A Whisker Away From The Wild

If you follow my ramblings on social media, you may recall that in March of last year whilst at The Photography Show (TPS) my good friend Gaynor and I booked tickets to attend a photography experience at the Big Cat Sanctuary (BCS) in Kent. We had such a great time that when we were at TPS earlier this year, we decided to do it all over again and booked on the BCS ‘Sundowner’ photography event.

Fast forward a little over four months and we found ourselves on a girls’ road trip heading south to once again capture these captivating and majestic creatures.

I’d had to work during the day to cover colleague holidays so we didn’t leave until teatime, even so, we enjoyed a pretty straightforward run down on the Friday evening, pausing only at the Watford Gap services for a pit stop where we saw a Bentley Blower (Mr E was most impressed with my phone snap I sent to him see below) and we arrived at the Ashford International Hotel in time for a well-earned G&T before bed.

 

 

We awoke to a startlingly blue sky, blazing sunshine and very warm temperatures, and after a leisurely breakfast, walked to a local supermarket, where a number of bargain buys were made in the clothing aisle (there’s always time for a little shopping!).  We then decided to head off to BCS via the little village of Headcorn which we’d passed through on our last visit. Unfortunately, our route was blocked by roadworks or an incident, so Gaynor switched on the sat-nav for an alternative route and we found ourselves properly ‘hedge-hopping’ through country lanes, including one with the rather intriguing name of ‘Lewd Lane’… it’s not what you think, it appears it’s taken from an old Kentish word with the legal meaning of ecclesiastical or ‘lay’ (as in lay preacher).

After a quick snap of a picture postcard cottage, we rounded the corner and spotted a ruined tower through the trees and stopped to take a look.  A fascinating little place, St Mary’s Church in Little Chart was built in medieval times (11th Century) and sadly hit by a doodle-bug in 1944 suffered irreparable damage. It’s said to be haunted, but we didn’t see any inhabitants, mortal or otherwise!

 

We arrived at BCS just before 1.00pm to be warmly greeted by chief photographer, Alma, and after signing in we were off on our trek one of the hottest days of the year!  Now, I know to some readers these will be just pictures of big cats, however as a child I didn’t have posters of pop-stars on my bedroom walls, I had tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs, you get my drift, so this type of experience means a lot to me.  There is something positively magical about being so close to them, you can feel their strength and power.  They ‘talk’ and grumble too, their low throaty growls and rumbles and the occasional snapping of very large jaws remind you of just how strong and perfectly made these magnificent creatures are.  I should probably point out that all the cats are in enclosures behind strong metal fences, so all these photographs were pretty much taken wide open on my long zoom lens (Fuji 50-140mm).  They also move incredibly quickly, especially when there are treats to be had, I reckon my hit rate for perfectly sharp exposed images was about 40% despite having image stabilisation and fast shutter speeds!

 

During our visit, despite the heat, every one of the cats put in an appearance, although there was quite a bit of snoozing going on (and that was just me and Gaynor!).  Their eyes are bright, their coats gleam like silk or velvet, some of them have paws the size of dinner plates, and some are tiny and fierce.  It’s fair to say we were both once again charmed and engaged throughout our visit which concluded with a few special moments with Maya, the star of the documentary ‘Big Cats About the House’ who is just adorable.

 

If you are passionate about looking after our planet and the felines which inhabit it, then a visit to The Big Cat Sanctuary might be right up your street, it is quite simply an amazing and inspiring place. Head on over to find out more about the amazing work they do to support big cat conservation via their website. It’s a registered charity, so if you do book on anything, be sure to gift aid your donation as every little helps the organisation achieve their goals.  http://thebigcatsanctuary.org/

 

I’ll sign off with one of my favourite images from the Sundowner, Nias having a cool down in his pool (just look at those teeth!), and just mention that I’m looking forward to a workshop of a very different kind this coming weekend, but more on that in due course…

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Until next time…

Tracy xx

 

Posted in Animal Antics, Big Cats, Conservation | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Vikings, Volcanoes, Elves and Trolls in the Land of Ice and Fire

I’d been modest in compiling my Christmas list last year, asking Santa for and receiving a couple of photography books and a bottle of my favourite perfume. However I think I must have been a particularly good girl as I also opened a card from my husband which announced we would be going on a short break to Iceland at the beginning of March to hopefully see the Northern Lights. To be fair, Mr E had clearly tuned in!  I’ve lots of friends who have visited Iceland in order to see this amazing spectacle, and I probably had mentioned it once or twice (or maybe more than that) over the last couple of years.  Needless to say, Christmas morning was one of those very rare times when I was rendered speechless!

Fast forward to 4.15 am on Sunday 4th March when the alarm went off.  In our village we’d been very lucky in that we missed most of the extreme weather which hit the UK earlier in the week, our trip to Manchester was straightforward, we got through the baggage drop and security with relative ease and settled down to breakfast ahead of our flight. Just under two and a half hours later, we arrived in Keflavik to a beautifully sunny day albeit with a rather biting wind and I was very glad I’d invested in a warm coat prior to our trip.

The transfer to Reykjavik was both prompt and swift (Grayline – excellent all round), and our check in at the Centrum Hotel equally as efficient, so bags dropped, we took off for a recce around the city. I’d had mixed reviews of Reykjavik, but there’s no substitute for seeing a new city with your own eyes and in that first afternoon, despite having palpitations over the cost of a modest lunch for two, we managed to cover almost 6 miles and get our bearings.

Having made our way back to the hotel, we pulled on extra layers and dropped hand and foot warmers into our pockets for the night ahead, it was to be our first trip with the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. We were once again in the capable hands of Grayline who took us to a now disused NATO base back towards the airport, along the way, our witty and knowledgeable guide explained the science behind the Aurora Borealis and how the colours are generated and was quick to point out that there were no guarantees that we would see this natural phenomenon.

 

We spilled out onto the tarmac and were hit by the most punishingly cold wind we have ever experienced…thankfully the layers worked, however my hands were so cold I could barely set up my camera, and I needed to fast, as our guide pointed out the faint trace of the aurora starting to develop. Then there it was, it looked like a streak of cloud and then a little glimmer which my camera picked up better than the naked eye, but it was definitely there!

