Saturday, 25 July 2015

Trees From Tip To Toe

Walking around Milton Country Park inevitably involves walking along tree lined paths.  I wanted to capture the trees in the park while the green of their leaves had the freshness of spring, before  turning the tired dusty bluish hue of later in the summer.

Tunnel like path beneath trees with large blue green willow dominant
Path at Western Edge of Todd's Pit 17 June 2015

The path along the western side of Todd's Pit is typical of many paths in the park.  The path is turned  almost into a tunnel by the interlocking branches above, from which the bluey green foliage of the willow rises like a plume of smoke.  Below there are extremes of light and shade where the sunlight breaks through between the trees. 

In the Canopy

The first image in this post emphasises how much vegetation there is above head height along the paths.  Yet, very seldom does anybody look up at the canopy where the foliage looks very different from that at lower levels.  

Tree canopy mainly ash with blue sky
Canopy by Hall's Pond 12 June 2015

One aspect of this that I had not fully appreciated until recently, is that each tree has it own bit of sky that is not invaded by the leaves and branches of the surrounding trees. This image, which clearly shows the rivers of sky between the trees, is an image of the personal space of a tree!

Yellow green long leaves of willow contrast with dark shapes of oak and maple leaves
Middle Path 6 June 2015

In this photograph the silvery green of willow leaves catching the sunlight contrasts in both colour and shape with the oak and maple leaves of nearer trees that are in the shade.

Going Down

Scroll down this image to follow these trees from the canopy to ground level.

Long image of the tall trees which overshadow path
Path at Eastern Edge of Dickerson's Pit 17 June 2015

I think the most impressive, and probably the tallest, trees in the park line the path alongside the eastern edge of Dickerson's Pit.  This photograph of that path just north of the 13th Public Drain at least begins to give some sense of the height of these trees and how they dwarf everything and everybody below.   The only way I could get the full length of these trees into a single image was by taking a series of images at different heights and stitching them together.

At Ground Level

Ivy clad willow trees bend over earth bank
By Dickerson's Pit 30 June 2015

Much, much, shorter are these old, ivy encrusted, willow trees bent over an earth bank on the western edge of Dickerson's Pit.

In the Woods

Dark tree trunks crowd out the light
North of Todd's Pit 30 June 2015


Finally, in the woods, the ivy clad tree trunks, some leaning slightly to the right, are like an army trampling over the undergrowth.  Totally dominant.  It is images like this that remind me why I find  something sinister in so many woods.

Next Post

When I started this blog, my major concern was whether or not I could find enough images to populate a post twice a month with at least four images.  So far, my fears have been proved totally groundless.  Groundless, to the point that at the end of July I still have not finished with spring.  Just so that this blog is not so far behind what is happening on the ground, I am going put an extra post of more spring flowers next Saturday.  The post after that will then deal with the late June blossoming of elderflower and wild roses, and bring spring to a close.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Using New Eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes
Marcel Proust

Proust's thought lies at the very heart of my project.  It runs through my work like 'Blackpool' in a stick of rock.  For whatever else, I am on a journey of discovery taking fresh eyes to a very familiar landscape.  It is a journey filled with pleasure, as there is always a great sense of satisfaction in finding something new in ones own backyard.

But what does it actually mean to 'have new eyes'? What practical steps should I take to see the world, or at least Milton Country Park, in a way I have never seen it before?

Silver birch tree towers over a hedge by Dickerson's Pit
South Side of Dickerson's Pit 23 April 2015

One school of thought proposes that I need that I need to shed all preconceptions about the world and look at it as a child.  I find this advice impossible to follow.  I cannot by conscious effort forget everything I remember, or unlearn everything I have learnt.  However hard I try, when I see a tree like the one shown above, I see a tree complete with a lifetimes worth of associations.  I will name that tree and with the name will come ideas on the shape of the tree and its leaves, the insect life that may live on it, and the birds that may nest in it.  Involuntarily, my view of the tree will be affected by great paintings or photographs I have seen of trees.  Can I ever look at a conifer and not think of Vincent Van Gogh?  Or more up to date, having seen Hockney's masterpieces, can I ever look at a tree the same again?

