Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Christmas.

It’s CHRISTMAS, well it will be in just 2 days and as I don’t think I will get the time to post on the day it’s self I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas (and if I’m having a really good time and don’t get round to posting before) a happy new year.
To help you celebrate here a picture of a snow man who I came across in the middle of a wood, miles from anywhere, but he look so jolly I had to grab a shot or two.




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Friday, December 18, 2009

Its SOOOOOOOO cold!!

A very quick post today as the rush before Christmas is taking over all my time. The main area of work at the moment is getting a load of shots done for the Leek blog so that I can pre post over the holidays to have some time away from the computer, not that I won’t be able to keep off it for more than a few days! The hardest part about trying to build up a stock of images is that when I get a good one I post it right away (Saturday’s image on the Leek blog being a very good example as I wanted to save it but just could not resist posting it).

Today’s picture is just right as it is freezing out there at the moment. It was taken a few weeks ago up by the Mermaid pool before the sun was up.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

X er size!!!

Yes the dreaded E word has raised its ugly head again, Exercise, I’m not getting any younger and certainly not getting any thinner so it been decided that I must do more of it if I’m to realise my ambition to be the oldest and fittest person on the planet when global warming finally finishes us all off. To complement my swimming, I’m up to ½ a mile now; I am also looking to join a Pilates class! On top of that the new me is cutting down on the beer and trying to eat less!!!

To help me do all this I think I will need a goal to aim for and one of the possibilities is to train up for something. The something I have in mind is the Great North swim, now this is still in the planning stage and I’m not sure I will try it but a 1 mile swim in the open water of Lake Windermere, in September, is certainly looking like a good idea at the moment. If nothing else it will make sure I keep the swimming up and give me at least one weekend in the Lake District next year.

Keeping on the watery theme here is a shot of water rushing over a local weir.



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Monday, December 14, 2009

Blog of the week - FAIL blog

While blogging I always book mark interesting blogs as possible blogs of the week, then on a Monday I sit down and wade through them to pick one for the post.

Now I have not had as much free time of late so the blogs book marked are all from some weeks ago and when I revisited them all, there were around 10 blogs, I found that very few had been updated that recently and some not at all. Now as a blog of the week I would rather pick a blog that is on going, than one that has died, so I came to the conclusion that there would not be a blog of the week this week, until I looked at this blog.

FAIL blog is not an indictment on all the other blogs I had book marked but a blog devoted to all things wrong, from bad signage to errors of judgement to the just dam stupid, some of it can be in bad taste and a little adult orientated, but occasionally there are real gems in amongst the so so pictures. Take this post, a real case of what happens next and a great example of what not to do on top of a mountain.

Photo today is a reworking of a shot taken in Yorkshire earlier this year, hope you like it.



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Friday, December 11, 2009

Magic round about.

Trying to write a post while watching Top Gear on BBC iPlayer is not a smart move, a ¼ of an hour later and this is all I have written. Still its one of the best things on tv at the moment and due to the BBC changing the time without any real reason on Sunday I missed the first ½ hour, thank god for the iPlayer.
The picture today is the one mention in the last post, it was such as great thing I had to capture it, but it did take a bit of work. First of all its 4 shots stitch together then it has been tone mapped to get the exposure just right. To finish I took out a couple people that were cluttering up the back ground and de-saturated the back ground.



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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tatton park at Christmas

Went to Tatton park over the weekend, looking for some Christmas cheer, the ridicules thing was that after searching the web Tatton park seemed to be the closest place doing anything the slightest Christmassy and that was nearly 30 miles away. When we got there it was a great disappointment as the Christmas gift fair was over priced and very small compared to other events that we have been to there. The only saving grace was this Truck that I managed to shoot; it was part of a travelling fair ground ride which if I get time I will also try to post a picture of.


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Monday, December 7, 2009

Blog of the week - Cake Wrecks

Blog of the week is the fantastic Cake Wrecks, when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong. I stumble across this site weeks ago and just knew it was a must for blog of the week. The site is mainly pictures with some very funny comments added, as it suggest in the title it is mostly very bad cakes but interspaced with some really good ones so you don’t lose heart with the baking world.


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Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas is coming!!!

The madness that is Christmas is starting to take hold both at home and at work. At home it manifest its self in a manic spree of cleaning and tiding to get everything sparkling just before we hide it all under a layer of decorations. At work it pays not to sit at your desk too long or risk being covered in tinsel and bubbles. In our house most of the present choosing is done by Caz, with me being given the casting vote, although if I pick the wrong thing I get over ruled. It is all part of the fun trying to get the right thing for everyone, but it’s made so much easier when they have wish list and you know that what ever you get it will be right.

Picture today is an early morning shot taken near Rudyard Lake, the low mist and great light really does not show in most of the pictures I took, but this one was the closest.



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Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog of the week - Eating Olives with My Dog

The Blog of the week this week will either be a classic that will run and run, or a flop that peters out after only a few short posts, I think that it will be the former and one day you might even see a book of the blog! So for a chance to be in almost at the start pop over to Eating Olives with My Dog, sounds like a great title for a book, and catch up with what I hope will be the start of a great adventure and a great blog.

My blog posts of late have been rather short and sometimes nearly none existent and I think its time for an explanation. I work part time and in April went off sick with an injured shoulder and neck, about the only thing it stopped me doing was using a PC for any length of time (blog post at this time were written over a large number of hours and even days), but by September I was well on the mend and started back to work. While off work I had made the momentous decision to become a full time photographer at some point in the near future and had started to raise my profile and try to get some paid work, this was all going great until I started back to my old job when time started to become a factor in all that I did. Although my heart lies with the photographer, my head likes the regular income from the part time job and things started to be put on the back burner, both blogs have taken the brunt of the cuts as you will know just how time consuming they can be.

