Photo a Day 2015 Week 26

In week terms, we’re half way there!!!!  I don’t know whether to be excited or worried that half the year has pretty much flown by.  Yes I know in terms of day numbers, Day 182 is July 1 and Day 183 is July 2nd so somewhere in there is the actual half year and depending on how July 1st is going when I get there, I may try to take a photograph at midday but it is conference week so that may not be an option really.

Anyway, back to this week and I’ve made a conscious effort to be slightly more varied so there are fewer flowers this week.  That said, we’re starting with one.  I’d been down to the field with the dog, not found inspiration there and just as I was getting home (it’s 200m at a push so not far) the sun came out and just lit up this flower.  It’s completely as-captured (with a little bit of cropping as I had an 18mm lens on) and I was quite pleased.

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Tuesday was another day working from home and I was feeling kind of blue.  Completely by chance everything I was wearing and my toes and nails were blue.  Thanks to bump I couldn’t quite get feet in the picture sensibly so I went for the easier option of hand, top and jeans all in shades of blue.Day-174

The next morning was back out again and the dog was soaking ….. thankfully the tarmac was dry so I could sneak a pic of her paw – this was from the iphone actually.

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Moving swiftly on to Thursday and a landscape (see – nearing the end of the week and only one flower shot so far) taken over towards my old house again – the dog had wonderful fun in and out of the water chasing a tennis ball and it’s so green and lush at the moment.  You walk up one side of this bit of the Itchen (it’s split into a number of waterways due to the shallow valley) and then back the other. Just lovely.

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Friday’s image was actually acquired on Saturday but that’s purely because I didn’t get the focus right and had to return to try again.  Yes it’s a flower shot but I was busy chasing the bees.  We had at least four different species visiting the lavender in the short time I was there taking lots of out of focus pictures and out of the many where i tried to capture flight, this was the best.  Unfortunately I missed a shot with the wings back but I’m pretty pleased with this.  I will spare you all additional photos of the bees knees (they’re cute because they’re pollen encrusted and I have photographs and electron micrographs of them but it may be a bit much)

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Saturday was a good morning for me.  I went to a class on using your sewing machine.  Geeky yes but really enjoyable and I’d recommend Aly at Bobbin Sewing School in Winchester.  Very patient, reassuring and you come away confident in what you were being taught in.  I certainly didn’t expect to walk out after 3 hours (and actually this was only the last 45 mins really) with a cushion cover having tried many different stitches, seaming, hemming etc.  Really pleased with my FO – I may become polycraftural.

Day-178Being away with work this week, I am drafting this early and will schedule the post for sometime Monday (isn’t wordpress clever) – Sunday’s pic may sip into Week 27 rather than continuing my streak of posting weeks late as I’ll not have my personal laptop with me 🙂

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2015 Photo a Day Set 25

Well hello, nearly caught up – only a week behind now!  And still no photographs of Lions or Elephants or Rhinos or Buffalo (we only spotted one Leopard and she was exiting stage left – a blurry photograph of a tail wouldn’t do her justice).

This week was a busy one starting off with on-boarding (why do they call it that?) a new member of my team.  In practical terms, it meant no photograph on Monday.   Tuesday however, was an opportunity to get out and down to the river close to my old house and it was lovely being able to meander along here and see that the swans are still in their usual spot.

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Then of course, by Wednesday you realise that you’ve overdone it with two days in the office and a longer than usual walk so it was back to the local field where today it was the turn of the daisy.  I would say it’s like a carpet of white flowers at the moment but they are knee high up to thigh high.

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Thursday was another short dog walk but this time in the rain in the morning.  It is a juggling act with a walking stick, camera, dog lead etc.  Umbrella’s are not a good option unless you want to grow a third arm.

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The other reason for the short walk on Thursday morning was preserving the legs for getting through Southampton and Edinburgh airports and at Edinburgh they like to make you walk and I hadn’t requested assistance this time.  The photographs from Edinburgh got slightly jumbled so I’ll show them without splitting them into days as they are three well known features of the city.   I’m still trying to work out what is being celebrated by the flower clock and where the hands went.

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2015 Photo a Day Set 24

Well,  this week was back to work and back to normality and back to British flowers.  Flowers are very cheerful and I find it interesting seeing what can be spotted each day and also how they change with the seasons.