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There came a point in the evening when most of the people on the trip conceded defeat and jumped back on the coach to warm up, thanks to the hand-warmers, my fingers slowly regained their feeling and Mr E and I were having a pleasant chat. Suddenly a guide from a neighbouring coach ran up the steps and implored us to leave the cosiness of the bus as the lights were back, this time much stronger than before.  The aurora glowed and faded for almost 20 minutes, and then suddenly it was gone and it was time to thaw out on the trip back.

After a good breakfast on Monday morning (top tip – fill up on breakfast, it keeps you going longer than you realise), we made our way to the pick-up point for our South Iceland, Waterfalls and Black Beaches excursion.  Picking up Route 1, and driving through lichen and snow covered lava fields which looked almost otherworldly, we headed for Hveragerði, an area outside of Reykjavik known for its’ use of geothermal energy to heat greenhouses and support of the horticultural industry. The town regularly experiences minor earthquakes and as we passed through, the smell of sulphur was clearly evident along with the plumes of steam from beneath the ground.  Next up was Selfoss a busy little town whose claim to fame seems to be a suspension bridge built by the English and the grave of Chess champion Bobby Fischer who is buried there.  It has to be said the scenery is pretty spectacular and we passed countless herds of Icelandic horses along the way as the area is well known for its’ equine breeding programme.  Our guide Alfur continued to regale us with stories of elves, hidden people, trolls and Vikings and share his geological expertise as we made our way onwards along Route 1.  Passing  Hekkla (Iceland’s second most active volcano) and then Seljalandsfoss (which we were to visit on our return journey) we carried on under the shadow of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano which caused so much disruption during the spring of 2010, grounding flights across Europe for almost three months.  Our first stop was Skogarfoss, one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls and famed for its’ inclusion in a number of music videos and popular films (Thor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). The spectacle of the cascade plunging some 200 feet and the ice sculptures alongside it made for an awesome photograph, and I even managed to capture a rainbow!

After dropping off some intrepid glacier walkers, we head for the black sand beach of Vik where we learned the fate of the three trolls who were petrified by the sun whilst they tried to pull a boat ashore.  We stopped an enjoyed a bowl of Icelandic Meat Soup for lunch, in truth it was a hearty lamb stew by any other name and then wandered down to the shore for a better view of those naughty trolls (Reynisdrangar).

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On our return to the coach, we began to retrace our journey this time stopping at another black beach, Reynisfjara which has a steep cliff with twisted basalt columns and a large cave. It is also well-known for a phenomenon known as ‘sneaker waves’ which can apparently catch unsuspecting beach walkers unaware and drag them out to sea, thankfully the surf was relatively calm during our visit.  Looking back you can also make out the natural arch of Dyrhólaey.

Having taken some more photographs, we picked up the walkers from the Sólheimajökull Glacier and made our way to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, another cascade of around 200 feet with a cave behind which is accessible once the weather improves later in the year.  This particular waterfall also has a claim to fame, it featured in a Justin Bieber video and as such enjoys many visitors simply because of that fact, well each to their own I guess.

 

Our journey home and a glorious sunset saw us arrive at the hotel just after 7.00pm and brought to a close a very enjoyable day and we dined in the hotel bar, with Mr E savouring and enjoying Icelandic beer, I say savouring as it was almost £10 a glass, but hey, we were on holiday!

Tuesday morning dawned and it was a little cloudy with light snow forecast, however by the time we set off to explore the city more fully the skies were clearing, the sun was pushing through and there was no sign of the snow we’d been warned about.  Reykjavik is quite a sprawling city with a number of individual districts; however the central part is easily navigable on foot.  We sought out the Punk Museum of Reykjavik, housed in a disused gents toilet block where we met Alfur (it means ‘Elf’ in Icelandic) and we enjoyed a good 40 minutes looking at the material, listening to and talking about music and buying CDs, which made Mr E particularly happy.

As we wandered up to the imposing Hallgrimskirkja we found yet another record shop which made him even happier.

Pel

Then it was my turn, if you get the chance, seek out a little shop called Fotografi on Skólavörðustígur .  Run by a group of photographers, it not only contains iconic and contemporary work for sale, it also has a most amazing collection of cameras and other photographic ephemera, I could have stayed there a lot longer than we did, and needless to say came home with some mementos of our trip with which to adorn our home.

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We stopped for coffee and ‘Icelandic  Happy Marriage Cake’ across the road in Fish & More, quite fitting as we would celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary a few days later and then struck out for the Sun Voyager sculpture along the harbour-front and the impressive Harpa Opera Hall and conference centre.

All throughout our roam around the city we came across lots of sculptures and also huge murals usually on the sides of buildings, but sometimes on a wall or even a car park, it certainly gives you a feeling that as well as music, the Icelanders like their art.

We decided to wander back to the hotel and found a ‘piggy’ themed bar to stop for a drink and tried local beers (actually we had two as it was happy hour!) followed by dinner in the hotel bar again as it had been so good the evening before.

Iceland is unlike anywhere else we’ve visited, it has the most dramatic scenery (and we’ve only scratched the surface), it’s vibrant, very clean, everything runs efficiently and with great punctuality and the Icelanders are a warm and friendly bunch who are proud of their history. They do have a slightly odd taste in food, smoked puffin, minke whale and fermented shark most definitely did not make it into our plates. It is also very expensive compared to the UK, I’d say a credit card as back up is a must, however with a little careful planning (like booking your trips before you go – almost half the cost if you do) it doesn’t have to bankrupt you, we still had enough cash left over for a bottle of duty free Icelandic gin at the airport.

So will we go back?  In all probability, yes, there is so much more to see, and perhaps when it is a little warmer and the spring flowers are out. For this trip, seeing the aurora was the best moment ever I can honestly say that despite the -16C temperature thanks to the biting wind, I will never ever forget that evening, so I’ll close this blog with one last image.

Lights

Until next time

Tracy xx

Posted in Aurora, Creative Photography, Culture, Everything Else!, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Holidays, Iceland, Long Exposure, Street, Travel, Waterfalls | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bruges, Beer and a Beautiful Moment!

