Posted by: digibirder | January 27, 2013

This and that – again!

I started this post in December, hoping to do a round up of the year, but life got in the way again, and here we are almost at the end of January! The new job has been keeping me occupied these past few months and I don’t seem to have a lot of time for things any more, but I am hoping I can get my act together this year.

So, after Cyprus, and then getting my new job, I have had to put my photography business on the back burner. We have done a couple more craft fairs, but they weren’t that successful, so I think we’re shelving that idea for now, even though Keith gets a few framing jobs each time. He is thinking of winding up the business anyway, as using the equipment is putting a strain on his back. I’ve taken photos when out and about, but I haven’t had any paid commissions for some time. I did go on a dog photography workshop early in January, which was quite interesting. Even though I had already done a couple of pet sessions, I wanted to learn more about pet photography in order to add this to my portfolio of services. At the moment I am not sure what I am doing about the business, so I will have to see how the job goes.

So, it’s a new year and I have settled into my routine at work now, and enjoying it. It was a little stressful at first – so much so that I lost quite a bit of weight with all the nervous energy I was using up! I was a little concerned that it was too busy for me, but I am getting used to it now. It’s nice to be earning a regular income again, and being able to buy a few new things.

I treated myself to a new compact digital camera this month, a Fuji X10. I was thinking of sticking with Canon and getting the G1X, but the Fuji was a couple of hundred pounds cheaper so I thought it would do me for now. I have had to get used to all the features, as it’s a totally different beast, but it’s great not having to carry a heavy DSLR and all the lenses around. Normally I shoot in RAW format, but the JPGs from the Fuji are really good. I will have to try printing one large, but they seem OK to me. I might experiment as I get more used to the camera. Also the automatic features and the special effects are great, so I’ve been leaving it on one of the auto settings for many of my shots. It’s just nice to ‘point and shoot’!

It’s no good me telling you news from months ago, as that would just be boring, so I will just post a selection of images taken since my last post.

Saw these characters at the Penistone Show back in September 2012

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Taken on a workshop in the Peak District in October – a very misty sunset

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The following images are a selection from a trip to Thorp Perrow Arboretum, in North Yorkshire, obviously in autumn. Apart from the glorious display of trees, they also had a bit of a Halloween theme going in one part of the garden!

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Here’s a few from the dog photography workshop at Aspire Photograpic Training.

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And here are some of the first efforts with the Fuji X10 – a walk round a local parkland area, just before I was struck down with a nasty chest infection in time for New Year!

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A wander around Old Moor RSPB reserve.

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A stroll down Padley Gorge in the Peak District.

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That’s enough for now. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next update!

Posted by: digibirder | September 16, 2012

What a turnaround!

So, one minute we’re in Cyprus, combining a little bit of holiday mixed in with a lot of research in preparation for moving there permanently, the next it’s all change and I have a new job and our plans are put on hold! Within two weeks of arriving back home, I was in full time employment. I had applied to this company for a job back in February, but the job went to someone else, but they did keep my CV on file. A couple of days after we arrived back home from Cyprus I had an email from the company asking if I was interested in a position in the customer relations department, I said yes and then had a phone call asking me for an interview, and a few days after that a call asking if I wanted to go in for a trial day, and at the end of that day I was offered the job and I started the following day. Being back in work has taken some getting used to after two and a half years, but I am now enjoying it and getting used to all the procedures and people.

So, with that, I haven’t been out and about as much taking photographs, and the business has been put on the back burner a little. We are still preparing things for craft fairs and markets, but we haven’t had the chance to do many of those in the past few weeks. Keith still has some framing jobs to do, but has had to have a bit of a break due to back pain he’s been having for a few weeks. He is now slowly on the mend, after having some massage and physio sessions.

Since starting my new job, we have managed to get away for a weekend break in Norfolk. We were supposed to be meeting up with a few friends, but a family illness put that on hold, but we decided to go anyway. We had decided to camp, but having sold our folding camper a few weeks before, we had to buy a new tent and a few items of camping gear that we either didn’t have as a result of having the camper, or we’d sold thinking we wouldn’t be camping again in the run-up to emigrating to Cyprus! We booked two nights at the Camping Club site at West Runton. The tent was very nice, and not too bad to pitch and pack away. The nights were a little cold, though, and I had to resort to the extra blanket.

