Posted on 1st October 2017 by Admin under Comment, Location, Photograph, Technique

There are some places which I visit regularly, not because of their photographic potential but simply because I enjoy being there.  One such place is the Swannery at Abbotsbury.  It is situated at the end of the Fleet, a lagoon which lies behind Chesil Beach.  Usually swans are very territorial and do not nest in close proximity.  However, availability of food and the brackish water make such ideal conditions for rearing young that they tolerate each other and assemble in numbers.

The Fleet was formed after the last ice age, so it is likely that swans have nested there for thousands of years.  In medieval times, there was a monastery at Abbotsbury and the monks took advantage of the easy availability of swans as a source of meat.  There were strict religious dietary requirements which only allowed the consumption of fish on some days.  Apparently, the meat has a fishy flavour so the monks applied some inventive logic.  If it tastes like fish, it must be fish.  As a consequence, they actively managed the colony, a practice which continues to this day.  Not that anyone eats swan these days and the place has become a tourist attraction.

While I find the setting to be calm and restful, there is more to a photograph than that.  Public access is restricted to specific areas and opening hours do not coincide with the best light.  Swans are large, heavy birds which makes flying strenuous.  Take-off requires a long, energetic run-up across the water and landing also requires space for the bird to come to a halt.  Seeing a swan in flight, while not rare, is not that frequent either.  That limits the opportunities for action shots, especially as swans moult during the summer and are flightless for around six weeks.

The challenge is to find something a bit different.  In the spring, when they are laying their eggs, swans are not very active.  They seem to spend most of their time resting so when I was there earlier this year I took some close-up shots.  Then, as often happens, I moved on to something else and forgot about them.  I came across them again when I decided to enter my club’s annual monochrome competition.  It is a good one to do as entry is limited to prints, my preferred medium for the presentation of photographs.  I had two images which I knew I wanted to enter, but needed a third.  For a while, I was going to use one of a staircase at the Tate Britain building, but that is becoming a common subject these days.  The swan it was to be.

Portrait of a resting swan

(Click on the image for a larger version)


I had taken the shot with the swan’s head level in the shot and wanted it at more of an angle.  Rotating it removed more from the image than I wanted and resulted in too tight a crop.  I needed to create a bit more space around the head and neck.  Photoshop has a very useful Fill function, which has got me out of trouble on more than one occasion.  I enlarged the canvas and used Fill in Content Aware mode to fill the empty space.  Fortunately, the swan’s body consists of similartextures and it worked well.  It is not a technique I would expect to be successful in all circumstances.

Head at the desired angle, I headed off into Nik Silver Efex Pro for the monochrome conversion.  It remains the best software I have found and Google’s cessation of support is a concern.  At some point, it will probably stop working if it becomes incompatible with another software provider’s update.  Being mainly white, swans make a good subject for monochrome and I opted for a high key effect.  Finally, I added a catchlight to the eye.  It was not there in the original but judges, without exception in my experience, always want to see one.  It is a dilemma.  Pictorial purity or marks?  I went for the latter.

My first attempt at printing was not a success.  I chose a lustre paper and set the longest edge to 36 centimetres, my standard size for competition prints.  It was way too large for such a subject and the paper unsuitable.  I eventually settled for 24 cm and a matte paper, Fotospeed’s Smooth Cotton 300.  It is one of their Signature papers, which by Joe Cornish endorses.

I finished it off by setting it in a mount made using Daler’s Cumulus Cloud mountboard.  It is not a pure white and has a swirly texture, which I like.  It sets the print off very well.  Normally the orientation of a print and mount work best when there is an alignment of their longest edges.  That works less with a small print in a large mount, which is 50 cm x 40 cm as is customary at camera clubs.  I rotated the mount through 90 degrees so its shortest edge went against the longest edge of the print.  Too central a positioning within the mount would have looked too static, so I weighted it towards the top.

The final print

A picture is worth a thousand words. The mounted print.
(Click on the image for a larger version)


So how did my makeweight image do in the competition?  The rules state that the monochrome contest is only open for new work.  In a sense, one of my images was not new.  I have had it in competition elsewhere and it has always done well.  It was, though, the first time I had used it at my club.  If there is one thing predictable about judges, it is that they are unpredictable and there is no such thing as a certainty.  Predictably then, while it got a reasonable score, it was the least favoured of my submissions. That said, it is this shot and was the most daring/riskiest of the three compositions.

