Thursday, 9 April 2015

Never work with children or crows - on the wildlife of southern India

Indian house crow
I am recently returned from southern India, where my senses were battered and bruised.

Noise, poverty, heat and dirt.

Difficult to reconcile with my life back at home. So many mixed emotions about what I have, that others have not.

A challenge to photograph for one who normally escapes to quiet, remote places where the only sounds are lapping water, wind in the trees and birds in the sky.

I have many images to sort, and plan a book. But for now I'll start with some birds and animals, for they were one of the most striking things about the streets of Chennai, Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram.

Here in suburbia I don't bump into cows and goats in the street.

cows graze on the streets in town

Cows wander at random. They cause many accidents on the roads as people strive to avoid hitting them.

Goats also roam freely

Cows also enjoy the beach

Dogs are everywhere.

Dogs are everywhere
and they mostly all look very similar

best not to mention the rats in the canal at Pondicherry

Better to focus on the crows, for they were everywhere. The Indian equivalent of the seagull.

crows in Pondicherry

Down at the beach they were having a ball.

They particularly enjoyed the infinity pool.

crows enjoy the pool

my attempts to make them look graceful in flight spectacularly unsuccessful

almost graceful. 

I am never going to make a wild life photographer.

never work with children or crows

I find zebras much more co-operative

Zebra, Pondicherry

Owls too.

owl, Pondicherry

I need more patience.

nature, time and patience are three great physicians

I need more time.

And I definitely need a regular dose of nature.

Birds and trees will do it.

Crows or otherwise.

I wouldn't be without them.

Birds and trees are all I need.

Except maybe this crow, who doesn't know when enough is enough. I think I was invading his territory.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Thoughts of a tourist on the massage table in India


I am in an Indian hotel. 

OH has been here on business, and I have been persuaded to join him for a few days. He likes it hot. I like it cold. Currently it is 34 degrees. 

On arrival we got one voucher for a free beauty therapy at the spa.

OH ( my other half) insisted that I use my free voucher. 

15 minutes of beauty therapy. 

Designed to get me into the spa and wanting for more. I was reluctant, but he insisted...

As we have been up since 5.30 am to see the local sights before the heat of the day, I succumbed to his pressure after breakfast. We have a long day ahead, and the weather is very, very hot.

A young man at the spa reception desk looked in his diary. As far as I could see, the day had no bookings whatsoever . 

'When would you like to come' he asked

'Now please'.

No time like the present.

He pencilled me in with care. No discussion of what treatment was being offered. OH left me in his hands and I was ushered into a room. 

Door closed, curtains drawn. I expected a young lady to appear. But no. I was in the hands of the male receptionist, behind closed doors.

The young man instructed me to lie down. I lay on my back. He told me to turn over. I lay on my front, and through the head hole gazed down onto a bowl of beautiful red flowers floating in water, carefully placed on the floor below. How very relaxing , thought I. 

I still had no idea what to expect, and felt somewhat apprehensive alone in the room with this silent man. No one else around. As always, I expected the worst……..

I'd rather be at the beach.

the beach, Mahabalipuram

And then it began. Fifteen minutes of therapy in which my mind wandered……..

Ah ha!

It is a leg massage

He oiled my left leg and started massaging my calf. 

Ow. I cried 

Sorry, said he.

Up and down the calf and then down to the ankle

This is meant to be relaxing. Relax. Try to enjoy this. At least I have all my clothes on....
I wonder where the other staff are?

Why is massage always so painful?
At least there isn't any whale or dolphin music.

Now the toes. Each one individually crushed between his fingers.

That hurts too. I'll try to keep quiet and pretend it is nice. 
Does he expect a tip? Oh dear. I have no money on me. What will he think? And I haven,t shaved my legs properly. All this running around in long trousers in the heat in order to be respectful to local custom has allowed my standards to slip. 

Are my legs a lot fatter than local ladies' legs? Does he think they are disgusting?

At least I had a shower before breakfast, so my feet are clean.

Back to the calf. 

Don't laugh. It is not supposed to be funny. Pinching and flicking. And now bending my leg and ankle . I hope I am as flexible as I should be. I am so 'relaxed ...

Second leg.

I know what is coming now. A facial would have been so much more relaxing. Slick, pummel, pinch, stretch, press toes, press heel,stretch ankle, flick  vigorously and slide hands over tender muscles from ankle to knee.

7 minutes each side.

All over in a jiffy. 

Would I like the oil wiped off?

