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MonthDecember 2019

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge Today

Conversation with one of the people handing out leaflets. I told him I was getting more and more conscious and felt more and more desperate when I put more plastic wrapping in the recycling bag.

He said at least it was recycled, and we talked about cutting out plastic at source so that the endless cycle wasn’t so endless.

I said my party piece about climate change masking the message to cut pollution. And that if the world’s authorities would suddenly declare that new evidence showed that climate change was not due to anything people did, it would still be a disaster to trash the planet with pollution. Stop pollution –

He said he didn’t want to be arrested, so he was one of those handing out leaflets. He said he had a small child and was just helping in a small way. I said he was helping, and that was a valuable contribution. We agreed that pollution was key to which way the world goes and he said he was feeling bad about the Nespresso machine he had bought and the capsules that he wasn’t sure were recyclable.

I said that my wife Tamara hated those little capsules, adding to the junk filling the world and thought they were an environmental blight even if they were supposed to be recyclable. I said she would never buy one, and she thought George Clooney, who advertises them, ought to speak out.

Grey crowned crane

The grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), also known as the African crowned crane, golden crested crane, golden crowned crane, East African crane, East African crowned crane, Eastern crowned crane, South African crane – photographed on the Eastern Cape in South Africa earlier this year.

(I updated the greeting card site about a week ago and used this for the hero image.)

Why The Colour Shift?

I was at the Fitzwilliam Museum here in Cambridge a few days ago and happened to look up. I may have looked up and seen the ceiling and the cupola before, but if I did then I don’t recall doing it.

I took two photographs within a few seconds of each other. I used the same camera for both shots. I had the camera in Manual mode. And because the scene was dark and I didn’t want to bump up the ISO, I took two shots with different shutter speeds. The first was 1/125th of a second. The second was at 1/15th of a second.

I knew that the shot at 1/125th of a second would produce and image that was too dark but I had the idea of opening it up in post processing or perhaps combining the two photos in post production by layering them in Photoshop.

Yes, I know – that was a very badly thought out idea. But I was sat on a bench and braced against a column, and that’s what I did.

So far so good.

I processed both images in Capture One 20 and here are the two photos.


Why is the cupola in the 1/15th second shot blue and in the 1/125th second shot it is gold?

Cupola in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge at 1/15th second
Cupola in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge at 1/125th second

Table And Chair

There they are, a table and chair against a wall. They are part of the Permanent Collection in Tate Britain in London.

At first sight it made me think of Dostoyevsky’s writing table and chair that Tamara and I saw when we visited his apartments (now a museum) in St. Petersburg in July 2017.

But a closer look explained why this table and chair merited being an exhibit in the Tate.


OK, it is not high art. Perhaps not even art. It makes me smile though. I have this idea that the creator got the idea when he slammed a chair against a table and imagined for a moment that the chair passed right through and into the solid wood of the table.

If there is a revolution and all art is banned, they might be able to resurrect the table and the chair for future utilitarian use. The table would be easy; the chair might be a bit of a problem.

Chilean Rhubarb Leaves In The Botanic Garden

Chilean Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) grows in the Botanic Garden here in Cambridge. The leaves are huge, maybe a metre (three feet) across.

It grows by a small stream near the Trumpington Road entrance to the Gardens.

A couple of days ago the leaves were all cut down and stacked in piles like this. They were blue rather than the green when they are growing. I wonder whether there is some changed in the acidity that causes it?

I have eclectic tastes in photographic subjects and this looked appealing.

I rarely know whether I will actually like the shot until I see it printed (or on the website). Actually, if it is a human face or an animal, then I often do know that I will want to print it.

But for other things, it is up in the air until I see it as a photo.

I wonder how many photographers think similarly?

Free School Lane

Free School Lane runs from Bene’t Street to Pembroke Street in Cambridge. Here is a view near the Bene’t Street end, and you can just see the craft shop at the end. Just a few doors down Bene’t Street is the Eagle pub.

That’s where Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson had unlocked the structure of DNA.

Watson and Crick worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, which until 1974 was here in Free School Lane. Turn around from this shot and walk back down towards Pembroke Street and the laboratory is on the left.

At Tate Britain

The painting in the top photo is John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral.

Here’s snap of the painting itself that I took with my phone. I sat and looked at the painting for a while, noticing that the white of the clouds at the top right balance the dark of the trees at bottom left.

And that the trees at bottom left are not just a dark mass: There is a little tower, a folly perhaps, to lighten the corner and give the eye something to look at there.

When I look at the horses in the water I can feel the wetness.

Constable painted around the countryside in which he grew up. He didn’t travel and he just kept at it, painting the countryside he knew. There is a lovely quote from him in which he said “painting is but another word for feeling”.

One of his most famous painting is Wivenhoe Park, which was the park in which my university was set.

It was there that I met a fellow student, Jon, who took me out to see a robin’s nest. I stretched up and saw little robins in a bundle staring up at me with tiny black eyes. For me, brought up in a city and having almost no sense of nature, I was hooked in one second flat.

It was the start of a long affair with the countryside. It was also the start of a terrible unhappiness brought on by my growing awareness of the destruction of the environment.

Horse Goes Into The Trees

New Forest pony walking between Silver Birch trees
New Forest pony walking between Silver Birch trees - closeup

This is a follow-up to the post Why Does The Horse Hold Its Head Out Like That, about horses that hold their heads down and horses that hold their heads up. I found another photo of the horse in my stack of photos, and here it is. First there is the full frame of the horse going into the trees and then a close-up of the horse.