Monday’s specimen I don’t actually know the name of and it proved surprisingly challenging to photograph – the white tended to be seriously overexposed so finding focus was a challenge.  This was the best of a not very inspiring selection.

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Tuesday was the turn of one of the many different grasses in the local field followed by one of the flowers on Wednesday (again without a name – I need to get a wildflower book).  The field proves to be never-ending as a source of inspiration for photographs for me as it’s different every day.

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Thursday I cleverly forgot to photograph anything and after working too late I didn’t fancy much of an evening meal so had a bowl of cereal.  The seasonal fruit (yay for it being strawberry season again – they taste so much better at the moment) served as inspiration.

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Friday I was suitably recovered from the food incident of the previous weekend to head out for a longer dog walk over the fields …. it’s not a long walk, just longer for me.  It’s been lovely watching the barley grow and the whiskers form and as I’m writing this a couple of weeks later it’s actually great seeing the fields turn slowly golden (I hope to get a shot of that before it’s cut but we’ll see) but on this occasion, I spotted a patch of red in the field adjacent to the footpath.   I’m hoping the farmer didn’t mind me nipping through the hedgerow to capture them.  Poppies are just beautiful.

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Saturday is a FO picture (finished object in crafting terms).  This was a gift for a friend with a newborn and I know it’s been safely received so I can safely post without spoiling anything.  You see some amazing garment or FO photography and it’s not a strong point – however spending hours choosing and buying buttons is.  I’m developing a collection and there are some fabby buttons out there.  Funky, quirky, cute …. just take your choice.  You can get them to match just about anything as well …. I need a bigger button box I think.

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Then finally we get to Sunday and I wanted to capture the Peonies in the back garden.   Unfortunately it was dull dull dull all day in terms of lighting so it’s not the most inspiring and getting the pink Aubretia against the huge peony heads to shine was a no-go (yes I could have spent ages post-processing to get them there but part of me still thinks you should just capture the image right, at the right time rather than post process – I may be a film photographer at heart still).  Still…. they’re stunning flowers and so many different ones about at this time of year … just lovely.

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2015 Photo a Day Set 23

Getting back from holiday has led to things being a little busy on the work front and with family things at weekends I’m somewhat behind.  I’ve not managed to trawl through my far too many photos of lions and elephants for a planned post on the Big Five from SA … instead, I’m going to try and catch up on the photo a day and then sort them out for the weekend.  I live in hope.

Monday to Thursday of this week (it feels soooo long ago, not just 20 something days) were still on Safari and show a sunset, three oh so handsome cheetah’s (I’m reusing this pic but they are just so photogenic), my favourite animal of all, the rhino and a spotted hyena. I’m not going to write many words, just post the pics.

Day-152Day-153 Day-154 Day-155Thanks to a bout of food poisoning, I took absolutely no photographs for the Friday and Saturday, preferring to sit and feel sorry for myself instead. By Sunday I was sort of up and about again and made it down to the local field where all the wild flowers have come out (you’ll be seeing a lot of these over the next few weeks) so I took the opportunity to take a rare photograph of my DH (the lighting is not great on his face but it’s the best short I got).  A week on holiday together and we managed to only take photographs of one another on the flight out and once back.  We both need to do better!

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The Ugly Five (and a few others)

After a good? night’s sleep and a lovely relaxing morning nap (you’d think that after 10 days away from work you would stop waking up at 6am but apparently not) we’re ready for part two of the Madikwe set.  I have decided to save the big 5 until the end, not least because I still have in excess of 200 photographs of Lions and Elephants to attempt to sort out.

Building up from the birds … I’ll start with the antelope.  Interestingly, SA does not have deer, they only have antelope and the difference is that if their horns are broken, they will not grow back (they’re made from bone covered in keratin rather than just keratin apparently).  We spotted quite a number ranging from the tiny klipspringers (rock hoppers) and steenbok (stone bucks who just do not stay still long enough to be photographed) up to the majestic Kudu.  The males are those with horns and tend to be a little more photogenic (in my opinion).

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First up we have the klipspringers.  They are fairly small and we were lucky to see them having left the local cliff for a drink at a water hole.

