Friday, 27 July 2012

Picture of the Week: Agropoli

Situated about 80km south of Naples on the southern end of the Bay of Salerno is the small Italian coastal town of Agropoli.  The new part of the town is situated around the coast while the older part is located on the hill overlooking the harbour, the perfect defensive position from the raids from Turkish pirates that plagued this area in the 16th and 17th century.


For more on Agropoli CLICK HERE


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Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Bird in the Bush

A few days ago we came across a nest of blackbird chicks in our garden hedge. We decided to keep a watchful eye on the nest but also to keep our distance to not upset the parents.  Anyway today the chicks fledged and the last one was sat for ages on the edge of the nest plucking up the courage to fly the nest.  This allowed me the opportunity to grab the camera with a long lens to keep my distance and get a few shots.  the blackbird intrigued by not both by the noise of the camera and eventually it flew off to join its siblings in the big wide world.

Here is the best shot of the little blackbird chick

Blackbird Chick - Nikon D700 with Sigma 50-500 lens at 500mm


Tomorrow we head to Heathrow airport before flying out to Tuscany for a week's holiday early on Saturday morning. I'm not sure what internet access I will have in Italy but I will post some images from out trips to Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano and Pisa when I can.


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Monday, 23 July 2012

Climbing up to the Sacré-Cœur

On Friday afternoon I had a spare hour before getting the Eurostar back to London following a meeting in Paris so I decided to head two stops north of Gare du Nord on the Metro and walk up to the  Sacré-Cœur  Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart).



A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919. 

Arriving at Château Rouge Metro station, it was a short climb up to the top of Montmartre, which at  around 120 metres above sea level is the highest point in Paris.  The view of the city from the top is fantastic and worth the climb in itself.



Sacré-Cœur is an impressive sight up close with fantastic architectural detail where ever you look.  



In front of the basilica are stepped gardens, complete with fountains, and are a draw for visitors who sit and eat their lunch and look at the view over Paris.  I walked down the steps to the bottom of the hill and then headed back to Gare du Nord on foot to catch my train back to London.  Inevitably the area around Montmartre is a bit touristy, with plenty of souvenir shops selling tourist tat, but it can't take away from the magnificence of the building itself.  I will have to come back at dusk to get a shot of the Sacré-Cœur lit up another time.



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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Early Morning Spiders Web

Getting up this morning I spotted a number of spider webs with early morning dew covering them so I grabbed my camera and set about capturing some images.  Here is the best shot -




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Friday, 20 July 2012

Picture of the Week: Watching Me Watching You

A fox watching me through the trees


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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Minis Galore

Last Sunday was the fifth event on the 2012 Dunlop Mini Miglia and Mini Se7en Challenges calendar at Snetterton in Norfolk and once again the two race series provided some of the best racing to be seen on any circuit in the UK, or indeed the world.  I might be the Press Officer for the Mini 7 Racing Club but don't take my word for it, let the facts speak for themselves.   The second Mini Se7en race produced what is arguably the closest ever finish, with Darren Thomas taking his first victory by just 0.078 seconds ahead of reigning champion Paul Spark, who was in turn 0.052 ahead of Andrew Deviny - that's the top three drivers covered by 0.130 seconds after 8 laps, incredible.



The Mini Se7ens are Europe's longest running single make championship, with the first race taking place at Brands Hatch in 1966.  The Miglias were introduced in 1970 but just because of the classic Mini shape and use of the A Series engine, don't think these cars are anything but full blooded racing machines.  The cars themselves are turned out to professional standards and the Mini 7 Racing Club is very proud of its heritage and the fact it still attracts over 60 drivers each year.


I have been involved with the Mini 7 Racing Club since the late 1990s, following the races for Mini Magazine, and became the Press Officer in 2000 introducing the new look Pitlane Magazine and also Corgi models to the Club as a sponsor.  I went off to work on the European Formula Palmer Audi and then become the Press and PR Manager for Rockingham Motor Speedway before returning to the Club in 2006. However I have always had a passion for the Mini and especially for the racing variants.


I also run the website and while photography is provided by Oliver Read, I still keep my hand in when I can. I also use my Nikon D300s for videos of the races and for driver interviews.  The camera produces fantastic HD videos and these can be seen at http://www.mini7.co.uk/video.html. I use the D700 for stills and the D300s for video and this set up works perfectly to produce what I need for the website after the races.  Unfortunately with my FIA commitments I can't always be at the race track but I attend as many races as possible during the season. 