Normally this would be fine as I have managed to do the blogs for nearly 2 years and hold down the job, but add in the attempts to get photographic work and it had all become a bit much and life has started to slip a bit. Now this could be a good point to say that I was going to quit blogging and to be honest I have just sat here for a while thinking that I had written a fine ending to the blog without realising it, but I would miss it too much, getting comments, reading blogs and posting pictures all have become such a part of my life I could not imagine going on without them. So I will try to be a better Blogger and if anyone needs a photographer you know where I am.

Photo today is of the colours of autumn that we had here just a few weeks ago.



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Friday, November 27, 2009

Real?

What do you think?


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manchester.

No blog of the week this week as I missed Mondays post, due to the fact I was having such a good time away from my computer living it up in the big city, Manchester to be precise, getting all the Christmas shopping done.

In fact the whole weekend has been a break from the normal, although not as much fun as Monday, with 4 whole days off work we were able to do just what we wanted and on Sunday I came up with the great idea to decorate the kitchen.

What was I thinking, I thought we could do the whole thing in a day, wrong, I still have loads to do and the weekend is a distant memory, still it will look good once it is finished.

Manchester was great, we got the train from Macclesfield and by 10 am we were in the centre of the city with the whole day to our selves. The plan was to shop, grab a good meal at lunch time, see the Christmas market and have a ride on the big wheel and unusually for me it all worked out wonderfully, we even missed getting soaked by the heavy rain.. Caz got most of the things she was looking for and I came away with 2 new books and more importantly an idea what she wants for Christmas.

To finish off the day is style we stopped off at our favourite Mexican restaurant in Macclesfield El Rio’s where the food and welcome was as good as ever.

Picture today is one of a set taken around the site of Leeks newest supermarket, at the moment it is still an industrial estate but soon work will start to remove the old buildings to build houses and the supermarket. This building is to remain though, it a water mill built by James Brindley in 1752. If you could look right through this building you would be looking at the spot the poppy photo was taken from the last post.



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Friday, November 20, 2009

Bees to honey

Today a shot taken during our very short summer, I’d gone out just to photograph this patch of wild flowers that had been planted on waste ground near my local pub and as I was composing a shot this Bee just happened to fly by. One of those great little moment’s that happen far too infrequently, but are all the better for their rarity.

Still on the subject of Bees, like Bees around honey is a very good description of some of the young lads at work when they realised that one of the more eligible girls was newly single. It’s great fun looking on from outside at how cool they are trying to be, while to every one else it so obvious what’s going on, it makes me cringe to think just how bad I looked back in the day as I’m sure I was no where as confident as the lads are today.



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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's a blank page!!!

I write my blog posts on a word document and then copy and past them over to the Blogger page; I do this because with my dyslexia it helps to see the words in a familiar style and word also helps with the spelling and layout much better than Blogger. Each time I sit down to write a post I still feel intimidated by the blank page, even though the document now runs to 153 pages and 95,500 words, more often recently I also find I struggle to get across what I want to say, again intimidated by having to fill a page.

One of the things that keeps me going is the great posts written by the many bloggers I read, although I sometimes spend too long reading them and end up having no time to do my own, so it comes as a shock when one you love vanishes from the world. Take ‘won’t let life define me’ I loved this blog but all of a sudden I can not get to see it, I known that its not the first to go and it won’t be the last, but it still feels like losing an old friend without having had time to say good bye.

I must admit that when I reached day 366 I was tempted to finish the blog, it is a big commitment to keep posting and photographing, but on the plus side it does keep me writing and taking pictures and practice in both is never time wasted. Also with out the blog I would not have experimented with my picture to the extent that I have done, after 20 years of taking pictures my range of skills have increased more in the last 18 month than ever before. Today’s picture is testimony to that, it’s a shot taken last winter for this blog, but it never made the cut until I HDR’ed it earlier this week and fell in love with it. The shot is of the Great ridge in the Peak district.



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Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog of the week - Pixel darkroom photography

No post on Friday last week as I had nothing but negative thought and did not want to bring anyone else down at the start of the week end. Now I have had a few days off I’m all smiles again and getting on with life, two complaint emails sent off to my two most trust on line photo suppliers, results in a few days I hope.

Blog of the week is a new one to me and a fairly new one to the web as well with only 30 posts so far, so a chance to get in at the start before every one else is following him. Pixel Darkroom photography is a 365 day photo blog, just like this one used to be 460 post ago and shows a great range of skill even with so few post already done. The best bit for me, apart from being grateful I am not starting one again, is that he shows how some of the photos were taken, lighting set up and camera positions, great if you want to try the shots yourself. So pop over and have a look, I’ve noticed that he gets very few comments and I well know how much encouragement I got from a few kind words.

Photo to day is a shot of Loch Lomond taken during our week on Scotland, the building is a power station I think.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remember

It was the silence that first struck me and then the lack of movement. On Leek’s busiest street the total absence of movement was beyond strange, more so given that there were more people in view than I had ever seen here before, in fact the only things moving were the flags on the monument.

The monument, one of the reasons that we were here, a great clock tower made of Portland stone, engraved around the top with the names Hooge, Loos, Ypres, Somme, Bellenglise, Ramicourt, Bohain, Lens and Gommecourt some foreign fields that are forever England, names that used to stir strong emotions in previous generations, although now names that are nearly forgotten in the minds of most.

Still the silence holds sway over the crowd, not a voice can be heard, not a car, not even a bird, nothing seems to dare to disturb the moment, as 100’s of people stand and honour our fallen. Then the bugle sounds, shoulders relax, heads raise and a few tears are swiftly wiped away, people start to move and a wave of sound builds as the crowd slowly comes back to life.

