Over the last few years I have tried to crack that elusive low light photography skill with varying levels of success. I must admit to using Adobe Lightroom to help bring out these evening colours. My next few posts will be in this area as there has not been much in the way of Bushcrafting going on 🙂
To begin with I have taken a few evening pictures which included horses from around our village, our dog Sorcha and one from the Thames.
Hope you like them.
The next post will be on my attempts with photographing the moon.
It is getting a bit of a tradition now of having a family calendar – I get to take all the pictures and my wife Alison creates a wonderful calendar to share with our family at Christmas – here is Alison’s selection for the 2019 Bushcraft Days calendar.
The cover picture
If you have never been to see the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis I would strongly advise you to add it to your ‘Bucket List’ of places to visit – far older than Stonehenge and set on the idyllic west coast of the Isle of Lewis.
I did ‘over do’ the de-hazing of the picture in Lightroom to get the effect you see in the sky.
We had a few snowy days here in the South of England in January, so on a beautiful bimble round the village I came across this rather noble (and toasty) looking lady – she had plenty of hay and was well wrapped up.
Sticking with the snow theme this picture of a rather forlorn looking Daffodil was taken behind our local church – St James. This picture made it onto the weather section of Meridian TV here in the UK – first one ever for me 🙂
Beautiful Thistles – not taken in Scotland but on the slopes of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales while I was on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Expedition. I used my mobile phone for this shot and was very impressed with the results.
I spent a weekend with friends hiking in the Peak District and we were presented with this beautiful temperature inversion. I took the picture from just below the summit of Mam Tor overlooking Hope Valley.
The tall structure is the cement factory however you can just make out the tower of Castleton Castle on the right of the picture.
This picture was taken in the grounds of our local National Trust (NT) property – The Vyne. I must have chased this Thistle Down seedhead for at least half an hour before I got a shot I was happy with – nearly got my feet wet but it was worth it.
I took a group of friends and their kids from my village to the Brecon Beacons and we had a great time running up and rolling down the hills (well the kids did).
This picture of my son was taken on the ‘Diving Board’ on Fan y Big – it looks more precarious than it actually is.
The July spot went to my ‘Morning Classroom’ shot (granted the picture was taken in August). I stepped out of my tipi one morning at the BCUK Bushmoot and was met with this sight of the suns rays streaming through the canopy.
The parachute was set up to hold outdoor classrooms at our bushcraft event.
I took an evening stroll with my family while on holiday on the Isle of Lewis to visit my fathers grave. The graveyard is set on the ‘Machair‘ by the coast – as my children stared out across the Atlantic I managed to capture this silhouette shot.
On a trip to the mountains of North Wales with my ‘Grumpy Chums’ from Crisis we had ‘All The Seasons’ in one day. While descending from Llyn Idwal were were met by this curtain of hail/sleet moving through the Ogwen Valley.
I used my phone for this picture as it is water proof and my DSLR is not.
Another trip down to our local NT property – The Vyne and I managed to capture this lovely shot of my family. The leaves were just turning so producing some lovely purples along the lake side.
Each year my sons school host a fireworks night to raise funds. I decided to take my tripod this year and try out some slow shutter speed photography. I got a few good shots however I was particularly impressed with this one – not bad I thought for a first attempt.
Not taken in December (in August at the Bushmoot) however I thought that this picture of a long log fire with a sprinkling of ‘Magic Dust’ was a fitting Yuletide end to my calendar.
This year I took most of August off work and spent it with my family in Wales, Wiltshire and the Western Isles – it was a busy time but my camera was never far away.
My Morning Classroom
I set up this parachute at the BCUK Bushmoot as an extra classroom – it was located in front of my tipi and as I got up one morning I was presented with this wonderful view.
A Happy Cap’n
The Naughty Corner at the Bushmoot has two two things that never change – they are Cap’n Badger and his Skull. The skull is always being passed around the fire and it always has Kraken rum inside it 🙂
You have my thanks Cap’n for maintaining this tradition.
Demon Fire Face
Never one to let a good fire go unnoticed the pizza oven at the Bushmoot gave me this cracking Demon Fire Face this year – you can even see its right arm.
A Bushmoot Wedding
Last year it was the engagement and this year it was the wedding. I took a lot of pictures for Phil and Magda but this one ticked all the boxes for me:
I love a good wedding (do not get invited to many these days – must be an age thing)
We were with the Bushmoot family
I do love a good Log Rocket Stove 🙂
The Coastal Survival Crew
In the middle of August I spent five days with my lad Finlay at the Wilderness Gathering working with my friend Fraser and the Coastal Survival Crew. As a land lubber I have no idea why they keep asking me back each year but I am not going to say no – they are a great crew to work with.
