heard of this company, their byline is "The ultimate in photo sharing. Online photo albums,photo sharing, photo hosting and photo storage". The key word here is "ultimate" and if you have even the slightest interest in any of the services they can provide I suggest you check them out.
This is not a review of Smugmug its a kind of personal tribute to it, and also to their associated forum Dgrin. For years I had sold framed and mounted prints through local galleries, exhibitions etc, quite successfully - thanks to all who supported me over the years! But it was time to rethink, I wanted to show my pictures but not have the hassle of servicing galleries, mounting, framing and so on. Enter, by chance Smugmug. For the past 6 months since I joined Smugmug I have been working almost on a daily basis at creating a home for my photos, a professional looking site where people could if they wish purchase photos direct. I'm not going to attempt to tell you about the features that are available, just visit Smugmug and see for yourself - what ever your level of interest or type of photography, there most definitely is a package to suit you. Its not free, but then nothing that is any good ever is, but it is worth every penny, cent, euro etc. and there are packages to suit your budget. Smugmug is incredibly good value for money, though there is something else that cannot be priced because it is invaluable, and totally amazing - it is the support, not only from the Smugmug employees, or SmugHeros, but from the 'community', the tireless, patient, knowledgeable people who frequent the Dgrin support area, and give so generously of their time and expertise, to help people like me to get the website we want. I've never seen any offensive language or unpleasantness that some lists seem to thrive on, there seems to be an unspoken respect for each other. I think this comes from the very top ie the founders of Smugmug and permeates through their employees, to their customers, its something I really like and is very special.

Thats enough - I'm getting all starry-eyed and emotional - this is a BIG THANKS to all of you and a plug for the best in everything photo hosting Smugmug. Check it out now, you will not be disappointed. and my personal photos.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The Cloud Appreciation Society

We have hardly seen the sun for weeks in this part of Somerset, and if we were not on the top of a hill then this would be Blog from the Bog as well as from the Fog. So when I discovered a book called The Cloudspotters Guide I thought it may give me new perspective on the grey, rain-filled skies that dominate our weather just now.

For a small fee I joined The Cloud Appreciation Society, the benefits of which are a membership certificate, and a BADGE !! One the main aims of the Society is to fight "the banality of blue sky thinking" - well, as a landscape photographer I couldn't agree more with that. Less than 12 hours though, after joining, I awoke to find the rain had cleared and the sky was clear, and BLUE. It didn't last long and by the time I had drunk my first coffee of the day the clouds were forming, awaiting my appreciation.

It is going to be great fun learning the names of clouds, what their implications are for the forthcoming weather and so on. I've started a gallery of Clouds on my personal website as an aid to recognizing and committing them to memory.

This new interest opens the door for photography on days when I otherwise wouldn't have considered it. Landscape photography for me, has always been just as much about what the cloud formation looks like as the land itself, and as a consequence, if the sky is virtually cloudless, then I wouldn't consider taking a photograph. My favorite clouds were those with windows in them, casting patches of light like a torch beam, lighting features or buildings as they passed. Now I can also take pictures with impunity on cloudy days where there is no light falling on the land because these will be cloudscapes not landscapes - Yipeeeeee!!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Travellers at the Minories

Summer is not happening here in the UK this year - spring was beautiful and full of promise but over the past 6 weeks we have had storms and enough rain to cause flooding. No mention now of drought or hosepipe bans. I can't remember when I last woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, its seems to have rained, at some point, every day for weeks. Today has been no exception because we have had rain and fog, so this really is a Blog from the Fog again today. The garden is looking sad and sodden, the wind has been so strong today it has blown complete flower heads from my rose and it feels more like October than July.
Yesterday I saw some Travellers with 2 horse drawn wagons struggling along in the pouring rain and today there have made their camp a mile or so along the road. It might look idyllic to see bow-top wagons and horses camped amongst the trees, but when the rain hasn't stopped for hours and the fog is down it doesn't have so much appeal. I always ask the permission of travelling people to photograph them and appreciate being able to record aspects of their way of life.

Good news - Bad news

On 30th June following the attack on Glasgow airport,and the discovery of 2 car bombs in London, the "Terror Threat Level" in the UK was raised to critical - this means that an attack is "expected imminently". On 4th July it was reduced to "Severe" - this means an attack is "highly likely". Down here in Somerset this has very little relevance but for friends who commute daily into cities it is concerning - Chris is flying to the US later this month and I can't help but feel just a little bit of worry creeping in. Well thats the bad news but the good news is ......

I woke at 4am yesterday to hear the news that Alan Johnston, the British journalist, kidnapped and held hostage in Palestine for almost 4 months had been released by his captors. Every week his colleagues had staged a demonstration to ensure his kidnap was not forgotten and an online petition collected over 200,000 names. His parents had appeared regularly on television, always hopeful, always optimistic and always dignified. I just wanted to record how pleased I am that he is safe and well, the best news for weeks, I'm so happy for him and his family. you can read about him here

Monday, 2 July 2007

Crop Circles - Cosmic or What ?