For those who followed my earlier post, you can clearly see the reflective neck band in the close-up photo here.

What is the angle of the head and neck of this horse relative to its body?

I would like to go back to the New Forest and spend time looking at the horses, noticing whether they generally hold their heads forward rather than up.

This thing of looking closely, paying attention, and noticing things – I have found this to be one of the big enjoyments in life.

To get back to my original question, did I observe an actual ‘feature’ about head angle between different breeds of horses?

Or was it just the way I happened to photograph the horses?

I asked on a forum and got some replies:

The term for this in the horse world is “head carriage” or “headset.” There are a lot of things that affect what position a horse’s head will be in at any given point in time: there certainly are breed tendencies in conformation to be “high headed” (e.g., Arabians, Friesians, or standardbreds) or “low headed” (quarterhorses, some draft horses, many pony breeds) and they are selectively bred for those traits. Breeds also vary in terms of their neck length, which can affect how high the head seems to be carried, even if the angle is the same. Training and exercise can either enhance or attempt to counteract the horse’s natural tendency. Finally, whatever the horse is doing or thinking in the moment someone captures an image will affect where their head is.  (Kathryn Litherland, a horse rider from Knoxville, MD)

I also learned about cresty neck, a deposit of fat around the neck that may be indicative of an underlying disease, or may simply be that the horse is overweight.

Broken-Down Fence

You may have noticed a broken-down fence in the first photograph. I said in the previous post that the New Forest is unfenced (except where is meets major roads), and that is true. There are however also Commoners’ houses dotted about in the New Forest. That may be what the fence belongs to, I didn’t look in that direction at the time.

Or it may be that a particularly dense part of the forest has been fenced off because it is a danger to animals. Maybe next time when Tamara and I go, we will get a chance to look.

It’s called the New Forest, but there are big stretches of open ground as well, like here:

White pony on open ground in the New Forest

From Classic Editor To Gutenberg

Hello world. This is a post I am writing using the Classic editor. I haven’t used this editor for a long while, not since I switched to Gutenberg. I am writing it and I cannot see any way to change to Gutenberg while I am in this post. So I am going to save it and then look at the options. First though, a screen grab so that I can illustrate what is happening.

How To Change A Post From the Classic Editor to Gutenberg

Here are my notes and a series of screen grabs showing what I did to convert from Classic editor to Gutenberg.

First I had to save the draft and then go out of the post. When I hovered over the post in the list, I could see the options for Editor and Classic Editor.

I clicked on ‘Editor’ and that opened the post, it was still in Classic, which I could see from the word ‘Classic’ against a grey background in the little menu bar.

Know I know where I am, because I have done this many times when I have gone back to old, previously-published posts for whatever reason and changed them to Gutenberg.

Click in the menu bar that has the word ‘Classic’ in it, or click on the paragraph of your text – either place will do it – and you will see that three vertical dots appear along with all the other stuff.

Click on the three dots and that brings up a vertical menu, and the one I want is the second one down the list – ‘Convert to Blocks’. Click that and everything is converted to blocks and the new Gutenberg editor.


OK, now that you are in Gutenberg, how do you use it?

Using Gutenberg

There are a few key things that will make your life easier:

  • The reason it is called a block editor is that each paragraph, image, heading, quote, or whatever is in its own block.
  • The default block is a paragraph of text.
  • You can change a block from one type to another by hovering on it and using the tools in the mini menu bar that opens up over the block.
  • All the blocks are listed top left of the page, and you can see them by hovering over the list under the plus sign.
  • The plus sign at the left of a new block does the same job and you can add different types of blocks by hovering on that plus sign.
  • Finally, look over at the side bar on the right. You use it to change text size, set Drop Caps, and change the colour of the text and the background colour to the text.


Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar. (The neat thing is that I didn’t even have to retype the text, I just clicked to duplicate it).

Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar.

Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar.

Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar.

Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar.

Here are a few variations of this same piece of text using the block tools and the settings in the side bar.

And if for whatever reason you want to stay in the same block, and don’t want to start a new block when you start a new line or a new paragraph, just hold down the shift key when you change lines.

That will keep you in the same block. (It’s useful when you want to make a list.)

Great Argus Pheasant

This is a photo of the wing and tail feathers of the Great Argus Pheasant in the Museum of Zoology here in Cambridge. The bird is of course stuffed. There is a notice about conservation and environmentalism with the glass cases of stuffed birds that line one side of the exhibition hall.

Basically it says that that was then, and this is now, and we think differently that in those times.

Of course, in those times pesticides and plastic waste had not wreaked the havoc that they have done in these more enlightened times.

The exhibit that surprised me was the Wandering Albatross. Tamara and I saw Wandering Albatrosses flying low near the boat on a trip we took. We took a boat trip out into the Atlantic off the coast in South Africa to see Humpback Wales and Southern Right Whales.

Seeing the bird in the air, flying low over the waves, I had no idea just how big it is.

It is the size of a pig. Huge. And a great pity that it is dead and in a case. Of course, it would have died of old age many many decades ago. But still.

Linnaeus named the Great Argus, and he chose the name ‘argus’ because of the eye-like patterns on its wings, in reference to Greek mythology, and Argus, the hundred-eyed giant.

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