My first blog of 2018 is a conventional read…but it reflects a super couple of days with good friends.

Who would have thought that a conversation held a little over 12 months ago over a glass of prosecco whilst celebrating a friends’ 50th would result in a city break to Bruges? However that’s exactly what happened and recently, Gaynor, her partner Phil, me and Mr Edwards spent a great short break in this fairy-tale city.  Ably driven by Gaynor and Phil, we arrived at a Premier Inn in Maidstone on the banks of the River Medway for an overnight stop before proceeding to Ebbsfleet International the following morning to pick up the Eurostar to Brussels.

It’s a mode of transport we’ve never considered before, but thanks to concierge and tour operator extraordinaire, Phil, we found ourselves at the station, awaiting the arrival of our train with excitement. It’s a different experience to flying, and whilst there is the obligatory security checking, both human and baggage, it feels a much less intense process than that in an airport.  Eurostar is a very efficient method of travel, you stand in an allocated place on the platform so that once the train pulls in you are beside your carriage and there are just 8 minutes for all passengers to board before it’s on its way. The trains are clean, comfortable and spacious with lots of room for luggage, they are also incredibly fast, reaching speeds of up to 300kph (100kph through the Eurotunnel), but the smooth ride means it doesn’t feel like you are travelling at speed.

As rural France and then Belgium flashed past, we chatted and relaxed, arriving at Brussels in just 2 hours and then caught a second train out to Bruges itself. Our hotel was a short ten minute walk from the main station and as we turned a cobbled corner and we had our first view of Bruges, I felt sure I was going to enjoy our stay.

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Hotel Academie is a well-appointed 4* hotel in a quiet street, close to Lake Minnewater (the Lake of Love).  After a warm greeting and swift check-in process, we dropped our bags in our rooms and set off to look for the main square. Luckily for Perryn and me, Phil and Gaynor had visited the city before, and Phil’s innate sense of direction (which he employed the whole trip) meant we found the square very quickly, just as the sun was dropping. It is a beautiful place!  There are pretty coloured restaurants, beautiful buildings with ornate and elaborate facades and of course the Belfort Tower immortalised in the film ‘In Bruges’.  Dinner on Monday evening was in ‘One Minnewater’ where we all enjoyed a typical Flemish stew, rich and full of flavour along with a couple of drinks before retiring to bed.

Tuesday morning dawned and I was up and ready to go exploring before sunrise, dragging Perryn along with me, and we headed back to the square as the sun rose and the skies turned blue where I was able to get a couple of photos of it much less populated than the previous afternoon.  We returned to the hotel to meet the others, and with Phil as our guide, we set off on a tour of the city, twisting and turning down alleyways, wandering along canals (Bruges is known as the Venice of the North) past windmills, barges and a variety of buildings, many of which date back to medieval times.  Some 22500 steps later, we returned to the hotel to drop some things back in the rooms. It was at this point I was rather privileged in that Phil shared a very special secret with me (if you’ve seen my FB feed, you will likely know what it was), I am however very good at keeping secrets!  That evening, we returned to One Minnewater for another very welcome meal, the men decided to go for a drink in a bar close by and Gaynor and I took ourselves off with our cameras to see if we could make some photographs of Bruges by night, joining the men a short while later.

St Valentine’s day dawned with blue skies and sunshine and we made for a little restaurant ‘Less is More’ for breakfast, another warm welcome and a reasonably priced meal set us up for the day.  We wandered around the market, visited the Historium where Gaynor enjoyed a Virtual Reality experience, whilst the rest of us enjoyed watching Gaynor in her VR goggles, had coffee to warm us up and then took a horse and carriage trip around part of the city, the granny blankets were particularly welcome as the temperature was a chilly 2 degrees at most.

If you visit Bruges, I highly recommend a visit to Bistro Pro Deo, a cosy, intimate restaurant housed in a 16th century whitewashed building. As it was Valentine’s Day, there were just around 10 tables for two and we enjoyed a superb meal thanks to hosts Nathalie (FoH) and Kristoff (Chef). They say that music is a great conversation piece, and this was especially true of Bistro Pro Deo, also known as the Soul Kitchen, it turned out that the owners are into music, but particularly Northern Soul and Mr E was in his element!

 

We left the restaurant, and at Phil’s request, took one last alongside the main canal. As Perryn and I walked down to view some pieces in a gallery window we realised that Gaynor and Phil were a little way behind us…and then suddenly, there they were beside us with huge smiles. Ever the romantic, Phil had done the deed, even getting down on one knee in the wet and had asked Gaynor to marry him…and she as you probably guessed, said yes…it really was a beautiful moment.  We grabbed a quick photo and headed back to the hotel for a glass of fizz to toast the happy couple.

G and P

Our last day saw us enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Less is More (another recommended eatery) before we checked out and made our way back to Bruges station for the train to Brussels.  It was as easy a return journey as it had been outward and equally as quick, our top speed was approximately 284kph!!

My thoughts on Bruges?

It’s a compact, fairy-tale city, with an interesting history and warm and friendly locals. The beer is great, but ask for recommendations in terms of both dining and drinking, as it can be pricey, however there are also gems out there (One Minnewater & Bistro Pro Deo are recommended).  It’s relatively quiet in February, but you do need to wrap up (and not leave your hat in a bar as I did!) as it can be chilly, the locals say it gets a lot busier later in the year. Is a return visit on the cards? Definitely, there are museums, cathedrals and churches we didn’t see this time around.

Thanks to Gaynor and Phil for being great company, it’s fair to say we definitely made some memories!

Until next time…

Tracy xx

Posted in Bruges, Fuji XT2, Holidays, Street, Travel | 1 Comment

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us

As is now customary at this time of year, I like to take a look at back at all the photo fun I’ve had during the year, but more importantly, to take a moment to thank everyone who has been part of it too.