I decided to rent a wide angle zoom lens for this break, as it is something that I am short of in my arsenal of lenses. I have, in the past, tried the Canon 16-35mm and the 17-40mm, both of which are excellent lenses, but I thought I would go wider and try the 10-22mm. Unlike the previous ones, this is made for crop-sensor cameras, so if I ever upgraded to a full-frame camera this lens would not be compatible, but I really enjoyed using it, despite only having it for three days, two of which were mostly spent travelling. I will certainly be giving it another try, hopefully for a little longer. All images below were taken using this lens.

Sunset from the hill behind the campsite

Surveying the view – the ground below this bench has been gradually disappearing over the years!

West Runton beach

Entrance to Cromer Pier

After packing up the tent and other gear into the car, we set off for home, but decided to drive along the north Norfolk coast road to try and get some sweeping coastal views. It was quite a hot day, and after the exertion of packing up, we didn’t really feel like doing much. We did drive down to the coast a couple of times to see if we could park and walk a little, but there were too many people, and it was very hot, and we were very bothered! In the end we stopped off at a pub for some lunch (Red Lion at Stiffkey – very nice) and then just carried on to get home.

I’m not really sure what I am going to do about the photography business at the moment. As I said, we will probably continue to do the fairs and markets, but the portrait side of the business will probably be set aside for now, although I have agreed to photograph a 40th birthday party in March next year. I am just concentrating on my job at the moment, and also working some extra weekends for the overtime. It will all help to get me back on the straight and narrow financially, and hopefully get me some new photo gear!

Posted by: digibirder | July 19, 2012

A chance to get away!

After five weeks, we finally managed to sell the folding camper. We got a good price for it, although not as much as we would have liked, but it was OK. The couple came and looked it over, handed over the cash, and towed it away. It was sad to see it go, but the money was needed for more important things.

The first thing being another trip to Cyprus! As I’ve mentioned before, we are in the process of looking to move to Cyprus permanently at some point, so this was a combined holiday and research trip. We studied the accommodation details given to us by the travel agent, then decided to book it all independently. This was more due to the fact that the last time we went through an agent back in January, the accommodation was horrendous. So we booked the flight, then found a lovely privately-owned apartment, then booked the car hire, all for less than the package of just flight and apartment from the agents. We also managed to get flights at better times than we did in January, which were horrible night flights, and although we had to get up very early to get to Manchester for a 6am check-in, at least we arrived at our destination at a reasonable hour, and all in daylight.

The apartment owner had organised the rental very well, and we even had someone meet us to show us the apartment and explain how things worked. It was a lovely apartment, with everything we could possibly need, including a dishwasher. There were a few issues that might put me off renting that apartment again. The first was that it was next to a road, which wasn’t very busy, but because it was on a hill the cars had to accelerate when going uphill, and this made it a little noisy when sitting on the balcony. And the hill was the other downside. To walk down into the town was OK, but coming back up was very hard-going. And there was no wi-fi, so we had to go into one of the bars in town to check online. After a couple of times walking down, and back, we decided to use the car on subsequent occasions! Having said that, we didn’t do it that often over the two weeks, and so we managed.

We had blue skies all the time, and it was extremely hot – around the 30° mark most days. It was quite difficult to keep going at times, it was so draining. But we managed to look at a few villages, check out some craft fairs, check prices of some goods, and speak to a few people about various aspects of living there.

I will keep this to one post, rather than a day-by-day account, so there are quite a few images here. I only took one lens, the Canon 24-105mm zoom, which was fine for the hand-baggage weight and for day-to-day convenience. I could have done with a wider angle lens for some shots, but I don’t have one so there was no choice in the matter.

Can of beer the first thing from the welcome pack

And enjoying the sea view from one of the two balconies

View from the bedroom balcony to the lounge balcony

Looking out from the bedroom

Our first trip was to look at some of the more remote areas, but some of the villages did prove to be a little too far out of the way. We stopped on the way to take in the views, and take on some water, but staying out of the car for any length of time, and away from the air-con, was not to be recommended.