The latter half of August found me with the family up on the Isle of Lewis – I ran free on the beaches there as a kid and it is great to see my kids and their cousins doing the same.
I do not get to Lewis that often and rarely when all my brothers and sister are there at the same time – this year they were all there and I made sure I got this picture (thank you Alison for taking it) – as rare as ‘Rocking Horse Poo’ you could say.
The Callanish Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis and were laid down long before Stonehenge. It is a beautiful place to visit and all the more special when there is no one else there to get in your shot.
Thanks to my cousin Scott for taking the time out to show me the delights of the Uig coastline. Along the way we stopped to photograph many beautiful spots however the falls at Breanish really grabbed my attention.
One evening the whole family went out to visit my fathers grave in Ness – it is by the sea and this is the view he has – miss you Dad but glad you have a great view.
North Rona from Sula Sgeir
My family carry on the tradition of the Guga Hunt each year on the rocky island of Sula Sgeir. As I left the island at sixteen I never went on the hunt – this year though I went out with the fishing boat to pick up the lads and bring them home.
Looking out from this crack in the rocks on Sula Sgeir I was able to make out the other lonely outpost in the Atlantic that is North Rona.
Not all the Gannets were ‘Dressed’ on Sula Sgeir due to having to leave early because of the weather. I spent a day with my nephew Tam and the rest of the Guga Hunters preparing the last of the Gugas
A good month for a holiday and a good month for photography.
The BEL award is a nationally recognised qualification in outdoor leadership and comes under the banner of the Sports Leader UK Award. The trainee instructors have to attend three weekends of training and put in many more hours’ work on their leadership and navigation skills.
For the assessment we brought in an independent assessor who had never worked with the students before and we also had another observer from the Sports Leader organisation along to see that we ran the course to the correct standards.
Much of the weekend was spent observing the students’ navigational skills as these have to be to a high standard. Not only do they need to know how to use a map and compass they need to be proficient in teaching others this skill.
Interspersed with the navigation tasks the students had to give lectures and run classes in different subjects to each other and the cadets. We were very lucky on the weekend to have a keen bunch along from Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets. This made the assessment much more realistic and was a good reminder to the students as to why they were looking to gain the qualification.
It is not all about navigation and leadership though. The assessment also tests the students on their knowledge of group management, risk assessing, camping, clothing/kit and the environment.
It is all well and good to be able to read a map and teach that skill but being an Adventure Leader is about a whole lot more. It is about being comfortable and knowledgeable in the environment you find yourself in, and having the skills to make the learning experience for the cadets as varied, enjoyable and stretching as possible. This has to be done in a safe manner however the instructor must stretch the students enough so that they feel that adventurous spirit that draws us outdoors in the first place.
John was on our very first course as a BEL student in 2010 and has since gained his Hill and Moorland Leaders award. John takes over running the BEL course from me this year and has the same sense of adventure but far better administrative skills than me so organising future courses should be a doddle for him.
The champagne picture on the bottom right was when he was presented the bottle on the news of his recent engagement to Samantha and the soaking was from his daughter who he had teased just a bit too much.
One thing about this weekend was the beautiful evenings as the sun set over the Forest. The students were a bit too caught up in their navigational assessments to really appreciate them but I sure did.
Along the way I did spot some lovely colours in the environment around me. I do not expect the students to be expert in identifying plants, fungi, animals or insects but I do expect them to be able to name some trees, flowers and have a basic knowledge of the history of the area they are working in.
Having this basic knowledge allows them to come across as a well-rounded Adventure Leader to their students and means more fulfilling and educational walks.
So after a lot of hard work over about 6 weekends the majority of the students reached the standard of Level 3 Basic Expedition Leader Award from Sports Leader UK. A number of the students received their certificates at the Walton and Sunbury Sea Cadet Unit recently.
There are a few more who just need to finish their final assignment and then they can be awarded their certificates.
I am looking forward to helping out once again in the BEL course this year as an instructor and assessor but thankfully JK is taking the reins in terms of organising it allowing me to do more of what I like – Getting out and Adventuring.
This year I have had real fun trying to capture just a little bit of the nature I see around me when out and about on my adventures. I have had a look through some of the nature pictures I have taken this year selected the ones I have fond memories off.
