Back in the garden

flayed stone ii.jpg

Well, Leicester’s Harold Martin Botanic Gardens anyway!

Today the sun came out and it was my first chance to pop down the road to see this year’s collection of sculptures. They’ve been putting on ‘Sculpture in the Garden’ for several years now, and as the place is just a stone’s throw from home it is often one of my favourite places to wander around with my camera - not only are there the sculptures, there’s all the trees, flowers and other features that are in the gardens anyway.

The photo above is a detail from a work by Peter Randall-Page entitled ‘Flayed Stone II’. He has used a boulder of glacial erratic granite to create the piece, carving concentric coils into the surface. I really enjoyed the way the ridges created these shadows.

I’ll be returning again and again over the summer to explore the shapes and textures in all kinds of different lighting conditions and to capture as many of the sculptures as I can (or at any rate as many of them as I find interesting).

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The Wonders of Wigston

time creeps by

Having lived in Wigston all of my life it seems that I seldom feel like it’s worth taking any photographs there. Indeed the ‘town centre’ of Wigston is pretty unlovely. Just the usual array of modern facias on your average high street stores.

However, today I thought I’d head for a short walk around Wigston with my camera and see what I could find. I headed to one of the places where some of Old Wigston survives - All Saints Church. A wedding was underway at the time, so I couldn’t really wander inside, but I did spend quite a while in the churchyard. I was pretty pleased with the shot shown at the head of this posting. The ivy trailing all over the headstones was irresistible.

Alas, All Saint churchyard is one of those that was ‘re-landscaped’. Years ago all the headstones were moved off to the edge of the churchyard leaving just a wide green swathe of grass with some flower beds. I suppose it makes it easier to cut the grass, but I really can’t understand why this was done. It does spoil the character of the church. And All Saints is actually quite an interesting building from what I remember.

One thing that I ‘remembered’ was that local highwayman, George Davenport was buried here after his hanging. I’ll have to check up on that. I could have sworn that one of the headstones propped up by the wall was that of George Davenport, but to be honest I’ve probably not ventured into this church yard since I was about 13 or 14 years old. A lot can change in 25 years - memories not least! Whatever the circumstances, I spent quite a while scanning the headstones with no luck.

I’ve always been interested in history, and indeed probably more so in prehistory. Today, wandering around some of the older parts of my home town I felt a rekindling of interest in Local History. Is that a sure sign of having hit middle age?

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Photoshop Pricing

For quite a while now I’ve been looking forward to the release of Photoshop CS3. Finally, Adobe get around to supporting Intel Macs - after we’ve all been using them for a year - and how long after Apple announced the move to Intel?

At the same time I’ve been dreading the thought of how much it was going to cost.

I do have a perfectly legal Photoshop CS2 license for the Windows version of the software. Adobe very generously offer the chance to transfer that license over to Mac for just the cost of supplying the media. However, this is something I can’t do as I happen to have lost a receipt for one of my earlier Photoshop purchases. No original receipt - no license transfer. Fair enough I suppose.

So, if I want Photoshop on my Mac I’m going to need to buy the full package rather than the upgrade.

Earlier today I took a look on the Adobe online store and saw that Photoshop CS3, full edition would cost me £569.88. That’s for the boxed version. For some odd reason the download version would cost me £586.85. Humm, so I get to pay £16.97 extra for the privilege of not having a box, a CD or a manual and spending the time and bandwidth to download it?

Putting this oddity aside I went to see how much it would cost in the USA.

The US boxed edition would be $649.00.

Time for a bit of maths. The current exchange rate is 1.96735 Dollars to the Pound (taken from BBC Market Data). This would make the US price £329.89.

So, the exact same product, bought in the UK will cost me £256.96 more?

77.89% more?

Adobe, just what am I getting in return for paying 77.89% more than your US customers? Please do tell me.

Ah, I guess I should take VAT into account. VAT stands at 17.5%. Adobe’s store tells me that’s £485.00 excluding VAT.

That’s still £155.11 more than in the USA - and assuming that the US price doesn’t include any kind of sales tax. I know that for you guys over The Pond that varies state by state.

And it’s not just the UK where these rip off prices seem to be applied. Checking around the rest of Europe shows Photoshop CS3 at €899.00 before any local taxes. That’s $1,201.78 or £610.06 - yikes - even more than the UK!?!

Of course, it’s not just Adobe who are playing this game. Windows Vista will cost you about the same in Sterling as it will in Dollars.

Well, I decided that my Windows usage was going to end with XP - and it has.

