Hi! It's now Week 28 of my Shoreham-by-Sea blog, and the third consecutive week of sunshine! My Florida-raised kids are actually complaining about the temperatures in school, having been brought up in 24/7 air conditioning. But I couldn't be happier! We even had school Sports Day today in hot sunshine - how often does that happen in the UK?!
On Wednesday they had their school disco. After painting my daughter's nails a rather lovely shade of blue, and helping my son find an outfit that looked like he'd made a bit of an effort (but not too much), I longed to escape, and headed up into the South Downs behind Shoreham. For the benefit of my non-local readers, Shoreham is situated between the English Channel to the South, and the South Downs National Park to the North. When I feel like I need some solitude and breathing space, I head either to the beach, or the hills, and they never let me down.
On this occasion I went North and took my camera, mindful of the fact that I hadn't had the chance to photograph for my blog this week. I admit, I'm not very good at keeping on top of things at the end of the school year. The combination of school parties, end of year concerts, and overtired, desperate-for-a-break children is slightly overwhelming. I'm finding myself writing more things down and even emailing myself reminders about those non-urgent, but still quite important niggly things, as and when they pop into my head.
In addition, my son starts secondary school in September, which is very exciting, but also means lots of additional things to consider, like finding out what suitable black shoes really means (God forbid that I should kit him out in smart leather, when the others are wearing trainers), and mobile phone contracts. I've tried to put off the last one, knowing that when I do really need to contact him, he'll have a flat battery, or worse, have left his phone somewhere. Lovely though he is, my son is not what you'd call the organised type.
In Everglades Elementary, his primary school in Florida, the teacher wisely gave up nagging him, and instead sat him next to a highly organised girl whose job it was to ensure he came home with the right books and gave in the right work at the right time. Hallelujah! Even now his sister checks to see if he's left his lunchbox behind and gamely picks it up. How he will fare in secondary school is beyond me. Hopefully his charming demeanor will resurface, having been replaced with an aggressive, pre-pubescent scowl and way too much attitude these past few weeks. If you're a Year 6 (or American 5th Grade) parent, please leave a comment and let me know I'm not alone! It would make me feel better!
Anyway, back to my peaceful evening walk on Mill Hill, where the hazy sunshine saturated the greens of the fields and trees on the Adur River flood plains, and lent a somewhat ethereal quality to the scene in front of me. The panoramic (first photo in blog) comprised three photos, later stitched in Photoshop. For maximum sharpness, I stopped down to f/22 and used my 70-200 lens at around 90mm to create the series of images. The photo above focused in more closely on Lancing College (with a focal length of 165mm), where my son had his very moving Year 6 graduation ceremony earlier this month. As I photographed the scene, I was worried that the light was a little too hazy, but it only took a little bit of contrast and clarity in post production to bring it to life.
Zoomed out to the max, my favourite lens did a great job of compressing the elements in the land, enhancing the shapes made by intersecting fields and the bends in the River Adur.
Having picked out a few river-based scenes, I went in search of some cattle to change things up a bit, driving half a mile or so further into the Downs until I found this heard grazing on a field of parched grass that looked almost golden in the evening light. I exposed to keep just enough detail in the hazy background to keep things interesting, and avoid blowing the highlights out totally. When it comes to photography, I'm my own harshest critic, but even I take pleasure from looking at this image and the shapes made by the back-lit cows and their soft shadows. The golden hues just shout "summer" and make me feel uplifted. Which is just what I needed this week amidst the end-of-term chaos.
I drove back to Mill Hill, with the intention of continuing on to home, but decided to park up and take just a couple of shots of the sinking sun illuminating the bench. Just as I was thinking how inviting it looked, a couple walked over to it and sat themselves down. I sneaked a quick photo from behind the fence, then realised that I knew them!
So I went over to chat, and asked if they'd mind if I just took a couple of natural shots while the light was so lovely. I just wanted to capture them as they were - relaxed and enjoying each other's company and the lovely views - and the impromptu portraits lasted only a couple of minutes. But I was pleased with them, and I hope they will be too. They kindly agreed to my request to use the "behind the fence" image below in my blog, but sorry, I'm keeping the close-ups just for them!
Well, that's it for now. I hope you've enjoyed my sun-drenched landscapes this week. On Sunday, I'm off to the 'Johnny Loves June' Vintage Fair in Shoreham, so please check in next week for wonderful vintage fashion and plenty of interesting portraits.....