The 2 minutes silence for remembrance Sunday 2009 has finished, but for me my work has just begun, I have made my way here to try and photograph the event for my leek blog.
Sundays for me are normally family days but I really wanted to capture this, as the Monument is the real centre of the town and this is its big day, but as I walked towards the crowd the last post sounded and all noise stopped and not just all noise but all movement as well. So I too stood still, head bowed and gave thanks for all our brave men and women, who’s number continues to grow, who gave their lives so that we can live ours in peace and comfort.

Once the silence was over I walked around the crowd, photographing the sights and marvelling at the number of people that had turned out on a cold Sunday and also at the great age range as it was not just the old, but people from all generations, all I think aware of this ceremonies new found relevance as more of our troops are sent into harms way.

What started out as a normal photo shoot left me very moved, far more than in other years, I think because its not all history any more.



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Monday, November 9, 2009

Blog of the week - the DawnTreader Picturebook

When surfing the net I come across loads of great blogs, the ones I find the most interesting or entertaining I bookmark in a folder entitled blog of the week and when Monday comes round I open the file and see what I’ve got. For a few weeks one name as kept drawing my eye but has lost out to more recent finds, until I clicked on it today. At first I was unsure why it had made it in to the folder in the first place, although the name alone would make it stand out as I think it is just so cool, the DawnTreader Picturebook is really just a collection of everyday pictures, so why is it in the blog of the week folder?

Well for a start as I have said the name is so cool and the pictures are far from ordinary, they just look it until you start to notice that there are slight differences to what I would expect to see. These are the sorts of pictures I take for my Leek blog and although they look familiar there are differences in the buildings and street furniture that remind me that this is a totally different country, but it looks so like home. The next thing that I found on rereading the blog is that it is just the tip of the Dawn Treader iceberg with 3 other blogs, each well worth a visit and one of which is on the list for blog of the week. So although this is blog of the week it could also be Blogger of the week.

Now for an ordinary picture from Leek, this is a shot of the local scrap yard taken last winter in a snow storm, I have HDR’ed it and boosted the colour a bit, I just love the feel of the shot and all the detail.



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Friday, November 6, 2009

Stuck for words

Been out and had a nice meal and a drink and am now stuck for words, so here's a picture and wishes for a great weekend.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Heros

Watching the late night news a couple of days ago I was struck by the big difference between the two main head line stories, first was a story about the death of a solider in Afghanistan, next, given nearly equal billing, was a story about the birth of a footballers child. What on earth were they thinking of letting these 2 stories share the head lines, it devalues the first and gives way too much weight to the second, it really makes me wonder what this country has come to when second rate star managing to give birth rates as a major news story.

As for the first story, yet another very brave man loses his life in Afghanistan, while fully supporting our troops, I cannot see us winning there and the main reason for that is that I don’t think the people of that country really care. From the refuges sitting on the French coast trying to get to here, to the presidential candidate that throws in the towel and a president that can not even win out right, a rigged election (and I think we are going to the dogs). Why are we wasting our best over there is beyond me.

I think that a lot of it has to do with our fearless leaders spending too much time trying to fiddle their expenses and not enough time doing their jobs. Still this will all be a thing of the past when we sign over the running of the country to Europe, probably some time in the next few years.




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Monday, November 2, 2009

Blog of the week - Writing to reach you

Another girly blog of the week this week and about all it has in common with last weeks is that it is very well written, which is very appt as it is called Writing to reach you.

This blog is the ramblings of an American grad student living in southern California, its intelligent, funny and never afraid to try something new, check out the video blog done over a week, it gives an insight into a different way of life far removed from my own, one of the reasons I love reading other peoples blogs.

Had a great weekend mostly down to the fact we had friends staying and on Saturday went for a 13 mile bike ride, only the second ride of the year, and I’m now feeling the results as I stand here writing this. I have just been to my osteopath who has given me a clean bill of health, as long as I keep up the exercises and won’t need to see me for 6 months.

Picture today is of the main bridge at Chatsworth house.



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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Daemon drink

I work part time in a large office, I share this space with around 80 other people and on the whole they are amongst the brightest people I have ever worked with, until they mix with alcohol.

Now in their defence I must start by saying most of them are quite young (at their age I would have never held such a responsible job, in fact I’m surprised I do now) and given that life is short who can blame them for going out and having a good time, but there is a price to pay for all that fun and the next morning when you have to face you workmates is when you pay it.

Take Mr X, a man used to spending late nights in the arms of a pretty girl, but when that girl works in the same office, regardless of how desirable she is, he just knows he will have to face a day of comments befitting of the best carry on films and also know’s it will only stop when someone else succumbs to the daemon drink and over shadows his latest exploits.

This relentless cycle of drink and regret serves only to provide entertainment to those of us old enough not to be able to go out and do the same, but what fun it is to sit back and watch it all. Today, what promised to be a long and boring shift turn into one of the most amusing days I have had in years and all thanks to Mr X and the long memories of his work mates who remembered just how much stick he had given them in the past.

Picture today other HDR shot of the great ridge taken early this year.




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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

High dynamic range imaging

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to represent more accurately the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.

The two main sources of HDR imagery are computer renderings and merging of multiple photographs, which in turn are known as low dynamic range (LDR) or standard dynamic range (SDR) images. Tone mapping techniques, which reduce overall contrast to facilitate display of HDR images on devices with lower dynamic range, can be applied to produce images with preserved or exaggerated local contrast for artistic effect.