Now is it time for me to say that my Photoshop usage will end with CS2?

Right now it appears so. Sure it would be lovely to be running CS3 on my Mac, and I’ve been running the beta for a little while now. Works very nicely. But I still have a Windows PC sat under the desk, gathering dust. Quite a capable Windows PC and one that I have a license to run Photoshop CS2 on.

Maybe it’s time for me to look quite seriously into The Gimp? Free vs £570?

Meanwhile, anyone who reads this and thinks that this pricing policy is nuts could do worse than head over to this online petition.

I seriously doubt anything will change. But if US software houses continue to treat European markets with this kind of disrespect then I think they’re going to be finding a lot of people looking for alternatives.

Personally I refuse point blank to pay that much more than our friends in the USA for Photoshop. Okay, I might need to go buy a Big Book to train myself up with The Gimp - but that is going to be so much more cost effective.

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Second Post

Two postings on the same day? I think this is a record!

I just noticed a comment left on an earlier posting and decided to follow the link back to the author’s own Blog. I’m very glad I did.

Rich Gift Of Lins‘ by Colin Griffiths presents a series of photographs and ‘musings’ upon them which I found to be a very worth while read.

Here is a person who enjoys his photography and whilst making best use of all that the ‘digital age’ can offer, also appreciates the craftsmanship of traditional methods.

Colin’s use of a Canon Powershot G7 compact camera was also of great interest to me. For a long time I’ve been wishing that I had something small and discrete that doesn’t weigh a ton when I take it up mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I love my DSLR, but something you can just slip into a coat pocket and hardly notice the weight of is very appealing.

I’ve been wanting to produce a little ‘photo documentary’ about my Walking Commute, but there’s no way I’m lugging my DSLR with me when I’m ‘power walking’ to work. A compact is the answer - something I can have in my pocket all the time.

Alas, finances dictate that I’ll have to wait a while before I can treat myself to such a luxury.

However Colin’s Blog reminded me that it’s no use at all having the most wonderful equipment in the world if you don’t have it with you when you need it.

Thanks Colin. Thanks for your comment here earlier, thanks for your Blog and thanks for inspiring me. I’ll be keeping an eye on ‘Rich Gift Of Lins‘!

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Spring Has Sprung

frog 3

Went for my first visit of the year to Leicester Botanic Gardens today. I started to nab a few photos of the usual suspects, flowers, buds, that kind of thing. And then I got to a pond that was just heaving with frogs. I spent quite a while there with my long lens on, bracing myself against a tree in lieu of a tripod. I managed to get some reasonable results, but I need to head back with the tripod soon - while the frogs are still there.

I can’t remember the last time I saw so many frogs, or so much frog spawn in one place. Also great to see some newts swimming around in there.

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Lunar Eclipse

lunar eclipse 4
Well, they didn’t turn out great, but I took a few photos of the lunar eclipse last night. I was using the longest lens I have, the Sigma 70-300mm APO, so with my 20D that’s an effective focal length of 480mm. Not long enough! The moon is still quite a small object in the viewfinder. I do have a smallish telescope, but alas no way to hook the telescope up to the camera.

The shot above was my favourite, still about a third of the moon in view. This has been seriously cropped down, like I said above, the moon is really quite small at this focal length. The shots I took during totality do show up the red colour nicely, but they had to be quite long exposures, 10 seconds or so, and the moon moved during the exposure of course and made it blurry.

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Back to Kew

palm house curves
Yesterday I was delighted to attend the 5th Tips From The Top Floor London GTG (’Get ToGether’). I’d been to the first two GTGs in 2006 and it was great to meet up with friends old and new once again. We returned to Kew Gardens for the event, a place brimming with interest for the photographer.

There is the obvious attraction of all the exotic and colourful flora of course, but on top of this there is some wonderful architecture and that tends to inspire my photography more.

The photo at the top of this entry is an abstract shot of The Palm House at Kew. Walking inside there on a cold, wet February day was something of a shock to the system - and the camera’s lens. We were all waiting around for ages for our glass to de-mist.

Once again, I really enjoyed the day and I came home with some photos that I’m pretty pleased with.

palm house guardian


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Kirby Hall

lit stairwell
Another lovely January day here so I headed out with my camera this afternoon to try and make the most of it. Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire was the target. It’s a place I’ve visited many times over the years, but I always enjoy myself there with my camera. I tend to feel particularly inspired around old buildings. As a member of English Heritage I get in for free, and it’s not a long journey, about 25 miles from home.

