Welcome

Hello and welcome to my new blog. My name is Tracey Thomas and I am a keen amateur photographer, crafter, allotmenteer and narrow boater. I live in North Somerset with my Husband, who is also a keen photographer, and our two dogs that somehow give the impression to the wider world of being well behaved. Working as a Management Accountant for over 20 years, I took what was intended to be a short career break in early 2019. A broken ankle followed by a global pandemic have somewhat extended that break (no pun intended). One of the main impacts for me of the lockdown that came with COVID-19 was to rekindle and deepen my passion for photography. Like many people across the country, with “normal” day to life on hold, I’ve had more time to explore the local environment and wildlife in my garden, as well as in and around the town I call home.

I shared some of my photos on social media purely with the intention of trying to bring a little joy into friend’s lives during a difficult period. Encouraged by the reactions to my posts and disillusioned by the offerings of the various commercial websites, I was inspired to combine my crafting skills with my photography to begin creating a series of handmade cards using elements of photos taken in the garden and on walks with the dogs. More on these to follow.

Aside from this I plan to share photos of canals, coastal scenery, flowers and wildlife that bring joy to me and I hope will also bring joy to others.

Lockdown #2 – Day 3

The beautiful frosty Autumn morning light seems to have deserted us today and it’s rather flat and grey out there. There is still beauty in nature to be found out there though. We took a trip to the local lake to give the dogs a change of scene. The swans were out menacing people for food as usual – personally whilst I like photographing them, I prefer to keep a little distance between me and them. The gulls were out in force and they started launching themselves into the air and diving for food. Not a behaviour I’ve noticed in them before, but that’s the beauty of nature, even when you go somewhere you’ve been many times before there’s the possibility of seeing something new. As I sit writing this, the sun is making an effort to break through so I will see what tomorrow brings in terms of photography opportunities. For now, stay safe, stay connected!

Lockdown #2 – Day 2

Whilst it wasn’t a promising start to the morning, it has turned into another crisp Autumn day. I took a walk without my unable canine assistants in the hope of capturing some of the many birds that live in the woodlands near us. Turns out they are all feeling rather camera shy today – even the sparrows. However, the squirrels did not disappoint and I was lucky to be able to get quite close to a couple of them. I know grey squirrels are a contentious subject but we don’t have any native red squirrels around North Somerset.

It’s not just about the photography though. You don’t always get the shots you want or hoped for, particularly where wildlife is concerned. Whilst I was out I had the amazing sight of a squirrel pulling twigs and leaves off a tree and carrying them back to build it’s drey. I probably spent a good 5 minutes or more just watching this activity, but I only spotted it because I heard the rustling in the trees. To see and enjoy our diverse wealth of wildlife we need to keep all of our senses open and be in the moment. For me it’s a great way to switch off from day to day stresses, particularly in these strange times.

I’m working on trying to coax my garden robin into a good spot with some tasty meal worms. No luck yet but I’ll keep trying. He’s definitely around lurking in the bushes and I think he’s possibly taunting me. Patience is a virtue though, and in the meantime, Stay Safe, Stay Connected.

Autumn and COVID Lockdown #2

I am sat here writing this as the first day of England’s COVID Lockdown #2 draws to a close. Whilst I have been out photographing in between the rain storms over the last month and sharing on social media, I haven’t really been in a headspace to sit down and put together a coherent post. Dare I also say that as a crafter I have been working on some C*****mas projects.

Aside from the UK’s tendency to serve up some truly foul weather, I quite like Autumn as a season. The stunning warm colours of foliage combined with lovely soft light and crisp frost mornings make for some beautiful photography. Autumn is also the time of the Deer Rut. I am fortunate to be within fairly easy reach of the Ashton Court Estate on the outskirts of Bristol. One Saturday morning last month we were both awake early and the sunrise was looking promising so coffee clutched in thermal mugs we threw the camera gear in the car and headed over. It was like some sort of paparazzi gathering there with a photographer every 2 meters (yes social distancing was observed!) but definitely worth it to see and hear the Stags bellowing and strutting their stuff.

Deer Rut

Everyone seems to focus on the Red Deer during the rut and they certainly put on a good show. However, another visit to Ashton Court a couple of weeks ago took a chance diversion through the Fallow Deer sanctuary. Fallow Deer are incredibly shy creatures and since we had the dogs with us plus there was a particularly noisy group of people walking through the sanctuary, I was not expecting to see anything at all. Then all of sudden he appeared from the woodland – a magnificent Buck staring at us through the trees. A few minutes later we then encountered the most enchanting little doe who just looked back at us with an expression of curiosity. Once this next period of lockdown is over I will definitely be going back – possibly without my able canine assistants.

There are more images from Autumn in my Portfolio including some from a trip to Slimbridge Wetlands Centre (because everyone needs to see a smiling Otter at some point) and local birds and wildlife photographed in the garden or on our daily dog walks.

