It’s all relative, really.

In between the showers today, we managed to get out to Broadpool for an hour’s walk but the whole time we were there, I was watching the dark clouds massing over Cefn Bryn, waiting to drench us. No sooner had we got back to the car than the heavens opened again; we were fortunate to miss getting soaked.

The rain continued steadily for the next few hours but a few minutes ago, I noticed the sun shining through the curtains and sure enough, there was blue sky above and the sun was quite warm. So out into the garden we went, eager to take advantage of any break in the rain. Rufus explored the garden, checking for intruders, and I grabbed my camera and went in search of things in the tiny world.

Bored with photography, Rufus left me to it and headed back to the sofa. I found two spiders remaking their webs, and started snapping away. It got me thinking though. My thoughts when I saw the rain this morning were around avoiding the inconvenience and discomfort of getting wet. The big garden spider I watched remaking it’s web was more concerned about getting it’s source of food set up again after it had been destroyed by the wind and rain.

The last photo I took was just after the spider got fed up of me snapping away and retreated under a leaf. I decided to leave it alone after that, to give it a chance to complete it’s housework before the next shower.

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Rufus and Dave’s fortnight of fun part 2a: Webs

We had an earlier start today as it’s due to be a busy one. Rufus and I headed down to Broadpool to sample the early morning before anyone could spoil it. An amazing sight confronted us once we’d parked up; as far as the eye could see there were masses of cobwebs shining in the morning sun. Every one had tiny dewdrops hanging from them. The thorn bushes were white with fine threads. I tried to find the best way to take photos if it and struggled.

Rufus, of course, walked through them on his quest to find the source of all the smells he could detect.

We made our way slowly around the pool. I had hoped to catch dragonflies and damselflies warming up in the sunshine but they were all well concealed. There were plenty of midges, though, early risers like us.

We didn’t stay out too long as we both had to be back. Rufus has his hair stylist appointment this morning and I wanted to give him time to dry off. And I’m picking up my new car while he’s being pampered.

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This and that

What do you do with a week off and doctors orders to rest?

Today, I spent the first part of the morning doing mundane shopping things and paying in my insurance claim cheque. I was very pleasantly surprised at the speed and efficiency with which my claim was dealt with – thank you Direct Group. My heart usually drops at the thought of dealing with this kind of thing – last time it was a claim for damage to my car by someone trying to park where I was parked. It took the best part of a week of phone calls to sort out and in the end I did most of the arranging rather than the third party company engaged to do it on behalf of the insurance company.

Back home, I was out in the garden taking some portraits of the local Garden Spider when I saw a bit of a life and death struggle between a daddy Long Legs and a smaller spider. In the end, the Daddy Long Legs broke free of the web and escaped and I was secretly pleased. I know it’s all part of nature but it doesn’t mean to say I have to like it.

Then, for the rest of the afternoon, I was going though and editing video taken at last night’s band rehearsal. Rehearsals are so rare these days that when one comes along, I always try and record it in some way. I took a video camera last night and managed to catch the whole of ‘I wouldn’t believe your radio’, a Stereophonics song we’re putting in the set. It has ended up on YouTube  although there is some clever editing to make it look as if I’m playing – in fact, I was videoing and if you listen carefully, there’s no bass guitar on the soundtrack.

Last day of the holidays tomorrow – not plans as yet but I’m expecting rain.

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What’s lurking in the garden?

Life is hard. Not my life. I am mature enough to realise I have a pretty good one, as things go and I’m so grateful for that.  No, just life in general. And what has prompted this philosophical approach to today’s blog? Bear with me.

I’ve mention my ailments before. On top of that, last night we gigged so this morning at my usual waking time, I was fast asleep. I got up late, had a lazy breakfast and despite the sun, didn’t immediately rush out for a stroll in the countryside with Rufus. Instead, I caught up with some domestics and took a very short stroll in the garden. On a whim, I decided to take the camera and on another whim (and after reading an article in a magazine) I fitted the macro lens and a teleconverter. (That’s the only technical bit so you can read on in safety).

I found a bee and snapped a few portraits. I found a Meta Segmentata (spider) and snapped a few portraits of it, too. They were both warming in the sun so they sat still.  Then, just out of the corner of my eye I saw a sharp movement. I looked to see a huge specimen of a garden spider racing up it’s web to catch a bee that had landed and become stuck. As I watched, (and brought my camera up to my eye), it wrapped the bee up in silk – so quickly that I barely saw it. By the time the camera was ready (a few seconds) the bee was a white cocoon.

The spider was then able, at leisure, to move it’s prey down to a more secure spot.

Nature is cruel and fascinating and practical and always manages to surprise. When I turned around after watching the kill, there was my friend the little robin watching me.

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A world of their own

Around this time last year, I took my first serious foray into macro photography. Since then I have returned to it over and over again until I’m finding that it takes up a lot of my time. I enjoy the hunt for subject matter – it’s not as dramatic as stalking deer but the results can be just as rewarding. For me, anyway.