Although I wasn’t conscious of it during the visit, it seems that I was concentrating on light shining through things just about the whole time I was there. I guess the sun was ideal for that today, low in the sky and bright. The shot at the top of this entry was taken on the ‘Grand Staircase’, where I spent several minutes playing with different compositions. I think this shot was my favourite of the day. I loved the way that each pane of glass in the windows had a slightly different effect on the light shining through them, and in this case I loved the way that the patches of light wrapped around a corner.

Some of my other shots from today will show what I mean about concentrating on light shining through things.

grand hall

missing roof missing windows

through the doorway

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Mr Blue Sky

Sunday morning started out well. I got out of bed and pulling my jeans on, noticed that the belt wanted to move on another notch! Woohoo, that’s now three notches further in than I was before I started doing the walking commute.

The next thing I noticed was that it was (gasp!) a sunny day! I can’t remember the last time we had one of those on a weekend. I had to get out somewhere with my camera - quickly! Getting my gear together I headed to Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery - well, where else to go on a nice sunny day like this?

The decision was partially influenced by having recently bumped into an old friend, electronically at least - not seen them for several years and before last week I hadn’t heard from them in as long. I stumbled into them on Flickr and found that they had taken an almost identical shot to one of mine at Welford Road Cemetery. The world can be such a small place! I had also told myself to ‘come back soon’ during my last visit.
I was hoping that with a few more leaves off the trees a bit more light might fall where I wanted it.

I had great fun tramping around this magnificent Victorian sepulchral landscape for about a couple of hours. The sun stayed around and I found myself concentrating on carvings of angels. There were a couple that particularly captivated me during my last visit so I returned to give them both a slightly different treatment to last time.

With the first I decided to pull out my lovely Sigma 10-20mm lens. Holding the camera as close as I could to the ground and at arms length I managed to shoot the following image (and several other similar ones).


angel from the floor

I do love this lens. Great value for money and it can get you some incredible results. It’s the only ‘digital only’ lens I’ve bought. The focal range of 10-20mm becomes 16-32mm when used with my Canon 20D (1.6x effective focal length magnification) and the shot above was taken at the 16mm effective focal length end of the range. Makes me want to get a fish eye!

Although this lens is digital only, it does actually use the Canon EF mounting rather than the EFS, so you can fit it to a full frame camera - just expect some pretty heavy vignetting!

The second statue that had really caught my eye last time was another female figure, looking all romantically mournful as she clung tight to a cross. This time around, with some better light, I was able to get right in on her face and really pick out some details. I love the weathered texture on this statue.


weathered and mournful

Shot using a Sigma lens again, but this time the 70-300mm APO, another good investment that I made not long after I got the camera.

Oh, and today I have mostly been listening to Arctic Monkeys, following a recommendation from a friend on Friday night. We had this conversation during which I realised that I have remarkably little music from this century in my collection. Something that needs rectifying, especially now I’m staring down the barrel at the big 4 - 0 later in the year!

Possibly not the right music to listen to whilst trying to process photos taken at a cemetery, a bit too upbeat for that, but it fitted with my mood. A good day!

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Oh, it’s 2007?

weathered sandstone 2

The Christmas and New Year period passed without me posting here. Well, it was full of all the things that you normally do at that time of year. I did have a week or so off from work, but the weather was dismal and the only places I could think of to visit were closed.

So, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reading (H.G. Wells) listening to music (Genesis, Nick Drake) and processing photos I took a while ago.

I’m into my second week back at work now though - just don’t know where the time has gone to. And speaking of work, my resolve seems to have crumbled a bit on the walking commute front. I’m blaming the Christmas break myself. After a week of comfort and staying in bed as late as I liked (within reason) it has just seemed like such hard work to get out of bed and go walk. I only did 2 days out of 4 working days last week and this morning I woke up and just couldn’t shift myself. So, got to get back into a routine starting tomorrow. One good thing, on the days I did walk last week I felt like it was easier than ever. It’s not putting the effort in which is a problem for me with this - it’s dragging myself out of bed early enough to be able to walk 4.5 miles in time for work.

We did get out to Kenilworth Castle yesterday. It was dismal weather again, and it’s somewhere I’ve visited a lot, but it’s always good to be around old stone! I did take a few photos, and whilst nothing was spectacular (very dull and flat light) then I enjoyed taking them. The photo at the top of this posting was taken during the visit. The castle has some of the most wonderfully eroded sandstone I’ve seen.

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Walking Commute

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