Well that was easier than try to explain what it means, but what does the technique offer to a photographer. Well first let me explain how I create my images; I take a single raw file and pass it through photomatix, I then take the resulting HDR image and edit it in lightroom and Photoshop till I get the look I want. This means that for me there is only one extra step to get this look and the good part is that the best images for this are flat dull ones, just the sort of photos that you take because it looks so good at the time but nothing when you get them home, of which I have 100’s.
The resulting image, at its best, has a painted quality where all the detail is visible, great for buildings and complex scenes, and given that the images were not really usable in their original form, even better for me.

Now some people don’t like this technique, they don’t think they are real photos, but what is a real photo, I take raw images with my camera, resulting in a 10mb file, after they have been converted to a real photo, a jpeg, the file size is around 4mb, just what have I lost in that 6mb? This technique does not add anything that was not there already, it just was not visible in the normal image, although you would have been able to see it when you were looking at the scene and maybe that’s why some photos don’t seem to look like we thought they should.

This shot is of a large tractor on our local cement works, taken while it was snowing on a very cold gray day. At the time I thought it was a great study full of textures and colour, but the original file was gray and flat, if I added contrast I lost the detail in the snow, if I lightened the image I lost the detail in the ground and sky, if I darkened the image to get more sky detail, I lost detail on the tractor, the image was a complete loss and no chance of getting a second go. With HDR the shot has that detail and colour that I saw when I took it, here are both shots the top is the HDR just in case you can not tell. Click on each image to get a full view.






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Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog of the week - A Tykes progress

Blog of the week for this week is the wonderful a Tykes progress; it’s a very girly anonymous blog, which means that reading it from a male point of view is like getting the daily news from a different planet. She has such a way with words that I feel drawn in and can picture the scene without really having to make any effort, for me this is the best sort of writing. My favourite post by a long way is this one, be warned it has an adult theme but should not really upset any one, but do not read at work unless your colleagues are used to you crying with laughter at your desk.

Picture today yet another HDR shot, a lot of people asking about these so I will go in to more detail on them and where to find more information on Wednesday, this shot is of 3 shires head, but taken from a way down the river.



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Friday, October 23, 2009

Rutland HDR

Years ago I trained to do a parachute jump and for weeks afterward went down to the airfield to try and get the jump done, only to find that the weather was too bad to jump. This gave me an exaggerated heightening of the senses where wind was concerned, as high wind speed was the reason we could not jump. When I took up photography the same thing happened as regards light, I started to notice light levels and the way light fell onto everything, it changed the way I look at the world. Now it’s happened again with my discovery of HDR pictures.

It started last Friday when I was choosing the blog of the week for this week, I had a site book marked and spent some time checking out the wonderful HDR pictures on there, come Monday I again found myself looking at those great images and thinking that I should give it ago, so I did. My first attempt went on to the Leek blog on Thursday and now it’s the time for this blog to get the HDR treatment.

This image has already appeared on the blog as a standard photo and was suggested by Caz as a good candidate for the treatment, she was right as always, it is the church on Rutland water, now a visitor centre/museum.

Since I started to do this to my pictures I have started to look at everything in a new way, even the dullest drabbest scene now has promise.



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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What colour are you?

What colour are you, are you male or female, gay or straight, what god do you believe in (if any) and why the hell should the answers to any of these questions have the slightest relevance to me.

To be honest I don’t care one bit what the answers are and would rather you did not say, you read this blog and even sometimes comment and as far as I’m concern the fact that you do the first qualifies you to do the second as well as any one else. The reason for the questions was to high light the fact that it really does not matter who you are, you are you and that’s fine by me.

But some people think differently, take this article on the blog Duckrabbit, its all about the fact that they perceive that the photographic industry is inherently racist and highlights a photo competition judging panel as a prime example, mainly because they are all white. They claim that it should more closely reflect the ethnic makeup of the society that it is in, this from a uk based blog that’s header picture has only one ethnic group in it. Are they in the right or are they racist for only seeing the colour of the judges skin, check out the names of the judges in the post and the majority are not the fine Anglo-Saxon names you would have expected. The main point of the post is that being an all white panel they will tend to vote for whites, but the judges won’t see the photographers or their names, all they will see is a photograph, which they will judge on its merits, based on their years of experience.

This morning on the news an article was saying a Politian was going to pick more women for parliamentary seats, forcing their appointment if necessary on the local parties, shouldn’t we be picking the best people for the job and not trying to fill quotas.

I’m all for equality and seeing every one gets a fair deal, but when we start to take race, sex, age or religion into consideration when judging people that’s the point when we stop becoming the defenders of an ideal and start becoming its attackers.

A sheep, regardless of colour still tastes better with mint sauce.



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Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog of the week - Wood and pixels

Blog of the week this week is Wood and Pixels, it’s a photo blog is a similar vain as this one, by that I mean that unlike some photo blogs the words are just as important as the photos, but that just does not make it an illustrated blog as the photos are far more than just a side show to the writing.

Photography comes in many different styles, some are well received by nearly everybody, take a good landscape shot for example or a good black and white portrait, but the bulk of the images on this site may well split the vote as they are processed as HDR photos.
Now HDR images seem to have taken the place of digital images in the “must hate” category by that group of photographers whose ancestors clung on to glass plates while the rest of the world moved on to film and they themselves clung on to film while the rest moved on to digital.

HDR (high dynamic range) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to represent more accurately the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight. This produces a very different type of image that at first sight can look just wrong to someone used to looking at normal photos, but in the right hands (and I have seen very few that get it right) it can be an art form that blurs the line between photos and painting. In my opinion this blog produces some of the very best you are likely to find, remember it’s a blog not a one off gallery, he is producing these day after day and the quality is mind blowing.

I would be interest to known what you think as I see this area of photography growing into an art form of its own over the coming years.