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Stopped off at the X-treme View taverna, and this chap came and waited for some crumbs

Looking towards Paphos over neighbour’s balcony

The view up the hill

And above us more apartments

Paphos Harbour – it was very hot here and not nice for walking about

After a couple of days, we decided that it might be fun to go off-road and do a bit of birdwatching. The trouble was we had a normal hatchback car (and that had seen better days), so we rang the car hire place and made arrangements to upgrade to a 4×4, which we picked up a couple of days later. We had a nice new Suzuki Jimny automatic, and it was very nice to drive. After picking it up we set off for Polis on the north coast. We wandered round and had some lunch, then headed to Latchi, a very busy touristy place, then on towards the Akamas. We stopped in a picnic spot in the forest, which was cool and shaded, and listened to a cacophony of insect noises, before continuing on the dirt track where only 4x4s are recommended. We kept stopping to look at things flitting among the shrubs, and spotted several birds we could not identify, but we did manage to get good views of a Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

View over Polis bay

Came across these ladies sheltering from the heat

180° turn looking back where we’d come from

I had wanted to get some sunset images, and prior to the holiday I had purchased a light-weight tripod for that purpose, to avoid the weight and bulk of my Manfrotto. One night we drove down to Coral Bay to find a suitable spot, but was disappointed in both the location and the lack of cloud, making the sunsets totally uninspiring.

Taken at about 8pm – still hot enough to swim (not us, I hasten to add)

The following day we headed into the mountains for some relief from the heat. At this altitude there was actually some cloud in the sky, and later in the day we had some spots of rain, although only for a few minutes, and not enough to make you dash for cover!

Backstreets of Pano Platres

Seen better days!

The other side of the derelict Splendid Hotel – what a view from those balconies!

We then drove on further into the mountains to Troodos. This isn’t really a town or a village, just a collection of restaurants and tourist kiosks. It’s improved quite a bit since we were last there (in about 1992) in that the kiosks are now solid buildings rather than shacks. There are more restaurants too, and a very nice walkway through a woodland area. Most of all, it was lovely and cool!

Waiting patiently at the horse and donkey trekking centre

One of many Cyprus cats

Along the walkway, we spotted this Masked Shrike

We then started to come back down to sea level, but on our last visit we had been told about some nice villages in the foothills of the Troodos, so we stopped off at Lania, a pleasant and peaceful little village in the wine making area north of Limassol. We drove round the narrow one-way system at first, then decided to park and walk round, as it looked very interesting. Seems it has had some real love and care with the restoration of some of the old village houses.

I like old doorways

Mama cat

And nervous kitten

Some of the walls had these giant banners depicting a bygone era

More doors!

And some walls had what appeared to be previous residents

Lovely colourful bougainvillea shrubs everywhere

A museum depicting olive oil production

Then back to the heat! A couple of days later we were in Kathikas, just a little way from where we were staying in Peyia. We went to have a look round, and also to sample a taverna that we’d seen on a previous drive through the village. The lunch was delicious, both of us having a very large moussaka with salad. The village was typical Cypriot, but we were told that it gets quite cold in winter at that altitude, so it’s a question of do we want to be comfortable in the summer heat and freezing in winter, or live near the coast and be baking in the summer and comfortable in winter. Decisions, decisions.

In need of some TLC

Chased this around for some time before it settled

Local resident

We spent some time pricing up certain household items, one being furniture. With that purpose in mind, we discovered there was an Ikea in the capital, Nicosia, so off we went! It was a long, hot journey, which didn’t do my headache a lot of good. After visiting said store, we were intending to go round the town, but I really didn’t feel in the mood, so we simply headed back. After stopping in a shady spot to eat our sandwiches, we decided to call in at Kensington Cliffs near Limassol, as recommended in Dave Gosney’s guide to birding in Cyprus. We missed the turning at first, as it is not well signed, but we finally bounced down the track and found some shade in which to park the car. As soon as we climbed out of the car, we spotted a buzzard-type bird, probably Long-legged, and a little while later saw our target bird, an Eleanora’s Falcon. There were a few about as they nest on the cliffs. It was far too hot to walk along the cliff path, so we didn’t stay too long. A few days later, we saw an Eleanora’s Falcon fly over our apartment! We also had Alpine Swifts viewed from the terrace while having breakfast.

Kensington Cliffs

Towards the end of the first full week, we met up with Veronica and Dennis, members of an ex-pat forum that I joined a couple of years ago when Keith went over for an interview. We went to the Last Castle restaurant, which is really out of the way, up a dirt track (4×4 needed), but is a spectacular place. The choice is bbq chicken or pork – or both – with salad and chips or potato wedges. The pieces of meat were quite large and we were quite full. The views are amazing, and it’s quite cool as there are vine-covered pergolas casting lots of shade, and there was a slight breeze blowing. Then it was time to brave the heat again! En-route back to V&D’s house for coffee, we stopped off to view an apartment (they are property agents), which will come in very useful next time we go over.

