Friday, 5 February 2016

The Petrified Oaks of Mundon

For our first jolly of 2016, the Wivenhoe Photography Group jumped in a jalopy and pootled over to Mundon, near Maldon on the Essex coast. I've visited Maldon a number of times over the years, but was unaware of the treasures awaiting down the road at Mundon.

First stop was the beautifully humble Mundon St Mary church, which has been restored by a group called Friends of Friendless Churches.

Mundon St Mary interior
Mundon St Mary

On farmland beyond the church we came upon a field of petrified oak trees - the main reason for our trip.

petrified oaks
On farmland behind the church

Lunchtime on a blustery, overcast day isn't ideal for landscape photography, so rather than getting in close I went for a bit of wide-angled drama.

mundon oaks
Petrified oaks of Mundon
I underexposed most of my shots to ensure there was some detail in the sky that I knew could be brought out during editing.

field of oaks
Field of oaks
In fact I decided at an ealy stage that I wanted to derive some drama from the interaction of bare oak branch and sky, so shot from low angles, filling the frame with plenty of sky for the most part.

Two old oaks
Two old oaks
This is a place deserving of more than one visit; I'd love to see it covered in deep snow, or during a misty sunrise.

A jagged stump
A jagged stump
If nothing else, the pretrified oaks of Mundon are a reminder of the hidden treasures that can lie just beyond our doorstep.

Line of oaks in silhouette
Oaks in silhouette

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A Short Break to the 2nd Hand Book Capital of the World

Not so much a holiday as a pilgrimage to Hay-on-Wye, a village on the Welsh border that boasts over 20 second hand bookshops and, of course, the annual Hay Festival. The book sellers cater to all tastes, even my somewhat esoteric ones, and it was great to chat with them about obscure authors some of which they'd met and corresponded with. A particular short out to Belle Books on that account; they specialise in vintage sci-fi and detective fiction and I enjoyed a lengthy chat with the proprietor (not Belle - she was the dog). I didn't take my camera to the bookshops as that would have meant less room on my bag for books, but we did manage a couple of non-literary walks in and around the village.

bull's head in window - close up

A window on the backstreets of Hay.

bull's head in window

A view of Hay from insude the castle; the windows were a bit grimy so got as close as I count to blur out the muck.

Hay-on-Wye from its castle

The old castle that overlooks the village dates back many centuries.

inside Hay Castle

The castle has enjoyed a chequered history, and was gutted by fire in recent years. The tour of the castle is run by volunteers and helps fund the restoration work. I managed to blot my copybook by taking pictures when I should have been listening to the guide.

a cottage on the hillside

Bob and Annabelle were our hosts at the very welcoming La Fosse B&B. Bob talked of a hill-side cottage he longed to purchase, which we took to be the one in the image above.

harvest produce in Cusop Church

Harvest festival in Cusop Church.

Cusop churchyard

I love a good graveyard, and the trees in this one were Tolkeinesque.

grand old tree in Cusop churchyard

The farms dominate the countryside around Hay.

farmland skirting Hay

Not the best weather for atmospheric landscapes, but I could easily imagine living in the area and tromping over the hills as they are gradually illuminated by the rising sun.

Hay cemetary

They really know how to do cemetaries in this neck of the woods.

the spine of the cemetary

The path is wide enough for cars to drive up - which they did.

dog walker in cemetary

The Scottish lady in the image above disappeared from view for a while, before reappearing and telling me she didn't want to spoil the photo. On the contrary, she rather made it.

a walk through Hay cemetary

And then we stubled upon the icing on the funereal cake....

amazing gravestone in Hay cemetary

And finally the best thing about the area? The pace of life.

a gentle pace of life

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Feathers Flying

We grew used to the way things were, to the dailiness of life... wipe away that blinding layer and renew our capacity for wonderment...

Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton

Friday, 31 July 2015

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A Shift In Focus

This creative outlet has, regrettably, not seen much activity for a while - due in part to the increased demands of my commercial photography (a nice problem to have) and partly because I have been working on a brand new blog.

The new blog will still feature tutorials - along with case studies - but is much more business-orientated.

Fear not whimsical surfer, this blog is not entirely dead (if never entirely alive either), and will still be refreshed when I am able. In fact it will become a little purer, focussing entirely on work I create for personal pleasure. The next planned update will feature the return of the beautiful Fracture...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Lavenham and its Church

I suspect the medieval village of Lavenham in Suffolk is most rewarding to the summer day-tripper, but we made our way there on a crisp bloody freezing Sunday in January, which was perfect for photographing the impressive local church (which also yielded literary bounty in the form of a second hand book stall inside).

The layout of the church and grounds is pretty tog-friendly, with a variety of elements that lead the eye to the church itself.

The low winter sun played its part by creating a pattern of shadows along the path.

There was a touch of mist in the air, which encouraged a shot into the sun.

I don't go a whole hog on Photoshop's built in filter gallery, or sfx in general, but wanted to create a more dramatic sky for this vaguely gothic treatment of one of Lavenham's many period cottages. I selected the sky and reversed it for that 'negative' look. When doing this to a selection, a lot of attention is required around the border of the selection to ensure the transition is not too obvious.

No Photoshop tomfoolery in the next image, but I did want to emphasis the slightly crooked nature of the building, so stepped into the middle of the road with a wide angle lens set to its shortest focal length (for maximum distortion) and deliberately slanted the horizon.

Travelling light, I hadn't packed my macro lens, so had to make do with the wide angle at its longest focal length for this shot of frost-covered leaves in the grounds of the church. I left the colours in their RAW state (i.e. muted) and just tweeked a little bit of blue in with a LAB curve in the b channel.