Friday, 22 August 2014

Day 22 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Composite of land to be lost"

Suggested by - Simon via blog

"How about a composite photo of the open farmland to the east of Saffron Walden soon to be despoiled by unsustainable development, thanks to the combined efforts of our elected representatives and planners at Uttlesford District Council.

Possibly not your greatest challenge, but at least, it will provide a record of what we have lost for ever.

When I throw out the request for challenges for me to take on, I make it my policy to try not to reject any suggestion, unless it is clearly isn't within the brief. I will never reject on the grounds it might be difficult, but being difficult doesn't just relate to the execution of it, (and this one was going to be a bit difficult) it can also be due to the subject matter itself. When this one popped up, I knew it would be one that could be emotive amongst my potential viewers. I wasn't going to reject it on those grounds, as it would just amount to a form of censoring. I would prefer to allow everyone their view, whilst I merely provide an impartial backdrop to it. So maybe this post could be seen as failing the challenge - I will accept that but equally, hope you will understand.

Nationally, the housing shortage is creating quite a stir and equally, proposed developments to resolve the problem are proving just as contentious. Saffron Walden is not immune to this and I will leave you, the reader, to Google the comings and goings of the matter, as there is much available.

Following a short shower of rain this evening, I took myself to the area in question to capture just a snippet of the farmland spoken of, and reflected on the need for housing and the potential loss of greenbelt. Never an easy task. I thought of how the town has has already enlarged and filled so many building spaces in the 30 or so years I have lived here. Towns will always have a changing face. However, what needs to be carefully thought through is whether the final decision is for the good of the people and the town as a whole. Those in the determining roles are charged with making such decisions, and we and future generations will have to live with it. In that case, we can only hope it is all considered carefully and with understanding.

As I watched the sun go down over both old and new housing areas in this corner of town I just thought how fortunate I was to live in a lovely part of the country.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 23

Will be drawn from a selection in the morning

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day 21 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Employment"

Suggested by - Hilary via Facebook

When the suggestion of employment came in, my heart sank somewhat as I couldn't initially see how this connected to my request for challenges related to Uttlesford. However, the challenger eventually pointed out to me that it was one of the first facts she had read about Uttlesford - Stansted Airport is the largest employer in Uttlesford.


Anyway, instead of showing you a trail of girls in 'process blue' business dress heading to work for a certain low fares airline, I thought I would simply provide a pretty image of the interesting airport building, designed by Sir Norman Foster, and all lit up by night. So by nature of the shoot, I apologise for a rather late post tonight.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 22

"Composite of land to be lost"

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day 20 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Uttlesford wildlife"

Suggested by - Ca via Facebook

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will realise that this challenge would mean I would be able to indulge in the one thing I'm really passionate about - wildlife. Sadly, work has got in the way of this pleasure of late and I haven't been able to go out and spend the time in the field or blog about it. (Wouldn't it be lovely if I could combine work and pleasure here? Where are those commissioning editors who need wildlife shots and articles?!!) ...I digress. So with all the wonderful wildlife there is around in Uttlesford, how could I show it all here in one go? Simply, I can't but I can recommend catching up with The Essex Wildlife Trust which aims to protect all wildlife for the future and also covers the Uttlesford corner of the county.

So here today, I select one particular aspect of local wildlife that is dear to my heart (excuse the pun).

For a number of years now, I have been watching a particular herd of fallow deer not too far from my home. It usually involves arriving at my hide location in the hours of darkness and waiting for the dawn activity to begin. I have watched the coming, and sadly the going of the splendid white buck and usually caught the annual rutting activities. Many hours I have sat silently in the chill of the morning, waiting for some spectacular activity that would allow equally spectacular shots (actually, I'm still waiting for those). As with any wildlife photography, it takes time, patience and dedication to reap the rewards with a stunning photograph, unless being lucky just happens to gift a stunner to someone who may have a camera with them. It is possible to get some cracking shots of deer in the public parkland setting, and yes, I have done that but I'm more interested in the shy and elusive deer. They are much more of a challenge to me.

By following this particular local herd, I have got to know where their deer paths run and where their scrapes and rutting stands are. This means that my hide can stay in the one spot, although I'm seriously contemplating hiring a stonking 600mm for the approaching rutting season, just to gain a bit of distance without encroaching on their territory. It actually won't be very long before rutting kicks off though. Indeed, for the challenge this morning, I was watching as two sub-three-year-old bucks were testing their prowess with their single pronged antlers, in what would probably be their last season with the maternal herd. However, I didn't spy the big daddy of them all who is yet to start rounding up his group of ladies. This year, I am going to start the rut watch much earlier than previous years, to ensure I don't miss a trick. The weather plays a big part with the start, the colder temperatures triggering the annual behaviour. I will endeavour to bring regular updates to this blog, so if you have just the vaguest interest in deer then do drop by and see what might be happening.