Before meeting up with them, we went down to the harbour at Agios Georgios (St. George) to see what birds were about. The small island is home to a colony of Yellow-legged Gulls, some of which were flying around. There were some Crested Larks around, but not much more. It was so hot out of the car that we had to dash back to the apartment to freshen up again.

Looking out over the Avagas Gorge from Last Castle

The BBQ

We also met up with more people from the forum the following day. We had lunch at the Terebinth Tree in Mesa Chorio, which is run by an English couple. The place is up for sale, though, as they are wanting to retire. It was an enjoyable lunch with good company, some of whom we met up with back in January.

We woke up to some cloud!

As well as the new tripod, I also purchased a 10-stop neutral density filter to try out some long exposures. The one that most photographers buy is the Lee Filters ‘Big Stopper’, but this is quite expensive. I already had a filter holder for another brand, and discovered that I could get a much cheaper Hitech filter that fitted my existing holder. The filter creates motion blur and enables long exposures even when the light is bright. I didn’t actually get chance to try it out until almost the end of the holiday. We set out early in the hope that we would avoid the worst of the heat, and headed for a local bay that we’d spotted a couple of days previously. People were already swimming and sunning themselves. Here are a few experimental shots, but this was probably not the best test of the filter. The problem is that once the filter is in place, you can’t see anything through the viewfinder, so you have to set everything up before inserting it into the holder. Live View works, but the other issue is white balance. Apparently it’s best to set a custom white balance – something I’ve never done. Some images also look better in black and white.

The normal view

So, all in all, a great holiday/research trip, and we’re really looking forward to our next visit.

Posted by: digibirder | June 24, 2012

This and that

Well, yet again I’ve left a huge gap in beween blog posts and find myself having to play catch-up yet again. The trouble is that quite a lot happens in between posting, but then it’s either too much for one post, or I simply forget about things anyway. Must keep up, must keep up…

So, to begin with, we have decided to stop going to the market at Holmfirth. We missed two weeks by being at other events, then when we were due to go back we were informed that there were other events booked on the upper floor, so we would not be able to have a stall. I had an inkling that this was going to happen when they changed the stalls for some that were easier to take down. We did go a couple of weeks ago, and managed to get a spare stall downstairs, but this week we just didn’t bother. It’s a shame as the town was holding an Arts Festival, so we were hoping that this would be good for business, as it has been a bit disappointing overall. Takings really tailed off from the first successful couple of weeks.

Prior to our break from Holmfirth, there was a Folk Festival in the town, and we did get a lot of visitors, but not many buying. There were a few troupes of Morris Dancers wandering in and out, all of which had a different style of costume. They all came past the market later in the day in a festival parade.

Ladies in colourful costumes

Ahem, Elvis is alive! And has a twin!!

On the morning of this market, we had risen early to try and get a nice sunrise image. We drove up alongside a reservoir that we had visited previously, where I had worked out that the sun would be shining through a wood early in the morning. We arrived a little late, having visited another area first, and had a wander along the road. When we were in this area before, the light was very flat and boring, but the sun coming through the trees made for more interesting light.

Compare to similar image in previous post

Decided to also try this in b&w

We had a few more trips around the Holmfirth area to get more images, but we also investigated around Penistone, as we had booked a table at an Artisan Fayre in the town’s new market hall. This meant we would miss a Saturday at Holmfirth, but we were already beginning to get the feeling that we might not be going there for much longer. This craft fair had been organised by a lady who makes jewellery and she had gathered together a wide variety of crafters with good quality products. The fair took place over the Jubilee weekend, and it proved to be very successful indeed. It had been well-publicised, and it was very busy. We made more than at any other market or craft fair we’d done, and Keith had five framing jobs booked from it as well, just about doubling the income. The new market building in Penistone is quite impressive, being constructed in the form of a cruck barn. It was a bit draughty, so I am glad they had put in the glass walls along the sides. Goodness knows how cold it must have been with open sides. The lady has arranged another fair at Penistone in July, which we have booked on, so hopefully that one will be just as good.

I needed some new bluebell images, but this wood near Penistone was not quite ready

Looking over towards Penistone railway viaduct

Royd Moor wind turbines

Castle Hill, near Huddersfield, nearing sunset

Viewed from the opposite side

Grimescar Woods, near Huddersfield was a lot better

Our stall at Penistone

I’ve had a couple of portrait sessions recently, one for some business headshots, and the other a mixture of business and family images (these will be on my business blog soon). The latter one involved some images of a small room for the business shots, so I had to hire a wide angle lens for this. As usual, this was from Lenses for Hire and was the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L. I would rather have had the 16-35mm f/2.8 L, which I have hired before, but this wasn’t in stock for when I wanted it. I suppose something wider still might have been better, but it did the job. While I had the lens, I took the opportunity of trying it out on some landscapes. Again, we headed to the Holmfirth area.