I find it almost impossible to keep the numbers down, so this year, to do the year justice, I’m sharing the images that will make it into my printed book for 2017 and I’m going to try and make a slideshow, so watch out for that! I’ve tried to keeping the words to a minimum this year, but here are my highlights

January – Rotterdam & the Peter Lindbergh exhibition with great friends

February – Rome for the 6 Nations with dear friends, even the wet weather won’t stop this photographer.  Welshot Lighting Weekend #1 with Nadine & Rocky.

April – Walter’s Wardrobe with Jen Brook, the WW team, Nicky, Jodie, Victoria & Kamila at Weston Park. A play date with Rachel, Ryan and Julene. Record Store Day 2017.

May – analogue photography for the very first time with Rachel of Little Vintage Photography, absolutely won’t be the last!

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June – the loveliest of weddings in Cyprus helping friends Claire and Jason capture their big day. Dad Edwards opened his beautiful garden once again to the gardening club. Leah & Rachel were sassy models at a Welshot Academy Evening in Chester. My first meeting with Dylan and the Dolbadarn Film Horse Team.

July – my second meeting with Dylan, Amie, Molly, Mark and Sophie!

 

August – The big Cat Sanctuary in Kent with Gaynor, definitely going to do this one again! Photo-fun with Sonia, Luisa, Rob, Sharon, Megan & Rachel; a visit to Bodnant Gardens and a fun afternoon with lovely Georgia.

September – a workshop with Fuji X photographer, Elke Vogelsang photographing dogs. Welshot Lighting Weekend #2 with Leah, Rachel & Ryan. A creative shoot with Rachel on Hope Mountain & The Good Life Experience Festival with Gaynor and Phil. Pembrokeshire – we only scratched the surface, a return visit on the cards.

October – Final Dolbadarn Film Horses event for this year. A cheeky weekend in Berlin with great friends Tim & Gail for another photo exhibition, Helmut Newton.

November – a workshop with Alex Bather and Tiffany. I got my hands on the Fuji GFX, amazing camera. Headshots and a lifestyle shoot on the loveliest of Autumn days with Amelia, Danielle, Emese and Georgia. The final full-day Welshot event of the year – Poldark with Shelby, Andrea, Sophie and Glenn. Costumes as always by the amazing Paula of Chester Costume House.

December – I had to capture the first snow of the season. My final photoshoot of the year at Cambrian Photography with Rachel.

I think (hope) I’ve given everyone an honourable mention, my thanks to each of you for your friendship and support throughout 2017.  I hope we can do it all again in 2018!

Until next time…

Tracy xx

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Antics, Couture, Creative Photography, Dance, Equine, Fashion, Festival, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Holidays, Horses, Uncategorized, Urban Fashion | Leave a comment

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.

Many, many years ago, I spent time in Ireland with family friends on their farm. One of my most vivid memories of that holiday was being persuaded by the kids to ride a pony which ended in a bruise from my hip almost to my big toe! As a consequence, although I’ve always been entranced by their beauty and strength, it also left me slightly wary of horses of any shape or size. Time however is a great healer and I did eventually find the motivation to get back in the saddle and pony trek once or twice over the ensuing years.  So when Luisa asked if I wanted to join her on an event a few months ago with Dolbadarn Film Horses, I decided to give it a go (see my previous blog here for more details of that event) and I loved it!

This weekend saw me attend my third DFH event and I’m delighted to say it did not disappoint! Dylan and his team, this time comprising Dylan himself (dressed as a bishop? knight? you decide!), Molly and a new addition to the team, Jasmine, made sure of that.

This time was particularly nice as I had great company, my friend Gail came with me armed with her Olympus and the words of husband Tim ringing in her ears (have a great time and take lots of photographs!!). The day as always started at the Dolbadarn Hotel in Llanberis, run by Dylan’s family,  with tea & coffee (and biscuits) on arrival and time to say hello to friends (Sharon, Ann, Jackie, George and Sue) and make new ones (Amanda, Steve, Steve and Sheila) whilst the team was getting ready.

MUA Niamh Swindells joined us again and worked her magic on Molly and Jas and ensured the girls looked their fabulous best in the morning session and again in the afternoon, to the point where Sharon, Amanda, Jackie, Gail and I seriously thought about jumping in her chair too! Needless to say Dylan needed no improvement!

I said it last time, and I’m going to say it again, the mutual trust, respect and love between horse and handler is just wonderful, it gives me goosebumps, and I think it is absolutely fair to say that the bond between them is a two way street and is very special and I hope you see that in the images we made.

So, before I share some of my favourite images from the day, it’s only fair to have a short roll of honour:

  • Dylan – can wear practically anything and still look cool (well almost!) and adores the legand that is Diablo (actually, he adores all his horses and loves his team).
  • Molly – always elegant and in tune with her equine companions (Valmorim and Harley)
  • Jasmine – the newest member of the team who brings a new dimension to the team’s already impressive skillset (especially her aerial/silk skills) and who clearly has an affinity with Odysseus

Missing in action, but absolutely expected at future events:- Amie, who had to take care of her poorly canine Taran and of course, Marc (Darcy) Howland who was away working – it’s fair to say that the regular attendees missed you both enormously and look forward to seeing you some time soon.

Two more special mentions must go to Luisa Jones of Just Jones Photography (who must now have a costume store to rival the RSC!)  who arranged the days, and Dylan’s family at the Dolbadarn Hotel in Llanberis who made us all feel incredibly welcome.

Anyways, enough chat, here are some of my favourite images from another brilliant day…

I have lots more images to work through, so don’t forget to take a look at my FB page Tracy Edwards Photography if you want to see more!

Until next time…

Tracy xx

P.S. As for the title of this blog, it’s an unknown Arabian proverb, but I’m sure my equine friends can relate x

 

 

 

 

respect, trust, kindness and a lot of love between the riders and their horses,
respect, trust, kindness and a lot of love between the riders and their horses,

 

 

Posted in Animal Antics, Creative Photography, Equine, Everything Else!, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Horses | 2 Comments

A Recipe For Making Magic

A blog with a difference!

