Picos de Europa

Last year I was looking on the web for somewhere different to photograph. I also wanted a variety of subject matter. A friend in my photography club had been to northern Spain and I decided to give it a look. The terrain on a map looks quite mountainous and there are good walks, lush vegetation and some wildlife. I trawled the net for a short photographic break and came across Imber Court Photo Training, run by Ashley Gardner. I asked for details and got a speedy response and enrolled on a break with him.

In total there were 5 plus Ashley in a large comfortable VW plus all the gear. We were based at the Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya – what a super choice of base camp that was. The place was just brilliant and I had a large room with a view of the mountains from my window. All meals were just fab, especially breakfast – the largest buffet I’ve ever seen.

The days were planned between landscapes and birds and on the final day, a trip up a cable car to snow covered peaks on top of Fuente De (1823mtrs) – it was cold up there. The cable car took just under 4 minutes to get up there and we managed to get in the first car of the day, despite the efforts of a German tour leader, keen to get his people in first. Cheerful banter like “Oi – stop queuejumping” and “don’t mention the war” were taken in good spirit and all 20 of us got to the top to be amazed by the sight.

I can recommend this trip – Ashley was extremely thorough in his approach, also knowledgeable and helpful so take a look – he doesn’t do many trips as far as I can see, but they’re worth it. Here’s some images – thanks to my fellow travellers Alan, Colin, Mark and Valerie for making the trip enjoyable as well.

Croatia – Places & other stuff

Further to my last post, here are some of the places we went to see. The Krka Falls are just spectacular and although there were plenty of people there, it was too early in the season for the swimmers so there was no roped off foreground where they were allowed to swim. The church and monastery on Vis by night was beautiful and looked so tranquil. Sue found the monument in Vodice to the Victims of Communist Yugoslavia particularly poignant. I liked the Monument to the Sun in Zadar – it is solar powered and lights up at night with constantly changing colours. Also, although we couldn’t see it, we heard the Sea Organ at Zadar – Google it for a good set of images and explanation.

The route into Milna on Brac Island was very picturesque and there was a lovely church interior to see, but next door was a really squalid looking building with no roof and varying amounts of detritus inside and outside.

As I said in my last post, this ship was small and there wasn’t really anywhere to be on your own but we met some nice people – the crew were very helpful and so was our tour leader, especially when I fell on the last but one evening. There was a leak coming through a light fitting and the wooden floor in the bedroom was saturated and I got up in the middle of the night and slipped flat on my back. Luckily no bones broken but I was sore for a week.

Finally, our cabin is the one indicated – the doors open directly on to the walkway around the ship so you need to keep the blind closed!

Clumber Park

I booked a day out with Fuji-X ambassador, Chris Upton. I’ve had my X-T3 for a while now and am enjoying it but thought a few tips and tricks from someone who knows the camera inside out would help. I spent some time with Chris working through menus and shortcuts and learnt a few goodies and then we went into Clumber Park to take a few images.

When we returned, we processed a few images, had lunch and went our separate ways – the day vanished somewhere just like that. Thanks for a great day Chris.

Bordeaux River Cruise

We saw this cruise a long while ago and Sue said it would be a great break for her birthday so we booked. The first time we’d been with Viking and the first time down to Bordeaux.

The cabins on River cruise ships are mostly smaller than on ocean going ships but they didn’t waste any space when they designed them – a place for everything. We had a couple of days in one cabin then were upgraded because our old cabin was in need of some work. We ended up with a lovely cabin with balcony.

We had been looking forward to Bordeaux – an f4 Photographic friend, Dave Robson, had shown me pictures of the Place de la Bourse with water reflections (Google it) but, because of the current actions of the Gilets Jaunes, they had drained all the water out so it was pretty unspectacular. However, to make up for it, we were berthed near a skateboard park and I managed to get a couple of decent action shots there, plus, there were a lot of attractive young ladies dressed in tutus in protest at the Gilets Jaunes so they were worth pressing my shutter for!

The Rivers Garonne and Dordogne were much much wider than I had expected, with quite strong tides and a lot of wildlife. I saw a great number of what I believe were Red Kites, up and down the river but they were a long way away and I didn’t have a long enough lens for them. Most of the small towns we visited were also quite unspectacular but pleasant enough to walk around. Our visit to a vineyard, Chateau Rayne Vigneau, was interesting – there were wall to wall vineyards in every area you could see – very pretty.

The best evening without a doubt was in Chateau Kirwan where we went for dinner, served by the ship’s crew – who were excellent – Viking looked after us very well.

Snowdrops at Burton Agnes

I’ve been quite lazy with the camera so far this year. There’s lots going on later but at the moment when it’s cold wet and miserable I don’t really feel happy. It was dry yesterday though so I ventured as far as Burton Agnes to see the lovely show of Snowdrops on the woodland walk. I didn’t take many photographs but at least I got out.

Merry Christmas

Yes – it was!

