Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 19/07/2014

Some Day My Prints Will Come*


As close as we are, Dear Reader, (and I do like to think there’s something special between us) I’m not sure whether you’re fully able to assess my current mood… simply put, and to use the modern vernacular… I am totally stoked!

The last two weeks have certainly been a bit of a whirlwind (nothing to do with the aftermath of the Asian weather fronts) after having spent as long in the doldrums and I’m hoping that the planets are now aligned in my favour for a new path for me to walk.

You may have gathered by now that I like to take a photograph or two when given the opportunity and whilst I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the IT industry, of late it wasn’t really floating my boat. Jupiter, with Mars in the ascendence, seem to be pushing me in a direction where I can exploit what little talent I have with a camera and it’s possible… just possible.. that tomorrow I could take that one giant step that could fulfil not only my bank manager’s expectations (I’m not sure he even knows who I am!) but allow me to opportunties to express my creative nature on a daily basis.

Despite my dislike of the vernacular as well as the cliched.. it sometimes has it’s uses and as such…”watch this space”!

* this will be come apparent over the next few weeks!

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/07/2014

Missing In Action

The Cover of a Magazine?

I’m sorry, Dear Reader, I didn’t mean to neglect you; having powered up my blog writing machine (all those monkeys and typewriter which I’d locked in a cupboard) again after a much needed rest (I’d run out, after two years of blogging, of bananas to feed to my ape auteurs) I had intended to post, whilst not daily, more frequently but I’m not sure where the time has gone… I guess it’s all those daytime TV shows taking up my day.

If you hadn’t realised by now, and if not – why not, when it comes to conversations, writing and thought process, I don’t tend to focus straight ahead but go off on tangents – here, there and everywhere. True to form….. who would have thought, six months ago, that the youth of today would be obsessed with colourful elastic bands. It’s not that they have, all of a sudden, become obsessed with the organisation of all their documentation – it has more to do with the world wide craze of Loom Bands (we got there eventually, Dear Reader, the tangent that is).

In the age of handheld computer games, global internet access*, and 24×7 TV news coverage – it’s heart warming that a craze sweeping the globe is so low tech. Sure, technology has played it’s part with more tutorials than you can shake a stick at, appearing on Youtube (other video messaging services are available) hourly, daily or even per second but this phenomena has more to do with Arkwrights Spinning Jenny than it does with Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

This does bring me on to one of the many subjects that get’s me on my soap box (I carry one around with me at all times in case I need it at a moment’s notice – which I frequently do**)…. marketing. I understand how marketing works, and the need for it, it’s more about rebranding and brand positioning that get’s my goat; twenty years or more ago, we were all eating toasted sandwiches, toasties and their ilk but not any more.. it’s all panini this and panini that… it is, essentially, still a toastie… bread, same fillings, with heat applied. Twenty years ago, everyone was drinking milkie coffees… now you can’t move for Caffe Lattes or Cappuccinos*** – which brings me back to Loom bands. Tell the kids of today they are crocheting and they’ll be horrified they’re doing something so old fashioned but give it a new term, and well… pass me another Loom Band, I have some legal coffee recipies that I have to discuss with the learned gentlemen of the defence!****

* that’s if you’re in the middle of the Masai Mara, unlike trying to get a signal from my house and gardens which are located 20 miles from the headquarters of the largest mobile carrier in the world
** remind me, Dear Reader, about my favourite T-Shirt!
*** and why do they people who make them have to have names comparable to those people who have studied and practised Law to such an extent that they have knowledge of the Legislations far beyond the ken of us mere mortals.
**** I told you to remind me about my favourite T-Shirt – it is, so I’m told, quite prophetic, and shows a familiar blue smurf cartoon character reclining with a rather grim look on it’s face. Above the image is the characters name…. with the inference that the character resembles that of the t-shirt wearer…. the individual being know as “Grouchy” … tread carefully, Dear Reader, it’s been a while and our relationship is back on rocky ground!

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 26/06/2014

Things that go… snuffle snuffle snuffle… in the night.

Visitor at midnight (or there abouts)

So, where was I, before I somehow managed to be incapacitated by a fever… (in the middle of summer? how on earth did that happen!?)…  oh yes, I had just arrived on the island of Skomer… but that is going to have to wait a little longer as I’ve had one of the best days, to use the modern vernacular, EVER!

