July 28, 2014

The Village of the Scarecrows

This is an unusual post, not only because it’s about a village of scarecrows, but because I’ve edited the photos, written this text, and uploaded it all whilst on a coach to Scotland (photos from that adventure coming soon!).  Hopefully I’ll finish typing before any travel sickness sets in.

Each year the villages of East Hagbourne and West Hagbourne in Oxfordshire host some fun events.  For St. Georges Day West Hagbourne is full of dragons, and at this time of year East Hagbourne is full of scarecrows.

Although a village of scarecrows sounds eerie, like something from a horror movie, it’s actually quite fun.  The villagers make scarecrows and display them for all to see, which is great for people who pass through the village, as I do quite regularly.  If you fancy a wander around the village you can buy maps from the local pub, and tea and cakes are available from the church.  It really is a community event!

2014 marks the 10th Scarecrow Trail, and has the theme of celebrations. As you’ll see, there’s quite a variety of scarecrows in the village.  This year there were fewer scarecrows than in previous years, but it was still a pleasant way to spend a summers evening.

A scarecrow in a garden with lots of chickens - the owners are previous winners.

This scarecrow has quite a malevolent look on her face!

A very bright scarecrow with maracas and a bottle of tequila.

This scarecrow sat outside the village pub looks likes he had one too many.

A dragon scarecrow, accompanied by the cat below.

A grinning Cheshire Cat.

This scarecrow celebrates those returning from war.  The plate above reads:
“War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Celebrating the safe return to all countries
of their loved ones. Including my father World War 1 and 2. Brothers. World War 2.”

A scarecrow celebrating lives lost in war. The plate below reads:
 “1914-1918. World War 1, or the Great War, lasted for more than four years and in
this time over 8 ½ million soldiers were killed, over 21 million were wounded,
and nearly 8 million were taken prisoner.  In addition some 12 ½ million civilians were
killed or died as a result of the war with little glamour or colour and most troops
suffered terribly from dirt and disease.”

The third war scarecrow, not sure what the baby signifies.

A set of world cup scarecrows.

July 27, 2014

Didcot Power Station Blow Down

In the early hours of 27th July 2014 the cooling towers of Didcot A Power Station were 'blown down'.

The coal fired power station was built between 1965 and 1974 in Didcot, Oxfordshire.  Due to legislation around coal fired power stations, Didcot A was closed on 22 March 2013 and decommissioning began.  Although some hated the 'blot on the landscape' many grew to love the iconic shapes and even more used it as a homing beacon, a familiar sight that meant they were almost home.

Part of the decommissioning process was to demolish, or blow down, the cooling towers.  The site owners set this for 0300-0500 to ensure nearby railway lines and major roads weren't put in danger.  This timing angered many locals who wanted to be part of this event, but when the time came thousands of people turned out to watch anyway.  The hashtag #DidcotDemolition become the number two Twitter trend in the UK, and the demolition made front page news.

I headed to a viewpoint to photograph the blow down with friends.  Standing in a dark field at 0300 with a hundred or more others was an odd experience, and soon came the news on the local radio that the blow down would be at around 0500.  Although this meant a lot of waiting around it meant there was some daylight when the explosives went off at 0501.

The photos below were taken with my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera.  Considering the low light conditions and misty morning conditions, they're not too bad.  The camera was set to a special time lapse mode, where the camera took a series of photos (one a second).  These photos can be processed individually, as below, or in a time lapse movie.  

In a first for Just 10 Photos you can see time lapse movies made from photographs... the photos below are in a time lapse at:

http://youtu.be/CDaTNTNatuU (don't forget to play the HD version!)

And another time lapse movie (made using the Time Lapse Pro app on a Samsung Galaxy Camera) which condenses two hours into a minute-and-a-half.  The movie is at:

http://youtu.be/MIRsEhZDhwg (don't forget to play the HD version!)

The last photo of the towers intact.
Explosives shatter the base of the first tower.
The first and second towers begin to fall.
All three towers fall to the ground.
The third tower splits as it falls.
The towers disappear in just ten seconds.
The blow down leaves a dust cloud.
The dust continues for a while.
...and a while more.
Eventually the breeze carries the dust away to leave a new landscape.

July 13, 2014

Bristol Zoo

A couple of weeks ago I decided to switch off from some recent stressful events for a few hours and head to Bristol Zoo.  The Zoo is home to a variety of animals in a relaxed and quite spacious area.  It's hard to pick a favourite animal, but the red pandas, meerkats, gorillas, all seemed to be popular on the day.

The weather forecast for the day wasn't great, but luckily it was wrong and I was treated to sun for most of the day.  This meant that most of the photos I got were better than expected.  For photos where the animal was behind glass I used my Lens Skirt to cut out the reflections.

The Twilight World section doesn't allow flash photography, so I decided to play with the camera settings see what I could capture in the dark.  Hand-holding the camera I was relying on built-in image stabilisation along with appropriate manual settings (ISO of 25600, speed no slower than 1/60 second, and maximum aperture) to get the best photos possible using the display screen rather than viewfinder.  It's fair to say that low light photography is challenging, and it's one area where I expect cameras to improve in the future.  But the photo of the slow loris below is pretty impressive given how dark it was.  Someone walked past as I was taking photos and commented "That guy's got a night vision camera".

Children play hide-and-seek with a confused meerkat.

Looking two ways at once.

A bat, just hanging around, tries to get an afternoon nap.

A slow loris, photographed in almost complete darkness.

Monkey staring right at the camera.

A naked mole rat scurried through his tunnel home.

An ape looks right down on me, quite scary!

Every wondered how they weigh lemurs? Now you know.

A forelorn looking lion. I think he wanted a cuddle.

An odd sight... a couple getting married, photographed with strong light behind.