So as we start this next lockdown period, I will still be out photographing the beautiful nature in my immediate area. I have plans to try and coax my garden robin onto the newly built pond wall and will continue to stalk the squirrels that inhabit the trees along the bridleway. I am aiming to publish at least one beautiful photo each day of this current lockdown which will be added to a Lockdown Album and shared on my social media feed.

Nature’s Firework Display

There has been a lot of focus on the things we can’t do for the next few weeks. But there is nothing stopping us from enjoying the beauty of nature around us, in the countryside or in our cities, whether that is a stunning sunset or a simple sparrow singing it’s heart out.

Stay Safe, Stay Connected and watch out for more Squirels!

Morning Stretch – Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Canal Trip to Tixall Wide (Part 2)

Now back on dry land (although the arrival of Storm Alex makes this feel somewhat of a misnomer) and with a decent internet connection, this is the second half of our recent canal trip. The second week has definitely been the highlight for wildlife photography. Walking back to the boat from a visit to Shugborough Hall for a socially distanced meet-up with friends, I spotted this buzzard sat on a fence post in the field next to the towpath. It very considerately stayed there long enough for me to get to the boat and grab the large zoom lens, posing nicely for a few minutes before flying off to find it’s dinner.

Buzzard at Tixall Wide

The early part of the week saw a brief spell of wet and windy weather during which my father won the prize for understatement of the decade declaring by text message “yes it can get a little breezy on the wide”. This was at the point where it was blowing badly enough for us to deploy an extra mooring rope. The weather cleared next day and the light on Tixall Wide continued to provide some beautiful images.

Autumn Sunset over Tixall Wide

Tixall Wide is definitely somewhere I will revisit with the camera as it is a wildlife photographers paradise. However, the highlight of the trip was yet to come. With the forecast for Wednesday looking decidedly wet, we had cruised back to just above Fradley Junction on the Tuesday with the intention to hole up and make the final dash back to base on Thursday. It was whilst doing a little “housework” that we spotted a kingfisher perched just yards from the boat. Now I have seen kingfishers on the canal before (or at least I don’t know of anything else that colour that flies up the cut at the speed of Concorde) but never perched with in photography distance. Typically by the time I had grabbed the camera it had flown. I was hopeful it may come back and hubby suggested we watch an Andy Rouse YouTube video on photographing kingfishers. Ironically we were about to sit down to watch and I spotted something orange on the opposite bank. Our kingfisher was back and the camera was right by me. The moral of the tale is always have your camera handy as you never know what you might see.

Once the Kingfisher had flown off and I’d done an initial process of the images, we did sit down and watch the video. Hubby now wants to fit a kingfisher perch to the bow of the boat but I’m not sure our fellow owners would agree. If you are interested in wildlife photography and looking for tips and guidance on techniques then Andy Rouse’s website has proved really useful to me.

Canal Trip to Tixall Wide

If you’ve read my introductory post then you will know I am a keen narrow boater. We actually have a share of a narrow boat and after COVID-19 put the kibosh on everyone’s plans over the summer, we finally escaped for our rearranged holiday. We opted for a gentle cruise up to the stunning Tixall Wide to chill out with the cameras watching the wildlife.

Sun Setting Over Tixall Wide

September is a beautiful time of year to be out on “The Cut” with soft golden light and warm Autumn hues. A relatively quiet and stress free cruise (only one dog overboard!) meant I was able to capture some of the beautiful sights whilst Hubby steered, with occasional shouts from me of “slow down – I want to try and photograph that Swan”.

More photos from the trip are shown in my portfolio page and I’ll be adding more once I’ve reviewed and edited them.

Sunrise

Living in the West Country and close to the coast, quite a lot of my photographs are taken in the evening as all the Costal Landmarks are pointing West! That and the fact that anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am most definitely not a morning person. However, for some reason both of us were awake at some very uncivilised hour and the sunrise was looking particularly good so we took a brief pre-breakfast photo trip to a local lake and nature reserve.

Sunrise gently disperses the mist on the lake

There is always a lot of bird life to be seen around the lake – particularly near to the car park (they aren’t stupid despite what people say about bird brains). There have been several broods of cygnets that I have watched grow from fluffy little bundles to the moulting juveniles that currently hiss menacingly at everyone who passes. They are getting quite feisty and territorial as autumn approaches and putting on some fierce displays.

Juvenile Swans Squabble over their Space

Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire

One of the longest continuous flights of locks in the country, Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon canal is a daunting 29 locks. Enough to give even the hardiest and most experienced of boaters pause for thought and a magnet for Gongoozlers. This was a recent weekend visit with my Husband and our 2 dogs to the locks capturing both the industrial architecture and the wildlife that finds a home amongst it.

Much as our dogs are generally very patient companions on photography trips, there are times when they and wildlife photography just don’t mix. I had just managed to creep patiently around the back of the heron for a better angle, when one of the dogs opened their big mouth and it took flight. On the plus side, I was quite happy with the flight shots.

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