For more information visit www.mini7.co.uk with the next round at Thruxton on 18/19 August.


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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Symmetry in London

The picture of the 96th Bombardment Group Memorial got me thinking of pictures that have symmetry and this is something I look for a lot in an image when I'm out and about, especially in a town or city.  During our recent visit to London I took three images that have a striking symmetry to the composition.


The first is the underside of the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames.  This was taken from the walkway under the bridge and with the bracing wires running along each side of the bridge and the underside going into a point at the first upright in the water, this image makes a striking image.


The second shot is of the roof in the Tate Britain Museum, this looking straight up into the domed roof at the entrance to the museum.




The third shot was also taken at the Tate Britain but this time is taken in one of the viewing galleries.  I had to wait for some people to move off the right hand seat but the symmetry in this shot is very pleasing


All of these images were taken on a ultra wide angle lens, a 17-35mm f2.8 Nikon lens on a Nikon D700 with the lens used at the 17mm end of the zoom range.



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Monday, 16 July 2012

96th Bombardment Group Memorial at Snetterton

I've been meaning to photograph the striking memorial to the airmen of the USAAF that flew with the 9th Bombardment Group from Snetterton Heath during the second world war for a while but usually the light has been pretty bad when I travel to Snetterton. However yesterday, while I was in Norfolk for the latest rounds of the Dunlop Mini Miglia and Mini Miglia Challenges, the lighting was almost perfect as I left the track.



About the Sculpture
The immensely impressive memorial is set between two flagposts, flying the American and British flags. One of the 96th's B- 17 flying fortress' lifts off over the mound marking the edge of Snetterton racetrack, with a huge vapour trail from each of its four engines. The 96th Bomb Group decided to erect the memorial to supplement the memorial Learning Centre and Museum at New Eccles Hall School and chapel and stained glass window in the south nave of St Andrew Quidenham, unveiled in 1944, to achieve an outstanding memorial and lasting historical marker to the former airfield and the men who served there. Noting that it was particularly significant since, unlike many other former U.S.A.A.F. airfields Snetterton was a thriving commercial centre and race track which draws many visitors during the year. Following a competition among pupils at New Eccles Hall School, the home of the 96th Memorial Museum, the design submitted by the art master, Martin Rance was chosen. It shows a B- 17 flying fortress rising from four columns, resembling vapour trails, set on a trapezium base. The columns also represent the four squadrons attached to the Group and increase in their size represents the ratio of ground support needed to get each aircraft on it mission. The triangular form of the supports was to deter anyone from trying to climb it. 




The 96th Bombardment Group
The 96th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived on 12 June 1943 from RAF Andrews Field. The 96th was assigned to the 45th Combat Bombardment Wing (later, 45th Air Division), and the group tail code was a "Square-C". It's operational squadrons were:
337th Bombardment Squadron (AW)
338th Bombardment Squadron (BX)
339th Bombardment Squadron(QJ)
413th Bombardment Squadron (MZ)



The group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign.
The 96th BG transitioned to operational status at Snetterton Heath after being used as a training unit. It entered combat in June 1943 and functioned primarily as a strategic bombardment organization throughout the war. 


Information on RAF Snetterton Heath and the 96th Bombardment Group can be found HERE


Information on the memorial can be found HERE




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Friday, 13 July 2012

Picture of the Week: Cumbrian Dry Stone Wall

A dry stone wall in the Lake District

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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Looking Forward to Tuscany Travels

While the UK has been deluged by rain my thoughts are turning to our trip to Tuscany for a holiday in the sun in just over two weeks time.  This will be our first holiday in Italy since spring 2010 when we visited Lake Garda and Verona.  Verona is a beautiful city, with plenty of Roman and Medieval architecture, and we will be visiting Florence and Sienna on our next trip.  


Here are some shots from two years ago -


Malcesine, Lake Garda

Lake Garda

Verona

Verona

Verona

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Rutlander

A few years ago we visited the Rutland Railway Museum.  A steam railway is a magnet for photographers and the Rutland Railway Museum but this was our first visit and only in the nearly 30 years we've lived in Cottesmore and Grantham.


The museum is full of old trains, carriages and other railway paraphernalia, a lot of it rusted and broken down, but the Rutlander steam engine is certainly the star of the show.