This morning, as I sat in the warming morning sunshine, watching the last of the swallows skimming low over the ploughed field, a peaceful calm descended over the little corner where I sat. Apart from the very distant hum of the M11, I could hear nothing else except the sound of the real birds - not even a raucous metal bird punctuated this silence. Just then, a doe, still resplendent in her distinct spotty summer coat and camouflaged against the ploughed field, struck off from the ruminating herd and I took the opportunity to fire off a few shots. Being so close, the sound of my shutter alerted her and she made a comical backwards glance at me before pronking off across to the cover of the nearby woodland.
Just magical!

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 21


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Day 19 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Ugly building looking pretty"

Suggested by - Michelle

"An ugly building in Saffron Walden which becomes beautiful because of the way you photograph it?
the ugly building. Like the factory opposite tescos..."

OK, so I admit, apart from Photoshopping it out of the image, this eyesore of a building that most of the population of Saffron Walden look at on a regular basis, is never going to be made to look beautiful as a whole. In fact, if I hadn't have used litter for my Day 6 "Blot on the landscape" then this would have been the one to feature for that day.

I dropped by this morning, prior to my trip up to London to see the "The Tower Poppies" amongst other things, but mutt had decided to do her usual thing on a day when I am restricted by time - she runs off, and so, my attempts at solving the beauty issue this morning were mutt-limited to a hasty 10 minutes - definitely not long enough for this makeover! However, upon my return from my London visit (and wow! were those poppies something? A blog for that soon) I swung back to the spot I had been to this morning. The light began to turn to the warmer colours of a sunset and I hoped there might be some nice reflections to be had. Sadly, the sun wasn't in the best location and so another approach was needed.

For the third day on the trot, it seemed as though a bit of trespassing might have to be contemplated but in the end, I was able to stay outside of the anti-trespass fence (it was like déjà vu - just a more substantial deer fence) My approach was to be, if I couldn't make the whole building look good, then I should focus on just a little bit that might look good in its own way. I tried framing the rampant self-seeded buddleias with the the forms of the broken windows. I looked at the glittery patterns around the exposed and rusted wires of the broken 'georgian glass'. I studied the shadows of the fire escape on the profiled tin walls. I looked for beauty in the decay. And then I saw it. The shape in one particular broken pane of glass appeared to resemble the form of an angel. A slightly deformed angel, I grant you but it made the windows take on a different form. The window to the right of it was still intact and the stripes of the venetian blinds were just visible, creating a pattern in the panel. The window to the left bore the spraypaint of the graffiti and the tag of the 'artist', creating another patterned panel.

Here, whether you appreciate it or not, was a triptych to the beauty of decay.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 20

"Uttlesford wildlife"

Monday, 18 August 2014

Day 18 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Shadwell Wood, Ashdon"

Suggested by - Celia via Twitter

Let me in!!

This is what I was faced with this morning, when I finally found the secretive Shadwell Wood near Ashdon, and I certainly wasn't going to be able to squeeze in through a badger pipe!

There were few indicators on the OS map regarding even the name, let alone the entrance to this wood but it was obvious I had approached it from the wrong direction when I came face to face with a deer-proof fence which surrounded this 17.5 acre ancient woodland. Unlike many of the other woods I visit locally, deer are positively kept out of this wood as they would do untold damage to the young shoots of the coppiced trees and also eat all the flowers, notably the oxslips. Managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, this woodland has an enviable collection of Spring flowers (wrong time of year for me today with August being one month that isn't even mentioned as being best for visiting) Today, I was with the deer - on the outside and so I copied their reasoning and trekked along the deer track which followed the perimeter of the wood, my theory being, if I followed it for long enough I would find the gate. I was beginning to kick myself for forgetting to bring the OS map with me and with no mobile signal, I was unable to do a search for a map that way too. And so me and mutt (and yes, I found out later that she wouldn't have been allowed in anyway) ducked and dived under branches and through nettles (I'm still feeling the late-repeating stings even now) until I got to a point where it appeared I was in someones garden, and that someone was busy in their greenhouse...with the potential of spotting me. Having done a bit of illegal exploring yesterday, I wasn't too keen to go on and get told off for trespass, so I made the decision to turn around and go back the way I had come.

There was only one thing for it - I took myself off home and made the cuppa that I was gasping for and whilst sitting enjoying it, I carefully checked the map and the website to see if there was any more information of how to get into the wood. It wasn't the clearest but I had overlooked a little piece of information which may have been useful so I determined that I would return later in the afternoon for another go. Sadly rain showers and other work thwarted my attempts but now I have discovered this new little oasis, I will certainly be going back.