  • Take five good friends who share a passion for photography
  • Add two models (and great friends, up for most things within reason), one very experienced, one brave enough to be photographed for the first time
  • Combine well with an extensive wardrobe of skirts, dresses, petticoats and jackets (and tulle, lots of tulle!)
  • Add a pinch of flower-power and a couple of handfuls of glitter
  • Stir in lots of laughter, mutual support, great locations and a changeable weather forecast, swords and a smoke machine
  • Don’t forget to fold in copious cups of tea, lunch and cup-cakes

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  • Finally, season with some post-processing mastery courtesy of Sharon Prenton Jones

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Do you believe in faeries? I do now!

Thanks to Sharon (particularly for the faery images), Robert, Rachel, Megan, Sonia and Luisa for sharing in a wonderfully relaxed and creative photo-adventure, I can’t wait to create some more magic in the future.

Until next time

Tracy xx

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe on your heart…you will never regret it.

I was recently transported back to my childhood when I found myself in the little town of Llanberis. As a child the majority of holidays and weekends were spent not far from the town and as the sun beat down on one of the warmest days of the year, memories of family (particularly my Nan), friends and lots of adventures came flooding back. However, as lovely as reminiscing is, I was here for a very different purpose on a Saturday morning.

I met Luisa earlier this year and learned that her photographic passion was horses and all things equine. We linked up through Facebook, so when Luisa put some feelers out about a possible opportunity to photograph horses, I jumped at the chance. That it happened to be in a location dear to my heart was an added bonus.

Arriving at the location, I was met by Luisa grabbing her breakfast from the back of her car, as she shared a few details about the day with me, I caught sight of two familiar faces and found myself enveloped in a group hug with Sharon and Sonia, I knew then it would definitely be a fun day.  A few minutes later and it felt like home from home as I discovered Nuala, Ann, Gary and Cathy were also in attendance. It’s always good to catch up with photo friends!

Dylan Jones runs Dolbadarn Film Horses, and provides horses for TV and big screen productions including Merlin, Game of Thrones and War Horse to name a few, and hosted the day from his family’s hotel. He joined us all for a short briefing session (resplendent in a very well-fitting costume!) and explained how the day would run, gave us a little health and safety reminder and shared the history of some of the horses we were to meet throughout the day. Of course, Diablo’s story touched everyone’s heart (he lost his sight in both eyes at a relatively young age), but I found it particularly poignant as we have our own little one-eyed warrior, our springer cross, Tom, at home.  During this time, MUA Niamh was working her magic on Amie and Molly, two of Dylan’s team of riders and she did a great job, I also had time to make new friends including Millie and her mum, Sasha, and Millie’s friend Milly (hope you followed that!). Millie’s website is well worth a look, I think she has a great future with the camera.

Having hitched a lift with Sasha and the girls down to the lake, we all waited patiently for the horses and riders to arrive and familiarised ourselves with the location.  It’s fair to say the mounting excitement was palpable and as the clip clop of hooves grew louder everyone reached for their cameras in anticipation.

Now I have always loved horses, although I’ve been a little wary (having been thrown from a horse many years ago), however I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me when these majestic creatures and their riders lined up in front of us all. I felt a little embarrassed that my eyes were watering a little, but realised that I was in good company as Sharon clearly felt the same.

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For the next couple of hours, Marc and Odysseus, Dylan and Casquito, Amie on the legend that is Diablo and Molly with Harley worked tirelessly with the all of the photographers to make image after image, be it wandering through shrubbery or creating a splash in the pools much to the delight of on-lookers.

 

After a light lunch back at the hotel, we made our way up the lane to one of the fields where Amie and Titan (the naughtiest horse of the day!) helped us capture romantic horse and rider images, until Titan decided he’d had enough and made a bid for freedom, only to be thwarted by the closed gate. Ably retrieved by Molly, we tried a little longer, but Titan made it clear he’d done his bit, so Amie asked Molly to bring Toscano up in his place, what a stunning creature he was!

 

After Toscano, we wandered down to the menage to await the arrival of Beauty. With a wild mane and a glint in his eye, this majestic creature tore up the ring, rearing on command when asked to do so by Amie, to the sound of camera shutters clicking furiously.

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By now it was close to 3.30pm and we made our way back across the fields to wait for the final session of the day, but with the exception of Luisa, I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect. First up came Marc and Amie, dressed in medieval style costume on Rabanete, a gentle horse who was happy to be loved by everyone.  Then Dylan appeared on a most beautiful grey, Valmorim. I think Val knew he was gorgeous, he was a very noble animal and strutted and pounded the ground with his hooves making it shake as he passed by the photographers.  Supported by a couple of fire artists to add to the ambience, Dylan and Marc demonstrated with ease how disciplined, calm and fearless the horses were when faced with fire and smoke.

 

 

The finale was quite simply breath-taking, so much so that I only took a handful of photos as was quite transfixed.  Dylan on Val proceeded to charge through a line of flames and it felt as though we were all on a film set. Val’s hooves thundered and he snorted and tossed his head proudly as he emerged through the flames as well as the smoke once the fire had died down. It was understandable that at this point, everyone put their cameras down and applauded the team for what had been the most wonderful day.

 

Throughout the day it was clear that both riders and horses alike were having fun. There was respect, trust, kindness and a lot of love between the riders and their horses, but particularly Diablo and Amie.

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All of the team were kind, accommodating and patient with the raft of photographers who attended the event and they worked hard to ensure we came away with lots of great images.

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I’ll close this blog by thanking everyone involved in making this event happen, riders, horses and photographers alike, but particularly Luisa and Dylan and I’m just putting it out there, I would love the opportunity to work with you all again in the future!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you’ll know I like to share the love, head on over to the websites below, you’ll be glad you did x

http://www.filmhorses.co.uk/pages/default.asp

https://somethingfromthehart.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GlamByNiamh/

http://www.justjones.photography/

Posted in Animal Antics, Creative Photography, Everything Else!, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Horses | Leave a comment

A weekend away…Rotterdam rocks!

Almost twelve months ago, my friend Tim and I decided we wanted to do a photo-shoot based on an iconic image by photographer Peter Lindbergh, you know the one, the five supermodels on the cover of Vogue magazine.  If you follow us both on social media you will know that we achieved that goal thanks to Georgia, Jaime, Rachel, Abbie and Ellie.  However, during the time it took us to bring it to fruition, Mr Lindbergh launched his exhibition which led Tim to suggest we should have a trip away to see it for ourselves. So that’s exactly what we did.

