Bletchley Park

At some point last winter we paid a visit to Bletchley Park. We live close enough to this fascinating site that, frankly, we were ashamed to have not visited before. Particularly when you consider how much can be seen there, and that your entrance fee covers as many visits as you may wish to make in a year.

Bletchley Park, for those not familiar, is the site of secret codebreaking operations during WW2, the biggest & most famous being the breaking of the Enigma code. This was also the birthplace of modern computing, and the workplace of Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers and sometimes Ian Fleming. Due to the Official Secrets Act, the park was close to being bulldozed due to the fact no-one was legally permitted to speak of it’s history, and it is only in recent years that the 50 year silence was finally allowed to be broken. It is now run as a sort of massive visitor centre and museum, and in the last few weeks has secured Government and Lottery funding to continue to preserve and restore the site.

Many of the buildings – huts, in fact – where history was made are currently still boarded up and derelict in appearance, something which excites me the most when I have my camera. I know they need to be invested in and restored to preserve the history, but I have great affection for looking at places like this and knowing that what I’m seeing has remained largely untouched and undiscovered since monumental things happened there.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend enough that you pay a visit. These photos were taken on our second trip, as this time I knew to bring the camera with me.

21mm, f/8.0, 1/80 sec, ISO 100

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Olympic GamesMaking photos

So, a mere 3 months later, I finally share with you some of my Olympic photos. This post is devoted to photos which will not stand out technically, or in many cases even visually. These are all taken on my iPhone 4S and represent photos as memories – to me, it doesn’t matter that they’re perhaps the wrong speed, too grainy, slightly blurred and/or wonky. Besides, I couldn’t exactly turn up ‘at work’ with my 60D and lenses, tripod, flash, filter system etc. etc. So I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. But this means there’s a honesty to these photos – although some were fractionally enhanced using Snapspeed or Instagram, I will confess – because I took them without thought to “photography” and with the thought of, “I want to remember this”.



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The Peak District: Landslip

About a month ago (I am so behind), we visited the Peak District. We’d spent a couple of days there in October last year and sort of fell for it a little. It has a number of winning factors: it’s about 2hrs from home, it’s not quite like anywhere else, and there’s plenty to do. We stayed in a village called Castleton, in an excellent B&B which was an easy walk away from an impressive amount of equally impressive pubs. Could you ask for more?

This post and the next two are all from our 2/3 days there.

When we got to the Peak District, the weather was leaving much to be desired. Especially for those of us who were meant to be taking a hot air balloon flight. We realised quite early on that it wasn’t going to happen, so we went to look at a road that had been destroyed by a landslide instead – as you do in these situations. I’d actually been wanting to have a look since I read about it, because nothing spells out interesting photography like a good natural disaster with human implications. On this basis, and coupled with the conditions, I knew I wanted to go for black and white, journalistic-style images. And thanks to a little homework on apertures, I knew much more about what to aim for to control my depth of field for the shots I had in mind.

Av, 29mm, 1/10 sec, f/14, ISO 800

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Wistman’s Wood

36mm, 1/100sec, f/8.0, ISO 100

Wistman’s Wood, still on Dartmoor, is somewhere I’d heard about and never been, so as we were looking for another walk of a not enormously taxing nature, we stopped here for some exploration and for me to argue with my camera about white balance. Continue reading

Around Dartmoor

Whilst in Devon, we took a day out to go onto Dartmoor (which I initially mis-typed as Dartmoooor & now sort of prefer). Having family in the area, we’re fairly familiar with the moors although not in a navigate-through-the-mires sort of way, but it’s been a couple of years since we actually ventured out. This being April (erm, well it was then) we went equipped for all weather eventualities and I had high expectations of good -as I have come to know it – cloudporn.