Then Impala.  Big ears (all the better to hear you with my dear) to hear predators in the bush and lovely reddish brown colour that glows in the sunlight.  One male to a larger group of females (and they are flighty and keep running away as it’s breeding season).  The younger males tend to stick together in a coalition – safety in numbers and all that.

In the first image you might spot the red billed OxPecker perching on the side of the Impala.  These are fascinating birds who hitch rides on antelope, buffalo, giraffe etc.  They eat ticks and other parasites while being carried about the bush – a free ride and a free meal (it’s good for the other animals as well).

There are two nearly identical photos taken at the water hole of a male about 2 and a fully grown … the horns just get more impressive until they’re about 5 years old before they stop growing.

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Last but not least, a male Kudu.  I’m sure I have a better shot but I can’t find it.  Fully grown they have three twists to their horns and are stunning (if shy) creatures.   You’d think that the stripes on their side would make them more obvious to see but they vanish in only a little bit of bush.  The stripes mimic sunlight falling through the bush and are actually part of their camouflage!  (Yes there’s a baboon or three in this photo as well)

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Moving on from the antelope is another from the Gnu family (related to the antelope genus if you must know) and they pretty much deserve their place in the ugly 5.  Meet the Wildebeest.  This was taken at the watering hole outside the lodge.  This part of SA had a very dry rainy season if that makes sense.  Last November they should have had about 500-600ml of rainfall and they had about 150ml.  It meant that the bush looked very dry, a lot more just looked dead compared to my first visit 15 months ago and that the animals are relying heavily on the lodge water holes and other pumped bore holes within the reserve.

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Like the Big 5, we spotted four out of the Ugly 5.  Number two was the vulture (the silhouette pic in the last blog) and the third was the Warthog.  I think these guys actually get a bad rap as they’re really quite cute – they sense danger and their tails go straight up vertically and they prance off into the bush so all you see are these fluffy tails bobbing through the undergrowth and who didn’t love Pumba in the Lion King?   They also seem to look after their family very well and we regularly saw at least two groups bringing their young to the watering hole every day.

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And last but not least in the ugly five, it’s the cuddly bear also known as the spotted hyena.  Spotted Hyenas are opportunists and the “nicer” of the two types at Madikwe.  The Brown Hyena is a predator to be wary of but the Spotted Hyenas are scavengers and the cleanup operation of the bush.  That said, it’s still not nice hearing them crunch (zebra) bone from 200m away.  Ugh.  At least it stopped long enough for me to take a picture (the first one).  The second pic is of two youngsters, we didn’t spot their mum but they were taking advantage of a pipe under the park runway to shelter from the heat of the day.  The third one had just been playing in the mud.

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This is getting a bit long so I hope it’s not too boring but there’s a few to go yet!

Did you know that the group pronoun of the giraffe is a wonder?  Or for the zebra it’s a dazzle?  They are both beautiful creatures to look at.

Firstly the Giraffe … they are soooo tall.  Just massive. They’re also all different colours – some are so fair, others have really dark spots.  Here we have a majestic male with his head in the trees but he does eventually show you his head and you can see scars from where he’s been fighting recently (they’re vicious fighters).  Then we have a mum and camera shy youngster.  Finally … we were lucky enough to spot one drinking … it’s a dangerous thing for them as it takes a while to get down to that level!

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Next the Zebra. Every Zebra is different – their stripes are a unique marking and they are so elegant and pretty (until you hear them).  They’re also pretty good at posing nicely and setting up “does my bum look big in this” shots over their shoulders.

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And finally … as this is probably my longest post to-date, a treat to finish with … a coalition of four (the fourth was being antisocial) beautiful male cheetahs.  Stunning.

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(Not) the BIG FIVE

There’s a slight problem with going to South Africa and seeing animals.  You take far too many pictures (I estimate about 4000 between my DH and I) and then you have to sort them all out.  It’s a challenge.  I’m not quite finished yet and am a bit stuck on how to show them.  Do you just focus on the Big Five (Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Lion, Buffalo) as that seems to be what a lot of people want to see or look at the more quirky animals that are not quite so deadly but still stunning to see?   Then how do you fit them into a sensible post …. I’ve got to about 60 pictures that I like for one reason or another but putting them all up at once would make a huge big confusing post that no-one would be interested in.

