Living Lens photo weekend , 12-14 Nov 21

Some time back I was looking at courses whereby I might improve my Lightroom and Photoshop skills and as I Googled I came across Living Lens which was offering weekends of photography. That promised an opportunity to get away from the rather uninspiring landscapes of Cambridgeshire with a little instruction thrown in as a bonus so I signed up and early this month ended up in the New Forest.

I’d not really been to the New Forest before so that was a first for me. It is a forest and although we weren’t blessed by the best of weather we did seem to hit it at the height of its autumn colours.

There were only six of us on the course, those standing in the photograph. The lady in front is Mary McDowall who looked after the course’s logistics. Behind the camera for this shot was Pat Cummings who provided the instruction.

We had a super hotel, the Woodlands Lodge within the New Forest and a walk out the back garden giving you immediate access. It’s not large but is well appointed with excellent food and excellent service. With that sort of combination you really can’t go far wrong.

Our first afternoon on the Friday was just a walk out of the back of the hotel. I reckon I took my best photo of the weekend early on that walk but captured several other good ones too. I found that the colours were impressive but on their own said little. I followed the advice of James Popsys to make them more photos about things than simply of them.

It didn’t rain at all over the weekend but we didn’t get much sun either. That meant that our attempts on Saturday at sunrise (at Janesmoor Pond) and sunset (at Hatchet Pond) were unrewarding.

After an excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon accompanied by a proper coffee, an Americano from the espresso machine, we set out the next day to overdose on autumn colours.

We started at Rockford Common from which we had access to Bratley View which is maybe the highest point within the New Forest. From there we took in more trees and their leaves and got our first close ups of ponies at Mogshade Pond. My pony photos are sadly uninteresting.

We also stopped at a good place to practice some ICM. That’s Intentional Camera Movement and it can give you some nice visual effects. I regard it more of a case of been there, tried that, done it.

We had lunch at the Red Shoot where I made the mistake of ordering a non-alcoholic lager before gong via the Ornamental Drive, to get us completely saturated in Autumn colour, to Beaulieu.

Beaulieu is on the river of the same name which drains a large pond in the village. Sadly when we were there it was empty pond time. It’s also the home of the Marques of Bath and his motor museum which is now described as the National Motor Museum. Unsurprisingly there’s also evidence of historic and classic cars within the village.

On Sunday morning we headed off for a change of scenery. We stopped first at Milford-on Sea which is a pleasant seaside town with sea defences which make for an excellent promenade and from which you get good views of the Isle of White and the Needles

Finally we ended up in Lymington, a ‘picturesque coastal village’. It’s a great place if you want to photograph lots of yachts and their display of vertical masts, which I do, there’s also evidence of some local fishing and there’s nice high street leading down to the harbour area with a good number of cafes, artisan food stores, boutiques and estate agents. Not a bad place to live I guess.

It was a good weekend although I felt it petered out a bit towards the end. But did I learn anything?

Well yes. I’m a lazy photographer and work with a 28-200mm lens which is fine for most situations. I also set my shots up at f5.6 and minimum 1/125th with auto ISO. I came unstuck with landscape photography where I needed a little more depth of field and with close-ups when I wasn’t precise enough with respect to my focus point. Good lessons learnt.

There’s a more complete set of photos from the weekend at

Stent plus two

Today is exactly two years since I got my stent. I’m particularly aware of this because Google Photos has told me with pictures of my journey from Addenbrooke’s to Royal. Papworth.

Of course lots more has happened in those years than my really rather trivial experience of living with my stent, and of course a lot has not happened as our freedoms have been, not unreasonably, constrained because of Covid.

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Living off the NHS

As if my angioplasty wasn’t enough of a drain on the already stretched NHS finances I’ve been on a drug regimen since which I’m sure isn’t exactly low cost. I’m down to four medicines now, two each morning and evening, but started on six and then went up to seven. I thought it would be useful, maybe interesting, to list them and perhaps understand their role in keeping me healthy and prolonging my life.

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5 life (career) changing decisions

Everyone’s life is the result of a mix of chance and decisions. You can’t do much about chance but it’s the decisions you make which map out your life. I reckon that there’s five decision which I’ve taken which, successively, have meant that I didn’t become an academic, a long term oil industry employee (and very possibly an American citizen God forbid), an old Asian hand, a senior Dow Chemical manager or a salary man through to retirement. 

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My mother didn’t have a happy life

I don’t mean that it was uniformly unhappy but after a promising start she suffered a misfortune which, despite her undoubted mental strength and determination, was to blight the rest of her life.

Audrey Vickers was born in 1923 and as far as I know enjoyed a happy childhood in a stable and loving but fairly strict family environment. Her father was a successful butcher and the family lived ‘over the shop’ in Wepre Buildings in Connah’s Quay. She went to the same schools, and was taught by some of the same teachers as me: Dee Road Infants, Custom House Lane County Primary and then Hawarden Grammar. From school she went to teachers training college as was the norm in those days for many girls who’d made it through to the 6th form. She secured a place at IM Marsh in Liverpool.

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