Plants and Fungi
I went to the Brecon Beacons in the Spring with a few of my friends from Crisis and while walking along the banks of the Afon Mellte river near Ystradfellte I was struck by all the spring flowers emerging but it was something else that really caught my eye.
I initially walked passed these emerging Fern Fiddleheads. I stopped myself as I realised that they would make for a cracking shot if I got down low. I am glad I went back as they are quite magical looking when you get down low (I did have some passers-by step around me as I lay in the path).
I often take a bimble around my village photographing wild flowers and rarely do I pay much attention to the mass of wheat being grown in all the fields.
I was though stopped in my tracks by this dainty little picture. It was not until I got the picture up on the computer did I realise how beautiful it would look. These are two pieces of nature that you would not normally pay the slightest bit of attention to however when they come together they end up looking like a painting.
I have dabbled a bit in Black and White photography this year and felt that this shot of some Cotton Grass lent well to that style.
I was really struggling to find some interesting shots while up in the Lake District this year and so ended up lying face down in a bog to get this shot. Well worth it though in my opinion.
I really love to explore the art of Macro photography and have now got a couple of tripods and lens to help me with this.
While in France on a wet morning I was walking with my friends Simon and Rick and came across these Damson Berries. Problem was I did not bring my tripod along with me. I must of taken about 50 pictures of this berry and this was the only one that was properly in focus.
A real fluke but one I am glad I persevered with.
We had a busy time running a Basic Expedition Leadership course for Sea Cadet instructors this year. While waiting for them to appear out of the woods on a navigation exercise I decided to try out an experiment.
I positioned myself by a fallen log and focussed on some fungus on the log. As the guys passed by I took the shot and I think I can say the experiment worked pretty well.
I cannot remember where I took this picture but I do remember seeing this little guy perched on the upturned tip of a succulent leaf. I took the shot as I could make out through the lens that his legs were resting not on the leaf but on the hairs protruding from it.
I sat watching him for about 5 minutes and he did not move once – it was as if he was on some sort of guard duty.
For some reason this year spiders webs have been out in force. While in the Ashdown Forest my friend Charlie spotted this amazing web that was strung between two trees. The trees were about 20 feet apart and when photographed from an angle a rainbow appeared in it.
I did not see this at the time of taking the picture but had it pointed out to me by my wife Alison and my friend Eleanor. Kind of took me back a bit as I did not see it at all – maybe it is just a camera thing.
My daughter spotted this little Dragonfly resting up at our local Church when I was running a Bushcraft stand at the church open day.
She came running up to tell me but I was teaching bowdrill and had to tell her to wait. I thought he would have been gone by the time I walked over but thankfully he was still there. Looking closely I could see why – he was sitting comfortably on a little downy bed sunning himself.
This is another one of these pictures that you take and only realise something was happening afterwards. It was taken in Southern France on an unidentified flower. I had spotted the small spider but that was all.
Later when processing the picture in Lightroom I saw that he had caught and immobilised a small wasp. I wish I had spent more time watching what was going on but at least the spider got his lunch.
This has to be my favourite nature picture of the year. It was taken by the banks of Coniston Water in the Lake District while assessing a Gold DofE Expedition.
I was waiting for the teams to appear at a check point when I started stalking Damselflies – probably looked a bit of an idiot ;-). I used my extension rings to get a bit closer and this little chap was not fazed by me at all (unlike most of the others who soon flew off).
Thats it for my nature memories so I will finish up with this rather nice sunset taken off Kings Standing in the Ashdown Forest. I have really enjoyed capturing nature images over the year and will no doubt be out and about looking for more beautiful and unusual images next year.
My last post in this series will be on the Memorable Moments I have had in the last year in the world of Bushcraft.
I got back from my travels from Cardiff this evening having been in class for most of the day and a few hours on the train.
It was great to get home however it was too late to go out with the kids (being a school night). So once they were off to bed I took an evenings stroll to see if I could get any decent shots of the countryside as the sun was setting for the 30 Days Challenge.
Just as the sun was setting over the Frith woods I got this nice shot of the Hawthorn Haws developing.
Caught up in the Hawthorn tree I spotted a small pigeon feather swaying in the breeze.
Below the Hawthorn were some Oxeye Dasies.
Slowly over the next little while the sun dissapeared with a lovely tinge off red. When I uploaded the pictures to my computer I increased the contrast to darken the shaded areas it had the effect of deepening the reds (I like the effect so decided to keep it).
Tomorrow night it will be time to get out with the kids again to see what we can find.