The swan?  Well that came top.

Flower Shot With an Old Pentax Lens

Posted on 27th September 2017 by Admin under Adapted lens, Comment, Equipment, Location, Photograph
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Yes, the blog has been a bit quiet recently.  There have been plenty of good intentions to write something.  Ideas mulled, even articles started, yet never coming to fruition.  Maybe inspiration was not quite there or, as has more often been the case, life intervenes.*  Luckily my livelihood does not depend on posting regular updates and I can write as a hobby.  Besides taking a break can recharge the batteries, as it were.

So here we are, another post started.  If you are reading this then you will know this is the one to have broken through the logjam.  My topic is one I have visited before, namely using adapted lenses.  Back in the days of film, I shot an Olympus OM for many years.  Eventually I switched to Canon when Olympus failed to adopt autofocus. There followed many years of using Canon, which included the switch from film to digital.  Nowadays, Fuji cameras are my usual choice.

I had, though, retained my OM gear.  Being manual focus, second hand value was never great.  I always wondered how the lenses, bought new at some expense, would compare to their modern counterparts.  After many years the opportunity finally came when I acquired a Fuji X-E2, which has various aids for manual focussing.  That was never especially easy using the optical viewfinders on most DSLRs.  Admittedly live view helps, but is not always convenient.  It has been the introduction of mirrorless cameras which has really revitalised the use of older manual focus lenses.  An increase in prices over recent years is testament to that.

True, with an APS-C sensor I do not use the full image circle of a lens intended for shooting 35mm film, but that is not an issue for me.  People using adapted lenses generally fall into one of two types.  Those who have an interest in how the lens performs technically or those who want to use the rendering characteristics as an integral part of the final image.  Modern lens designs are great at achieving sharpness, but on occasion something a bit less clinical can be preferable.  While I have an interest in performance, once evaluated I tend to use adapted lenses as part of my everyday photography.

“New” Lens

My latest acquisition is a mint Pentax K SMC 50mm f/1.4, which does not look as though it has had much use. The lens also came with its original leather case, which is immaculate.  It is the same optical design as the Super Takumar 50 f/1.4 with all metal construction and M42 mount.  That is the version designed for Spotmatic cameras and the one for which classic lens collectors will usually opt. Pentax introduced the K mount in 1975 and my example could date from any time since then.  The company does not publish details about manufacturing dates, but there have been several variations of the mount which is still current in AF guise.  Mine appears to be to be the earliest version, so my best guess is that it is around 35 years old.

Stopped down, the lens is very sharp from f/2.8 onwards, but performance at wide apertures is where the interest lies.  It remains sharp but can confer the subject with an ethereal quality.  Nailing focus at f/1.4 can be tricky at close distances when I will often prefer to shoot at f/2.  It helps that the extra depth of field benefits most subjects.  The compact Pentax has justifiably earned its place with my regular kit.  It is surprising how often it seems to find its way onto my camera.

Flowers As Subjects

Finding subjects which benefit from shallow focus can be tricky.  One of my uses is to isolate the background when doing family shots.  That is personal work, which I do not publish.   A lot of people resort to flower photography.  So why should I be any different?  I found this one during a recent trip to Sissinghurst, the gardens created and made famous by authors Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson. I was fortunate that conditions were overcast so there were no harsh shadows with which to contend.  Additionally, there was no wind so the flower remained still.  A useful consideration when focussing manually.  I have some shots at f/1.4 which are sharp, but I used a setting of f/2 for this one.

Unknown Flower

A flower shot taken at Sissinghust using a vintage Pentax lens
(Click on tyhe image for a larger version)


Admittedly my botanical knowledge is not that great.  I tend to lump anything with a bloom under the general category of being a “chrysanthemum”, but even I can tell this flower is not one of those.  That stated, I have yet to find out what it is, hence its working title is “Unknown Flower”.

* Interruptions to writing this article have included:

  • a call from my motor insurance company
  • a visit from the window cleaners, who turn up ad hoc every few weeks
  • contacting a company which should have made a delivery but failed to turn up
  • lunch
  • a cold caller wanting to speak to “Mr Emm”.


