High tides and roe deer

When you live near the sea and there is a high tide, it’s only natural to head to the coast and take a look. Where we live in Clevedon we are less than five minutes stroll from the sea-front, and although (or should that be ‘because’?) the coast is the Bristol Channel rather than the open ocean it feels very special.

1-img_0306There are so many strong currents in the channel that when you add a stiff breeze and the bouncing of waves off the sea-wall and rocks, you get very intricate movement. Waves travel from different directions to crash into each other, creating ridges, depressions and foams that are overall are quite mesmerising. I know the water is always brown, because of the amount of silt it contains, but I think this adds a textural quality to the water.

The sky was beautiful too: but then it usually is here!

1-img_0304This photo show just how high the water was, and the pier almost looks as though it is floating. This would have been a good time to get into the porthole room underneath the pier, but sadly we were out and about before opening time.

Walking home past Clevedon Hall, something in the trees caught my eye.

1-img_0327-001It’s not the best photo, but who would expect such a view of a roe deer near a busy road at 8:45 am. I snapped fast! Maybe I could have taken my time, as he watched me all the way down the road without moving from the spot.

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When you like nature, photography and writing, days like to day are gifts!

Feeling like a proper photographer…

I consider myself a photographer – amongst other things – but I’m definitely a photographer by artistic inclination rather than technical skill. I have taken many shots that I’ve really liked with nothng more than a basic shoot and snap camera – that’s how low tech my approach has been! However, my Secret Santa gift this year was a Hoya Digital Filter kit for my Canon EOS 500D, so I’m taking my first steps into technical photography by getting out and about trying out the three filters: UV, Circular Polarising Filter and ND8.

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The UV filter is a good lens protector and makes images clearer and crisper: the Polariser cuts down glare for water and is also good for taking photos of clouds and the ND8 will be useful in situations where I want to emphasise movement – wind through a grassy meadow, or a waterfall, for example.

Here’s one of my first batch of trial pics. The water was looking good, bouncing off the sea wall near Clevedon Pier, which I think set up the vibrantions in the water which give the stripey effect. The water is never blue, but it’s silty nature adds to a metallic sheen, which I rather like.

So I’ll have some more experimenting to do to work out how I like to use the filters. There are plenty of manuals to help, but really there is no substitute for trying the filters out for different subjects and in different conditions to find out what works for me.

Certainly my route into photography has been a slow one. I bought my camera second-hand, with a good all-purpose lens, and later bought a wide angle lens too. The filters have come next, and then in a few months I’ll think about how to add to the lens options. This will really be led by decisions on the sort of photographs I want to take more of.

If you got camera equipment for Christmas and are new to photography, my advice would be to try out the simplest options first just to begin to get used to the kit and find out what it can do. As your confidence grows, you can add to your equipment and to the types of shots you get, until you find out what works for you.

Happy snapping!

 

Things I love # 6 – Clouds

Ah yes! I love a good cloud.

Just look at the patterns and colours in the photos I’ve recently taken in my beloved Clevedon. Even when they are grey they are multi-coloured and textured. See the backdrop they provide to the pier – nothing short of theatrical. Blooming marvellous.

I am a proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Ever since seeing a BBC documentary by founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney I have realised that my un-acknowledged appreciation of clouds was nothing to be ashamed of. Clouds add character to the sky and are objects of immense mystery and wonder. Not to say beauty.

My favourite story from that documentary was that of a hang-glider (or maybe a microlight pilot) who got caught up in a huge cumulonimbus in Australia. It wasn’t their fault – two large clouds unexpectedly combined to form a monster. The pilot was sucked up into a thermal, frosted over by the drop in temperature and shot out of the top where they were seen from an airliner as a living but unconcious snowman. They then were dropped back down through cloud and emerged at the bottom lucky enough to be sufficiently defrosted to gain control of their craft and land with just mild frostbite. Much luckier than their fellow pilot who was struck by lightning in the cloud and died.

Really, nature is beyond our comprehension. Appreciate clouds, people!

 

Lovely local lunch – Salthouse Clevedon

On boy do I enjoy simple, well cooked food! Just had a lovely lunch with Alec, Blanche and Rex at the Salthouse in Clevedon.

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Lovely pub nestled into Church Hill Clevedon, just beside the Marine Lake.

I had a beef and shiraz stew with dumplings, the boys had beef and Ale pie and Blanche went for scampi and chipe. Not a complaint amongst the three of us and I don’t know when I’ve had such a lovely winter dish as my stew.

Great atmosphere and friendly service. Really – what more can you ask for?

 

Have you heard of Zippi?

Have I mentioned that I paint? And draw? Take photos?

Lots of us do, and lots of us like buying unique and unusal art and things for our homes. Since I started producing my own art I have become much more tuned into the quality of work out there and I love looking at new sites and seeing what other artists are producing.

For a long time I’ve been selling on RedBubble and I’ve used the company as a way to get my art photographs and paintings produced into high quality formats and products. However, you need to try different outlets in this modern world, so I have just registered with Zippi, a Hampshire based firm, and I am really interested to see how things work out with them.

What I like about Zippi is:

  • It’s a UK based firm, so people getting goods shipped from within the UK should get speedy delivery.
  • They only allow artists to have up to 25 items in their store, and they delete the items that don’t get enough views. This will be useful information for me: although I paint mostly for my own pleasure, I do like to sell things too, and on RedBubble it’s harder to get a sense of what people like. Seeing my less popular work being deleted from Zippi will be a hard but helpful lesson!
  • The range of products they have. There is some overlap between products in RedBubble and in Zippi, but in general RedBubble do more art for wall hangings – framed and canvas pictures – Zippi have a different range of home goods, including placemats, coasters,and mouse mats.
  • RedBubble accept art and photographs: Zippi don’t accept photographs. This will help me sort my work so it’s easier to tell people about what I have available.