Arriving in Amsterdam and after a slightly eventful transfer to Rotterdam, we arrived at Hotel One in the centre of the city and checked in.  Dropping the bags in our rooms, we dashed out to find something to eat.  It appears that chefs go home around 11.00pm in Rotterdam, but thankfully we found a Chinese restaurant willing to serve us and a short while later, we all tumbled into bed.

I love waking up in a new city, there’s always a sense of excitement as to what will be discovered.  We all descended to the hotel lounge and tucked into a continental breakfast, mulling over the US presidential inauguration and what it may mean, one thing is for sure, the world is likely to experience some change over the next four years.

Bright blue skies, sunshine and sub-zero temperatures met us as we stepped out of the hotel as we made our way to the main event and of course, there were photo opportunities everywhere, however we arrived at the Kunsthal Art Gallery at 10.00am and headed inside.  Almost two and a half hours later, we had a cuppa in the café and reflected on what we all felt was, without doubt one of the best exhibitions we have visited full of iconic images and so worth the effort (Even Mr E agreed – so it must have been good).

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Our next destination were the rather surreal cube houses (Kubuswoningen), near to the market hall.  Designed by architect Piet Blom, these three storey homes are indeed cubes, tilted at 45 degrees – I have no idea how people live in them, or deal with the constant stream of curious visitors.  The horse-shoe shaped market hall is a very new building which was opened in 2014. It is a combination of office and residential premises on the outside and houses a very impressive food market within.  It would also be remiss of me not to mention the artwork which covers the inside of the hall, some 11,000 square metres it is a cornucopia of fruit, flowers and vegetables – it’s affectionately known as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.

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Food in Rotterdam is a very cosmopolitan affair, with no obvious style which makes it typically Dutch, although croquettes seem to be very popular, we did find a very typical dish later during our stay, but more on that later.

Fast forward a couple of hours during which there was browsing of shops (very similar to back home) and of course more picture-taking, where I stumbled across a new model – not sure what he was advertising!

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Following a quick drink and a warm up back at the hotel it was soon time for dinner.  We realised our hotel was surrounded by oriental and Asian restaurants and decided on Vietnamese, on the basis that none of us had ever tried it before.  Of course, faced with the challenge of interpreting a menu presented in Dutch and Vietnamese there were a few problems and much changing of minds, particularly for one of our party.  Suffice to say the memory of dish 116 will stay with us for a very long time – Gail even has her own hash-tag now #116!. The food was however quite delicious when it came, fresh taste, lots of flavour, definitely recommended.  It was still early when we finished and we found a tiny little bar where Binky the Boston Terrier was helping(?) his owner, just 7 months old, he was having a grand time chasing a chew and shoes – just look at his little face.

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We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning and even though we decided on an early check-out, we were still hitting the streets at 10.00am. It was obvious that we had gotten our bearings on Saturday and we quickly found ourselves back at the harbour, where to everyone’s astonishment, the water had frozen. As we wandered along the front, the ice was moving and almost singing to us – I caught it on my phone (have a look on FB) and it sounded very odd indeed. It does however support my earlier observation that the temperature was sub-zero for the duration of our visit and I was glad I’d packed my vest!

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Peering into one of the maritime museum sheds, the door suddenly opened and we were invited in to watch a local blacksmith at work, whilst he did most of his explanation in Dutch I think we got the gist.

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A little further on we came upon the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) also known as ‘The Swan’ due to its’ graceful lines. Spanning the river Maas, it consists of four traffic lanes, two tramways, two cycle-ways and two pavements. I feel duty-bound to point out it was not Flint bridge as one of my friends Gill suggested via Fb following my uploading a photo and I thought it had a distinct look of New York about it (Do you recognise the couple in one of these?)

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A late lunch beckoned and we finally managed to get a table in ‘Syjf’, a recommended eatery. It was here we discovered a real Dutch speciality, ‘bitterballs’ and Lee could not stop herself from ordering some for us to try.  They were in fact similar to croquettes, deep fried and containing meat and cheese, very tasty, but what a name for a dish!

So, what did I like about Rotterdam? Everything!

It’s a clean, modern, compact city, easy to get around on foot, has lots of museums and culture, good food, even better beer and wine, but for me it was the people, a warm, engaging bunch, always ready have a chat.

Of course the highlight was the Peter Lindbergh exhibition at Kunsthal, and I’d seriously consider another trip back should another interesting exhibition arise.

Thanks to Gail who was an excellent tour operator, Tim, Eifion, Lee and of course, the current Mr E who exercised considerable restraint and only bought a single CD from a record shop – it was all in all a perfect short break with good friends.

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Until next time.

Tracy xx

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Photography, Culture, Everything Else!, Fuji, Holidays, Street | Leave a comment

Imagination is more important than knowledge…

Every time I sit down to write a blog, I am still amazed at the number of times I’ve been able to get out and about with my camera.  The world continues to turn, the day job is still busy, we’re travelling through autumn at a rate of knots with Christmas looming and the ironing mountain at Edwards Towers still needs to be done, but despite all of this, I still find time to enjoy my photography.

One of the things I love about photography is the way that it brings like-minded people together. As I’m writing this blog I’m also looking back at a variety of photo shoots I’ve undertaken and the people that I’ve met along the way. Never is this more true than the days and weeks which follow a photographic event or workshop. Models, make-up artists, dress designers, stylists and other photographers all play a part in my creative journey, yet our paths may never cross again and I am always left feeling thankful that we met. Even if some of them only grace my world for a short period of time, it feels as if they’ve all left tiny footprints in my life.

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending two photographic events, very different in nature, but each one as rewarding as the other albeit in a different way.