But I do not think that preconceptions are the problem in making images of our own neighbourhood.  I think of far more relevance is that unless something changes, any familiar environment simply does not register on the brain.  How many times have you walked around your local streets to find some building has been demolished, and realise that for the life of you, you cannot remember what was there before?  It is the proverbial 'part of the furniture'.

Path hemmed in by bushes and trees with puddle reflecting hawthorn blossom
Path West of Todd's Pit 15 May 2015

In my case, it means I have got to see Milton Country Park beyond tree lined paths around water filled gravel pits.  It is symptomatic of my inattention to my surroundings that before I started  I wanted to reassure myself that I had enough material to maintain this blog.  To that end, I listed all the things I thought worth photographing in the park.  This initial list had just twelve items.  What is perhaps even more pertinent, that the twelve items on the list were things I had photographed in the past.  If I hadn't photographed it, either I hadn't noticed it, or had forgotten it.  

Hawthorn tree near fen road entrance dazzling white in the sun
Hawthorn by Fen Road Entrance 15 May 2015

I remembered the yellow irises but not the ground ivy; the purple loosestrife (now gone) but not the comfrey; the hawthorn but not the horse chestnut. I have never before noticed the green alkanet, yet the amount of this plant in the park suggests it has been there for some years. I took interest in the bridges, but not the tree lined paths, which all look just the same, and are devoid of any interest!
Luxuriant growth of green alkanet growing over a log
Green Alkanet By Childrens' Play Area 30 April 2015    

So far as this project is concerned, first and foremost, I simply need to really look at what is there.  I need to use my camera as Dorothea Lange implied when she said: ' a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera'.

Unidentified bush with yellow leaves and purple flowers
Path North of Todd's Pit 5 April 2015

It is precisely this that I have been doing very productively for the last five months. The bush shown above is a good illustration: not only have I not seen the bush before, I had never walked that particular path before.  I am finding that the more I look the more I find.  I have a 'shooting list'  a lot longer than 12 items, with   whole areas, like the wetlands, or Tomkins Mead still to explore in any detail.

It is one of my fundamental aims to show that the 'ordinary' English countryside, as typified by Milton Country Park, contains a great  deal of interest and beauty for those prepared to look.

In the next part of this short series, I will look at how our mental library of archetypal good photographs can restrict our imagination.



Saturday, 11 July 2015


It is May, and, once again, Milton Country Park turns white.  This time with hawthorn blossom.

By Hall's Pond 20 May 2015

In the centre of the country park, between Hall's Pond and Todd's Pit, the lower branches of this hawthorn bush are almost silhouetted against the sun drenched blossom behind.

By Hall's Pond 20 May 2015
Just a few yards from the previous image, is a typical country park scene in hawthorn blossom time.  The path is overhung with branches weighed down by the blossom.

Although these two pictures were taken just a few yards apart,  similar scenes could have been found almost anywhere in the park.

Todd's Pit 15 May 2015
For instance, this close up of the blossom was taken of a bush growing through the fence that lines the western side of Todd's Pit.

The Weather Changes Everything

By Hall's Pond 19 May 2015
As impressive as the previous images are, the blossom had been even more dazzling just a couple of days before.  This scene was shot in the same central area, but this time nearer Dickerson's Pit.  Heavy rain showers the previous day had damaged the flowers, whose petals now covered the ground in this clearing like confetti.

Cow Parsley Too

By Fen Road Entrance 19 May 2015

Hawthorn blossom is not the only blossom turning the park white. A field besides the path leading to Fen Road is a sea of cow parsley, which out shines the hawthorn in the background.

In The Woods

North End of Park 20 May 2015

Neither is the cow parsley confined to the open spaces.  There is plenty growing beneath the trees in the woody area at the north end of the park.

Additional Posts

Up until now I have updated this blog twice a month.  From now on, I intend to publish occasional extra posts.  These extra posts will be notes on issues I have come up against in making this blog.  Initially, I plan to write a series of posts on the difficulties of photographing in a familiar environment and the need for 'using new eyes'.

So the next  post, on 18 July 2015, will be the first of the above mentioned series on using new eyes.  Then, on 25 July 2015, I will publish a post continuing the story of the park through the year.  This latter post will look at trees in the park in summer. 


 In my previous post, I identified the flower in this picture as borage.  It is, in fact, green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens).