Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ribblehead Viaduct

Just across the Cumbria border in North Yorkshire is located The Ribblehead Viaduct, and it is the longest and most famous viaduct along the Settle to Carlisle railway. The photo above of me and my dad taken by my godfather only recently came to light following his passing away. It would have been taken in early 1983 when I was recovering from a serious kidney illness. I made a couple of trips to Cumbria with dad staying at The Snooty Fox at Kirkby Lonsdale owned at the time by long standing family friends who still up there. It has been somewhere I have always wanted to revisit and a recent trip to The Lakes with my mum gave me the perfect opportunity to go back there.

This time around I was armed with an SLR camera, and I am sure it was just as cold as there was an icy wind blowing and the first snows of the winter had fallen that weekend. The panoramic photo below was taken in 3 sections and thern joined together, and it gives an idea as to how impressive the 400 metre span is.

It was late afternoon when I got there and the sun was fading fast, and what was amazing was how the weather seemed to be changing by the minute. There were one or two moments when the sun threatened to break through the clouds.

It is only when you get up close and personal to the structure I think that you really get an idea of just how impressive an engineering feet this is remembering it was constructed back in the 1870s, and not forgetting more poignantly over 100 construction workers died.

Simply breathtaking, and the next time I go I will have to allow for even more photography time :)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Weekend in Switzerland

I spent a wonderful weekend in Switzerland at the start of December. This time I didn't go skiing, although with the amount of snow that had fallen it was definitely skiing weather. In fact the flight out was delayed going while the runway at Geneva was cleared of snow. I went to the Christmas Market in Montreux, which is set in a stunning setting at one end of Lake Geneva.The market was lovely with all the stalls set up along the water front and for the first time this year I felt very festive :)

The whole place was adorned with weird and wonderful wood carvings!

The sunset was beautiful casting orange reflections in the lake, and you also had the feeling that the winter snows were never too far away. It was a stunning sunny afternoon, but bitterly cold.

The second and final day was spent at a French Sunday market just across the border in Divonne.

Where else could you buy frog's legs! And no I didn't :)

It was another freezing day and a nice warm glass of vin chaud went down well, and I wonder how little this scene must have changed over the years.

The beauty of going to the market was we were able to buy our lunch from the stalls and take it back into Switzerland and eat it :)

I have to concede that I am not a huge fish fan, but these buggers were pretty impressive!

The weekend raced by, but a great time was had and I am looking forward to going back to ski in March. I didn't even mention the Saturday night Thai meal in a "dry" restaurant! The boys were not best pleased :)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Beating Bowel Cancer Charity Fundraising Photographic Book

In April 2012 the dreaded cancer word came into our family. One minute I was sitting with my mother expecting a normal discharge from hospital, and then in the blink of an eye our world was turned upside down when we were told that mum had bowel cancer. She had been having trouble going to the toilet and was sent to Wexham Park Hospital for an endoscopy, and it was at that point we learned she had bowel cancer. Her treatment involved radiotherapy and chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, before a successful operation to remove it was performed in September. She is making an excellent recovery, although she still faces an operation to remove a cancerous nodule from her lung in January.

The care and attention mum received both at Mount Vernon and Wexham Park was first class, and it was while mum was undergoing treatment that I decided I wanted to do something to raise funds for a cancer charity and give something back. Unfortunately running a business on my own imposes restrictions as to what I could do, but the idea of writing a book seemed the perfect solution. I have been a keen amateur photographer for about a year and the idea I had was to write a book featuring photos on various subjects, ideas and technical approaches. “Beating Bowel Cancer” therefore is a charity book featuring a collection of photographs and the stories behind them to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. All proceeds will be donated to the charity.

The ebook version on Amazon is only £1.65 of which the £0.97 I earn will be donated to the charity. It is for the Kindle, but there are freely available Kindle reader apps for Ipads, Iphones and computers. From outside the UK please use

The physical book version is available for £7.21 (or maybe £6.49 if Amazon keep a reduction in place) on Amazon and can also be bought from Create Space for $11.49. All physical copies will raise £1.01 for the charity.

There is a justgiving page for anyone wishing to make a donation to the charity.

The plan is to try and sell 1000 copies, and as at the end of January 2013 I have sold 138 copies so I have a long way to go! Absolutely every penny I earn is going to be donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. To have any chance of doing this not only am I asking people to buy a copy, but to help spread the word to as many people as you can through as many channels open to you as possible. The marketing seems to be a much bigger challenge than writing the book itself. If anyone wants to know more they can email me here.

The first media article has appeared in the Reading Post, which will hopefully increase book sales and awareness about the disease.

With continuing media interest, and hopefully two more newspaper articles this week in the Reading Chronicle and Maidenhead Advertiser it looks like I will be making my newspaper photographer debut as I have taken a new photo of me, mum and the book to be used by media organisations.

The Reading Chronicle article...