Now I hope, Dear Reader, that I’m not want to use such glib common terms, unless I’m trying (I say trying, Boy*) to ironic or sarcastic however in this instance I am being quite earnest.  I bought a “camera trap” last week but having been laid up in bed for 3 days with a temperature I’d not really set the device up or place it in the garden (or back wood).  For those unfamiliar with camera traps, they’re (generally) small weather sealed boxes that combine digital cameras (these days) and motion sensors which can be used to monitor for wildlife.  I’d been thinking about buying one for 6 months or so, and even thought about building one myself based on the inexpensive Raspberry Pi mini computer however a supermarket chain who have weekly offers were selling a camera trap I’d previously looked at at less than half price so I decided I had nothing to lose and boy am I glad I did.

I’ve mentioned before, I think (and if I haven’t then please excuse me Dear Reader) that our garden backs on to woodland and that we’ve had many varied visitors from the natural world (and probably a number from the unnatural world) over the years.  Highlight have included a Little Owl, Skylark, Spotted Flycatcher, and a pair of Tawny Owls that make regular appearances.  We’ve also heard the ghostly (there’s the unnatural world link) calls of  Muntjac deer echoing from the woods which put the plaintive howls of the foxes we’ve had visit to shame.  As the camera trap had Infra-red lighting and sensor capabilities, I was interested to see if either of these actually made their way into the garden and so this morning the first thing I did was to make a beeline for the device.  Reviewing the pictures, there were the ubiquitous cat photographs, which I had anticipated would fill the sensor and then I was stopped in my tracks… literally when I saw the first nighttime visitor… a badger.  A BADGER… I was so excited, and I still am some 14 hours later… a badger… in my garden!

I’ve put the camera back out in the garden, in the same position, and put some peanuts and sunflower seeds in close proximity to ensure the animal doesn’t just dash past the camera (hence the slightly blurred image).. and I’ve bought a second camera and put it in a different position to try and get more photos.

For the more observant of you, and feel free to give yourself ten points, the photo contains not one but two nighttime visitors – both mammals.  Did you notice it?  If you guessed fox, then I’m afraid you don’t get any points but if you said bat then you certainly deserve the points, well done. I can’t wait to see what the cameras capture tonight.. fingers crossed.

*  You have to have said (even if it’s only in your own head**) that in the voice of the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn***
** If you can manage to say it into someone elses head, could you tell me what the winning lottery tickets are for the weekend please… oh really, 2, 7 15, 22, 31 and 44… perfect, thanks.

*** Who interestingly, like many cartoons, was based on an already successful TV/Radio character Senator Claghorn (you will, Dear Reader, also be thinking of Top Cat/Sergeant Bilko… you weren’t?)

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/06/2014

Mary Had A Little Lamb,

European Brown Bear

She also had a bear,
I’ve often seen her lamb,
but I’ve never seen her Ursus arctos arctos

Right, where was I…. oh that’s right, Dear Reader, I had spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the WWT centre despite the rather overcast, grey skies. The highlight of the visit was spotting (for about 5 seconds) a kingfisher screech past the hide as well as a number of little egrets which are always a pleasure to watch.

As lovely as WWT Llanelli was, it wasn’t the intended destination for the trip and with a stop over in Pembroke Dock that night, it was up early and off to St Martins Haven – a short drive under the overcast skies – where a long line of other wildlife enthusiasts were waiting to purchase a ticket to allow them to land on the island of Skomer, a short boat ride off the magnificent Pembroke coast spotting razorbills, guillemots, puffins and even porpoises as the small boat bobbed towards the imposing island.

I’ve mentioned before, how much equipment I carry on photographic days out; on an average day when weighed my kit was over 43 lbs – and having to climb up the steep steps from the landing stage to an area where we were to be informed about the do’s and don’t on the island – I’m sure my pack (and the steepness of the stairs) increased exponentially.

It didn’t take me long to catch my breath from the intensive workout ascending up to the mainland of the island when I saw the local wildlife…. puffins.

And on that cliff hanger (literally), you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear more, g’dnight Dear Reader.

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 17/06/2014

Everythings gone grey….


