Photo Blog

I love observing nature and the changing seasons during my Norfolk countryside dog walks accompanied by my ever-faithful canine companion Starrydog. I especially enjoy taking photos of Norfolk butterflies, wildflowers and other flora and fauna that I happen across while exploring local nature reserves. Visit my Norfolk nature photo blog to keep up to date with my photographic adventures and enjoy my butterfly photos.

The Beast from the East

Winter definitely had a vicious sting in its tail this February. A "sudden stratospheric warming" over the North Pole, in itself disturbing at this time of year according to climatologists, caused a sharp cooling in lower levels of our atmosphere and via a complex chain of meteorological events reminiscent of the metaphor about the butterfly that flapped its wings on one continent and caused a hurricane on another, brought about heavy snowfall that covered virtually all of the British Isles.

An unusually strong and harsh northeasterly wind stream dubbed the "Beast from the East" triggered a bitter cold snap then swept in heavy snowfall, which was in turn intensified by strong drifting due to the fierce, biting winds that blew continuously for days. 

Here in big sky Norfolk we were heavily exposed to "the Beast" and much of the county was cut off by incredibly large snowdrifts formed by its winds. These, I noticed, were far deeper in areas where the farmers' field verges lacked hedging, a stark reminder of the environmental value of this oft overlooked habitat, which for many years was ripped out to maximise the yield potential of the land in ill-conceived agricultural efficiency drives.

Thankfully many incentives now exist for re-establishment of these vital wildlife corridors and natural windbreaks, so hopefully Norfolk will improve its reputation among hedge layers in years to come. 

"The Beast from the East" blowing snow across an arable field, creating a misty haze

Clouds on the Mountain

Turbulent cloud formations hover and swirl above Mount Teide. 

I made it to Tenerife after all. The weather in January was markedly cooler than in our previous December visits and characterised by high winds. Neither my camera nor I ventured far, except for our now customary road trip up to the peak of Mount Teide Volcano.

The atmospheric conditions were striking. My favourite photo depicted the powerful, windswept clouds above Pico Viejo, looming over the beautiful yet arid lava plains. In a way the photo is a metaphor for turbulent times, both in personal life and on the global stage, where the weather also feels windswept, and changeable, with a highly uncertain forecast.

If you'd like to see more, I've added a collection of my favourite Tenerife landscape and seascape images and a gallery of the cetaceans that reside off the coast there to my image gallery.

Autumn's Golden Gown

"So fair and foul a day I have not seen..." grumbles the ill-fated Macduff at the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth Play. It felt a little like that in Norfolk this weekend

I enjoyed two dramatically different walks among birch trees within twenty four hours; my first a gloriously golden morning showing off Autumn's golden cloak in all its finery and then, courtesy of Storm Angus, a  brief, soggy wind and rainswept excursion which made Litcham common feel very much like a blasted heath.

A wet spring and mild autumn lacking the autumn storms we've had of late has enabled us to enjoy a glorious long-lived golden autumn foliage season this year. But with harsher, stormier weather approaching it may be time to say one last goodbye to autumn's rich vivid beauty and face the cold embrace of stark, hollow Winter, who, after  lurking in the wings for a while and is now stretching out its dark frosty talons.

Golden light shining through the autumn canopy onto fallen leaves

A beautiful mature silver birch tree cloaked in sunlit golden leaves

A storm-swept silver birch sapling looses its leaves under leaden skies

Winter beckons

Silver Sea Lavender Skies

Sometimes muted grey skies can be a blessing in disguise, as was the case with this shot. High contrast full summer light can be tricky to contend with during the day. This soft pastel palette of sea lavender in Holkham bay was only possible thanks to some heavy leaden grey cloud skies creating soft even light conditions. Taken with the new Olympus 300mm pro-lens.

Blowin' in the Wind ....

A Red Poppy for the Somme

In a momentous week that has witnessed a constitutional crisis in the UK and political skulduggery to rival Machiavelli, perhaps the most important event of all was remembering that, only a hundred years ago, Britain was in a state of war with another European country. Our grandfathers were about to face the onslaught of the Battle of the Somme, the most fatal of all battles in the “War to End All Wars”.