For more information visit the Rutland Railway Museum website 



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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

On Sunday morning while we were waiting for our tour of Buckingham Palace we were able to watch the Changing of the Guard, something I haven't seen for about 30 years.  Despite the rain the ceremony drew a very large crowd along Birdcage Walk and outside of Buckingham Palace.  



Changing the Guard or Guard Mounting is the process involving a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard.

The Guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called The Queen’s Guard and is divided into two Detachments: the Buckingham Palace Detachment (which is responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace), and the St. James’s Palace Detachment, (which guards St. James’s Palace). These guard duties are normally provided by a battalion of the Household Division and occasionally by other infantry battalions or other units.


When Guardsmen are on duty, the soldiers are drawn from one of the five regiments of Foot Guards in the British Army: the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, the Welsh Guards, the Grenadier Guards and the Coldstream Guards.

Regiment
Grouping of buttons
on scarlet tunic
Collar badge
Plume on bearskin cap
Grenadier Guards
Singly
Grenade
White, worn on left side
Coldstream Guards
Twos
Garter Star
Red, worn on right side
Scots Guards
Threes
Thistle
No plume
Irish Guards
Fours
Shamrock
Blue, worn on right side
Welsh Guards
Fives
Leek
Green and white, worn on left side



The band in the pictures are from the Scots Guards while the Guardsmen are from the Coldstream Guards.  


We managed to get a good spot outside Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk to see the start of the parade.  A very large crowd had gathered outside Buckingham Palace with no room to be had around the Victoria Memorial.


For more information on the Changing of the Guard CLICK HERE

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Monday, 9 July 2012

One Lens Challenge

London Phone Box - Nikon D700 / 50mmf1.4 - 1/800 @ f2  - ISO200
While in London at the weekend my wife and daughter went off shopping in Oxford Street so I decided to set off on a 60-minute photo challenge to see what I could find using just a 50mm f1.4 rather than a zoom lens.  A 50mm gives the same view as your own eyes so the challenge is to find photographic subjects that make the most of this fantastic lens.  It is very easy with a zoom to stand back and let the lens frame the subject but with a prime lens you need to 'zoom' by moving your feet.

I set off down Regent Street and then headed towards Berkeley Square.  I know the area fairly well after working on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Regent Street International Concours from 2006 to 2010 so I took off down the side streets to escape the crowds.


First stop was Hanover Square but building work had me heading south towards St George's Church. I spotted a large puddle at the side of the road and the reflection caught my eye.  Careful not to get wet from passing cars I took the shot of the clock tower reflected in the water.  It would've been better if the sky was blue rather than grey but I think this still works pretty well.



Next I headed along Conduit Street which was bedecked with Union Flags for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee / the Olympic Games.  I stopped at the end and took a shot back with a London Taxi to give some foreground interest.




I headed into Berkeley Square and spotted a new bronze statue on the south side of the park.  I headed over and took several shots at a wide aperture, the narrow depth of field throwing the background out of focus nicely.





I then headed out across the park to the other side of the road where I spotted a road sign.  Shooting along the sign at f2 has once again given me a 'trademark' narrow depth of field that the 50mm f1.4 is so good at.



I headed out of Berkeley Square down a side street with the London Mews houses before heading back to Oxford Circus to meet Julie and Kate after their hour of retail therapy.





The Nikon 50mm f1.4 AF-D is one of the most underrated lenses in Nikon's arsenal but most professionals and enthusiasts know better.  The lightweight lens is superbly built and the fast aperture means you can use it in almost any lighting conditions, especially when coupled with the Nikon D700s low light capabilities.

For more on the Nikon 50mm F1.4 AF-D click HERE 


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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Dancing Water

 At the moment in the UK the only water we seem to get falls from the sky and I think we've forgotten what sunlight looks like, so here is a reminder. 


Here is a picture I took a few years ago in Barcelona of a fountain backlit by sunlight.




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Friday, 6 July 2012

London Bound

This weekend we are heading for a family weekend in London for the first time in three years. I am a regular visitor to the capital on business but I haven't had many opportunities to visit the sights or take in a show, something we used to do every six months or so.  So we have booked a hotel in central London and will visit a gallery. We've also booked theatre tickets to see 'Wicked' on Saturday night and then we have tickets to tour Buckingham Palace on Sunday before heading back to Grantham.


Here are some shots from our last family visit to London in 2009 -


Houses of Parliament from Trafalgar Square 
Westminster Abbey


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