Category Archives: flora and fauna

Experiments in black and white

I would never want to see things in just black and white, but as far as photography goes, with the aid of Photoshop you can see your colour photos as monochrome images as well and it makes for an interesting experiment. You find yourself concentrating more on the shapes, textures and composition of a picture – it’s a bit like when you turn the volume on a television down – what you notice are the facial expressions of the people on the screen, their gestures and movements rather than just what they are saying.

Of course some people only ever shoot their pictures in monochrome and they often turn out more striking than if you desaturate an image you’ve taken in colour. Here are some of my black and white pictures: I think architectural features stand out, patterns and textures are accentuated, you notice the shadows, reflections and shapes in the windows of buildings, the markings on a butterfly’s wings or a bird’s plumage.

The beautiful veined pattern on a brunnera

Vibrant colour is what most people associate with this plant but its form is beautiful too.
In this formal arrangement of lilies the contrast of the stalks behind them makes this composition work even better in monochrome.
Hello!

I love this picture – the snowy white plumage of the goose and the dark gravel behind it. Birds’ plumage and their beady eyes look great in black and white

Vaulted ceiling in Avila Cathedral
And this is Ludlow Castle on the Herefordshire- Shropshire border, with its imposing walls and textured stone.
A typical house in the village of Weobley, Herefordshire – part of the Black and White Trail.
and this is also in Weobley, known as a cruck house for its curved timber frame.
There are many interior and exterior architectural features, which stand out when they are illustrated in black and white, and smaller every day things, like pieces of furniture, which just catch the eye.

What do you see here? I see a snake, but this is the stone lip of a water trough covered in lichen.
Avila’s impressive city walls
A market canopy in Sevilla, Spain with its unusual geometric roof
Arab Baths in Granada, Spain – a double take with its reflected image

Reflections, mirrored in water or glass, create some interesting effects

Glass panels in a block of flats in Girona, Spain
or man made features. such as this pebble mosaic garden path in a park in Madrid.

A silhouette creates a stunning image. A dark shape or outline against a light background makes for a great photo.

Toddler enjoying the cooling spray of a fountain in a park in Barcelona.
Butterfly alighting on a plant to feed

Eliminatiing the colour is an excellent ploy for getting people to concentrate on the details, the forms, the action …….

All decked out for the equestrian extravaganza that is La Feria de Abril in Sevilla, southern Spain
Little girl posing for a photo on the balcony of her home during La Feria de Abril
Spectators following the action as competitors climb up the hill into Avila, central Spain in the annual Vuelta a España cycle race.
Muscle power! Competitors on their way through Avila during La Vuelta a España
The city walls of Avila – magnificent backdrop to an exciting sporting event – the annual Vuelta a España cycle race .

I’ll finish with some butterflies – one of the most colourful creatures I can think of – but with their extraordinary markings they still look beautiful in black and white !

My Miniature garden

Ha! ha! Look what we found at the bottom of our potato tub! Big Daddy – weighing in at a princely 260 grams – they weren’t all that big, but for my first attempt at growing potatoes it wasn’t a bad haul. Experienced gardeners have a tendency to give you a (virtual!) slap in the face but saying things like – ‘Potatoes are easy to grow’ – well, maybe they are but they will not squash my irrepressible joy at uncovering my very own home grown ones for the first time! And here’s dinner! Yum!

Big Daddy

On to the other micro veg in my micro garden. Mostly in pots and troughs we have ……………courgettes

Coming along nicely

onions and leeks (all a bit squashed in too close together but i will know better next time!

I tried a cucumber plant – we grew these from seed and i nurtured and cajoled them in the conservatory to start with. Only two survived and of those 2 there is now only one looking healthy – it’s produced one edible cucumber so far – short, knobbly and bumpy like Spanish cukes but there are more coming. Yippee!!

Bit ropey!
But look …!

And a bowl of strawberries – the plastic bowl has kept them up off the ground and they have ripened beautifully in amongst the fennel and nasturtiums.

And unless i turned the whole plot over to veg that is all I have space for, apart from the herb patch which has some sage and some thyme. There is a bit more thyme in pots, along with some rosemary.

The overspill is in the conservatory – 2 monster chilli plants and some tomatoes.

To Bee Or Not To Bee

I’m not a scientist or a botanist, or an ornithologist, come to that, but one thing is clear even to me, a casual, lay observer – there are far fewer birds and bees around – a walk around my garden or the fields and hedgerows near home tell me that.
Years ago I had a dilapidated old garage at the bottom of the garden with a sagging flat tarpaulin roof – not so good for the car, but it made an excellent bird bath and I could sit upstairs and watch the antics of all sorts of birds as they splashed around and preened to their hearts’ content.  Now the garage has a new roof,  but it still collects enough water to form a 5 star bird bath – only thing is ……. the bathers are always pigeons or magpies – either they’ve seen off everything else or there IS nothing else!

 
I don’t want to sound alarmist but I saw this post from Greenpeace on Facebook the other day and it really makes you think.

Changes in agriculture have meant that farmers now go in for larger fields and less variety of crops – we no longer see the beautiful patchwork quilt of small fields that typified the English countryside – it’s not economically viable, but tearing up the hedgerows and planting vast swathes of rape or wheat – or, as in this area, potatoes – has had a drastic effect on the little creatures whose habitat we’ve destroyed- dormice, voles, small birds. And it also turns out these changes are detrimental to the health of pollinators.



    
Of course, most decisions come down to money – it makes financial sense to work bigger fields which have been sprayed with pesticide and fertilizer to yield more per acre. We, the customers, should be happy because our food is more plentiful and costs less.
But most people have now realised that this is short sighted.  There is a hidden cost and it could prove very expensive in the long run and – worse still – irreversible. The wild animal population  dies out either through loss of habitat or toxins in pesticides. The bee population is no exception. There is also in the bee world a phenomenon called CCD – or Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. This is when the worker bees decide to just take off and leave the hive, never to return. No one single thing has been blamed for this phenomenon. No one is sure why they leave the queen in the nest, with enough food and some nurse bees to look after the other immature bees. It could be one of a number of things, for example,  disease, loss of forage, or habitat, adverse weather and/or intensive apiculture.
So ……..  what to do ?  Well, it turns out there’s a lot we can do, as individuals or organisations.  We aren’t all suddenly going to become bee keepers, but we can all build little oases into our gardens to give pollinators somewhere to thrive – little bee ‘hotels’ in a pile of wood, more areas left to grow wild, grass cut longer so that we don’t disturb nests, more flowering plants. Of course, if you do want to keep bees, either commercially, or just as a hobby so that you can collect some of that delicious honey to spread on your toast or sell at the local farmers’ market, there’s lots of advice from professional bodies like the Bee Farmers’  Association or the British Bee Keepers’ Association.
A bee’s physical appearance is a godsend for campaign organisers –  children love the stripy yellow and black jersey they wear, so designing a  logo for a ‘Save the Bee’ campaign which will engage children is ….well ……. child’s play!
bee2
Lots of initiatives have been launched by any number of agencies – DEFRA, the National Trust, the Forestry Commission, the Soil Association, the RHS, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Wildlife Trust, even Waitrose,  have all succeeded in galvanizing volunteers, businesses and the public at large to join forces and save our bees before it’s too late. We humans always seem to leave it till the ‘impending disaster’ stage to actually do something – but do something we must!
I know one thing: If I was a bee I would be tempted by any of these hedgerow jewels:
     

      

Ah, here’s one!
bee