Along the Wey

At some point you have to eat the broccoli. December thirty was that day. I awoke early with purpose in my heart, ate and drank sparingly and dressed for cold weather. Having lived in the tropics for more than a decade, the presence of cold weather means I acquire blimp like proportions. By 7:30 I found myself at The Meadows, just before sunrise.

I usually come here with a long lens and a fast camera, hoping to capture a hungry owl on the hunt. Today would be different. Yes, I did bring binoculars, but I was here to enjoy the sunrise.

A slow ramble in the cold, is just that; slow and cold. But the emerging colour palette was gorgeous and ever changing as the sun raised its head on this winter’s morning. To me this day symbolised new beginnings as I embrace a more creative life and a deeper relationship with the world.

As I walked along a tributary of the River Wye I saw many bucolic images. The sun was coming in low and sharp giving me a wide tonal palette to work with. To interpret this gorgeous light I would have to resort to HDR photography. Never a fan of this genre, it’s a tool I use when conditions call for it.

All told I captured a hundred and twenty images, most looked very different from the postcard vistas unfolding in front of me. Perhaps I made too many. But today was a celebration, so I celebrated joyously and tried to grasp all of it.

I was so taken by the light, that I paid scant attention to my cold feet, particularly my left foot. I choose, in the moment, to attribute my growing discomfort to the age of my Wellington boots. Later I discovered that I had not dried them sufficiently after the drenching I took a few days earlier waiting on an owl.

The field was bathed in sunlight by 9:30 when I observed a few passerines gathering around a frozen pond for an easy game of catch. I lingered here for a while, tea in one had, binoculars in the other.

When I eventually returned to the car park I was greeted by a disturbing sight. Several men in their mid and late fifties had congregated to spend the day fishing. They observed absolutely no social distancing protocols. There was a moment when I found myself glaring a “Just you dare, buster!” message as a fellow gamely strolling across for a chat. He got the message.

There was a time when I looked forward to these side chats after a good day’s shooting. Sadly, the UK is being ravaged by a particularly active strain of the COVID virus. This makes for a lethal cocktail when you add the stupidity of men and women who think it a hoax or that they are somehow immune.

Back home I back up my images and spend a couple of lovely hours reading and lunching with my family. By now I am quite comfortable having a long backlog of images that need my attention. Today’s images are somewhat different, and I find myself rendering the negative during the afternoon. Later I will study the contact sheets and decide which, if any, should be printed.

I do not use any special software other than Affinity when developing HDR images. Mostly because I use this method to create negatives with breadth in tone and colour. This gallery contains the digital equivalent of proof prints from my initial darkroom efforts; two of these images are from HDR negatives and two from regular negatives. Can you tell me which are the latter?