27 July 2014


This year, Monmouthshire County Council, along with several other councils, has planted wildflower verges along several roads and traffic islands.


Apparently, it saves mowing, it enhances the environment for residents and perhaps most importantly, provides luscious feeding grounds for insects.  The bees needed no signposts to find them!
A couple of them consisted of poppies only, providing the most glorious spectacle as the dense planting created an intense swathe of colour.


..And early morning sunshine provided perfect rim lighting  



30 June 2014

The Lost City

What an amazing place!  

Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the 1400s about 80 years before the Spaniards plundered Cusco, the Inca capital, in 1533.  It is thought it was built for the great Inca Pachacuti, and a self-sustaining population lived there for many years.  After the Spanish conquest, it was abandoned but, unlike the other Inca cities, which were largely demolished by the Spaniards, this legendary site was never found and remained hidden in the mountains until 1911 when it was rediscovered by the American historian, Hiram Bingham.  After two years of excavation, the full wonder of the city was revealed but its inaccessibility meant that it was visited very little during the first half of the 20th century.  However, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
We arrived in thick cloud and were unable to appreciate the famous vista from the Sun Gate.   However, the next day, after a rest in a very agreeable hotel, we were able to explore it in relatively clear air.  Although it is at 2430m, it was quite easy to negotiate after the rigours of the Inca Trail.  On the bus back, a Japanese lady showed me her passport - she was 85 and had just spent the day there, so if anyone wonders if they will struggle, take heart!!  It helps to be acclimatised to the altitude but  as you can walk around at your own pace, it isn't too difficult.

6 June 2014

Morning mist

The day we arrived at Machu Picchu was very wet.  Although we were at altitude,  we were close enough to the Equator for the temperature to be like an English summer's day.  This turns the landscape into cloud forest and explains why the Inca Trail is festooned with lichens and decorated with begonias and orchids, all pollinated by hummingbirds.   Very unlike an English summer unless you're in a garden centre.  

Having reached the Sun Gate, we waited for an hour for the thick clouds to part.  We were keen to get the iconic view of the Lost City but got too cold from waiting and had to set off towards it.   Evidently, it was cloudy all night because when we went back in the morning, the thick mist was just clearing.  So here is a view of us all listening to our guide at sunrise

26 May 2014

Cusco, Peru, photographed by Linda Wright

Cusco was the capital city of the Inca empire.  It was even called the 'navel of the world' - clearly they didn't get out much. But it was the centre of their world - a haven in the Andes and an established and well-ordered civilisation until the invasion by the Spanish in 1532.  This view, taken from the heights above the city, near the ancient fort at Saksaywaman, shows, if nothing else, the dramatic big skies that develop every day as thermals rise in the mountain air.  The city was thought to have been built in the shape of a puma - one of the revered animals.  Despite our many attempts, and help from our guide, we couldn't see it.  But it is kind of imaginable on the tourist maps.  Anyway, whilst scrutinising the landscape for the famous Temple of the Sun, I had actually not noticed the brilliant sky until looking at the pictures in the UK.  And photographers are supposed to be observant
Taken with the Fuji X Pro1, which I plonked on a wall for stability.

24 May 2014

A Fuji X Pro 1 Abroad

A year ago, I was invited to go on a trekking adventure in Peru.   I jumped at the chance and paid the deposit.  At that time, the holiday seemed so far away that I hardly gave it a thought.  But after the New Year, the challenge of getting fit for altitude and collecting all the gear became a great preoccupation.  The process was not helped by the fact that I caught flu then developed shingles in the two months before leaving, but that's another story

By far the hardest decision was which camera to take.  I wanted to carry a full frame Canon but it was too heavy, even for the Kymin training walks, so I settled on a Fuji X Pro1.  It's a compact system camera, really tricky to hold and fiddly to operate (in my opinion), not least because the optical viewfinder is off centre, and the electronic one doesn't have the lovely clear resolution that you get in an SLR.  Despite this, it had a wonderful reputation and the lenses are lovely, so I thought I would give it a go. I took the precaution of packing the user manual as, often on my Kymin walks, I was stumped with some of the controls. If nothing else, it would be something to read on the plane. The story unfolded in South America but I thought I would share some of the Fuji images, and even some of the events of this fantastic trip.  

The day after we arrived, we took a dawn flight across the Andes to Puno.  I unpacked the Fuji, climbed over friends to get to a window, and saw this first view of snow in April.

I have to admit to some editing in Photoshop as shooting through the double thickness of the plane window gave blue-ish images distinctly lacking in contrast and sharpness.  

I had no expectation of good photos with the Fuji - I was comparing it with the oh-so-easy-to-use Canon, and not having access to any viewing device in Peru, I had to wait to get home to see if there was anything worth keeping. I was pleasantly surprised on reviewing them and think the Fuji is going to find itself on lots more trips in future.  In this shot, I was pleased with the detail that could be extracted, and started to look through the other pics with a little more optimism.  More to come...

30 September 2013

The older you get, the more people you know and, inevitably, some of them lose touch.  These days, Facebook is a great way to avoid that, but in the dim and distant past, friends would never have had that opportunity.  When i was thirteen years old and leaving Canada, where we had lived for three years, i made a pact with my best friend that we would look at the sun every day at noon so we could always be doing something together.  In those three years abroad, i had forgotten how hit and miss the opportunites were to see a noonday sun in Britain!!  I also hadn't reckoned on the five hour time gap, so despite my early efforts, we probably never got to do this simple thing together.  However, I never forgot the pact, although did lose touch with my friend - and that was only one of the many regrets I had on leaving Canada.  It is a truly beautiful country.

Recently, I put all forthcoming full moons in my diary in the hope of photographing them.  Everyone was raving about the size of the harvest moon this month, so I was ready...  However, I was fiddling around on Facebook when it rose and when I suddenly remembered, it was already high in the sky, very bright and disappointingly small.  I'm setting an alarm for the next one!

However, when I put this pic on Facebook, a friend in Arizona said she saw it too - so the notion of looking skywards still works!

So this is for all friends scattered around the northern hemisphere.  Friendships, like celestial bodies, never change...

(Click on the image to see it in higher res.)

4 September 2013

Never too old to learn

I thought I had sussed out how to take photos but always found it difficult to get the exposure right when facing into the sun.  Then I talked to a guy over the weekend who suggested switching to auto ISO.  I also changed the camera to spot metering and linked the principal focusing point to the meter.  Spent a day today in lovely warm sunshine trying out the new configuration.  Spot metering is a bit demanding when the birds are flying but works exactly as you would expect.  Definitely a good strategy for the future.  Here are a couple from today