The Maidenhead Advertiser article...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Revisiting Sussex

Going down to Chichester recently to visit my old primary school friend David Beattie meant I travelled down the A285, which was the same road we used to travel down on our family holidays each year as children. It was always an exciting trip and we would head down from Maidenhead on a Friday night after dad finished work or early on the Saturday morning. We would spent the week at Pagham on the South Coast in a bungalow on the beach, and we went there every summer until I was well into my teens.

Once we had travelled through the small town of Petworth we knew we weren't too far from our final destination by the sea. There were two landmarks we would see on that final part of the journey, which I stopped at to take in on my recent trip.The first was Duncton Hill which has stunning views looking across the Rother Valley.

On the other side of Duncton Hill there is the Hanlaker Mill, which as children we would excitedly try and spot first. The windmill dates back to 1750 and was restored in 1934. It is one of the oldest surviving windmills in Sussex. It was the only time each year we would see a real windmill, the only other one would be on the children's television show Camberwick Green!

It was quite a nostalgic drive bringing back many happy childhood memories and also of course of my wonderful dad...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Lake District

Autumn 2012 saw my first visit to The Lake District in 30 years since I was last there with my dad as a teenager. There is no doubt that back then I would not have appreciated the place as I much as I did this time as it was truly amazing. I only had a day there so I crammed in as much as possible, and the first two photos are of Thirlmere Lake. The first snows arrived the weekend I was there so many of the higher peaks were covered in snow making for even more beautiful scenic back drops.The autumn colours were stunning and I loved seeing the low clouds struggling to clear the mountain ranges.

One of the main problems in this modern era of tourism I had was finding parking. The car parks were expensive especially when I only wanted to spend a few minutes taking photographs. So eventually at Derwentwater, where a swan kindly posed for me, I joined The National Trust, which gave me the benefit of free parking immediately in National Trust car parks and also will open up a whole new of adventures for me gong forward with so many places to now go and see in the UK.

The Honister Pass was a pretty spectacular drive with steep inclines and the most amazing views. I got to the point where I wondered if I had taken a wrong turning as the road got so narrow and bendy!

Crummock Lake was another stunning location, although the only problem was finding somewhere to capture a decent photo.

Driving across The Whinlatter Pass gave stunning views across towards Bassenthwaite Lake. Even in early November the roads were a little icy and with the altitude it was easy to appreciate just how easily these roads can become impassable in winter.

After descending down from higher ground I came to Ullswater, and the clouds had quickly gathered showing just how quickly the weather conditions can change here. You here stories on the news about people having to be rescued and I now can totally appreciate how you need to be prepared for any condition when you set off.

My final photogrpahic stop as on the Kirkstone Pub, where the amazing Kirkstone Inn is situated at 1500ft the Inn is the highest inhabited building in Cumbria and the third highest Inn in England. The views looking down from the top of the pass towards Lake Windermere were stunning.

There simply wasn't enough time to do everything in a day, so it just means I will have to go back for another visit. It was quite nostalgic revisiting a place I had last been to so many years ago with dad as I imagine not so much has changed since we travelled some of the same roads back then. It is the most amazing part of England and getting a taste of it has left me wanting more, and so another trip will hopefully be not too far away.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Vineyard Wedding

My co-conspirator on the twoviews blog got married at the weekend, and Jules and Rysz chose the most stunning location of Denbies Vineyard near Dorking in Surrey to have both the wedding and the reception. It is strange, because over the years I have driven past it many times without ever realising that it was there. It was not a difficult decision to decide to stay over night at the farmhouse cottage on site for bed and breakfast. 

The happy couple enjoyed a lovely service, and after photos and a champagne reception we were treated to lunch overlooking the estate drinking the English wines from the estate, which I have to admit were surprisingly good.

After the meal the wedding guests were given a tour of the vineyard. It is harvesting time and the grapes being harvested in 2012 will make it to the bottle in 2015 so its quite a lengthy process.

The happy couple danced the night away with a live band and disco providing the evening entertainment. I could not have felt happier for Jules and Rysz who deserve absolutely every happiness in the world, and it was a truly magical day. After such a happy day I still am holding out on the hope that one day I will get to experience this wedding day bliss for myself :)

Before leaving on the Sunday morning I took a short stroll with my camera after breakfast on a wonderfully sunny morning, which showed autumn looking its finest at this time of the year. What a blooming marvellous weekend!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

On The Change

It's that beautiful time of the year when summer has left us and autumn is taking hold with the leaves on the trees beginning to turn gold preparing to drop. The mornings are pretty cold, but the sun is still strong enough to warm things up during the day. I must admit to hating the cold mainly due to having to work in pretty cold conditions during the winter months. However this time of the year is lovely as it is not yet too cold and there is stunning beauty absolutely everywhere.

With blue skies and an early morning mist slowly being burnt away by the sun it was absolutely perfect for an early morning walk. It was cold enough to be wearing fingerless gloves first thing, but there can't be too many people who can work in such an idyllic location. Of course I won't be saying that when it is freezing in a couple of months time.