Why hello there, Dear Reader, I bet you thought I’d forsaken you and my musings; well, you’ve never been far from my thoughts it’s just been an interesting 18 months to put it mildly… that and having written every night for nearly two years, I’d kind of run out of words! I’m not sure I’ve managed to accumulate enough verbiage to write much but if you’ll bear with me I’ll see how far I can get.

Normally, by this time of year, I’ve taken oogabytes worth of photos, been to Africa and visited a plethora of wildlife sites but as you might have seen on the news, there have been some rather disturbing turn of event happening in Kenya which have somewhat curtailed any planned visits there. Of course, there are plenty of other countries to visit in the African continent, a long list of places I want to visit and more importantly animals I want to photograph.

Sometimes you don’t actually have to travel thousands of miles and spend large sums of money to have an amazing wildlife encounter there are some amazing places in the UK (other countries are available, substitute your own). WIth a boot (trunk) full of all imaginable camera gear, and portentous blue skies, it was down the M4 motorway (freeway/highway… or just plane road) and a 90 minute journey to the Severn Bridge that allows passage to traffic from England into Wales (and vice versa of course). It was at this point where plans seemed to start going awry; the magnificent Second Severn Crossing (bridge) was shrouded in low cloud and mist – not something a wildlife photographer wants to see.

Rather than turn back, I went to a WWT site in Llanelli – somewhere I’ve been before and thoroughly enjoyed – you may remember me blogging about it – which is impressive if you do as I can’t remember it (though that’s nothing out the ordinary, I can’t remember my name most days). Whilst I did take plenty of photos as I wandered around the lush green site, the skies were still grey and cloudy resulting in rather “flat” looking images (yes, I know, it’s a 2D image which is by it’s very nature is…. flat!).

Join me tomorrow (providing I get my act together) for the next part of the trip, but for now, Dear Reader, adieu.

Topi, originally uploaded by

Okay, it might not be a Mark Rothko precisely, though I’m not exactly a fan of such “art”, this is my mild attempt at something more than my traditional wildlife photography. Unconsciously, my photography seems to have changed over the last few years and trips to Africa. Instead of the close up portraits, the staple diet of a 600mm lens, I’ve enlarging the canvas upon which I work to include the subject’s environment, and more recently as can be seen with today’s image, the subject of the photo isn’t really the subject at all! With such minimalism, I might well be carrying a roll of black insulating tape to try fuse nature with piet mondrians’ style… you’ve been warned!

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 22/06/2013

What About Me?

I know, you’re a good looking bird Mr Crowned Crane… such a looker… and I know like to photograph anything that moves (or stays still), breathes (or doesn’t breathe), or even just thinks (or doesn’t in my case).. however this time, just this one time, we weren’t really interested in you.. Don’t take it personally… as I said, on any other day, in any other place, I’m sure you would have been centre of attention but you can’t really blame us photographers… you were upstaged you see. It’s really not your fault but when there’s a big puddy tat nearby (actually, you should take that as a warning) what do you expect us to do? Yes, I said a puddy tat.. in your vicinity… actually about 100m behind you (oh yes it is.. this isn’t a pantomime you know… oh, okay,you’ve read previous blogs… so perhaps it is)… a sleek.. streamline killing machine… in the long grass… behind you. Rather than being concerned which is your best side to be snapped… perhaps you should consider which side you don’t wanted those jaws to snap around. Oh you’re in luck, there’s some bigger prey for that hungry looking speed machine to concentrate on.

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/06/2013

You’re ‘avin’ a….

I will write something on here soon… when the tiredness from a hectic week in Kenya has subsided.. until then, here’s a giraffe or two.

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 05/12/2012

Long And Winding Road

The Thinker, originally uploaded by

December already? Not only does that mean I need to start getting on with my Christmas Shopping but it’s the beginning of the end. December 31st will be my final daily blog, having written each day for two years, though I will probably continue a weekly update providing I have something interesting to say (“that’ll be a first”, Ed.). I like to think I’ve developed as a writer, over these two years, and it’s certainly given me a new string to my bow, I now have to find a target to aim for, let’s hope I can hit the bullseye!

Despite the fact that the much discussed 200-400mm lens hasn’t found it’s way out to the shops, there’s talk that the integrated teleconverter – a first for a Canon lens – may well be finding it way into a number of new and existing lenses. Of course, this will only add to my list of grumbles, as it’s bound to affect the final price, in fact that’s probably why the lenses have been delayed whilst the executives can think up some imaginative new prices.

Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 04/12/2012

Something Worth Crowing About

Cockadoodledo, originally uploaded by

Returning to the bar at half time, the excited chitter-chatter of the amassed crowd are as one in their disbelief of the score. Admittedly all the points scored so far have been from penalties but they’ve not been lucky kicks, England have played determinedly giving away very few errors, let’s hope they keep applying the same sort of pressure in the second half and we could have interesting scoreline on our hands.

We take our seats and wonder whether it’s possible to hold our breaths for the remaining 40 minutes of the match, such is the tension and excitement at being 12-0 up going into the second half, holding our breaths in case we breathe too hard and burst the bubble that has us all on the edge of our seats. We needed be too concerned, within one minute of play, England are awarded a penalty after New Zealand collapse the scrum, and happy just to get more points on the board, we cheer as the ball sails cleanly through the posts to take us 15 point ahead of the opposition, who have yet to get off the mark.

WIth the incredible pace of the game, it doesn’t take long for New Zealand to respond, 5 minutes in fact, and having been awarded a penalty they decide to kick to touch rather than get 3 relatively easy points on the board being only five meters from England’s try line. Within seconds, it seems, the All Blacks are over the line but the agony is prolonged whilst the Referee consults the Video Ref (Football, are you taking note!) to confirm that the player did indeed place the ball. Seconds seem to last like hours whilst we await confirmation, but score they did and with a clean conversion New Zealand are back in the game, 15-7.. Oh lummy!

Spurred on, New Zealand apply the pressure and suddenly the action is taking place in England’s half and despite England meeting them headlong, within another five minutes the opposition are back across the English try line taking the score to a nail biting 15-14.

There are mutterings of concern around the stadium at this sudden turn of events, only twelve minutes into the second half and now New Zealand are within one point of England, that comfortable margin having evaporated. The incredible pace of the game doesn’t leave us too long to ponder our fate as two minutes later sees some incredible play down the wing from England’s Barritt and Tuilagi giving England their first try of the game. We take our five points but the extra two aren’t added as Farrell’s clean sheet is marred when the ball bounces off the crossbar, still we’re 20-14 up and the fat lady isn’t waiting in the wings just yet.

Unbelievable, this can’t be happening – only ninety seconds later sees Chris Ashton return to form as he swallow-dives across the line for another English try… we’re now 25-14 ahead, I certainly didn’t envisage this on my way to the match.

Ten minutes pass, the game incredibly physical, and just when it looks like New Zealand are going to make a run for our try line, Tuilagi intercepts the ball and powers across the line unchallenged, none of us quite believing how well England are play, least of all the All Blacks.

With the score now at 32-14 (let’s just reflect on that for a second, 32-14.. sounds good doesn’t it), New Zealand are now the ones on a back foot and the pressure shows, within minutes they’ve conceded another penalty which takes us 21 points clear – three converted tries in other words. The score doesn’t, as you can imagine Dear Reader, remain stationary for very long, after 9 minutes of battling, England are awarded another chance to get points on the board, Burns steps up to take the kick which he successfully kicks, taking England to 35-14.

Five minutes from the end, England’s Vunipola is given the yellow card for trying to halt a New Zealand quick tap, and is sent to the sin bin for his statutory ten minutes time out.. well, we won’t see him again. Down to 14 men, and despite there being little time left, this could be dangerous for England, and sure enough New Zealand are quick to capitalise with a converted try and the lead is reduced to only 17 points but we now have only three minutes left.

New Zealand have the bit between their collective teeth now and keep applying the pressure in England’s half. Ninety seconds, and the ball is approaching England’s try line. Twenty seconds, we all hold our breath. Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six – in unison, the crowd are counting down wishing time would speed up – five, four, three, two, one. We have to wait for the ball to go out of play before we can start to celebrate but we now know there’s no way New Zealand can win. The Ref blows his whistle to signify the end of the match and the stadium erupts, none of us quite believing what we’ve just witnessed. The first win over the All Blacks since 2003, the margin having broken a record set in 1936 when England beat them 13-0. Astounding.. I’m going to need another drink to steady my nerves (but I don’t when I see the queues!)

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