Photo of the Day – 7 July 2016: Bottles

Posted on 13th July 2017 by Admin under Comment, Photograph
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The phone rang.  It was a friend who is also a keen photographer.  “What are you doing?”, she asked.  As it happens, I was in the middle of editing this image.  I had just completed the adjustments in Lightroom and was about to convert it to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro 2.  When I said I liked the shot, she wanted to see it.  I simply selected the Black and White option in Lightroom and sent her a copy in its interim state.  It be would be fair to say that she was unimpressed.

Old stone bottles

Bottles – the final image


One suggestion which my friend made, and which I took up, was a square crop.  I had been experimenting with a 4 x 5 ratio, but there was not much happening on the left hand side.  A square crop made more sense.

With the revised composition and the monochrome processing complete, the image got a much better reception.  The conversion to black and white, using Silver Efex Pro 2, had brought out tones and textures which not been previously evident.  There were two points of criticism.  The first concerned the out of focus area at the bottom of the shot.  The suggestion was to crop it to have more of the image in focus.  The other advice was to straighten the vertical on the left.

The best way to view an image is to print it.  Which I did as I wanted to see how valid the points raised were, in particular whether the shot requires complete front to back sharpness.  In my opinion, the bottles are the focal point and the bread board provides a counterbalance.  A moderate crop is possible, but I would not want to go too far.  I like the way that the light falls on the board and the darker area holds the eye in at the bottom.  Moreover, having the foreground out of focus helps give the image a feeling of depth and directs the eye to the main subject.

Regarding the leaning vertical, yes, it is a distortion.  Not due to the lens, though, as the photograph was taken in a 14th century house.  The wall might have been straight once, but time has long since intervened.  Given that diagonals provide more dynamic tension than horizontal or vertical lines, I see no reason to apply a correction.  If correction is the right word, given that is how it was.  From the age of everything in the scene, it should be apparent to the viewer that the building has acquired some character during its existence.  The sloping wall is telling its own story.

Photo of the Day – 28 June 2017: Lily

Posted on 2nd July 2017 by Admin under Photograph
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Thus was not a photo which I expected to take.  I had seen this lily a number of times as I walked past it each day to buy my newspaper.  An attractive flower, certainly, but that was all.  It was growing in someone’s front garden right by the pavement, but I had not thought anything more of it.  On this particular day, heavy overnight rain had left water droplets which gave it that something extra.

Fortunately, I had my camera with me.  That is not usually the case but on this occasion I was able to get a couple of shots.  It shows that even on a familiar walk when there seems to be little of interest, the unexpected can occur.  Carrying a camera can pay didvidends and this was one one of those times.

Lily with raindrops

Lily with raindrops


I did experiment with a black and white version, but after leaving it for a day or so before coming back to it, I decided I preferred it in colour.  This is a subject which can look good in monochrome, but not on this occasion.  There are actually very few colours and the yellow stamen lifts the image, giving added interest.  Which is another lesson.  It often pays to wait a while before making a final decision about the treatment of an image.   The initial reaction is not always the best one.

Monochrome lily

Lily with raindrops – monochrome version


This post is part of my occasional “Photo of the Day” series.  I publish shots which I think might be of interest and tell the story behind them.  They might not necessarily be portfolio standard images, nor the final version, but still be of sufficient interest for inclusion in my blog.  If I do not show a shot on any given day, it does not mean that I did not take any photographs, just that I did not get anything worthwhile.  For me, that is part of the fun of photography.  Not knowing what I will find on a shoot when I have nothing planned.

Brooklands Double Twelve Motorsport Festival – 17 June 2017

Posted on 25th June 2017 by Admin under Comment, Event, Location, Photograph, Technique
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Brooklands Museum is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while, so I took the opportunity when a fellow member of my camera club suggested a trip there.  The occasion was its annual Double Twelve Motorsport Festival on 17 June.  If I am honest, I was not entirely sure what that involved, but it was obvious there would be more activity than usual.  And there would be vintage cars.