No thanks, I think I'll keep it as a souvenir .


I am not sure I'll be back. Not for a bridal body massage or a Serena mud rub. Certainly not for the deep body massage, and not in a million years for the Serena Dhara synchronised body massage with two 'therapists' simultaneously, which will have a  balancing effect on the deepest recesses of my brain. 

Not a good idea. You never know what might be hidden in there.

Time to relax by the pool.

It's free, much safer, and I can listen to the sound of a hundred crows cawing under the shade of a coconut tree. 

crows and a coconut tree

Monday, 23 March 2015

In which I find a man under a very small bridge and discover the secret world of Geocaching

remnants of a forgotten summer

Photographically I am stuck.

No idea what I am working towards.

Spending more time deleting images from my hard drive than creating new ones in an attempt to regain order over my collection.

One option might be to stop making new images and work with what I have.

Which sounds great in theory, but I make images in order to relax, and without a camera in my hand I don't feel right.

So this week I tried a new tack; take only a very small, fixed lens camera with me on a late afternoon walk as the sun was sinking after a day at work, and hope that I can find something to make images of, but also half hoping that I don't. Less images = less storage. Less images = better quality. In the days when each negative exposed had a monetary cost I was much less prolific.

hedge © caroline fraser

As usual. I got a bit obsessed with the hedges. Low sunlight catching the new growth waiting to burst into new leaf.

The small camera with a 20mm lens perfectly adequate for the job.

Not quite so good for the pond, but the blue skies reflected nicely on the very still surface.


I tried to look nonchalant when pointing my camera at the top of the hedge; passers-by clearly not sure about my intentions.

But then I came across a troll, under the bridge over Kydd brook.

A troll with a white beard and a peaked cap.

His intentions were so unclear to me that I had to stop and ask him why he was 'trip-trapping' under my bridge.

At which point he became a very excited troll, and told me that he was 'GEOCACHING'.

At which point I displayed my ignorance and asked him what that might be.

At which point he got even more excited and started dancing around under the bridge in an attempt to explain.

'GEOCACHING' he said 'is the best thing ever'.

'My wife and I have travelled the world and had so much fun'

'We have come all the way from Zimbabwe to find treasure here'

'And what is the treasure?' quoth I .

In which team GBS find the treasure under the bridge

'It is this.........'

Team GBS in action

And indeed it was.

A small piece of paper hidden in a small plastic capsule under my bridge that I have walked over more than a thousand times.

He proceeded to expound on the joys of travelling to new places with the aim of solving clues, having wonderful walks in the countryside, and sharing his finds with over 2 million people over the rest of the world.

I have to say, he had me hooked. The enthusiasm was oozing out of him.

So what is Geocaching?

Basically it is treasure hunts for grown ups. The website is here

And here's a little video that explains a bit more.....

It turns out that there are many geocaches hidden in my woods.

And I never knew they were there........

Geocaches in Petts Wood and Hawkwood

It also turns out that my troll is Gavin Blair of Gavin Blair Safaris

You can see him here with his white beard and peaked cap.

I know, because it says so on his hat.

And what a delightful man he is.

And how extraordinary that he comes all the way to Bromley to seek out and photograph a small piece of paper under a bridge, when he could be out looking for elephants, lions and hippos.

What a wonderful world!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Out of the darkness and into the light

wind, blue ropes, a rook and a stream; a cure for seasonal affective disorder

I seem to have been suffering from a mild case of SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder)

This became clear to me when the sun shone brightly last week and I suddenly felt happier than I have for weeks. I had forgotten what it felt like.

SAD is cured by exposure to light.

light in my hallway

Light is uplifting.

Photographers seek light........

No excuse for SADness then.

I have sat down to write this blog many times in the past 2 weeks and found words would not come.

I wanted to tell you about the exhibition 'Magnificent Obsessions' that is currently showing at the Barbican in London. But I couldn't think what to say.

It is a lively exhibition, capturing the idiosyncrasies and personal collections of well known artists; what goes on behind closed doors.

I wanted to write about Martin Parr's wonderful collection of postcards; the highlight of the show for me.

'Totton Bypass' was particularly fine.

in the days when there were roads with practically no cars......

As was one from the Stoke on Trent potteries.

Who would you send these to?

The collection was amusing and banal. Ordinary life, captured on pieces of paper to send through the post.

We have some old postcards. Tree lined streets in suburbia. Polite messages on the back from the mystery admirer of a local lady.

in the days before cars.......

