Italia: February 2020

A lot has happened since I last posted here. I have moved to Italy to live part-time, as planned. Unfortunately, a global pandemic happened so photographic opportunities for landscape images have been somewhat limited. Happily this is not the case for wildlife and nature photography on my doorstep daily in Italy, and I have more than made up for the lack of landscapes.

On the journey over to Italy from the UK I passed through the French-Swiss alps, and once here had a few trips out to scout around for photographic sites.

The Roaches

A morning misty hike up to the Roaches in Staffordshire, on the edge of the Peak District National Park, was just what was needed for Dan and I. I took my camera because… I take it everywhere, pretty much. The light wasn’t great as the mists were heavy and fairly low, and the clouds were out in force, but adjusting for this and also utilising lower exposures I managed to take a few images which I have edited to reflect the misty, slightly ethereal mood of the morning.

Swanning about

I have recently had reason to go over some past images of mute swans taken at Wollaton Park in Nottingham. I have re-edited them to try to achieve the image I had in mind when taking the photograph. Three such images were enhanced in Photoshop and one I have entered for a competition. Editing photographs can be really time-consuming, it’s true, yet there is so much to learn, in particular when using Photoshop. It is worth many, many hours sitting learning techniques and using new layers and masks to transform an image into the vision you had or now have for a photograph.

For now, while the rain pours in the UK, I will continue to re-visit old wildlife images and re-edit to produce something different to the original edits. Birds seem to be especially good for this task!

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Snowdon: September 2019

Last time I hiked up Snowdon (I say hiked, we took the Miner’s Track, which is fairly easy-going for the most part) the mountain decided to mess with me. It was a lovely sunny day when we set off, and yet in the space of three hours it rained, hailed, and eventually snowed on me. We had to give up and turn back on that occasion as we were utterly drenched and extremely cold. The most recent attempt was no different. I had thought we would be ok – the weather was a bit ‘off’ but not terrible, and we left super early to make the most of a clear morning and the sunshine.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

That didn’t last. I think we probably saw some of Snowdon’s worst weather and conditions on this day in September. Admittedly, we later realised it had been torrential rain throughout the country at the same time, but it didn’t make the defeat any easier to accept. We set off and I managed to get some nice images without tripod and even with intermittent rain (turns out drops landing on your lens every few yards begins to irritate after a while). The weather brought some dramatic skies and crisp, clear greens on the mountains and bright rock formations. I wasn’t too bothered by a bit of rain.

The mountain had other plans. As we made our way to around halfway up Snowdon, while I stopped to capture images in more interesting spots and in between downpours, the weather turned. I could almost hear the mountain laughing at us. Oh, you’ve come back to try again? Hahaha. Think again.

It rained. And rained. And rained. I think I even saw what looked like hail, but may have imagined it. The rain got heavier and heavier until I had packed everything tightly away, frantically pulled on some waterproof trousers and leaned into the kinds of gale force winds and heavy rain I have quite literally never witnessed before. It poured down my face and body, and that delightful squelching sensation began to emanate from my walking boots and from my clothing, although my jacket did a great job of keeping my core dry.

(As an aside, those same walking boots now sit forlornly in the conservatory still covered in mud and are destined for a bin.)

At one stage, my son, who was the most drenched person I’ve ever seen other than myself at that point, turned from his determined walk up the mountain, looked at me and made a cutting motion. Time out. Screw this. We are going back down. I was surprised as I’d been trailing him for some time – he is a determined walker. Nope, he wanted out of the madness. We raged at the mountain and the weather as we slipped and slid back down the path, which had by now turned into a healthily flowing river.

Some way down, I noticed a large boulder tumbling down the mountainside, while the rain lashed and raged around us. I looked at my son. He looked at me. He swore and shouted at me to run. I was genuinely in the middle of taking a photograph in the torrential rain (nothing stops me when I see an image I want), so I just froze. As we turned towards the path, in the direction we needed to go, a landslide took out the entire path in front of us. The lake below us filled with multicoloured sediments which spread across the surface in fascinating patterns while the body of water which had been a stream an hour earlier had become a raging river which flowed over the path and down into the water below.

