Today’s Pictures: 12 Dec 20

For those who want warmth at this time of the year, here’s a shot of the Lassithi Plateau in Crete. Taken July 2008

I walk daily in the Forest of Dean, which is on my doorstep. It’s a place my wife and I love. For both of us it’s a space of spiritual uplift, always helping us feel better as we share the nature on offer. For me it’s also a source of that special creative energy I can then transfer to my writing. Many ideas for novels, short stories, and poems have presented themselves whilst walking among the trees: too many to convert to written works, in fact. But, as all writers will appreciate, you can never have too many ideas!

Recently, we walked down to the River Wye at the bottom end of the village. From time to time, this river, creating a valley designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), overflows its banks and floods some of the properties. This happened a couple of times earlier this year, and some homes had to be abandoned for a while. Others have since been renovated and restored. One of these used to be a cobblers (for the non-British, that’s a place repairing shoes and other leather goods). It has long been a domestic residence. The owners have taken pride in the history of the place and left the shop window in place, filling it with historical artefacts. After the flood, they rescued the artefacts, restored those they could, and re-arranged the window display. We spent an interesting time viewing the it.

The ‘shop’ window.

I noticed a folding Agfa camera and was reminded of my own first camera, a reward from my father for getting a good school report when I was 11. My model was actually a Kodak camera, but very similar in style to the Agfa one in the picture. It took 8 pictures on a roll of film, which cost more than my weekly pocket money at the time, so I had to be sure of everything – exposure, composition, focus distance, – before I pressed the shutter release.

Bottom left is the folding Agfa camera that inspired this short piece.

Later, I took a job as a paper-boy, delivering newspapers before school in the mornings, after school in the evenings, and making two runs with a very full bag on Sunday mornings. That gave me a better income, which I used to buy film and photography magazines. My father was a wedding photographer, with a darkroom in the wartime concrete air-raid shelter that stood in our back yard. He allowed me to use his chemicals and photographic paper in exchange for keeping his car clean.

That need to be careful about what I pictured and how I framed it stood me in good stead as a photographer. After I left school, I joined the Royal Air Force as a photographer and learned a great deal about technical photography, using large folding cameras on big wooden tripods, a variety of twin lens reflex cameras, and my first personal encounter with a single lens reflex. I won a small trophy from my tutors while an apprentice with the RAF, and was their first pupil to score 100% for a finished photograph. Whilst in that role, I flew with Prime Minister Harold Wilson out over Cornwall, where he was viewing the wrecked oil tanker, the Torey Canyon.

Around that time, I submitted my first picture to a British photographic magazine, the very professional British Journal of Photography, and they used this B & W picture as a cover.

When I left the Air Force, I became a press photographer for a while, working for a small weekly newspaper. I travelled to London to photograph the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and ate at St James’ Palace. I also photographed numerous celebrities who visited the area, including Morecambe and Wise, Dame Vera Lynn, Jake Thackery, who bought me a pint, and various others, all now gone. And I started selling illustrated photographic articles to the British photographic press. That was my first venture into professional writing. From that, I began writing fiction, which is where I now remain. But photography remains a real love, and I continue it in a semi-professional role.

A fallen tree we passed en route to the river.

Sharing this post widely on social media will allow those who are stuck indoors, due to Covid 19, to enjoy it. It will also reach more people and, hopefully, illustrate what a wonderful place our world is. With luck, between us, we might restore love and respect for nature and slow down the destructive urge to ruin our environment. Thank you.

If you enjoy my pictures, you may be interested in my gallery, which you can find here or through the ‘Gallery’ tab at the top of the page.

21 thoughts on “Today’s Pictures: 12 Dec 20

  1. Pingback: Today’s Pictures: 12 Dec 20 | In the Net! – Stories of Life and Narcissistic Survival

  2. Thanks for sharing your photographic history. You were clearly very creative from a young age; no surprise you are a writer. What an interesting background. You were in the Air Force. I am also ex-military; army, but I am a commercial pilot.

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    1. Thanks, Lynette. My mother was a gifted artist, painting in oils mostly. Unfortunately, she died a couple of days after my 16th birthday, and never really had the chance to pursue her talent. But I guess I inherited my ‘eye’ from her.
      I joined the Air Force as a way to learn photography after my school ‘careers advisor’ advised me it was the only possible route to such learning. Only afterwards did I discover I could have gone to a local art school instead, which would have suited my personality so much better. In fact, I worked at that art school for a while as a graphics technician.
      I applied to work as air crew in the Air Force, passed the necessary exams, but the medical revealed I had chronic sinusitis, which would rule me out of flying on unpressurised aircraft. They gave me the op to ‘cure’ this, but by the time I was recovered, I’d lost interest in the service and left to pursue a different way of life, so my only flying was occasional trips to take photographs. On one occasion, I was taken up in a helicopter to picture the five different models of transport aircraft then in use; they were fanned out on the pan below me. I was sitting on the floor of the chopper and shooting through the open door. I asked the pilot to tilt at a steeper angle so I could get some better shots. When he did so, I slid down toward the open door. No harness on, just an audio wire to connect me to the pilot. A Flight Sargeant was sitting by the door and he casually put out his arm to stop me leaving the chopper and dropping the 250 feet to the concrete pan below, then spoke to the pilot and asked him to straighten up again. After that, they stuck a safety harness on me!
      I bet you have some stories as a commercial pilot, especially if you were trained in the military.