Well …. it’s going to be multiple posts and we’ll just see how we go.   To start with, we visited the Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West of South Africa, just on the border with Botswana.  It’s not huge when compared to places like Kruger (about 1/3 size) but it is good in terms of access being managed, limited numbers on game drives and they look after the animal population so they don’t get crowded by the vehicles when there is a sighting (and it’s Malaria free).  We stayed at the Bush House lodge which is designed to be a home away from home.  Not too big (6 rooms), comfortable, excellent food and they look after you very very well.  So …some general images of our excellent guide Corine and the lodge owner Sue in the vehicle we spent hours in each day, a mix of sunrise and sunset (they’re the only landscape images I took) and just because it was quite so dinky, our transfer plane from Jo’burg to Madikwe.

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I think to keep the suspense going, I need to follow this with some of the birds.  There are in excess of 300 species in the reserve and some of them are quite spectacular.  This is a small selection of those we spotted that caught my eye.  There were plenty more known as lbj’s (little brown job’s as there are lots of small brownish birds) and others I just failed miserably to photograph.  First up is an owl (exact species unknown) that surprised me as I was at the water hole one evening.

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Then we have a guineafowl – there were lots of these and they were quite impressively stupid most of the time.  I’m not sure if you can see the colours so clearly on the starlings but they are the most amazing bright blue (although their bright orange eyes are quite freaky)

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Swiftly moving on to the lilac breasted roller – absolutely amazing to watch and the colours are iridescent.  Just to show the opposite end of the scale, we then have the grey go away bird …. it’s grey and it’s call sounds like “go away”.  Imaginative.

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Then we have the crimson breasted shrike and a vulture who just did not fancy posing for a photograph …. exit stage left.

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And finally (of course), the set would not be complete without the yellow hornbill, also known as the banana bird or zazu!

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This is getting a bit long …. more to follow later.

2015 Photo a Day Set 22

So it turns out that while being on holiday, you can get internet and mobile reception, it’s not that great and certainly not brilliant for uploading photographs and blogs.  Just under a week late and this may be one of the more bizarre photo a day sets where we start looking at the fantastic herb planter in the garden, ably constructed by my DH.  It’s so cool!

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Then it’s a random jump to meet Susie, the most complete Stegosauraus ever reconstructed.  She was a challenge to photograph without a flash (I really should invest in one at some point) or tripod as it’s dark, everyone is moving around you and trying not to up the ISO too much so it’s grainy while keeping some depth of field and a decent shutter speed.   It’s a long way from a good shot but it’s the best I could do without physical camera stabilisation.

Day-146Wednesday is an iphone snap of the dog in the local field of Barley where she was having a lot of fun.  The farmer had been up and down the rows the day before and it meant long runs of straight lines where you just occasionally saw a head popping up!

Day-147This was swiftly followed by another iphone snap, this time from the link under Heathrow T5 out to the C gates and no, I don’t think one part of this image is in focus but it was the best I managed.  When you’re a bit of a wobbly walker you can request assistance which is great – it’s a wheelchair round the terminal then buggy to your gate which means no queues, escalators, getting on the transit trains, early boarding to the aircraft and they generally provide an excellent service for free.  It also means you get to travel along side tunnels not normally seen by the public.  Quite cool.

Day-148What made it even more cool was the A380 waiting at the other end of the tunnel and going on holiday!  There will be blogs with far too many photographs to follow on the holiday.  Instead of one photo a day, it was many photos a day!

The last three images from this week are of course, holiday snaps …. although this was a holiday with a difference.  On the first game drive we met this beautiful, very black zebra who seemed quite happy to pose for us in the evening sun.

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The next morning the water hole at the lodge was visited by a sounder of warthogs (collective nouns are great and I’ll witter about them far too much given half a chance). Day-150

Finally, to round off the week, a rockstar with his breakfast.  He’s a one year old male lion just beginning to grow his mane and the fuzzyness leads the rangers to call them rockstars …. very ’80’s.   He was really enjoying finishing his food and this is one of about 160 images I still need to sort through!
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One thing I found was having such fantastic scenery has made me love the camera even more … now I just need to learn a bit more about composition and also post-processing!