Just like to add my congratulations to Jenson Button the F1 world champion a great drive yesterday and a fine example of how hard work and tenacity will get you what you want.

My picture to day is far removed from HDR, it’s a grab shot taken on Settle station with very little time spent on the computer.



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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate change, virgin birth, flat earth.

Climate change, I have to admit that I’m very skeptical about the existence of climate change and the whole global warming thing. My basis for this is that we (humans) have only been here for such a short time and for a large period of that were not really in a position to judge what was happening around us. An even smaller period of time is the length of time we have been able to accurately measure things like temperature or the size of the ice caps, so to be able to say that things are changing outside of the norm, when we really have no idea what the norm is, is like seeing a snow flake and predicting the start of an ice age.

Now I known that lots of very important people seem to have been convinced that there is a problem but remember past world leaders and experts also had some strange ideas (flat earth, virgin birth, communist ruling the plant, woman’s heads over heating if they learn too much).

Are they right or are they wrong, I really do not know, I personally think that we do not have enough data to make a definitive statement and that a lot of what we hear is sensationalized.

But.

Can we really take the risk, we know the earth is round, but at one point someone had to be the first to say it, (imagine what he got called by the experts of the day) so they may be right, we may be doing harm to our world, we have no spare, this is our only one, now is not the time to play the odds. You all have insurance of some sort, you hope it is something you never need, would you just cancel it all and still sleep at night, the cost of doing something is like paying insurance, the price of doing nothing is a lot higher.

Picture today is called my world too.



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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Paramo, great customer service

I was not going to post today as tomorrow is Blog action day and I’ve signed up again to do a special post, but the post arrived and I had a reason to blog.

Customer service and customer satisfaction, lots of companies strive for these two, but very few manage to get any where close. For companies that compete in an area with very similar product, service and satisfaction can be the only difference between them and for those companies I would expect a lot of effort to do them right.

But what if your product is unique, the only one of its type and of a very high standard, why then should you bother to go that extra mile, I know that I would be tempted to let things slide a bit, so when I got both excellent service and satisfaction from a company that really does not have to try at all to impress me I had to let the world (or at least my small part of it) know.
As you all know I walk a lot and spend a lot of that time getting wet, I am in England so what would you expect. So for me the most important item of clothing is my waterproof jacket and after being waylaid by a very knowledgeable sales man found my self wearing a jacket made by Paramo.

Now these are not your normal waterproofs, they are soft, warm and comfortable, they are also hard wearing, very well designed and have no real competitor, so no real reason to put themselves out for the customer as the clothing does all the work for them. So imagine my surprise when we had a email saying they were running a show in our area, just a few miles from our door, basically a factory sale with out the need to visit the factory, happy days.

On getting to the show the first thing that struck me was the amount of stock, it was massive, then the staff were great, no school kids reading the label and trying to up sell you, service and getting you what you needed seemed to be the order of the day. Now I had a list of what I needed and unfortunately the smallest thing on that list was not there, replacement rubbers for my gaiters, but as soon as I enquired I was informed that if I rang them back at the office during the week they would send them out for free, I did that yesterday at 11.00 and by 9.00 today they were here. Now I needed those bits or the gaiters were useless, they are the only manufacturer, so I was pretty much a captive customer and for doing what they did I thought they need a bit of praise.



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Monday, October 12, 2009

Blog of the week - Olympia daily photo

For the first time in ages I was out before the sun was up and the reward was low mist, blue sky’s and wonderful colours, but as I’m still working on those shots you will have to wait for them to appear on the Leek daily photo blog. Talking of daily photo blogs leads me very nicely on to the blog of the week.

This week’s blog of the week is The Olympia daily photo, now I know there are loads of these types of blog around so what makes this one stand out? First off there is the photography, it superb; sharp, well framed and interesting, day after day, something I know is very hard to keep up. Second and by no mean any less important, it is well written, the style is friendly and informative, after a while you start to feel like a member of the family. Good images backed up by good writing, it all adds up to a great little blog and one well worth a visit.

Now the result of the competition’s, although load of you visited only 2 left an entry so Suburbia and Wiicheat win 2 of the 3 vouchers, as there was one going spare Friday saw a quick guess the photo competition won by Polergirl who was first to spot it was condensation on a window, it great to be able to take a photo while still in bed.

Photo today was taken last year and was over looked at the time, but I spotted it as I was clearing some space on the hard drive.



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Friday, October 9, 2009

What is this a picture of?

The very short competition is over and it’s small time scale was only beaten by the smaller number of people that entered. So the vouchers go to Suburbia and Wii cheat (I will be in touch).

Those of you that were paying attention will notice that it still leaves £30 of Blurb vouchers up for grabs and I would hate to see it go to waste, so very quick quiz and the nearest to the answer I have got wins.

What is this a picture of?

You have till Monday when I need to send off the winners details to get the vouchers sent out.



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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hello! Where are you?

Where are you all? With only 2 days left of the competition and only one entry I can see who the winner will be, its not as if it going to be that hard to find a funny post as most of you are bloggers that I read and most of you have made me laugh out loud at one time or another.

It’s a genuine prize of a £30 voucher off the cost of your own (or some one else’s) Blurb photo book, you don’t have to enter Blurbs competition, but if your book is on one of the themes then it does not hurt to have a go, so come on and have a go (the more that enter the more likely that they will do this again). Here are the details again.

Those wonderful people at blurb have given me 3 vouchers worth £30 each to give away, to help promote their latest book competition in which you could win $3,000. The book competition ends on the 22/10 so to give the winners of the vouchers time to do their books this give away ends on Friday 9th.

