Last week I was thrilled to be invited on a one day photography course, with Mary, a friend, for her birthday. What a treat - I am certainly no photographer ( just snap happy at times) and I do not have a brilliant camera; its not SLR standard, and has been dropped so many times that I'm amazed it is takes photos at all. That said, it was a magical day. My very poor memory has managed to take on board a few tips if I have the common sense to apply them in future. Ian, our tutor, was wonderfully informal and informative with endless patience and a very warm personality - although he said that he is less patient and much stricter with commercial students. But we were on a bit of a jolly as the weather was fine and sunny. The day began with a scenic drive from Hereford to Builth Wells where Ian has his studio/ office. He apologised for giving a very brief powerpoint presentation in the morning - no need it was succinct and helpful with examples of near perfect photos and, 'photo mistakes' ( Now I can point to almost everyone of my own photos with fine critique! )Then we went out on the 'shoot'. Mary wanted to go to bluebell woods and Ian wanted to go to the Elan Valley Reservoir. We ended up doing both, using our own cameras.
I am quite pleased with my reservoir photo (above) and could see why Ian wanted to take us there. The water was as still as a mill pond; you could clearly see the reflections.
When we came back it was a lesson in 'Lightbox' photo doctoring! Although not the brightest pupil, I would recommend Ian as a tutor who has a wealth of practical, technical and creative experience, happy to share his knowledge, infinite patience and a passion for his art that shines. He was never overbearing or patronising and time was no object. If we hadn't been tired at the end of an eight hour day I'm sure Ian would have gone on into the evening. As it was 5.30pm, long enough for our power of concentration, we called it a day. Ian gave both of us two superb prints of our efforts. Ian's own landscape prints are superb He can be found here www.builthwellsphotography.co.uk
These two photos were taken in the bluebell wood - the thrill was not the photography but the birds themselves, that not one of the three of us had seen before.... blackheads, grey backs and a pretty ginger -brown underside and tails that quivered in flight.. There were four of them flitting around us with quivering tails - I just stood mesmerised. I knew I could never photograph them in flight or get a really good photo without a powerful lens but I just had to take it to help identify these unusual birds. When I looked them up later, they turned out to be redstarts in courtship. Apparently somewhat common, but new to us.
Thank you Mary....thank you Ian....It was a rare treat. .... and a memorable day.
Rest and listen - the earth is singing.
'Where am I going, I don't quite know,
down to the stream where the buttercups grow,
'If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?"
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"
Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the bluebells grow-
Anywhere ,anywhere. I don't know.
"The wind and the rain abated and out of the storm there came forth sweetness."
The Blackthorn blossom almost gone, along with the pussy willows, giving way to the May blossom of the hawthorn trees and hedge bushes. Walking down to the Lugg meadows, past a fallen log in the ancient wood with bluebells, through the gate into the small meadow clear to trees with Red Campion and nettles beneath. The Red Campion, prolific in Herefordshire, flaunts her bright pink beautifully.
The gate at the end of the small meadow takes me back into the ancient wood, where the horse chestnut, a canopy of new finger-like leaves and large upright flowers, appears like an enormous candelabra.
Across the bridge over the brook to the long meadow, still wet from last night's storm. The sound of a song thrush high in the tree and even higher out of sight the skylark sings.
....As if by magic, overnight, buttercups are everywhere, carpeting the Long Meadow. . . .
. . . . "The wind and the rain abated and out of the storm there came forth sweetness. Two swallows swooped and banked in the clearing sky and Spring hastened from the meadow. There were a thousand and one little last- minute jobs yet to be done. there were nests to be inspected, with eggs of every description still waiting to be speckled. Chrysalises had to be woken and their stays loosened. Ladybirds required spotting and all manner of greedy grubs waiting to be fed...Vetch must be seeded, bindweed potted on, sow thistle scattered .. So much, so much to do!" . . . . (Kit Williams 'The Bee Book')
Everyone knows the lovely Bluebells grow in the woods in Springtime, beneath the sunshine and dappled shade of the trees just coming into leaf. These Bluebells carpeting the ground and looking like a pale blue lake are growing in Queen's Wood on Dinmore Hill.
It is forbidden to pick wild flowers now, but as children we used to pick them by the armful and loved to see if we could spot white and pink ones. The sticky slimy sap was always unpleasant. In Elizabethan times the sap was used to starch ruffs. But from earliest times Bluebells were omitted from medical texts and so escaped the herb hunters which is possibly a reason for their survival for our delight and joy.
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