Sunday, 29 September 2013

All Ireland Hurling Final

When I knew we were to be sailing into Dublin on the same day as the replay of the All Ireland hurling final between Cork and Clare, it was all systems go to try to secure a pair of tickets for the match at Croke Park. Hens teeth springs to mind and needless to say, I couldn't lay my hands on any, sadly. Over the years, we have become captivated by this sport - forget the multi-million pound world of soccer, this fast moving, exciting GAA sport played by amateur status teams is a far superior spectator sport, in my opinion.
And so it was, we resorted to our second option in order to watch the match, which meant leaving Dublin behind and driving straight on down to the 'Rebel County' of Cork, our final destination anyway. Meanwhile, we passed through middle of Dublin in the pre-dawn hours, the easiest time to negotiate the otherwise busy Liffey-side roads.

So deserted were the roads I gave this normal fixture a second look - was that the Marie Celeste?!!!

Following the crossing of the Irish Sea, a dawn leg-stretch in Phoenix Park for mutt. We didn't see any of the deer but I'm sure they saw us!

Onward through the still deserted streets...

...and eventually onto M8 southbound, towards Cork...

...all traffic going northbound towards Dublin...

...sporting the red and white Cork colours.

Even the motorway bridges carried support for the rebels (the underdogs for the match)...

...and there was undeniable support from the home-owners of West Cork.

Four and a half hours drive away from sunny Dublin we reached a damp and misty West Cork.
Option two, the local bar, where there would be unilateral support for the rebels for the 5pm throw-in.

Not quite as full as we thought but there would be better craic here than sitting at home, watching on a small screen.

All focus was on one corner as the match got under way, the modern entertainment taking priority over the old entertainment form, and with Co Clare dominating the first half, there was some edge of seat viewing ahead.

Finally Cork push forward in the second half - there is hope... they equalise at 22 points all. The game could go any way.

Unfortunately Clare quickly scored again and with only two minutes to go it was to be an anxious end to the match, could Cork pull it out of the bag once again?

At this point, the only comfort was the roaring fire.

And with a goal that trickled over the line in the final seconds...

...Clare won the match...

...and there was just one happy Clare supporter who made herself known to the whole bar.
Unilateral support?!

Fair play to Clare, they played well, although it would have been nice to have celebrated a Cork win in a bar in rebel county.

Now it is time for Cork to reflect

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Fleetwood Mac

With grateful thanks to Himself, we had a rather special night out at the O2 last night, as a belated anniversary treat.
So, please excuse my indulgence in showing off just a few pics from the evening. As always at these events, they're taken on my little G12 which was struggling a bit with the distance here. (Serves me right for being taken to corporate box!) The zoom is not the strongest feature on the G12 and high ISO also meant slightly noisy images sadly, but a record, none the less.

An impressive arena! Although I've been to an exhibition at the O2 in the past, it was our first time actually inside.
Note, at least four sad souls in the audience who don't know the functions on their cameras and who will have some lovely burned out shots of backs of heads!

Set list:

1. Second Hand News
2. The Chain
3. Dreams
4. Sad Angel
5. Rhiannon
6. Not That Funny
7. Tusk
8. Sisters of the Moon
9. Sara
10. Big Love
11. Landslide
12. Never Going Back Again
13. Without You
14. Gypsy
15. Eyes of the World
16. Gold Dust Woman
17. I'm So Afraid
18. Stand Back (Stevie Nicks song)
19. Go Your Own Way

I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the opening number, which to me, just didn't have the sparkle and punch it should have had. Maybe that was down to the sound system, as some very late sound checks meant that audience admittance into the arena had to be delayed. The inclusion of two hasty bungs of tissue into my ears at this point (ok, call me old but I'm certainly not deaf yet, and don't intend to be for some while ...why-is-it-always-SO-loud?) helped make the sound level far more acceptable. Coupled with adjustments on the sound desk, the music settled down and flowed beautifully for the rest of the evening...

...all 2 hours 40 of it straight through. Latecomers, thinking they would avoid the usual support, would have missed the early start as there was no support and set actually started prior to the 20.30 scheduled time.

Encouraged to "Go your own way, ...home" at the end of the set, most sat tight for an encore and were delighted to get two!

20. World Turning (including Drum Solo)
21. Don't Stop

Encore 2:
22. Silver Springs
23. Say Goodbye

So, despite the shaky start, it turned out to be a truly spectacular evening - completely worth the ticket price, (which in true gift style, I am still ignorant of!) and for those who have tickets for either Thursday or Friday, the odds have now shortened for the anticipated 2 UK show appearances of Christine McVie.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Autumnal Signs

Today we have reached the Autumnal equinox and there are some seasonal signs which are obvious. For example, the abundant hedgerow fruit, including these sloes. We harvested some beauties like this a couple of years ago and made sloe gin which has now matured to its best. Wonderful stuff! This year for a change, we made blackberry whisky for the first time and look forward to sampling that in 2014! (Thank you Tearlach for the recipe/ production instructions!)

Other Autumnal signs include damp, misty days, such as it was when I took mutt out for a walk yesterday.

However, there are some signs which aren't quite as obvious, unless you know what you are looking for.
One of my reasons for going for a walk where we did, was to actively go looking for these signs, and I'm pleased to say, I found them.

Tell-tale footpath...

Give-away footprints...

Distinctive p...
well, you don't need any help here!

However, how many of you spotted this sign back in the second image?