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      1. Thanks for sharing, Stuart. Sorry to hear that your mother was unable to pursue her talent. Both of your parents were creative, so it seems that your abilities are a natural extension.
        I took the long way around. I was in the military as a peacekeeper (posted to Cyprus and a number of other locations), but I only learned to fly after I was discharged. It began as a hobby but then morphed into other things. I have lots of interesting stories (to me, anyway) around flying and the military, but only a few of them coincide.
        Your helicopter story sounds very military-familiar. Glad you didn’t slid out! 🙂

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        1. My mum was the creative one, my stepfather was a great technician but he had no eye for a picture; a good ‘recorder’ of events, though.
          Cyprus, Lynette? Was that with the UN force? You’re right, both flying and the military experience tend to lead to interesting stories.
          I had a similar experience to the chopper one in a Hastings transport plane, but in that case I was attached to the parachute line with a tether, so I wouldn’t be drawn out of the open doors!

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            1. I imagine that was both interesting and rather frightening at times, Lynette. Your work there, along with your colleagues, has fitted Cyprus for a more peaceful future. The Turks and the Greeks still have their differences, but they’re no longer fighting each other. One more example of religious differences causing conflict, I’m afraid.
              Keep safe and stay well.

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              1. Thank you very much.

                Yes, I agree. For the most part, religion was at the root of it. There were pockets where Greeks and Turks got on (and had been for a long time) but the majority (both sides) were just so stupid and illogical with their so-called issues. It changed the way I saw things at home (the whole two solitudes/English and French issue – I have an English mother and French father).

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                1. Tribalism is a huge problem for humanity, and religion tends to both exaggerate and encourage tribalism, of course.
                  And the French/English supposed rivalry is pretty daft when you examine history. England was conquered by a French king way back in 1066, and it is probably the case that most of the current English population has at least some French DNA in their make-up. We’re more related than many other countries in Europe, and Canada seems to have taken that false rivalry onboard as well. Daft; we’re all pretty much related if we go far enough back in history. It’s always struck me as a real sadness that so many look for differences when a search for similarities would quickly illustrate that we’re all brothers and sisters.

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                  1. Yes, I agree. My mother’s family is from Sussex with a very English tree. I found an especially French surname up the trunk of that tree, along with a couple of others along the branches. The surname I use here was my maternal grandmother’s.

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                    1. Valerie is doing our family history and we both completed DNA tests to try to find relatives. The analysis of mine shows I’m a mix of Scandinavian, German, French, Northern English and just a tiny bit of Nigerian. Since we all emerged from Africa, that latter influence is no surprise, of course.
                      I write under an assumed name, as my own given name when looked up on Google provides a long list of other writers. My biological father died 3 weeks before I was born and I wanted to commemorate him (Mum said he was a lovely man). His name was Ken, so I combined my surname initial with Ken and came up with Aken, which also turned out to be a tiny village in Kent!

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                    2. What a lovely tribute to your biological dad! I have considered getting my DNA checked, but have read about some concerning issues regarding these companies, so haven’t gone down that road. I figure there wouldn’t much in the way of surprises!

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  3. Love your pictures and find your history of adventures fun to read. We all have our adventures and it is fun to read about others. Some adventures may appear quite tame, but to the person experiencing them, they are exciting.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. It’s been a while since I’ve added any text to the pictures in this series, so the memory inspired by seeing that old camera seemed worth sharing.

      Like

  4. Wow Stuart you have quite an impressive history my friend. No wonder you are such a great writer and photographer. How lovely knowing more about your colorful life my friend. The Prime Minister. Great post. Another lovely photograph of a down tree. This one with provide food and life for the forest. Love ❤️ Joni

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    1. Thanks, Joni. It’s interesting that, as age creeps up on us, early memories can resurface with a little stimulus. Seeing that folding camera really brought back these early years and I thought it worth sharing for those who are following this series.
      The fallen tree was one of four along this particular path that runs high above the village and eventually ends, via a long flight of concrete steps, at the river. I loved the slightly menacing look of it in the mist.

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      1. Oh yes those memories certainly do. You have had such an interesting life.

        I bet the forest can look menacing in the mist. Four trees that seems like a lot of friends to lose at one time. I loved that store window. Have a great day with your sweetie today Stuart. Sending you both hugs. Love ❤️ Joni

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        1. Four sounds a lot, but the path runs for nearly a mile and is set into a steep slope so you walk along the contour. The entire length is populated by trees from saplings through to 200+year old giants, and it’s open to strong winds from time to time, so a few losses are inevitable, I’m afraid, Joni. either side of this one are many young trees that will now have space to grow. The open field behind allows the winds to blow freely here as well.
          You take care and stay well.

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          1. Yes, your beautiful forest is aging and living like it is meant too, thank goodness. Such beauty there. You two stay safe too. I am glad you will be getting vaccine soon. It is interesting how cold the temperature has to be to maintain storage of the vaccine. Hugs and love to you two. 🤗💕❤️🦋

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