If you’ve never heard of Walter’s Wardrobe I would urge you to go and track it down on social media. The brainchild of a remarkable young woman who has enjoyed a pretty stellar modelling career in the creative photography world working with people such as Brooke Shaden, Ben Von Wong, Lovegrove and McGillicuddy to name a few, Jen Brook has now turned her hand to organising highly professional, creative and exciting portfolio building photographic events. Drawing on her own experience, using her extensive network of contacts and I suspect a pretty persuasive manner, Jen has been able to run events in the most amazing locations including Allerton Castle, Wentworth Woodhouse and most recently, a private home in Yorkshire.

As Mr E and I drove along the M62 corridor on Friday morning the rain and fog made for a very challenging journey, however as we neared the White Rose county the weather picked up and the colours of autumn glowed along our route.

Reaching our destination I was very happy to recognise familiar faces, including Jane, this time with her husband accompanying her; a very dear friend and ace photographer (she is not only because her work is top notch, but because she made me look and feel amazing when I had a photoshoot for my 50th birthday last year) Jo Rutherford (check her out and look for her Alter-Ego Portrait series), along with her mate Donna (who was quickly added to the creative team) as well as Maureen and Lesley from another aspect of my photographic world. Greeted by Jen and her dad John, after a quick cuppa we were treated to a tour of the house to help us get our bearings, and start to formulate some ideas for the day ahead.

Jo and I agreed we would work together, and we were joined by the third member of our group, Deborah Selwood (another creative worth seeking out on social media if you get a chance).

First up we had the pleasure of working with the lovely (if slightly crazy but delightful) Charlotte in a dreamy ethereal pink dress created by designer Sharon Bowen-Dryden (as were all the dresses) with millinery by HF Couture (all millinery save the pom-poms). Working in the Turkish steam room was a real challenge, natural light was very limited albeit there was enough for beautiful portraits, and so we resorted to using flash, having to be very careful where we positioned the lights as they bounced off the reflective tiles all around the room.  Charlotte could so easily have been lost amidst the highly patterned decor, but with a little imagination, we were able to make sure she and the dress were the stars of the show.

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I was testing out my latest photo purchase, the Fuji 90 mm F2 lens, having convinced myself following a talk from Wayne Johns at Digital Splash, that it needed a place in my camera bag. It is fair to say that for portraiture, this lens is up there with the best of them, and is razor sharp. By way of a specific test, I cropped in on one of my photos and this is the result.  Make up for this look was by Sophie Battersby.

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I know I’m going to enjoy using this lens in the future. As our first session drew to a close, we were given the obligatory ten (or should that be Jen?) minute warning and set about returning the room to how we found it.

Every now and again I am reminded how vertically challenged I am (at my fullest height, I might just muster 5’ 5”), never was this more true when Siobhan introduced herself to us. She is a very statuesque 6 feet tall and she commanded the gold room with grace and elegance (well mostly!).  This room was beautiful, the ceiling which I forgot to take a photograph of was exquisite and the light through the long casement windows was just perfect.  No flash for me this time it was natural light all the way. I was intrigued by Siobhan’s unusual headpiece which was designed by Jen who makes pom-poms like a pro, but with Livvy Morewood’s flawless make-up, the result was a very couture look which I love.  Highlight of the session was my friend Jo being taught how to model by Siobhan, the very short video taken on my phone can be found on the Walter’s Wardrobe Facebook page. I don’t think the modelling community is under threat!

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We broke for a short lunch break and a well-earned cup of tea and I popped outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air admiring the garden and grounds which looked like a painting in the hazy autumn sunshine.

Our next location was the grand staircase leading into the main hallway and we were greeted by lovely Bethany a titian-haired model in a voluminous mint green dress. By this time we were starting to lose the natural light, my little Manfrotto Lumimuse light came in very handy indeed.

Once we’d finished with the stairs, we moved into a cosy sitting room filled with paintings and comfortable seats. I like the image of Bethany on the sofa reading, but my favourite portrait with the garden clearly visible through the window.

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Our final session was in the most wonderful library, surrounded by volumes, some of which were clearly hundreds of years old, the atmosphere was unlike any other room in the house. Elle-Beth patiently accommodated my request to once again ascend the library steps in order for me to channel my inner Tim Walker and make the image below.

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Now there’s one person I have so far failed to mention, cinematographer Devin Schiro is a great friend of Jen’s and had flown in from LA to capture this event and film for her. Devin is a talented filmmaker and his work can be found all over the Internet and is well worth a look.  I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates from this event.

He is also a talented piano player, as we were creating our images the sound of the piano washed over us adding to the magic of the location.  He was also kind enough to allow me to use him as a prop for one of my images, and as lovely as both the back of his head and his left ear are, I’m happy to confirm this is not his best side – his smile can light up a room.

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And suddenly it was 5.30pm and time to draw the day to a close, goodbyes were said and friendships formed and the wardrobe door closed for me for this year.

I cannot recommend these events highly enough, they are on a different scale to anything I have done before, well worth the investment and they make me stretch my creative streak. These days are full of inspiration, participation and collaboration and I am delighted with the images I made inside the wardrobe this weekend, I can’t wait to see what’s behind the doors for next year!

In contrast, my second event of the weekend was held at Cambrian Photography in Colwyn Bay and was a talk by fashion photographer Wayne Johns.  I recently heard Wayne speak at the Digital Splash event in Liverpool and was very happy to sit through his talk again, I found myself as enthralled as I had been the first time and managed to take even more notes and jot down some ideas for future shoots.

Wayne’s talk was followed by a practical session in the studio, and he took us through the lighting set up we would be using, it is true sometimes that less is more, the simplest set-ups often yield the most pleasing results.  The added advantage is I can try this for myself at home.  Model Romanie was a real trooper, fending off a nasty cold and was the epitome of a 1950s pin-up queen.  Once again it was a chance to test out the Fuji 90mm lens, and partnered with my XT2, it’s a match made in heaven.

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So there you have it, my most recent adventures.  I do have a few other photo-shoots I may blog about in coming days, time permitting, so be sure to watch this space!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. in case you were wondering, there’s always a quote…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

P.P.S.