40mm, 1/500s, f/5.0, ISO 100

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I am a big fan of the iphone. Not enough to do the insane queueing business, or to pay completely through the nose. And I didn’t get on the bandwagon until the 3GS (I now have a 4S, applying my own rule about skipping every other generation). I wouldn’t be without it now, and one of the reasons is the camera. I love the fact that the iphone now means I always have a camera on me, and a camera that is capable of producing something more than a pixelated grey blur. One of several reasons I upgraded my DSLR was because I realised my phone had more megapixels than my ‘proper’ camera – think how ridiculous a thought that would have been only a few years ago.

On top of the camera, there’s also the pleasure (and occasional pain) of many photographic apps. My collection of these runs to 8 at present, although being honest I really only use two or three on any kind of regular basis. But my absolute favourite is Instagram. This allows you to import previously taken photos, apply a filter and then share it. Fairly basic in many ways, but a simple idea that works very well combined with some really good filters. Collected below are some of my Instagram photos.

The Grand Union Canal

On Sunday, after working a full day on Saturday mostly in the dark – for reasons that will appear in a later post – we ventured out for a slow walk in the surrounding Northamptonshire countryside. As a county it is only familiar to the larger population of the UK as one which the M1 goes through the middle of. This is both fortunate and unfortunate, as it’s really very attractive and varied, but has stayed that way precisely because so few people actually stop to find out. Also passing through Northants is the Grand Union Canal, the longest in the UK. We went for a walk from Stoke Bruerne, a village almost entirely based around the canal.

Initially I found myself struggling to find real inspiration. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and warm sunshine, but nothing was really leaping out at me. It’s a familiar feeling and one that lead to last year’s dip in the amount of photos I took. Partly it is because I quite like routine and things I know, and so we often end up visiting places we’ve already been which makes it difficult to take new and interesting photos. New camera in hand now, I am considering it more of a challenge to rise to rather than be put off by, and so I started to try and actively search out things that were a bit different.

The last photo is The Disapproving Moorhen. He may well return to express his opinions on future issues and matters that arise. He will mostly disapprove.

I switched lenses a couple of times during our walk, but I think in the end that most photos came from the 70-300mm. Given I only have two lenses, I’m not sure I can call it a ‘favourite’ as yet, but it’s getting a fair amount of use. Once again, I was switching between AF and MF, as AF only really seems to want to lock in on something if it is obvious – I haven’t spent time with the manual to find out if there is a better way to get the camera to reselect the focus point. On my old camera, it would usually work by depressing the shutter button to the halfway point over and over until it found the correct spot, but it doesn’t seem to work so obviously with the 60D. Anyway, you can see from the photo below how it misses just enough to be quite annoying.

Meanwhile, in post-processing I once again opted to change a few shots to b&w, upping the contrast a little again as I went.

As we were walking, there were a couple of narrowboats navigating the stretch of locks, queueing as each was opened and the water dropped and/or rose to allow smooth sailing.  It’s a perfect opportunity for trying out some more water shots, and I flicked to shutter priority mode to try some misty water effects.

As you can see, it wasn’t entirely successful and I have quite a few images which tell me I should probably bring a tripod next time. By this time we’d reached a road which seemed a good place to turn back and walk up the other side of the canal. In changing direction, we went under a bridge which had been decorated with several mosaic panels.

I should have tried one with a bit more colour in – to me, this photo is missing some reds – but I like the shallow depth of field. Once out in the open again, it was hard to ignore the blue skies (which looked better now we’d changed direction) and the various burgeoning signs of spring.

The pictures of the chaffinch are, I think, my favourites. They came out very clearly, and using manual focus as well although the bird was quite happy to sit and wait for me to find the right focal point so I’m not sure that I’d be quite so successful with moving creatures.

Thus ended this particular wander, but it served to remind me of my boredom issues and to solidify one of my personal aims to find new and different photos when we do revisit places.

Unrelated note, but slightly belated congratulations to Rob at Creative Splurges for his unexpected appearence on’s front page as a result of our group visit to Borough Market! And welcome to those that followed his link here!