To enter you just need to follow one of my blogs and tell me your funniest pet, travel or family related story. If you already have a post on your blog just link to that in the comment and I will read it there.

Why have I chosen those categories well they just happen to be the themes of the books for Blurbs competition, Pets, Travel or Families, so get your thinking caps on as this competition for the £30 vouchers ends Friday.

Picture is of a cow, taken from about 30cm away, had to keep wiping the lens as it kept fogging up from the cow’s breath.




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Monday, October 5, 2009

Free competition time again!

Free competition time again, those wonderful people at blurb have given me 3 voucher worth £30 each to give away, to help promote their latest book competition in which you could win $3,000. The book competition ends on the 22/10 so to give the winners of the vouchers time to do their books this give away ends on Friday 9th.

To enter you just need to follow one of my blogs and tell me your funniest pet, travel or family related story. If you already have a post on your blog just link to that in the comment and I will read it there.

Why have I chosen those categories well they just happen to be the themes of the books for Blurbs competition, Pets, Travel or Families, so get your thinking caps on as this competition for the £30 vouchers ends Friday.

Photo to day is of Buachaille Etive Mor taken from the road at the top of Glen Coe.




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Friday, October 2, 2009

Skye

Back to Skye, and I wish I was going straight back, the whole reason for our journey up north was to get to the fabulous island of Skye and after 4 days of travelling we reach our destination, Carolyn’s god parents in the small village of Luib just outside of Broadford. Their house is sat right on the shore (they have seen otters playing from their windows!) and it has fantastic views down the loch, in fact the only thing to beat the location was the welcome we both got, it was like coming home.

The first thing that you realise when you start to explore Skye is that its much bigger than you think, part of this is that the roads have to go round so many large mountains and also follows the coast which very rarely goes in a straight line, so it takes forever to get any where. The other part is that there are not that many towns on the island so coupled with the long road journeys it gives the appearance of being much bigger. The second thing you notice are the mountains, again they are much bigger than you think and seem to be every where. With both of us being experienced walkers we were both very keen to get in to the mountains and made that our first priority only to be beaten by the famous Skye weather.

Skye is famous for many things, Whiskey, the famous Talisker comes from here, mountain, it has 12 Monros, wildlife, including otters and golden eagles and loads of history. But the thing that gets talked about the most is the weather and more particular the rain. Years ago we spent a week there and it rained all the time, a common thing as it is one of the wettest places in Scotland, but this time we were lucky in that we only had 1 day when it rain for just an hour, the hour was just at the point when we were deciding to head higher into the mountains and that tipped our decision not to go on. Heading into strange mountains when you can only see 10 feet ahead is not very wise, so we called it a day and came down, even then the sights we had seen had us hooked so that the rest of the time there was spent more out doors than in, although we never made it to the tops of any of the big ones, we will save them for later.

When it became time to leave we did not want to go, the whole feel of the place is different to the main land, the quality of life seems fuller and in common with all the people we met north of the boarder the people were so friendly, but leaving Harvey and Jill’s company was the hardest bit as we had been made to feel so welcome and treated like royalty, I’m still trying to lose the weight I put on.
The picture for today comes from a walk we did from the door of their house, this view is just an hours stroll from their house heading in land from the village.




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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moments

Today was just going to be a follow on to the holiday stories, but an email waiting for me when I logged on has changed that. One of my favourite blogs has gone “invitation only” and that has re awakened an internal debate over the nature of blogging.

I started blogging as a challenge and as a way of getting my photos to a larger audience, I ended up being able to spell audience right first try (really not bad for me as I’m Dyslexic and before starting this hardly strung 3 words together) and finding myself interacting with people all over the world (my first thought when hearing of an earthquake or Tsunami is “I hope no one I know is hurt”). Unintended benefits of doing the blog are that people I know now read it, which is great, but it does have the drawback that some things which I could talk about, if it was an anonymous blog, have to stay secret for fear that they could damage friendships, family harmony or job prospects.

A number of blogs that I have read over the years have gone private, they all started out anonymously and then people recognised them or people they had told, told others that were not so welcome and they had to make the tuff decision to go invitation only or curb what they write. I had no option when I started this as it hard to sell photos when no one knows who you are, but this does mean that I edit what I say and try to keep a balanced tone.

What is interesting is that the blogs I love (see blog of the week) when they are written blogs, rather than just photo blogs, are all quite out spoken and at time controversial, while still being inoffensive (mostly, you known who you are). But they are all anonymous and use that freedom well. I’m sure that one day I’ll write this with one too many glasses of wine inside me and let slip more than I mean too, but even knowing that I don’t think I could ever stop.

The blog that started this post was also the next blog on my list for blog of the week, I had only held off doing it earlier as I had picked so many of my long standing blogging friends and thought it was looking a bit unbalanced.

The picture today is of the Cuillin hill on Skye, this was the view we had driving towards them on our way to walk amongst them, but not to climb them this time.



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Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog of the week - Glimpses through the mashrabeya

Blog of the week time, after a break for the holiday, this one is a blog close to my own heart, a daily photo blog. When I start this blog I had no idea what a commitment it would be and having kept it up for the full year now understand what it takes to keep producing good, interesting photos day after day, while also trying to have a life. Lisa from Glimpses through the mashrabeya manages to keep giving us interesting and inspiring photos day after day, so inspiring that they have influenced the way I both take and look at pictures, so go and be inspired at Glimpses through the mashrabeya.

On a similar note I have just posted the next part of my photo course at Brett Trafford photography blog, all about how to improve your technique.