Walter’s wardrobe Credits:

Models: Siobhan Priest/Charlotte Atkinson/Bethany Bennett/Elle Beth

MUAs: Olivia Morewood/Sophie Battersby

Designer: Sharon Bowen-Dryden

Millinery and stylist: HF Coutoure/Jen Brook

Assistant: Donna Graham

Production: Walter’s Wardrobe Events

Posted in Couture, Creative Photography, Everything Else!, Fashion, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Style | Leave a comment

It’s the good life, to be free, and explore the unknown…

This line from the Tony Bennett song ‘The Good Life’ sums up last weekend and the second occasion Mr E and I spent time at ‘The Good Life Experience’ in Hawarden.  Very conveniently (for me), this is only a few miles from our home, within easy reach of the train station, a taxi ride away or, rather helpfully again, a lift from a willing nephew (thanks Al xx).  What this means, is that I don’t need to sleep under canvas and get to spend the nights in my own bed…although Mr E is desperate to ‘do the festival thing’ at least once!

Once again, we found ourselves driving the few miles to the festival with the roof down, and enjoying the late evening sunshine.  First stop was one of the most eclectic little bookshops I have had the pleasure to visit…Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore, filled with racks of books we never seem to see anywhere else…poetry, art, photography (of course!), welsh myth and legend, the list goes on, and just like last year, we took several books home with us later that evening. After a quick hello to Tom of Vinyl on Demand (VOD), we made our way to the food stalls and enjoyed the most fabulous south Indian chicken and coconut curry.

As we made our way to the main stage, we caught the tail end of a performance by gritty Manchester poet, Mike Garry. His rendition of ‘What Me Mam Taught Me’ a poem he wrote for his Mum’s funeral was both poignant and humorous in equal measure.

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Then it was time for the main event, John Cooper Clarke.  Amazingly, at 67 years of age, this punk poet machine-gunned his audience for over an hour, regaling them with anecdotes and poems since his career began in the early 70s.  Sometimes irreverent, sometimes sailing a little close to the wind, he entertained the packed tent with renditions of Evidently Chickentown, I Wanna Be Yours (used by the Arctic Monkeys) and of course, Beasley Street and left you in no doubt, you had witnessed culture at its’ best!

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Saturday morning dawned with the brightest blue sky and sunshine as Mr E and I hopped onto the train at Caergwrle and just twelve minutes later alighted at Hawarden, wandering down to the festival site.  We’ve both driven through the village countless times, but it’s not until you are on foot and your pace slows down do you see things you’ve never seen before (the water pump and the gateway to the ‘house of correction’ being just two of a number of interesting things).

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After a quick coffee stop, we killed time looking at some of the rather eclectic stalls in the Market Place and Makers’ Row waiting for a ‘ping’ on the phone to let us know that good friends Gaynor and Phil had arrived.  It’s fair to say that whilst Perryn and I had thoroughly enjoyed our first festival experience last year, this year was made even more fun by having excellent company to share the experience.

There were talks on a variety of topics, including bee-keeping (and honey whisky making ‘Bees’ Knees’ ); culture (Timothy Leary & KLF; Michael Morpurgo), cookery (Brazilian Chefs Samba Grill), floristry (Wild at Heart) and of course the Gin Palace where we sat in the sunshine whilst music from  the Flintshire Male Voice Choir and Booka Brass Brand washed over us.  We reached the conclusion that collectively we had experienced lots of interesting experiences we wouldn’t ordinarily come across every day.

The evening was a given over to a variety of music, DJ 78, Booka Brass Band, Diabel Cissokho – who played the most unusual stringed instrument we’ve ever seen (the Kora I think), Fanfare Ciorcarlia from Romania and toward the end of the evening, the Hooton Tennis Club (brilliant set!).  Given Perryn’s passion for music, I’ve learned that it pays to have an open mind when it comes to music…and I loved most of it.

Last year, I lasted until 9.00pm, when I realised I couldn’t walk another pace…this year, our pretty cool nephew (who had looked after all the dogs during the day) came to pick us up at 11.45pm…clearly I am getting used to coping with festivals (or I am sitting down a bit more and saving my feet!).

A stunning start to Sunday (here’s hoping for an Indian summer!) saw us once again driving to Hawarden, grabbing a coffee and a bacon bap before I set off to create a floral crown with Wild at Heart.  What a fabulous way to spend an hour on a Sunday morning, the floristry team were patient, sociable and incredibly encouraging, and I was pretty pleased with my effort.  I will be definitely be making use some of the techniques learned for props for photoshoots in the future.

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During my creative spell, Mr E attended ‘Howl Sixty, Ginsberg in Wales’…he was the first to admit it was a little ‘deep’ for Sunday morning! He then dropped in to listen to Hugh Miller talk about Japanese Wood Craftsmanship at the Academy… I was fortunate enough to join just before it started and we sat through a passionate talk about the Japanese approach to woodworking and design which inspired on so many levels.

Catching up with Gaynor and Phil, the guys went their separate ways, Phil to a talk on entrepreneurship, Perryn to another woodworking talk. Gaynor and I made our way to the gin tent deckchairs and enjoyed a wonderful hour or so in the sun, soaking up the atmosphere, talking to people who just stopped by to chat (and enjoying another gin of course!) to the backdrop of children laughing as they played on an improvised slide made out of hay bales, coupled with music from the main stage it made for a very relaxing Sunday morning.

We wandered down to the lake to watch the coracle regatta (think sailing in a walnut shell!), which consisted of racing and water polo and generally lots of fun.  Basking in the sunshine and enjoying a late lunch, it was soon 3.00pm and we said our goodbyes and set off on the short journey home.

So…we’re very tempted to book the ‘early bird’ tickets for next year…Cerys Matthews and Charlie Gladstone can you guarantee the fabulous weather again?!

Until next time

Tracy xx

Footnote:  As I hope my images show, the festival is a photographers’ paradise!  The majority of these images were taken using my Fuji XT2 with either the 16-55mm or 50-140mm.  It’s still early days but I already love the upgrade from the XT1, particularly the focusing paddle and the multi-way flip-out screen, I also like the locking dials which make sure I don’t inadvertently change my settings and the Acros B&W film simulation setting is rather nice too!

Posted in Culture, Dance, Everything Else!, Festival, Fuji | Leave a comment