The new season begins

September heralds the start of the busiest season at f11 Workshops and, this Autumn, I’m running more workshops than ever before. So, yesterday being the first of the month, it seemed like a good day to head down to the coast to check on the locations for the first workshop. Places can change, even in a few months, and pre-workshop recces are one of the hidden but essential expenses of this business. 

evening_

Well, it’s never exactly a chore to spend time at the coast and I also felt obliged to check that standards hadn’t fallen at various essential eateries, so I can’t complain! My son had lost a bet with me and I called in my marker, so he became my ‘photo-slave’ for the day, providing kit-carrying services and witty banter in equal measure.

Littlehampton evening 2.jpg

I don’t usually bring my camera when leading workshops as I prefer to concentrate on the clients rather than making my own images but, of course, this doesn’t apply to recces and, once all the essential business stuff had been taken care of, I had half an hour before last light. Luck was with me and the evening turned out nice, reminding me why I bring clients to this beautiful place.

Littlehampton evening 4

All is ready for my busiest workshops season yet – bring it on!

Ephemeral beauty

south downs
For the last three years, June/July has seen me out searching for that ephemeral wonder, the wild poppy field. This year, together with my photo-buddy Jenifer Bunnett, I went out looking for poppies on four separate occasions. Out first safari was disappointing; we found poppies galore but couldn’t get close to them thanks to some determined fencing. The second was much more successful, thanks to a generous tip from another photographer, Malcolm Oakley, on Twitter.South DownsMuch hiking and a pair of binoculars were needed but we found them, in three patches, against the flank of Black Patch Hill near Storrington in the South Downs National Park. We were able to return a few days later for some gentler evening light.South DownsPoppy season is now mostly over down here in the South. Poppies do not reliably flower in the same place year after year. Their seeds need rough handling to germinate but then the ground must be left fallow to allow them to bloom, although they do well at the edges of rape fields where the rape seed has not taken hold (or it has been eaten by birds). But not knowing where they’ll be next year is all part of the adventure, and their ephemerality only adds to their allure.south downs If you fancy joining the poppy hunt next year, there is now a group on Facebook dedicated to sharing locations for poppies and other seasonal wildflower displays: Poppy and Flower Site Finder 2015.

south downs

A rare picture of me in action, thanks to Jen.

Thank you, Light!

f11 workshops

Some of you may know that I am joint owner of a photography training business, f11 Workshops. Yesterday we ran one of our most popular tours, Piers and Wreck, on the West Sussex coast. We have been so lucky with the light on every iteration of this tour so far and yesterday was no exception. Of course, landscape photographers keep going no matter what the weather, but it is nice when things get this good.

f11 workshops

My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I are clear that we will not make our own images when out with clients;  we just grab a few publicity snaps at the last location. We both know that photography is such an absorbing occupation that we would not be giving our customers our full attention if we were making our own images. Sometimes, when the light is this good, that’s a hard promise to keep! In the end though, having happy customers is the better reward.

*  *  *

My 365/52 is from 2010, a close up of one of the butterflies in the glasshouse at RHS Wisley.

insect macro

365/52

365/53 is from last year. Just a snap really, on what appears to be a date when I take few photos: Walton viewed from the bridge to Desborough Island.

surrey landscape

365/53

Happy snapping Sunday

West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/60. 25mm, ISO 200

This is why I didn’t post yesterday: an epic full day of shooting in West Sussex.  More anon.   Yesterday’s and today’s 365 at the end.

 West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/80, 19mm, ISO 200

 West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/50, 35mm, ISO 200

 West Wittering

f/11, 0.3″, 16mm, ISO 100

 West Wittering

f/11, 0.3″, 16mm, ISO 100

365/4 and 5 are from January 2009.  I was a digital newbie, just learning my way around pixels and processing.  I would convert to shooting exclusively RAW later that month.  Never looked back really.

bird

365/4

snow

365/4

f11 Workshops

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.

Papercourt Lock

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.

Dell Quay

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.

Moonrise over Weybridge

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.

 

 

Fields of scarlet

wild flowers

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.

West Sussex

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.

poppy field

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.

Poppy field 3

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!

West Sussex

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.

Poppy field 2

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