So, as I write my first images have been accepted onto the website. Just go to http://www.zippi.co.uk/portfolio/maggiecranford and you’ll see my portfolio. Click on the designs you like to see the products.

I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

 

 

 

Neither there nor here – in Clevedon

Please, please please get to Clevedon in the next few days if you can to enjoy the fabulous Theatre Shop and Neither There nor Here by the wonderful Fine Chisel theatre group.

We’re just back this minute from a wonderful evening drawing on traditional tales, mumming, puppetry and song and I am so glad we ventured out this evening. You’ll find pathos, drama, Black Shuck and murderously angry yew trees, all in a little theatre shop in Queen’s Square Clevedon!

A truly marvellous evening. Thank you Theatre Shop and thank you Fine Chisel!!

{Here’s a view from the Mendips, with Kenn in the mid ground. No view of Parrot – sorry lads!}

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Strange day: calm beside the storm?

I’m just back from a breath of fresh air down by Clevedon Marine Lakes, and as always I took a few photos along the way.

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It’s a strange day out there today: quite grey as you can see, but brighter than you might expect. Cool but not cold, calm but a little breezy. Almost raining, but not quite! The latest seasonal storm  hit the North of the country yesterday, so maybe this is the calm behind or beside the storm.

The Marine Lakes are looking good now all the renovation work has finished, and it’s easy to see how well used they will be in the summer if we get some nice weather. Much more inviting to get in the water, with lots of ramps and steps, wider paths beside the lake and a wider walk walk between the two lakes. The blue thing you can see in the photo is the platfom for swimmers to climb onto in the middle of the water. There’s also a wide area at the far end for families with little children. All very nice indeed!

The soft light somehow picked out some of the old metal-work set into the stone wall: a drainage pipe capping contraption and metal rings which must have beem used for life rings, or maybe boats, although they seem very high up and far away from the water level.

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These are all features I haven’t noticed before… and the lovely colour to the rusted iron, the rust stain on the stone, the stone and lichen all provide nice contrasts and textures for some photography.

Many people still think that you need sunshine for good photos. Grey days can give great results – for the right subjects – so keep snapping through the winter!

 

 

I love walking in the rain… (well, I do!)

Quite often bad weather is a reason to stay inside if you can and keep warm and dry, but as I’ve often blogged about the pleasures of walking, and my intention to get out and about with my camera in all weathers, I decided not to let storm Clodagh keep me indoors today, and I headed out before breakfast for a walk.

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Not only is the walk more exhilarating and fun – there is something about the wind that works on almost everyone – but it feels as though it is doing you good. So a good brisk walk in the wind, with Poet’s walk to myself as most other walkers were giving it a miss.

Clevedon looked a little wild today. We never get storms like you do in Cornwall as we are in a relatively sheltered location, but it was still rough and choppy and the pier looked as though it was sitting low in the water.

I love the reflections in the puddles too. I know – little things please little minds but I do like this photograph of a tree.

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More ways to find fun and fitness with walking are in my kindle book!

Standing up makes you fitter – it’s official

Very interested to hear the item on the radio this morning which said that:

  • the UK is the least fit nation in the whole world
  • you can improve your fitness just by standing up rather than sitting.

The point about standing is that you use many small muscles that aren’t in action when you sit, so they all get stronger. Stand to do as many activities as you can, and you’ll be the better for it. Walk even the last step or two of an escalator, and your health will improve.

This all chimes very well with the subject matter of my Kindle book on walking for pleasure, as my main point is that if people who are unfit can start with just a short stroll every day, choosing a place or reason to walk that will be of interest to them, then they are already on the path to a healthier and more interesting life. Diabetes, heart disease and cancer are all long-term conditions that affect those with fitness and weight problems, so anything people can do to get more active is worth while. And if you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to keep doing it! 

I’ve published my first book

And I’m very excited.

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For years (and years!) I have written well, but I have written information for the public where my aim has been to be clear and concise. I have several very good ideas for novels and short stories, but the style I need to develop is very different from my professional style. So I have been loosening up my writing muscles, starting with blogging and moving into books.

I’m also interested in the world of self-publishing, so I have decided to publish exclusively via Kindle and Amazon to find out how that works. It took a fair amount of time to get the book published – you have to fill in forms for US tax purposes, and it took me some trial and error to work out why my photographs were not appearing properly. I couldn’t find an FAQ that helped, so I had to tweak my original document and upload it about six times before I got a format that viewed well. Basically a couple of sessions of about three hours each. Their cover design widget works well though …

I had a side-track while I looked at the purchase of ISBN numbers, which is not something I had thought about. Ideally I would have purchased an ISBN, but you have to buy 10 at the cost of about £130 and that seemed a bit much when I only have the one title at present that I am trying out.  Good learning, though, that will stand me in good stead when I have my next book ready to go.

So, it’s been a nervous wait to see if everything had been done correctly but – da – dah! here it is.

Oh – what’s the book about, I hear you cry?  It’s non-fiction and it’s called The beginner’s guide to walking for pleasure, and it has grown from ideas that i first explored in this blog, but expanded and developed into a complete book. People are being told (by their doctors, the government and the media) to exercise more and lose weight to reduce the risk of nasty long term illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, as well as some cancers. There are lots of guides being published on the physical side of things – how to walk yourself fit, basically. My point is that unless people find the exercise fun they won’t stick to it, and all the preaching just adds stress to their list of ailments. However, find the pleasure in walking, and it will be something you do willingly and happily for years to come. So that’s what it’s about – how to make walking fun, and what benefits you get if you make walking part of your daily life. Plus some little anecdotes and such like.

Please check it out, and if you like it, let me know. And buy it too, of course!