And maybe as the seasons are changing there might be some change around the corner for me? 2012 has been a year of highs and lows, and it would be nice to enter the final couple months on an upward spiral welcoming some good fortune into my life and those close around me.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Photography in Sonning

I went to the beautiful village of Sonning-on-Thames to try and get a "Night" shot for my other "Two Views" blog. Sonning is a place I have a massive affinity with having spent seven years being educated there at the Reading Blue Coats School, and many more years receiving further education at The Bull Inn in the village! The place is central to many of the great friendships I enjoy to this day. Whilst I was waiting for the sun to go down I tried doing a panoramic photo for the first time and I was pretty pleased with the above picture as a first attempt. The process involved taking three pictures overlapping each one, and then using photo editing software to stitch the photos into one.

From the other river bank the setting sun provided a beautiful backdrop to the bridge. The water was absolutely still giving great reflections. I had hoped to get a nighttime photo of the bridge, but without any lighting this proved impossible as once the sun went down even trying all kind of different exposures didn't really work. As it turned out this being the photo when there was most light was the best one I got from this position.

And finally as I headed back through the village to my car I decided to try to photo car light trails for the first time and once again for a first time effort I was really pleased. The effect was achieved by using a long exposure. So although I didn't quite manage to get my "Night" photo I came away with plenty of photo knowledge gained from the experience and what a lovely place to spend an hour with my camera.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Fighting Bowel Cancer

September 12th 2012 was a massive day in my mum's battle to beat bowel cancer as she underwent major surgery to remove a tumour from her bowel. Since being diagnosed back in April and beginning chemo and radiotherapy, everything  had been leading up to this moment. The way mum has battled the illness head on and handled all the treatment so bravely has been totally amazing and she is truly inspirational. It is interesting the way mum has focused more on everyday mundane issues such as worrying about whether her plants in the garden will be looked after properly whilst she is in hospital rather than the operation itself. She did an amazing job at putting it out of mind...

The day is itself was spent mainly waiting on tenter hooks for news. We all managed to speak to mum first thing while she was waiting to be taken down for surgery, but there was little else we could do except send her all our love and directing positive energy and thoughts in her direction. I arrived at work at 7:15 to a beautiful sunny morning. Quite cool with an early morning mist beginning to lift, but just a lovely September day. Walking the dogs gave me the perfect opportunity to clear the head and prepare myself for the day ahead.

On such a day it is probably best to try and function as normally as possible, so work wise it was business as usual with my brother Noel off out delivering the packaging materials. As lunchtime came and went my sister Alison had arrived, and we made our first call to the hospital at 2:00 to see if there was any news? Still no news and we were told to leave it until 4:00 before trying again. The waiting game is not so easy as you are desperate to be told something reassuring to put the mind at rest. So I took the dogs for their lunchtime walk a little later than usual and headed for my favourite path that takes you up into the hills away from everything and is just so so peaceful...

We finally got news at 6:00 to say mum was back on the ward. We had been warned that she might end up in intensive care after the operation so that was one immediate worry removed. We had also been warned to expect lots of tubes, possibly a "bag" and mum to be asleep and pretty much out of it. To our huge delight mum was awake, alert minus some of the tubes we were expecting and no bag. She was very chatty and it was astonishing how good she was considering the enormity of the procedure she had undergone. Fortunately the surgeon had been able to perform part of the procedure as keyhole surgery, which he hadn't thought would be the case initially, and this has made a huge difference to the condition of mum post operation. We won't know for a while as to the total success of the procedure in terms of getting rid of the cancer, but fingers crossed it has done exactly that. She still faces a long road back, but none of us could have wished for a better outcome all things considered, and she continues in the way she has so far she will make a complete recovery quicker than we know it!

Why the picture you may ask. When I went out for my walk in the morning I took my camera with me as it was such a beautiful start to the day, and the scene was peaceful and tranquil I couldn't resist trying to capture and on such a day a little bit of photography was a welcome distraction.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Growing Up Fast...

A lovely family get together is always something pretty special, and September 9th 2012 was no exception. My niece Anna turned 6 and is beginning to grow up very fast now. The weather was kind to us on the day with a lovely sunny late summer's day.

Anna must now have shares in the Disney Store as her collection seems to get bigger and bigger!

A rare shot of the Darvell clan together with Daisy Duck making a guest appearance.

If ever a picture can tell a story well this one of mum does, as she was unaware of me taking a picture of her while she was watching in the garden.

It was also a time for a little reflection as mum enters hospital this week for major surgery on bowel cancer, which we hope will be a successful cure to an illness she has been battling against this year. Mum's determination to carry on as normal and her dogged determination to beat the illness has been truly inspiring!

The day was full of laughter with Anna as ever the star of the show! Having said that Daisy Duck seems to be in most of the photos too!