As I said before, I do just as much learning whilst undertaking the August Challenge as perhaps you do, and that is what I love about doing this. Here for you, is a picture of a deer fence and badger pipe, not quite what I had in mind but then often these challenges throw up something completely different and new.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 19

"Ugly building looking pretty"

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Day 17 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Howzat!"

Suggested by - Nick via Facebook

"Howzat! (any Sunday)"

Plan A - visit one of the lovely idyllic village cricket greens that are dotted around this corner of Uttlesford, and take a few shots of a game in action.
Plan B - given the rain this morning, take a brolly to said cricket green and capture the raindrops bouncing off the wicket.
Plan C ...never thought I would need a Plan C but Plan C it ended up being.

I had done a bit of fixtures searching prior to this shoot but it appeared that most league matches are played on a Saturday, with friendlies on Sundays. One team was putting out a Facebook plea for players during this holiday period and others had no apparent fixtures for Sundays. It would mean I would have to visit each of the local greens today, in the hope that there might just be one match on the go. Off I set in lovely sunshine, the earlier rain having disappeared, calling by the first green, and probably the most stunning location of them all - in front of Audley End House. Nope. To the second. Nope, third, nope - but they did have a huge banner saying 'Players Wanted'. On to the fourth, nope and by then I was beginning to wonder if it was the earlier rain which might have 'stopped play' but guess there would have been players milling around if there were plans to play. One last green to try, and as it is also an idyllic example, it would have to be the one to provide some form of image to remedy my requirements.

The pavilion at this particular green (which will remain nameless and the reason why will become clear) is of the typical pavilion type - white match boarded walls with a scalloped-edged porch. Outside the scoreboard was securely padlocked behind a plywood door yet strangely, the un-roped-off wicket wasn't secure...neither was the door to the pavilion. It was ajar, and at first I thought there might be someone in, so I gingerly peered in through the window, taking a couple of shots of the cricket equipment lying about inside. Unlike on Friday when I was after a reflection, today the reflection was not helping me. There was only one thing for it - a bit of urb-exing, well sort of. Now positive that there was no one coming and going, I slipped inside and rattled off a few shots. The safety helmets hung on the wall, the cricket stumps laid on the bench alongside the score numbers, the bales on the ledge of the sash window, the umpire coats hanging on the hook...they weren't going to be used today. As quickly as I had gone in, I left, having touched nothing. I apologise to the club for inviting myself in, but I did pull the door to behind me has I left!

Plan C - capture the essence of cricket at a local green. (Sorry, due to security issues I couldn't show where but I assure you it was within Uttlesford.)


Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 18

"Shadwell Wood"

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Day 16 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Market"

Suggested by - Frankie via Facebook

Last night I posted a shot of reflections in the market place, showing the parked cars that would have to be gone by the morning, and so it is quite appropriate that I was back in the transformed and busy market place today for my
Day 16 shoot.

The market square was bustling with lots of pedestrian traffic and to one stall in particular.
The fruit and veg stall stands out not only because of the volume of bright displays of seasonal fruit and veg but because of a character that everyone has come to know. Aaron first started helping out with the packing up of the stall after school as a youngster, progressing to Saturday boy, and now becoming a fixture. So why does he stand out above the rest of the crew working the stall. Well, back in 2008, Aaron gained notoriety for being too loud! Yes, his market calls were apparently not appreciated by some and sadly a complaint was made. Needless to say, he had a lot of support from those who felt his calls of "Bananas in pyjamas" and "Move your legs, your body will follow" were all part and parcel of market life. Thankfully, nothing more seemed to come of it and Aaron is as large as life today, calling out the price of 'straw-be-rrie-ies' as well as his more unusual lines that have now almost become his catch-phrases.
Here is another one...


In the whole scale of things, Aaron (captured in a rare silent moment in the image above) is a very recent addition to the life of the market in Saffron Walden when it is considered that back in May, celebrations were held to mark 500 years since Henry VIII granted a Market Charter to this Uttlesford town. This meant that no other markets were allowed to be held in the vicinity of Saffron Walden, by which, the nearby village of Newport had to relinquish the right to hold their market. Indeed, the name Saffron Walden was preceded by the name Chipping Walden, chipping meaning market, and indicating the status of the town (it was later renamed as a result of the saffron production). In recent years, Saffron Walden market place has had a make-over with events and parades also being held in the market square at times throughout the year. Meanwhile, the number of market stalls has increased and spread into King Street, making the Saturday and Tuesday feature quite an event.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September.

Tomorrow, Day 17