I had no idea that one of our favorite mooring places on the Kennet and Avon Canal was close to an area renowned for the appearance of crop circles, it is however, something that I've always had a slight interest in, but have never been motivated enough to go and explore.

On June 29th a new circle was reported at Golden Ball Hill, Alton Barnes, which is within walking distance of the canal so I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing for myself an example of this phenomena, and of course photographing it.

There is a vast amount of information on the internet about crop circles - on the one hand there are those who believe they are created by some devious humans, mysterious forces of nature or even aliens. This is as good a starting point as any. I have to say I'm no wiser, and have no opinion about this since seeing the crop circle from Golden Ball Hill, or from having walked in the one at West Kennet Long Barrow, in the company of about 20 American and Japanese tourists. I had been warned that my mobile phone might stop working or that if my camera was digital it too my develop a mind of its own rather than be in my control.

Anyway, the weather was beautiful and the light very clear giving the best views of the surrounding countryside that I have seen so far, so I made the most of it. The climb up the hill pushing the dog buggy with Fly in it AND walking into the wind was pretty exhausting but well worth the effort.

From the top of the hill I could look straight down onto the crop circle which made it worth the climb. There were a few other people around marveling at the circle and discuss the meaning of it, life and so on. Apart from feeling wobbly at the knees, which was probably due to the exertion of the climb, I cant say that I felt anything unusual, though I was certainly impressed by the intricacy of this formation in a corn field and left wondering ....... used one of my images of the circle, and Iwas amazed to see the 3rd picture from the top - its me! and the dogs, sitting, looking down on the circle.

This final picture show the detail of the circle, however, I've since learned that the really interesting detail is only to be found on the ground within the circle - the way the corn is laid, for example. I'm hoping that there will be another circle to look at next time I go the the boat, preferably not at the bottom of a steep hill.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The Power of One

As a sometime session musician I am always amazed, if not moved, when a random group of people come together, who maybe only see each other a few times a year, and manage to make music, sounding not unlike a professional band, that lifts the soul and sets the feet tapping. Its the nature of a session that people will come and go, or take a rest with a beer and listen. Sometimes it can go on for hours the mood remaining high and the quality barely faltering, but sometimes a person joins who just isn't "in tune" with the character of the session, and it changes completely, spiraling down into mediocrity. Eventually more and more people leave until there is just the 'misfit' and few others who are too embarrassed to leave him on his own.

I've noticed a similar thing happen on various forums that I belong to. A happy group of people will have been posting messages - helping out, sharing information, the odd bit of banter etc. Then along comes a newcomer, who has to chip in with a comment or answer about every message, who is insensitive to the mood of a thread or particular person, and worse still, wants to press their opinion on everyone, becoming argumentative if it is not accepted. Like the music session, people move along - they stop posting and find somewhere else to go. What once was just a group of people who probably only knew each other by user names but gelled like a family, gradually begins to disintegrate and it may become worthless.
Thats the power of one.

Radway Reunion 2002

Monday, 28 May 2007

Canal Boat Confusion

I’m confused, very confused. When narrowboat Harlequin came into my life I had this vision of peaceful, sunny days cruising through the English countryside, passing skilfully through lock after lock as we headed into previously unexplored parts of this idyllic isle. After 3 attempts at a restful w/end doing just this, let me tell you it hasn’t happened for me.

Honey Street, Kennett and Avon Canal

Ok, I know Brits have a reputation for talking about the weather, I’m no different. This is a bank holiday weekend here in the UK, and traditionally one which, given good weather, sees busy roads, packed campsites and B & B’s, caravans coming out for their first trip of the year etc. Its now 6am on Bank Holiday Monday, it has rained persistently for 24 hours, with gale force winds for the last 12 of those, and it is cold. There is also FOG, its not enough that I live in the foggiest place in Somerset, the damn stuff seems to follow me around. There should be fine views of the Vale of Pewsey from the canal but even if the boat windows weren’t permanently steamed up there is nothing on the horizon that can be identified as anywhere in particular. During the night the wind was so strong it rocked the boat, blowing it into the bank it is moored against with irregular thuds, all the equipment that inevitably gets stored on the roof, has shuddered and rattled ominously all night long, and peaceful is not how I would describe things.

Things didn’t go to well on Friday when I arrived at the boat. So desperate for the loo was I that I couldn’t wait for Chris to get Harlequin properly moored. As the bow came within about 3 feet of the bank, I stretched my left leg out to gain a foothold, intending to leap aboard. How 10st of female can cause 17 tons and 57 feet of canal boat, to move so swiftly towards the opposite bank I don’t know, but it did, and my choice was either to fall, with outstretched legs into the murky waters or throw myself back to the bank. I chose the bank, but instead of landing gracefully on the grass, it was the most vicious bunch of stinging nettles on the Kennett and Avon that received my panic stricken body. This was as close to electrocution that is possible for the human body to experience, closely followed by spontaneous levitation from the nettles onto the canal path with a thud. In the space of the next couple of hours, 2 of the dogs had fallen in the canal, and Dusty had puked up the mostly undigested body of a dead squirrel she had found in the woods earlier.