The show is about the artist as collector.

I came face to face with The Hare with Amber Eyes from the personal netsuke collection of the potter Edmund de Waal. Small, beautiful and very old. A collection that inspired the book of the same name.

no bigger than  a button

It got me thinking.

What do I collect?

  • Photos

Currently Lightroom informs me that I have 35,974 photographs.

And when I back up my files I have nearly a million. Which makes me wonder what the other half a million are? I will probably never know.

Suffice it to say that one of the reasons that I have been low on productivity recently is because I have been doing more techno-geek stuff; installing a new external hard drive and future proofing my collection.

I never thought I would be able to say ' I reformatted my new Lacie 2big Quadra into Raid 1 mode' and lived to tell the tale. This involved poking the back of my new Lacie 2 big Quadra with a cocktail stick, because the little plastic device that they sent for the task broke on the first attempt.....

  • Stones

Stones have been a bit of an obsession recently. They are all around the house. Free souvenirs from beautiful places around the world. 

They say creativity comes from doing, so I shall keep doing until something comes along that evolves into a proper project.

For more stones see here

  • Birds; some made of stone. others of wood, clay and metal. A modest collection.

And that is about it.

bird on a stone talks to a stone bird

Innuit stone bird in Norway

Innuit stone bird 

So now you have seen my entire Innuit stone bird collection. 

Maybe I will collect some more. It can hardly be described as a 'magnificent collection' as it stands.

Next stop, adding keywords to my 35,000 images........

Then I will be able to find the ones that I had forgotten existed. I am considering a project based on selecting forgotten images from my archive by the use of random numbers.......

It could be almost as banal as the Totton Bypass.

And if it doesn't work out..........

never mind

A much over used phrase in my opinion.

Monday, 2 March 2015

life choices in the Lofoten islands - food or photography?

snow in Harstad
Other half (OH) and I are in Norway.

OH has been persuaded to join me on a photographic adventure to the arctic circle.

He normally stays at home when I go to cold, wet and rainy places. He likes his destinations hot and sweaty. I am the reverse, relishing nothing more than packing a bag full of thermal underwear, waterproof trousers and my hiking boots.

I have wanted to visit the Lofoten Isalnds in Norway for some time; ever since I saw images by David Ward from one of his tours there a few years back.

I have been harping on about going there for a year or two……… and to my delight, OH has agreed to come too. I need him to help if I get stuck in a snowdrift. The weather can be very unpredictable up here.

I have learnt a few things since we arrived.

  1. I would rather be out making photos than eating.
  2. OH would rather be eating than out making photos.
  3. There is no shortage of spectacular scenery to make photos from.

Oh dear.

We started in Harstad, where it became clear that snow is everywhere, even in the town centre. This is the arctic circle, after all. Where there is a plentiful supply of sheet ice. We trod carefully.


We made it to Vinmonopolet, to acquire liquor. 

We made it to the supermarket to get sandwiches.

We made it to the historic church. It was closed.

I could happily have taken photos of the trees, church, graveyard etc. But OH wanted to see the museum, and having dragged him all this way it hardly seemed kind to deny him his bit of history. He loves history. The older the better.

But the museum was closed.

We decided not to camp, and started our journey to destination number two.

The only sign in English in Harstad. As if…….

Time to get on the road, get to the scenery.

The scenery was snowy. The snow was piled high on the sides of the road. There was nowhere to stop and take pictures. And where the was, the view was obscured by trees.


A picnic in a lay-by. Standing on a sheet of ice.

Food on a table of snow.


This is not a place for fine dining.

This is the land of fish.

Fishermen, fishing villages, fresh cod and dried cod.

Fish going all around the world.

We visited Myre and Nyksund, in Vesteralen.

A place where signs leave little room for the imagination.

The air smells of fish.


Fresh cod is shipped around the world or dried to make stockfish; unsalted dried cod.

cod drying on a wooden rack 


Even the music festivals revolve around cod.

Codstock poster on stockfish drying racks

Myre fishing boat heads out to sea.

Nyksund -  a deserted fishing village

This is not a place for fine dining. You can't get fish and chips, or even a cup of tea.

OH gave up and cooked us  some eggs and bacon in the microwave.

fine dining a la microwave

I stopped worrying about about food and decided to go out and do some photography.

before breakfast at Sortland

before dinner in Svolvaer

Tomorrow night I am designated chef.

I fancy toast, jam and some green vegetables.

Lofoten in winter ( after lunch)