We went to Bowness again to the Belsfield Hotel where we went last year. Not many new things to take pictures of but we met our friends Martin & Maxine Shelmerdine again and had a good catch up. The weather was quite kind but a lot of mist on one of the days curtailed the walking. Still, a nice trek up Brantfell gave us a good view over Windermere and burned off a few Christmas calories. As you can see, one of the 12 drummers drumming got left behind – probably too much prosecco on Christmas Eve.

All in all a Merry Christmas!

Rhodes

“We’ve never been to Rhodes” was the wistful murmur. I knew what was coming so got the credit card out. “I’ve seen this hotel” – I turned the computer on. “I need some sun before winter” – we made the booking.

I was looking forward to this as well. We stayed in a hotel just outside Lindos, it was built into the side of a mountain and the people at the hotel were just lovely – nothing too much trouble. The room was spacious with good sea view as well. We hadn’t planned to do much, other than get the bus into Lindos for a stroll around and to go on an excursion to Rhodes at night. I was particularly looking forward to that, the camera was at the ready and so were the sea legs (we were due to have an evening cruise around Rhodes harbour). It chucked it down with rain whilst we were on our excursion but not before we’d been bored to death by a tour guide who wanted to impress us with his in depth knowledge. Granted he was a knowledgeable man but 20 minutes standing under a tree talking about how to defend Rhodes from incoming attacks isn’t really seeing the sights of Rhodes. Also, the evening cruise turned out to be 30 minutes in complete darkness on a local ferry with no apparent points of interest to point the camera at. The worst value excursion I’ve ever had.

Here’s a few images from Rhodes :-

Lisbon

My birthday treat from Sue was to go to Lisbon. We flew from Liverpool with EasyJet which was quite painless and got us into Lisbon early afternoon. We went to the information desk to get some Lisbon cards to make best use of buses, trams and trains and asked where the taxi rank was. There were hundreds of people just outside the entrance milling around and we found out that the taxi drivers were on an 8 day strike, protesting at Uber being given more licences than the official taxi drivers. We opted for the bus and waited in the queue, only to get to the head of the queue and find out we needed to buy a ticket before we got on. Instant panic and I just managed to get tickets whilst Sue stayed in the queue. When we asked for Avenide do  Liberdade, where our hotel was, the driver said he couldn’t take us there as the road was closed off owing to the taxi drivers’ strike but we would be dropped off 10 minutes away. For 10 minutes, read 25 minutes with a stop for beer on the way. It was boiling hot and dragging a case along cobbled streets and map reading at the same time isn’t the greatest of fun. We were 200 yards away from the hotel (although didn’t know at the time) and we asked a group of 4 policemen where our hotel was but they didn’t know……

Anyway, after the travel trauma we got to our hotel and it was just lovely – not a brilliant view out the window but a great room. The bar was good but the food in the restaurant was decidedly average for the price. We went out on subsequent evenings and had mixed success. One restaurant with a sniffy waiter and average meal, next one much better – and the final evening we decided to go to a small family restaurant in a back street near to the hotel. We had looked at it previously and thought it might not be very good and given it a miss, despite it getting great reviews on the net. However we decided we wanted to stay local on the last evening and walked to it to see if we could reserve a table. The two guys sitting in the front of the restaurant (looked like someones front room) were taken aback that someone wanted to reserve a table but booked us in. When we get there later that evening we were asked where we wanted to sit – there was nobody else in which we thought a bad sign. We ordered a wine which he hadn’t got but he offered a substitute for the same price which was great. The menu was short but we took that as a sign that the food would be good – it was excellent. Then an Asian lad started to play accoustic guitar and one of the two lads who took our booking sang. They were both quite good. The downside was that the second guy then went to do some washing up and left the Asian lad to sing – he was just awful. I think 1 out of 25 notes was in tune. By this time the restaurant had started to fill up and one girl at another table who seemed to be known by the guys, got up and started to sing and rattle her maracas. She sang a couple of Fado type songs which led to a healthy discussion about the origin of the song between head waiter, guitar player and a couple of Belgians at an adjacent table. What a great evening for almost half the price of the two nights before.

I arranged with the hotel to get me a taxi driver to take me to a couple of places to take some night time photographs. It was a bit windy and I couldn’t get to all the places I wanted to but here’s a few images from my birthday break.

Thanks to the couple in the Park for posing against the statue_DSF4912 watermarked

f4 Photographic Group go to Maldon

An f4 trip to somewhere new. Fresh challenges like, what do we photograph, what’s the beer like, what have I forgotten, have I remembered to register my car with reception, where’s the nearest ATM – all spring to mind. Discussions earlier in the year led us to Maldon. Colchester with it’s history, Maldon and West Mersea with the Thames barges and numerous coastal landscape spots, a potential photographer’s feast.

The weather was reasonably kind to us, with the notable exception of when we visited Walton on the Naze. I was expecting more from the tower at one end but the pier at the other, together with a sudden onset of fog, made for some interesting results. We visited a couple of good restaurants, one on the seafront at West Mersea and the other, a Thai restaurant in Colchester. The third was an Indian restaurant in Colchester and I have to say that even a sardine would have felt uncomfortably squashed, there was that little room.

Anyway, here are a few images from the break, including the one that won “Best of the Annual Trip” – “Thick Fog at Walton”.