Category Archives: Owls

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.

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 !

Kington Owl Centre


A favourite place of mine to take photos is Kington Owl and Rare Breeds Centre, and it so happened that this year (2014)  the weather for the weekend of Mothering Sunday – March 29 and 30, was great so I decided to make the most of it by spending an entertaining few hours at the centre in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside

An  added bonus at this time of year is that there are lots of baby animals and birds to see as well and they are high on the cute-ometer.
The first thing you see as you walk in are three or four owls on perches. They are tethered but they’re tame enough to stroke.

entrance6Obviously, these owls have been rescued as babies and are very amenable but there’s no getting away from the fact that they are still equipped  with sharp talons and beaks. Next stop -for me anyway- was the cafe to stoke up on cherry cake and coffee and plan my campaign. You can buy some very cute cuddly toys in here – ponies, owls and llamas,  and all sorts of books and games, and also specially formulated food for the animals.

Outside I headed along the row of pens containing rare breed sheep, miniature ponies and a pair of Kune Kune pigs, who could clearly smell the buckets of food being swung about by excited children.


It would have taken a brave child to feed this pig, though – he grunted and squealed and looked like flattening the gate altogether as he rose up on his hind legs in his efforts to get at those buckets.

now whereOpposite there was a  paddock with some far more attractive creatures – a small herd of alpacas, who to me always look a bit bewildered, especially when you see them in the English countryside – they seem to be saying ‘Hang on, where have the Andes gone?’

Back inside I came across some tortoises, an array of rodents including chipmunk, mice and guinea pigs and then passed the owl incubators, containing two balls of downy feathers,  and went back out into the sunshine around a series of walkways and cascades which housed the ducks, like this lovely mandarin duck, preening those beautifully coloured feathers

geese and a pair of very serene black swans, who were obviously practising tai-chi as they each balanced elegantly on one webbed foot.

tai chi swan

At the top of the field were several aviaries which were home to some exquisite Asian pheasants with  exotic plumage and beautiful long tails.


pheasant9.jpgIt’s such a shame these creatures have to be caged. I felt the same way about the tiny red squirrel I came across later, which, for reasons best known to the keepers, was located inside the Owl Garden – in a separate enclosure, of course, but it seemed a bit like putting  a sheep in with the wolves.


For me the best part of the centre is the Owl Garden – a collection of aviaries housing rare and striking owls from all over the world.

greatgrey camuflage

Most of them sit on their perches and stare implacably out at the world – even the arrival of supper in the form of day old baby chicks, didn’t cause any commotion – apparently they prefer to wait until visitors have left for the day before they tuck in. (I’m sure most visitors would rather it that way too!!)

But I was lucky to come across two young Ural owlets from Scandinavia.  They were about 10 months old, and compared with the rest,  were very feisty, flying up to the wire fence to peck at the camera.

owl7       owl8


We should find these nocturnal creatures with their silent flight, amazingly penetrating eyes and spooky, swivelling heads frightening but instead they are endearing, comical even,  because they have been caricatured in  popular  literature.

And who hasn’t read ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’  by Edward Lear?

Here it is again :

The Owl and the Pussy Cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above

And sang to a small guitar,

‘O lovely Pussy!  O Pussy my love!

What a beautiful pussy you are

You are!

You are!

What a beautiful pussy you are!

Pussy said to the Owl,    ‘You elegant fowl!

How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a ring?’

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

To the land where the Bong-tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

With a ring at the end of his nose,

His nose,

His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

Your ring?’            Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’

So they took it away, and were married next day

By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.