We are back from our summer travels. This year we chose Portugal. We used to holiday in the Algrave often, when the children were small, but hadn’t been back in 11 years. I was afraid we’d find it much changed. Certainly, the Algrave is very much discovered. It already was back in 2002 and the spread of tourism that was marching inexorably West from Faro has reached a little further now. But the extreme South Western tip, at Sagres, still retains its off-beat, surfing vibe, and the wild West coast beaches are just as glorious as I remembered. This is one of my favourite sunset spots, Praia do Castelejo.
I can finally explain why Focused Moments has been so quiet lately. It’s been a long time in the planning but this week my business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I launched our new venture, f11 Workshops.
We are going to be leading photography workshops and tours in Surrey and West Sussex. The photographer is spoilt for choice when it comes to workshops in some of the UK’s more famous beauty spots, like the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, the Lake District, or the Scottish Highlands, but there are few tours elsewhere. Yet there are rewarding locations everywhere if you know where to look. I am really looking forward to introducing other photographers to some of my favourite local places.
Taking small groups of 6-8 maximum, we aim to tread lightly in our chosen locations, leaving nothing behind and taking nothing away but our photographs and some great memories.
I’ll be blogging about our tours as they happen. Plus, now that the business is up and running, I should be able to get back to regular posting, and reading. In the meantime, if you have time, please visit our website. I’d love to know what you think. We are also on Facebook and Twitter.
A week ago, I heard via my shooting buddy, Jen that there was a field of wild poppies on the South Downs, about an hour and a half away from here. The trip was more than rewarded. Perched high up on the South Downs overlooking the Solent, the poppies basked in the evening sun. We stood in that field for more than three hours and it felt like minutes.
We have a few varieties of field poppies in this country. Poppy fields that spring up on fallow ground tend mostly to comprise the common poppy, papaver rheas. The prickly poppy, papaver argemone, has smaller flowers and prefers lighter, sandy soils. The rough poppy, papaver hybridum, is rarer, but its habitat is the chalky soils of the South Downs. I must confess that I didn’t inspect the individual flowers very closely but looking at my pictures, the poppies we stood among were mostly common poppies.
An individual poppy flower lasts only one day but a single plant can produce as many as 400 flowers. That’s a lot of poppies. I would guess ‘our’ field was only about half way through its flowering life – there were plenty of seed heads but also plenty of buds yet to open.
Another name for the common poppy is the corn rose. Ceres, the Roman goddess of corn was depicted wearing a wreath of common poppies. Poppies used to be a common sight in cornfields but selective herbicides and other modern farming practices have made this rarer. They do still pop up on land left fallow, but not in the same place two years running, which keeps landscape photographers on their toes!
Of course, this year the poppy is very topical, with the WW1 centenary. These tough little plants, whose seeds needs rough handling to germinate, became the emblem of remembrance because they grew in such abundance on the disturbed soil of the battlefields. I must confess, however, that standing surrounded by the flowers as they nodded gently in the evening breeze, war and death couldn’t have been further from my mind.
Mad Patsy said, he said to me,
That every morning he could see
An angel walking on the sky;
Across the sunny skies of morn
He threw great handfuls far and nigh
Of poppy seed among the corn;
And then, he said, the angels run
To see the poppies in the sun.
A poppy is a devil weed,
I said to him – he disagreed;
He said the devil had no hand
In spreading flowers tall and fair
Through corn and rye and meadow land,
by garth and barrow everywhere:
The devil has not any flower,
But only money in his power.
And then he stretched out in the sun
And rolled upon his back for fun:
He kicked his legs and roared for joy
Because the sun was shining down:
He said he was a little boy
And would not work for any clown:
He ran and laughed behind a bee,
And danced for very ecstasy.
– James Stephens In the poppy field