Panoramic of Holmfirth (uneven sky due to ND graduated filter)

You might just make out Castle Hill in the distance

I quite liked the lens, but I think landscapes need something wider. I will perhaps look into a new wide-angle lens when I have a little more income coming in. Not sure whether this will be a Canon lens, but I won’t be having another Sigma lens after the results I had with the last one. Might take a look at Tamron.

I think that’s enough updates for one sitting. There are other things to post, but they can wait for the next installment.

Posted by: digibirder | May 13, 2012

Testing the market

Things have been a little up and down with the regular Saturday market at Holmfirth. Our runaway success at the first visit was followed by a couple of weeks of reduced sales, and no sales on a couple of occasions. Over the bank holiday weekend, we did OK on the Saturday, and then nothing on the Sunday and Monday. Keith had a framing commission, from a lady who wanted a school photo of her granddaughter framing, so that was an extra bonus, and we took that in on Saturday for her. I also had an enquiry from a couple who wanted a Yorkshire Dales barn and stone wall image to take as a gift for some friends who live in France. I have quite a few of these images, so I will be downloading a choice onto the iPad for when they revisit the market in a couple of weeks, and this will be printed and framed in time for their trip. This weekend we managed to sell a couple of small framed floral images and five greetings cards. At least we are overall still in profit regarding the cost of the stall. Now we need to earn back the cost of all the materials and our time, but that’s a long way off!!

When we arrived on Saturday, we discovered that they have  taken away the canopied stalls and replaced them with simple trestle tables. This is to make the room easier to clear when they have other events booked. It seems unfair when the downstairs stalls remain the same. I quite liked this style, but the new tables do allow more light onto the products, so I suppose it is better in a way. The whole room appears brighter, and I think the new tables are slightly larger.

Our stand – before they changed it

We are in the far right corner (with woman viewing)

View from behind our stall (we had also placed a few items on a spare stall on the right)

We are really in a testing phase with this market. We are giving it until perhaps the end of June, when there is an arts fair in the town, and if we don’t do well then, I think we might call it a day. I also have an Artisan Market booked in Penistone at the beginning of June, but that is not a weekly event, so we’ll see what that brings.

While at the market the other week, I left Keith at the stall and had a wander round the town to get some local images. We have made these into some mounted prints and greetings cards. Holmfirth is a tourist town, being the location for the popular TV series, Last of the Summer Wine, and there are lots of interesting features in the town.

Lots of these back alleys in Holmfirth

The location for Sid’s cafe in the TV series

The town view from Victoria Park

Following the bank holiday market, we went over to the area again in order to get some local images in the surrounding countryside. I had spotted a field of oil-seed rape, and so that’s where we headed first. We managed to find the footpath, but the farmer had not done a very good job of keeping the path in good order. After clambering through a gate, through a yard swimming in slurry, over some  very overgrown rocky ground, and into the field, it became apparent that there would be no ideal viewpoint so we headed back the way we came and went on to our next location – a local reservoir. I am not convinced about the images, though, and whether they would sell. The following images are from the road up to one of the reservoirs, but these will probably not be in the for sale pile.

On the way back, we detoured along a country lane and managed to get to the top of the rape field we visited earlier, and discovered a public footpath leading right to the edge of it. It was a much better position than from the farm, as I was able to look down on the field, rather than being below looking up. I took a few images, but I could really do with a wide angle lens.

A little experiment!

Keith has now finished the football shirts for Neil Warnock, and delivered them to him the other day. He is very pleased with them and thinks he will have the other three done as well.

The Lionel Messi signed shirt (this one is reversible, with glass both sides)

The Brazil shirt signed by all the team

I decided in the end to cancel my reflexology course, as it would not have led to the full qualification I expected, and to upgrade to a course in order to do this would have cost a lot in terms of both time and money. I felt that my time would be better spent concentrating on the photography business. And I couldn’t afford the cost anyway.

I have continued to attend a couple of networking groups, and this has now resulted in a couple of portrait session bookings. One is a business headshot session, and the other is an on-location family/child/pet session combined with a business headshot and premises shoot for a therapist. I am looking forward to getting those done over the next couple of weeks.

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