Brooklands speed trial competitor

A competitor in the Brooklands Speed Trial


It turned that the event was more special than I had realised.  As well as the usual speed trials, the museum was celebrating the re-opening of the finishing straight from the old Brooklands motor racing circuit.  Cars would be driving on it for the first time in nearly 80 years.  It was the first motor race track in the world and for many years was simply “the track”.  There were no others and it was an innovation ahead of its time.  Races held elsewhere took place on public roads closed off for the purpose.

An accelerating Bugatti

Bugatti is a famous name, but this was the first time I have seen one being driven, courtesy of the Brooklands finishing straight re-opening event.


As a pioneer of motorsport, those at Brooklands were responsible for creating many of the terms in use today.  Their solution was to take them directly from horse racing.  It is the reason, for example, that cars assemble in a paddock when there is not a blade of grass in sight.

Speed Trials

The historic Brooklands track, complete with its banking to allow drivers to maintain high speeds, is no longer in full use.  Instead there is a separate circuit where speed trials were taking place.  The shots below show some of the competitors and was a chance to try out my panning technique.  I set my camera to continuous AF and continuous shooting.  Shutter speeds were between 1/60 and 1/80 and usually at least one shot in each burst was sharp.  I would hope to improve on that with a bit of practice.

Going flat out

Panning practice at the Brooklands speed trials


Brooklands speed trial

Another of the competitors


Brroklands speed trial

Yet another competitor. It was surprising just how many people were taking part. The speed trials went on all day.


Brooklands Finishing Straight Re-opening

The main event, though, was the re-opening of the finishing straight.  Besides motorsport, Brooklands was also the centre of aircraft manufacturing.  A visit from the Luftwaffe one night during the Second World War destroyed one of the buildings.  Its replacement was a rapidly erected hangar assembled on the nearest area of flat space, the finishing straight.  It remained there until recently, when support from the Lottery Heritage Fund enabled its relocation to an adjacent part of the site.  Even some naughty bankers unwittingly helped.  Some of the fines for manipulating the Libor rate went towards the cost of the work.  Eventually, after many decades, it was possible to see the track surface once again.  It has been repaired rather than restored so much of the original concrete remains.  Bumps and all, the announcer informed the assembled crowd.

After some, necessary I suppose, speeches and the cutting of a tape, the real fun began.  A series of historic motor vehicles took it in turns to drive on the track.  Most were over 80 years old, yet their drivers did not treat them sparingly.  There were also some near misses as they demonstrated what their machines can still do.

Sun in the eyes

This Itala 40 HP was the first car to drive on the newly re-opened track. It was a hot and sunny day and this driver appears to be shielding his eyes from the glare. In reality, he is waving.


Alfa S76

This car gets my vote for most bonkers vehicle of the day. It is the Fiat S76 which the Italians built in 1911 to take the world land speed record from the Germans. In those days, gaining more power meant bigger and bigger engines.  The one in is this car has four cylinders and a capacity of 28.5 litres. It develops 300 HP at 1,900 RPM which propelled it to a top speed of 135 MPH. Standing nearly as tool as a man, it has, for obvious reasons, a nickname. The”Beast of Turin”.


A noisy car

All that engine and power comes with noise. As this crop of the previous image demonstrates.


Vieux Charles III

After the most bonkers car, this is the one least likely to pass an emissions test. The photographer in the background must have been choking as the “Vieux Charles III” set off on its run.



This a car I never thought I would see. John Parry-Thomas drove “Babs” to a world land speed record of 171 MPH in 1926 at Pendine Sands. The following year, the car overturned during another record attempt, killing Parry-Thomas. As a mark of respect, the car was buried in the sands, but forty years later was dug out and restored. Something which I had not realised.


Overall, it was a very enjoyable day.  It was also one of the sunniest and hottest of the year.  The harsh light proved suitable for shots of moving cars, but not for many of the standing exhibits.  There was a lot of chrome on display and it was difficult to avoid glare in many instances.  I do not usually do much vintage car or motorsport photography, so the event made an agreeable change.

Photo of the Day – 13 June 2017: Foxgloves

Posted on 15th June 2017 by Admin under Adapted lens, Equipment, Location, Photograph
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Foxgloves at Emmetts Garden

Foxgloves (photographed with an adapted Helios 44 lens)
(Click on the image for a larger version)


Not so much as Photo of the Day on this occasion, more like Experiment of the Day.  Ever since I got my Fuji X-E2, I have developed an interest in using adapted lenses.  Mirrorless cameras with features such as focus peaking have made it easier to use lenses from other cameras.  All it requires is an adapter to attach lenses with otherwise incompatible mounts.