A simple common red poppy (papaver rhoeas) blowing in the wind serves to remind us that many, many men gave their lives for our freedom.  The peace , prosperity and personal liberties that our European generation has enjoyed until now was won only through the greatest of sacrifices that most of us in our modern lives can’t even imagine – the blood spilled by our forbears.

Our week’s events, when viewed from this bigger perspective, suddenly seem to be all about petty self interest and almost inconsequential. But we can’t afford to take the life we lead today for granted, things could easily be far worse. Intolerance is a slippery, treacherous slope and can at first seem quite innocuous.

Above all we should not forget what the European project was all about when it first started.

Just one little word....

Peace

Springtime in der Eifel

Spring has well and truly sprung with a couple of weeks of glorious weather in the UK and the continent. Here a small selection from a short trip to the beautiful Eifel Nationalpark on the German-Belgian border, with lush meadows dripping in springtime wildflowers and vivid dappled green woodland trails bursting with life...

New season's foliage in deciduous woodland on the slopes

Apple tree blossom on a hot sunny circular walk around a 45 thousand year old Meerfelder Maar - a volcanic crater and lake or "Maar".

Wildflowers and butterflies were very similar to those in the UK with cuckoo flower, dandelions, stitchwort and marsh marigolds and dandelions in the downland meadows.

An enticing dappled woodland trail on the Lieserpfad hiking route

Lone Pine in Lava Field

I was spoilt for choice in picking December's photo of the month, having enjoyed a repeat festive trip to Cologne Weihnachts Markt (blog followers, the piano man was still there playing) a beautiful walk at Cley beach as well as having a multitude of landscape photos from my second visit to Los Gigantes in Tenerife. Yet it was this simple, stark shot of a lone pine tree in a blasted lava landscape on the flanks of Mount Teide volcano that has stayed with me.

Perhaps because it simultaneously represents both the fragility of nature and its stubborn resilience. The barren lava flow depicts the sheer magnitude of devastation that nature can unleash - despite Man's hubris these are forces well beyond the power of humankind to influence or control. Yet in that small, vibrant splash of green the image also contains a germ of hope. However bleak the landscape may become, nature soon starts to fight back; this young little pine tree is the first tree in a slow process of recolonisation of the lava-blasted the volcanic foothills centuries after the violent 1798 eruption that created this strange landscape.

Autumn Haze

Autumn is a capricious season, with shortening days cloaked in gold, rust and greytone. Some days dance lightly, soft and still, cloaked in a gentle warm haze, lulling us that summer's still close by. Others lurk darkly, oppressive and leaden, lumbering irrecovably on towards winter.


Hunstanton Sundog

Parhelion at Sunset - Hunstanton, Norfolk

On my last landscape trip I witnessed a truly beautiful natural phenomenon. As I arrived at Hunstanton beach and gazed at the sunset it appeared as if there were not one but two setting suns in the sky, both positioned low on the horizon, the second with a hint of a rainbow-hued glimmer in an arc shape. This optical atmospheric effect is called a parhelion, or sun dog and is one of many types of ice halos  caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight through small ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. I discovered that the atmospheric conditions had also created the faint sun pillar in the photograph, which is not  caused by a vertical ray of light at all, but by the glinting of many tiny hexagonal-shaped plate ice crystals, the same shape of ice crystals that create sundogs. 

Many thanks to atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley for his assistance in identifying the specific type of atmospheric optical effects I observed and photographed in this image and to the clear scientific explanations provided by his website of the many unusual atmospheric phenomenon  that can be observed by day and night. Click here to see a scientific diagram explaining the optical effects in my image

Storm Clouds

We seem to be having April's weather in May this year all of a sudden, which has given me some amazing big sky scenes from my own doorstep. Here's a very simple composition, a "skyscape" image of nothing but clouds brewing into a full on storm that I took on the verge across my road in quite magical evening light.

Autumnal Change

As the seasons are finally turning things are changing in my life too. I am finally taking my first steps into photography tutoring and its a wonderful reminder of the creativity that taking up photography as a hobby can unlock in people. It put me in mind of the period when I was still very much on the steep part of my learning curve and was starting to experiment with my camera. This was a shot taken in Scotland trying to evoke the essence of autumn.