We panicked. We charged up the mountain onto the grass to avoid falling mud, and at the same time tried to move forwards. As we moved, another landslide occurred directly in front of us and my son ran towards me while I filmed it. (I know I probably should take these things more seriously and put the camera away!) We managed to scrabble over the second rapidly rising landslide which covered the path but I lost my phone in the process. Despite the fact we literally ran some way from the landslide before I’d realised I had lost it, we turned back to try to find the phone and had to re-negotiate the landslides. Further landslides had occurred on the path heading back towards the Miner’s track car park. We both shouted at the mountain, especially as it seemed that as we got closer to the car park, the weather calmed and the sun even dared to show its face.

I have to admit to feeling slightly aggrieved. This mountain does not like me. I will be back to tackle her once again, very soon. On some of these images, you might actually be able to tell that it was raining. You’d never know the full story…

Kinder Scout: September 2019

Since completing the final project of my Masters degree (a complete book including all text and images) I have been relieved to not have to pick up a camera wherever I go! I have had a short break from photography, compared to my normal MO of permanently having it in my hand, and it has been a pleasant relief. Now, I miss the buzz of capturing images and editing, so I’m back with images in mind and camera in hand.

I am looking to downsize and go mirrorless in time, as carrying a lot of equipment can become a burden – quite literally – and tiring. When the aim is purely landscape photography, a smaller, lighter, high-quality camera is ideal, so I may buy a Fuji XT-2 or something similar in the near future. In the meantime, I’m just taking my Canon body and a single wide angle lens out with me, and seeing what that gets me. So far, it’s been ok.

We took another hike up Kinder Scout today, this time to look for fungi species, and I came back with a few quickly shot images of the breathtaking landscape of the Dark Peaks.

 

Abruzzo, Italy: August 2019

From Tuscany we moved down to Abruzzo as my partner is buying a house here. We plan to spend a lot of time in Italy, in particular touring and photographing the region and the country as a whole. As you drive down, you notice a change in landscape. Things become wilder, less well ordered and more unkempt. There is more scrub and huge swathes of forest. I preferred the wilderness of the more southerly regions to the overly pristine fields of Tuscany (although both have their obvious charms). As we neared the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso mountain region I was gobsmacked. It is a beautiful mountain range, and I plan to spend many more hours photographing the mountains alone! Within the mountain ranges there are bears and wolves, verdant plant life and abundant invertebrates and other wildlife.

Investment in the roads was a standout issue in Abruzzo, but only in some areas. Housing is more sparse than in Tuscany, and in some areas these are poorly maintained or simply abandoned. There are many ruins standing alone on quiet hills or just by the roadside. There are so many of the stunning hilltop medieval towns that are characteristic of Italy, each pulling you in for a closer look. We visited a few of these. We also visited Civitella del Tronto and its Fortress and Grotte di Stiffe with its limestone stalactites and stalagmites. We saw and experienced the most incredible thunderstorms too, whilst there, which was entertaining for me as I managed to film some of it, and it also alleviated some of the intense heat of the previous few days. I cannot wait to go back.

Tuscany, Italy: August 2019

We traveled to the Toscana region of Italy in August, and stayed there for two days in a beautiful old walled town, before moving on to the Abruzzo region much further south of Italy. While in Tuscany we explored the region a little, but not enough! There is so much to see. I noted how tidy and organised Tuscany is; the land is neatly parcelled up into vineyards and olive fields, with not much else grown other than resident’s own vegetable and fruit plots, of which there were many. As a horticulturist, it is joyful to see so many people growing their own food. The buildings are all well kept, well maintained and seem well-loved. Of course, there were many empty old houses and ruins, as appears to be the case in much of Italy, but these were much less numerous than in Abruzzo.

I would love to explore Tuscany much more, and we plan to do just that in the near future. These are just some of the images I took while briefly exploring Tuscany.