Partially as a result of recent events (see yesterday’s post) and partially as a result of recent financial good fortune (well, one gig), I decided to invest in a new macro lens. Note that I convince myself too easily by using the word invest – which suggests a return is likely – rather than spend. Photography is not a business for me, although I have made some sales and done some photography work in the past and even had an exhibition. And I wouldn’t rule out doing more if the right opportunity arose.

Invest, purchase, buy, barter… however you choose to describe it, I obtained a lovely Tamron 90mm macro lens. For a few years I’ve read nothing but good reviews about this lens. My existing macro is a relatively short 60mm focal length so the extra reach of the Tamron would enable me to keep my distance from nervy insects and spiders and still get the magnification I need. I played around with it last night and I was very happy with the results, although I need to refine my technique a bit. Used to getting in close with the 60mm Nikkor, I found myself bumping into flowers and a spider’s web with the front of the Tamron as it extends a long way forward as I focus closer.

This isn’t an advertising piece. The kit I use is largely chosen on cost, although I would not consider buying something without first having found some good reviews. Most of the less useful kit I’ve owned has, over the years, gone either to fund other kit, or in one or two cases to charity (look up disabled photographers – a worthy cause). I’ve stuck with Nikon since I started in digital nearly 10 years ago, so I have built up a nice collection of lenses. This collecting process means I have been able to upgrade and since I buy most of my lenses second hand, it hasn’t cost anything like as much as it looks. If I’m feeling particularly geeky I might list the kit at the end. If I’m really, really geeky, I might include a snapshot of them.

Particular bargains have included three ancient, second hand Nikkor manual focus prime lenses – 50/1.4, 85/1.8 and 180/1.8. They are built like tanks and they are heavy, but they’re great for low light situations and the 180 is good for wildlife. They cost me tens of pounds and I see that the autofocus equivalents are hundreds of pounds second hand. I grew up with manual focussing so that’s okay, and the viewfinder image is bright and easy to check sharpness. Exposure is also manual although I can programme the camera with several manual lenses so that it recognises them and can calculate the exposure for me.

I’m off on one again. Back to the macro photography. I was squelching through the mud in one of my favourite locations the other day and I suddenly realised that my perception changes as the nature of the subject changes. By that I mean that if I’m off after landscapes, I’ll be looking at the bigger picture. I’ll see detail, but as a part of the wider view. With large vistas, the detail tends to be less prominent the smaller it gets. When I’m in macro mood, I tend to start off trying to see the smaller detail but only seeing the bigger stuff until suddenly, as if a switch has been flicked, the little things begin to appear.

I love that moment as, without trying to sound too dramatic, a whole new world opens up. The hunt for subject matter is over.

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More fine weather

A hint of fine weather could be seen through the kitchen window. I put my boots on and looked out again. it was raining, quite hard. I read somewhere today that we in the UK should be grateful that we get a mix of weathers. Sat in my living room on the PC I can understand and appreciate the sentiment. But when I’m champing at the bit or miles from the car, I have a different viewpoint. This evening I wanted the rain to stop.

It did, and I was out as quickly as I could. As I drove off, there were spots on the windscreen but there weren’t many and I could see lighter, cloud free skies ahead. I knew where I was heading – a spot I’d found on Monday when I was out with Rufus.

Ruus wasn’t with me this evening – he had a day out with some canine friends. As I left the car and headed into the mud and bog, it was odd not to have him forging ahead and finding the best routes and I found I missed him.

The spot I was looking for wasn’t far from the car but it was slow going because of the deep pools and high tufts of grass. But soon enough I was at the little stream, hidden from the road by a few small trees. In the shade under the leaves, there were a few flowers and a couple of orchids. It didn’t take long to set up the camera and tripod, and then I immersed myself in the photography. I’ve said before how it’s my stress buster and on a lovely warm evening, with the sun now shining on my back, it was just what I needed.

I spent about 30 minutes by the stream and then took a stroll around the area looking for anything interesting. Very quickly I found a thick mass of web in the undergrowth that ended in a funnel. As I looked, I saw a movement and assumed it was the spider. But it was a tiny frog, hopping beneath the web. As I watched I became aware of another movement and my hair stood on end as I spotted the large sider responsible for the web. The frog had got away by now and I forced myself to take a few photos of the webmaster before moving on.

I thought this was a funnel spider and when I got home, looked it up only to find that the funnel spider was the third most deadly spider in the world. And not native to the UK.

All was okay, though, because it was only a Labyrinth spider, and perfectly harmless.

All in all, and despite the trauma of looking up spdiers on the internet, it was a nice end to the day.

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Rain is no excuse

It’s drizzling and I have a night to myself. What can I do?  Stop sniggering at the back. I know who you are.

When the rain is fine and misty, I’m off out into the garden to look for spider’s webs, leaves and small blades of grass with drops of water on them. I’m a photographer at heart, so I have no choice in this. Earlier this year, I bought a small mist spray bottle to fill with water to dispense the mist-like rain when none was about. I love the effect.

I managed to get out early and spent about 45 minutes wandering around looking for new little webs to photograph. I’m a little damper now than I was. The camera is drying off in the corner of the room.

I thought I’d share the results with you.

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