Initially, I tried out my old Olympus OM glass.  In the main they were good optically, as you would expect with from a company with Olympus’ reputation and experience.  The exception was the 35mm f/2.8 which was not especially sharp.  Researching other people’s experience on the Internet indicated that this is typical of the lens.  Mine is not a poor copy.  Applying a lot of sharpening in post capture processing brought it up to acceptable levels, but I would not want to use it on a regular basis.

Helios 44 Lens

A while back I wanted to try a lens with a reputation for a bit of character in its rendering.  I ended up purchasing a Helios 44 f/2 for £23 on eBay.  The lens came as standard with the budget range Zenit cameras from communist Russia.  Unrefined they might have been, but those Zenit cameras were the introduction to photography for many.  Despite its low end origins, nowadays the Helios 44 has a cult following.  It has become desirable due to the way it renders out of focus areas with a swirly bokeh.  The optical formula derives from the classic Carl Zeiss Biotar design which dates back to well before the second world war.

Carl Zeiss originated in Jena in eastern Germany and came under Russian control at the conclusion of the war.  The Russians took much of the tooling from the Carl Zeiss works back to Russia as part of war Read More

Photo of the Day – 10 June 2017: The Best Show In Town?

Posted on 12th June 2017 by Admin under Comment, Event, Photograph
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Warning: NSFW.  This post contains nudity

It is usually my custom to place the main image of my “Photo of the Day” articles at the head of the post, with any supporting images following.  For this post, I have instead put it at the end.  The reason is simple.  It shows people who are naked taking part in a public event.  Opinions vary about depiction of the human form and I respect everyone’s right to have their own views.  If you do not wish to see the pictures, I politely request that you do not read further.

It is a risky enterprise.  It might be called “Flaming June”, but it is not necessarily a month to ride naked on a bike around London.  That did not stop a significant number of people doing just that in the annual Naked Bike Ride event.  The weather was kind on this occasion and the sun shone warmly on the participants.  Somewhat incredulous that people would strip off, I went along.  Surprisingly, public nudity is not illegal provided there is no intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress.  Good behaviour is all, it seems.

Naked Bike Ride

A participant in the 2017 London Naked Bike Ride opting for a distinctive look
(Click on the image for a larger version)

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More from the Chelsea Flower Show – Part 2

Posted on 29th May 2017 by Admin under Comment, Event, Location, Photograph
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This is the second instalment of my supplementary images from the Chelsea Flower Show.  The main photo of the day can be seen here.  The first set of additional images are here.

All images are shown as thumbnails, which can be clicked to show a larger version.  Use the back button of your browser to return to this post.

Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War garden

Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War
This was a very popular garden which always had a large crowd in front of it whenever I tried to see it. The best view I could get was this one from the side.  There was a central copper clad central structure, which is just visible behind the foliage.  I quite like the sense of mystery, with something hidden behind the leaves.


M & G garden detail

Detail from the M & G garden.


M & G garden detail

Another view of the same detail from the M & G garden.


Plant ammonite

This “ammonite” is actually made from plants.



There seemed to be lupins everywhere.


Welcome to Yorksire garden detail

Yes, this really was at the show and is from the Welcome to Yorkshire garden. It was not so much a garden, more a cameo of the Yorkshire landscape.  That might be one of the reasons why it only gained a silver medal.


Plant detail

Detail of an unusual plant.  I am not sure what it is.


Joe Swift and Kelly Brook

Each day of the show, the BBC interviews a visiting celebrity. Last year, I just happened to be nearby when Grayson Perry was the guest. By chance, I was again in the vicinity this year when the interview took place. Except that I did not realise as I failed to recognise Kelly Brook, second from right. I was actually taking a shot of Joe Swift (second from left), who is one of the BBC’s Gardeners’ World presenters.


Chelsea Pensioners.

It would not be Chelsea without seeing the Chelsea Pensioners. The show takes place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital where they are resident, so they take the opportunity to see what is going on.