Today I have just been declared fit to return to the land of the living by my doctor, it has been nearly 6 months but I can now sustain long enough periods at the computer to return to work, although on a limited basis at the moment. This is great news, if a little daunting, as for so long I have had just Caz and Kep for company and have seen only a few people at a time, so spending hours with loads of people is quite intimidating. Also after so long away from my job I have forgotten most of what I knew so I have a long hard struggle to re learn it all again.

The image for today is taken from the side of the Pap of Glen Coe looking down on to the village and the loch.



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Friday, September 25, 2009

Glen Coe and the Pap

Our first adventure into big Scottish mountains started off with a bit of a navigational error on my part, I took the wrong turn, the very first turn off the road and then followed the wrong path too the middle of a wood, where it ran out and left us a bit bemused as to what to do next. Being as it was a hot day and we really did not have the time to back track our steps, we, once having found where we were, headed through the trees to the side of a little loch which had a lovely walk around it called the Lochan trail. This is the spot today’s picture was taken from, a very lucky accident had lead us to a most wonderful spot and far from it being a day wasted it became a day to treasure.

The mountain in the picture was our target for the day, the Pap of Glen Coe and we managed to clime it the following day with much less trouble. The mountain is only small by Scottish standards but still a fair climb with enough height to make me shake a bit on the last clamber to the summit.

We left Glen Coe with much regret the following day to continue our journey north, stopping off to climb a small hill called Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis for those of you not in the known is the UK largest mountain and for all its height is very easy to climb, in that the path is wide and well trod, but it does go straight up from the word go and seems only to get steeper the higher you go. The weather on the mountain is famous for being bad, over 300 days a year with cloud on the summit, so to spend a whole day in fine sunshine and clear sky’s was such a treat and one I would not have missed, but it did make the final run to Skye, after 9 hours walking, a bit of a pain.



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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chas n Dave (see foot note)

One of the things putting us off a trip to Scotland was the distance involved just to get any where; it takes us 3 hours just to reach the boarder and another hour to get past Glasgow and into the wilder countryside. When you think that our normal drive to the Lake District takes only 3 hours to get right to the centre, we both faced the longer run with some trepidation, who wants to spend so long in a car when you pass such great walking only a couple of hours into the journey?

The answer was to brake up the drive with a stop for a walk on route and for the run up we chose Moffat or a hill just out side of there. When the walk was done we headed back to the town for a meal before carrying on to our over night stop, that’s when I fell in love with Moffat. It is just a lovely little town, peopled with great folk and just enough shops to make it interesting without over whelming you, we eat in a lovely hotel where the staff were perfect and the meal was eaten, to the accompaniment of a harpist, in a faded but plush dinning room and us straight of the hill in our walking gear. So if you find yourself in Moffat I can recommend the Buccleuch hotel on Bank Square.

The next day found us heading up country to Glen Coe, the sun was out and the sky was blue as we ran up the side of Loch Lomond just enjoying all the new sights that appeared as the miles rolled by. The final run into Glen Coe was fantastic as you start at the top of the Glen and run down to the Loch, slowly being enveloped by the mountains which tower all around. The B&B was right by the loch and had one of the best views we have ever seen from our room’s window. The picture was taken down by Loch Leven the next morning, just before breakfast and only a few feet from the B&B.



Sad news Chas n Dave have called it a day so no more Rock-ney
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Monday, September 21, 2009

There can be only one

Holiday time again, I’ve just got back from touring Scotland over the last week and am now back trying to catch up on all the jobs I’ve been putting off till after the holiday (it seemed such a long time away and now its here).

It has been years since I visited Scotland and now I remember why I love it so much, it’s not the views, the countryside, the buildings or the weather (which was warm and sunny for nearly the whole week) it’s the people. From the moment we stepped out of the car in Moffat we came across loads of warm friendly people, who all proceeded to talk to us about the places we were at and the places we should see, the locals all spoke with a pride you just don’t seem to find in England and the tourists spoke with a touch of awe over what they had seen.

So while I catch up here on all my jobs here is a shot of Eilean Donan castle and if it looks familiar here is a list of films it has been in, The Master of Ballantrae (1953), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Highlander (1985), Mio in the Land of Faraway (1987), Loch Ness (1996), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Made of Honor (2007) and in BBC mini series Oliver's Travels.



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Friday, September 18, 2009

Challenged

Challenges, we face these every day, rude people, crap drivers (women in 4x4 in supermarket car parks) or just trying to write a post while listening to you tube (KT Tunsall doing Teenage kicks!) but some challenges are ones we put ourselves through and may plan them for years before having to face them.

For me the greatest challenges so far have been unplanned whims, building a VW beetle from scratch (no prior experience!) hitch hiking the length of the country and doing a daily blog for a year.

Other challenges are ahead in my future like walking the Pennine way, a long way in the future as well as in distance; this picture is of the Pennine way or at least a small part as it heads over Pen-y-Ghent in Yorkshire.

Closer in time is the challenge to change the direction of my life as now I’m well on the road to full fitness I feel I have less time to waste and want to make a bigger impact on the world and have more control over my life, just the simple stuff then!



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Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog of the week - Faces in places

After last weeks blog of the week, this weeks is again all about a face, or the impression of a face. Faces in places is a photographic collection of faces found in everyday places, but not real faces. Pop over to the site to see as it would take longer to sum up such a great idea, but be warned you will start seeing faces every where.

Today’s picture is of a money tree, again not quite what the name brings to mind but a great subject for a photo, this tree is on the waterfall walk just out side Ingleton.




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Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were you?

Kennedy, Lennon and 9/11; no it is not a list of bad things that have happened in America, but a list of time defining moments, you could add to this princess Diana and going back in time there are probable a lot more you could use. They all have one thing in common; you will know where you were when you heard about them, it’s like a time stamp in your life.