It was probably this sign which I was looking for more than the previous three, as this indicates that it is 'all systems go' with this year's fallow deer rut.

These areas of scuffed up ground are made by the fallow deer bucks and are called scrapes. Put simply, the buck urinates on this spot to entice the ladies in and warn the young pretenders away. Already, there is a distinct smell to the several scrapes dotted around the woodland edges, and the testosterone aroma will only get stronger as the season progresses. These scrapes are part of the larger congregating area and are known as rutting stands, several of which I have been seasonally watching for a few years now. These aren't 'easy to observe' parkland deer we are talking about here, where cracking shots are readily forthcoming, these are nervy, secretive, wild deer and so it makes it all the more of a challenge (and you know I like a good challenge!)

The stands always reappear in the same location which makes life easy for me as a photographer. I have a particular spot for my hide area, which today I gave a little bit of an Autumn-clean. Nothing too drastic though as the deer will know I have been there but just enough to ensure I don't have that one blade of grass in line of view.

So, for the next few weeks, this will be my view, off-and-on although through camo netting, and all being well, will finally come into clear focus! Sadly, due to the location, I have no way of getting closer, which I would dearly like to do but I respect the animals and their environment. My solution will be to use a longer lens this year, although I have a bit of a dilemma. Just as the rut is kicking-off here in East Anglia, we are due on our usual break away to West Cork. (The same thing happened last year and I missed a big chunk of the action.) Laying my hands on a long lens is possible but comes at a price. A price which has to be justified if (possibly) the main two weeks of the rut will be whilst I am in West Cork. I will be sad to miss the action again, so I will be sounding out the goings-on over a few mornings during this coming week and will make a decision from that.

On the up-side, I won't be missing out on the wildlife action whilst we are in West Cork. News is that the whale season is hotting up with minke whales and fin whales both being observed off the Cork coast, and although the humpbacks have returned to Irish waters, they are still further up the west coast. Maybe they will have migrated to our waters by the time we get there - we can but hope!

Meanwhile, back to the Fallow deer. My hope is to catch sight of the dominant buck, which two years ago, was a splendid white variant buck. Understandably, the recent increase in numbers of deer meant that a cull had to take place and I got wind of the fact that the local gamekeepers chose to take out all the white deer. I don't have any logical explanation for that but I really hope our white buck might still be the top man - unless he was ousted by his natural successor of course.

I will certainly keep you updated with all the deer action, here on the blog.

And what did mutt think about all this? I have to admit, she is an excellent photographer's assistant (although she has yet to offer to carry my kit bag!) With her lead left on, she knows it isn't play time, so she just settles down quietly and waits for me, although come deer-watch mornings, she will sensibly be left at home, of course.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Some of you will be here because you regularly drop into my blog.
Others will be here because you have been redirected to this blog after seeing the above announcement on my website.

Yes, I am ashamed to say that my website has been in a state of flux for far too long and I have been relying on my blog to do the work of a website - which it doesn't.
By announcing that an update is due, here on my blog, I might finally just be spurred on enough to turn around an update. Hopefully, a nice swanky new update too.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Looking Back on August

Well, August has fair galloped by, the pace clicked on rigidly with each new daily challenge - and I relished them all. Each one different. Each one with varied complexity. Each one a joy to complete.

So, how do I rate the success or otherwise? Not too bad actually! All briefs were completed, even if the artistic licence card had to be played a couple of times. Some assignments were completed early in the day, others, I was watching the seconds tick towards midnight as I champed at the bit hoping to get to the 'publish' line in time. Some had to be quite carefully planned whilst others were, 'let's see how we can achieve that on the day'. Some images were publication quality and successful, others were well, yep it fulfils the brief but would never make it past the photographic editor. However, there were some where success was clear the moment the shutter clicked - and a nice collection of those there were too!

My favourite image of the month was also the image with the most hits. I suspect that my choice of this mother and baby subject for Day 25 - "Stirs Emotions" might have raised a few eyebrows but the fact it has been the most visited also bears testament to the fact that it must have hit the mark. Other favourites were, the galloping horse, decaying bananas, the hares and foxes (although the latter two displaying typical issues of low-light shooting). In fact there were so many great subjects which I had been set that it is hard to put them in any kind of preference order, so I won't.
I won't because what did become clear was that not every picture pleased everyone. Instead, throughout the month, there was infact, something for everyone. The diversity had wide appeal. I think I proved that in many eyes, I am not just a wildlife photographer, or a still life photographer, or a landscape photographer, or a portrait photographer. I am actually happy to take on many aspects and deliver with determination.

However, without one factor, this bit of happy 'summer madness' could not have happened.
That factor?
You responded to my call for challenges.
You helped me out with arranging shoots.
You encouraged me.
You said nice things.
More than ever, this made me determined not to let you all down.

A huge, huge thank you everyone!

Now you know what I can do, please do get in touch to discuss any immediate or future assignments you might have.

Meanwhile, I will be getting in touch with many of you in the next few days.

If you still have any comments to make on any aspects of the month, or to tell me which is your favourite challenge/image or about how any of the images were achieved, please, don't be put off writing something below - you can do it anonymously. You don't have to sign up to anything, although, if you want to sign up to being a follower of the blog, I will be more than delighted!
Whilst I have had comments via emails, Facebook and Twitter, it seems there is a reluctance to comment here on the blog and Im baffled to know why? If blogger is being difficult allowing you to write, I need to know that too. Send me a message instead via the contact down the right hand side - I really would like to resolve the problem.