More From the Chelsea Flower Show – Part 1

Posted on 28th May 2017 by Admin under Comment, Event, Location, Photograph
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This is the first of two posts of my images from the Chelsea Flower Show.  I have already posted my main photo of the day, but I took many more.  Once again it was a good event, although overall I did feel that it did not quite match previous years.  A number of regular sponsors and exhibitors chose not to attend this time, resulting in gaps both on Main Avenue and in the Pavilion.  The loss was particularly acute for the main show gardens, of which there were just eight.  Less than half the number compared to 2016.

Nevertheless, those who did choose to come maintained the standard one would expect at Chelsea and there was still much to see.  There was one benefit.  On Main Avenue, where previously there would have been a show garden, the RHS put on an exhbition of its photography competition winners.  Nothing to complain about there!

All these pictures are thumbnails, which can be clicked to see a larger version.


The sculptor Simon Gudgeon is a regular at Chelsea and always has one of the best stands. I had already seen this sculpture at Sculpture by the Lakes where he displays much of his work. I enjoyed seeing it in a different setting. It had been sited in the middle of a pond at the sculpture park. Here it appears to be bursting out of the surrounding vegetation.


Simon Gudgeon Sculpture

Another of Simon Gudgeon’s sculptures.


A bit of Mexico in Chelsea

Detail from the Beneath a Mexican Sky garden


Breast Cancer Garden

The Breast Cancer Now Garden: Through the Microscope. The garden reflects different aspects of breast cancer, from the illness through to a return to health. The rings represent a microscope used to examine tissue samples.


Texture Garden detail

Detail from the BBC’s Texture Garden, one of five celebrating the senses.


BBC Sent Garden

This is the Scent Garden, another from the BBC depicting the senses.


M & G garden detail

A detail from the controversial M & G garden. The company is the show’s main sponsor, although this was their last year. At present it is unclear who will take over in 2018.
The setting is a disused Maltese quarry and is the designer’s vision of what a garden could like like in such a location. It was unusual and not to everyone’s taste. It appealed to the judges, though. They awarded it the coveted best in show prize.
I cannot say that it conformed to my idea of a garden, but I came to appreciate it better the longer I looked at it.


The second instalment is here.

Photo of the Day – 24 May 2017: Chelsea Flower Show

Posted on 26th May 2017 by Admin under Event, Location, Photograph, Technique
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I have been going to the Chelsea Flower Show for a few years and it is always an enjoyable day out.  It represents the ultimate in gardening, even if everything on display is a construct.  Ephemeral, the show gardens exist for a brief period with one ultimate aim.  To be in peak condition when the judges come calling.  That said, I do wonder how many of the more fanciful show gardens are typical of what people commission from the designers concerned.  Even the more conventional ones represent an ideal; a gardening utopia only made possible through dint of expense and several months of hard work.  Occasionally, some of the gardens will be rebuilt elsewhere.  Most, though, are dismanted into their constituent parts at the end of the show.

RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden

Chelsea Flower Show
(Click on the image for a larger version)


My photograph is an attempt to sum up the event in a single shot.  This is the only the second occasion when I have used the colour popping technique.  In this instance, it is doubly symbolic.  The image depicts the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden.  Its aim is to encourage greater use of plants in urban areas, turning grey to green.  On another level, I see it as a metaphor for the drabness of reality yielding to the perfection of a show garden.

As well as the garden, it is possible to see the crowds on the opposite side looking in on it.  Only the privileged few ever get the opportunity to walk in a show garden.  Assistants are talking to people and handing out details of the planting.  Further back, the BBC studios are visible; Chelsea week always figures prominently in the TV schedules.  The visitor in the foreground who obligingly, if unwittingly, stood by the opening onto the garden is holding the show guide open at the relevant page.  It was too good an opportunity to miss.

General view of the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

The Greening Grey Garden seen from the opposite direction. The opening through which I took the main shot is visible in the background.
(Click on the image for a larger version)


This post is part of my occasional “Photo of the Day” series.  I publish shots which I think might be of interest and tell the story behind them.  They might not necessarily be portfolio standard images, nor the final version, but still be of sufficient interest for inclusion in my blog.  If I do not show a shot on any given day, it does not mean that I did not take any photographs, just that I did not get anything worthwhile.  For me, that is part of the fun of photography.  Not knowing what I will find on a shoot when I have nothing planned.