John Lennon I heard about, fittingly enough, in a music room at school, I had no real idea who he was (not a big Beatles fan) and still cannot see the point in all the acclaim for his music, but the event stuck in my mind as one of the clearest memories from my school days.

Princess Diana I heard about off the news one morning as I was getting ready for work, it had a feeling of unreality about the whole thing. Driving work on the day of her funeral I remember how empty every where looked, like the whole country was in morning.

9/11 stands out because once it had become clear what had happened you just knew the world had changed. I was working in a building society branch in Ashborne at the time, a very local place where most of the customers were known to the staff and gossip was as much a part of the transaction as the cash. Customers started to come in with these fantastic tails which sounded more like a Hollywood epic than a news story, but as time went on the picture became very real and phone calls home and too other work mates quick started to spread the word. I had the chance to leave the branch and walk down to the local bank past the TV shop which was showing footage on all the screens, truly a time defining moment.

When London was attacked I have no problem remembering every moment of that whole morning, as Caz was down there, travelling across the city by tube. She had rung me to say the tube was closed for some reason and that she was just getting on to a bus. I put on the TV after she had gone and heard that a bus had been blown up, I then spent the morning trying to get in touch with her, only succeeding around lunch time, she not having a clue that I had thought the worst.

So, where were you in these life defining moment?

The photo is of the Ribble head viaduct in Yorkshire.



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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nile sunset

I see the light, after a few days of cloud and rain this morning dawns with a cloud inversion and a bright blue sky. It’s the first morning that I have wanted to grab my camera and head to the hills in a very long time; it just shows what a difference a bit of sun can do.

So that’s what I did, I stopped writing this post and went out for 3 hours onto the hills above Leek, just the way to start the day.

Another picture from our trip to Egypt, a sunset over the Nile.



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Monday, September 7, 2009

Blog of the week - The Adaption to My Generation

Blog of the week this week is less of a blog and more a daily photo site, but I like it and feel you will too. It’s called The Adaption to My Generation and is a photo a day of the photographers face from 1998, the whole set are shown as a video that runs for just short of 2 mins and is fascinating to watch, it is such a cool idea.

The new web site, bretttrafford.com now shows on Google, it took only 2 days; the last site took 6 months to appear in the search engines so I’m very happy at that and will be tweaking the site over the coming weeks so any feed back would be appreciated.

Photo today was taken back in 2004 on our holiday to Egypt, not knowing what to expect I only took a digital compact camera , next time I’m taking my full kit as the place is just fantastic.



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Friday, September 4, 2009

Bretttrafford.com

Some times fate forces your hand and this is one of the prime examples, as I mentioned earlier I have had some problems with my web site host and now because of their change in policy I have had to rethink my whole web strategy. For nearly a year I have been unhappy with my main web site but have been unable, because of time or fitness, to do anything about it, but now I have had to make the changes that have been in mind for so long. So meet the new site,


So what’s new, well the layout is all new and is based on my excellent business cards designed exclusively for me by Trevor Bass. The navigation is always on screen so hoping around the site should be a lot faster. The links at the moment are quite limited as I have had to do all of this in quite a rush and am not really a web site designer, but it is built so I can add to it very easily. The sales link goes straight to my Red bubble site and gives you the chance to buy the images in a number of formats and preview what they look like on screen.

The biggest change is the address Bretttrafford.com, yes I’m now a dot com!!!! This has left me with one little problem, even though I have had a web site for year’s it now does not show up on Google so I need some help if any of you can find the time or space, can you drop a link to the site in your post or on your site, as this will increase the chances of Google and the like of finding me. Also if you visit the site I would love so feed back either on here or using the contact me link on Bretttrafford.com, (the more I link it in this post the better).

The picture today is again from the waterfall walk, enjoy.


Bless my cotton socks I'm in the news
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yorkshire

Yorkshire, the name for me conjures up images of grim northern towns or bleak farm covered hills, rain and darkness predominate and the people gruff and taciturn. So I was looking forward to our camping trip in the middle of the wettest summer I’ve ever known.

We pitched the tent on a little site just outside of the village of Austwick, in between rain showers and in high wind. The site was nice and flat with about ¾ of the field filled by the time the sun set and very little noise from the site on the first night.

Sunday was spent doing touristy visits to the local villages and ended with me having to change a tyre on a supermarket car park after hitting a kerb at high speed.

Back at the camp site the numbers had dropped considerably and we all settled down to a quite night, until the disco started. Site rules stated that all noise should stop at 11:00, so at 10:45 at the other end of the field, from within a complex of tents and gazebos came the very loud sound of a 70’s disco. Not being someone who likes to spoil people fun I was happy to let this go on for a short time but by 12:00 I had had it with Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Chic, and The Jackson’s and set out in to the dark to confront the party animals. Now this is very un me, I hate confrontation and being quite small very rarely stand up to people let alone a group of drunks, in the dark, and in the middle of no where. My only consideration was that I would not have even have gotten out of my tent if they had been playing hard core rap or heavy metal, but 70’s disco! On reaching the tents I found that it really was a disco complete with lights and everything, the only people in view were a couple smooching on the dance floor and after prising them apart they were quite happy to turn the music off.

The next day saw us doing a short walk from Ingleton that worked its way up river past a staggering 17 waterfalls, the picture today is from this walk. Following on from this we tackled the Yorkshire 3 peaks (but not in one day as its about 25 miles) and also took one of the great train journeys from Settle to Carlisle, along what must be the most scenic line in the country.

All of the above was less than ½ an hour away from the camp site and all of it was fantastic. The weather did not interfere with our plans and for the most part we stayed dry, the light was fantastic and the countryside far lovelier than I expected, the people were great and very happy and bright. All in all a great week and I would go back in an instant.




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