Saturday started badly with Dusty, the bosses No. 1 dog, now requiring a trip to the vet, not easy from the canal, especially as she was now so ill she couldn’t stand. On arrival she was admitted to the vet hospital (McQueens in Devizes – a very fine and caring place) and given the necessary treatment to restore her to health and life, which took 24 hours and a large amount of money. The loo had stopped emptying properly, looking ominously like it would spew its stinking contents on the floor. Emptying it, the obvious solution, involved going down the canal – you can’t just turn the boat around wherever you happen to be – to a winding hole, though a swing bridge, twice, and then up the canal, to the lovely George Gibson, who, for a modest fee, will suck out the vile contents of your loo with a huge vacuum device. Worth every penny believe me.

Most of Sunday was spent getting wet, getting the dogs out for pees etc, and drying off said dogs and self afterwards. I’ve fed swans through the kitchen window – they come to the side of the boat and peck at it to attract attention, and read most of ‘Notes from a Small Island’ by Bill Bryson, which is gently amusing mostly and causes belly laughs too. I’ve walked miles in the rain, seen very little and found nothing particularly stunning to photograph. I’ve met other boaters and exchanged banter but we’ll probably never recognize each other again unless we are always encased in waterproof clothing peering out from tightly fastened hoods that cover 50% of our faces.

Soon I will be loading up the car and heading for home, the heater blasting out to dry me off, I expect the wind will drop and the sun come out when I’m halfway there – confused Me ?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Curious Cows and a Sunset

Anyone with the tiniest oodle of commonsense who has lived all their life in the country, as I have, will know that cows are curious creatures, that is curious as in inquisitive. The younger they are the more inquisitive, playful and above all FASTER they are.

What does this have to do with photographing a sunset you may ask ?
Well quite a lot in the circumstances.

The weather here on the Mendips has been pretty dismal of late, in fact, Priddy is renowned for its dismal climate – it’s a well known fact that prospective house sales fall through when the buyers “hear about the weather”. Day after day we are shrouded in mist, fog and drizzly rain while just 2 or 3 miles down the road in Wells the sun shines.

So when the fog and rain cleared yesterday giving way to a typically English spring day, with brilliant blue skies, puffy white clouds and the countryside fresh in its new clothes, I planned taking an evening walk at Deer Leap. A sunset I thought, that’s what I will photograph today, I’ll take the dogs with me and together we will enjoy the end of the day, taking in the finest view in Somerset.

Off we strode, just me, and 5 happy dogs scampering around, plus Fly, who only has 3 legs, in her buggy being pushed and carried over gates and stiles, camera dangling off my shoulder. Tripod ? No way, I don’t do tripods and dogs and buggy. The light was a bit iffy, not as clear as I hoped but it had possibilities, so we kept going. The sun broke through the clouds exactly at my eye level, blinding me temporarily but long enough to ensure that I failed to see a number of cows on the horizon until I was within 20 yards or so of them. The first group of cows however had plenty of time to see me approaching and were already regarding me with some interest - Its not everyday that a dog in a baby buggy passes their way.

My tactics were to walk slowly, calmly, back in the direction I had come from keeping the dogs close by me, but they and the cows had other ideas. Now remember that I was walking towards the setting sun and the cows, and that the angle and brilliance of the sun had more or less blinded me. The dogs disappeared into the distance as the sound of hooves thundering towards us increased, and my legs were propelling me forward as fast as they could manage considering that now I could feel warm bovine breath on the back of my neck.

Ok I thought, I’ll stop them dead in their tracks, and with my loudest “I’m not scared of you” voice I turned and roared “ Gid on,gid on” (this is what I thinkI hear farmers shouting), waving my arms madly. Unimpressed the cows continued to advance on me at speed, whilst I was facing them roaring “Gid on you *!!*??*’s. Now these were cunning creatures, they came around the sides of me and before I knew it I was completely encircled by them. Every time I tried to take a step they were heading me off and getting ever closer to me, and the now terrified Fly, cowering in her buggy. A tripod might have come in handy now to defend myself I thought wistfully.

Remaining stationary for a couple of minutes I tried to collect my thoughts and plan my escape, I realised that no-one knew where I was and as my partner was away, no-one would miss me, except the dogs that is. Then in the distance I saw my salvation in the form of a man walking towards me, though he seemed oblivious to my plight. “Help” I shouted repeatedly – no reaction, “Please get me out of here” I bawled hysterically. He called back “They’re only curious”, followed by “Don’t worry” as an afterthought. At this point I dropped any pretence of being a lady and screeched at the top of my voice “For **!! sake get get these !!***??? ** cows away from me PLEASE” He came over to me and as if by some miracle these beasts just parted and began to amble off having completely lost interest. With a sigh of great relief I thanked him for his trouble and headed for the car, only now could I see my fearless dogs watching intently from a safe distance – thanks dogs! Off we went, striding out into the gloom of dusk. If there was a sunset I didn’t see it, and I didn't care about it either, I was relieved to be safe and heading for home, and then…… the front wheel fell off Fly’s buggy.