Weekly Photo Challenge: Close-Up

Bee Pair2

This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Close-up. To have a look at the other entries go here.

I know I’m a little late with this – there’s probably a new theme up by now! – but I didn’t think I was going to post anything until I went out for a walk today.  This picture was taken on my phone camera (Samsung Galaxy S4) and then had the clarity boosted in Camera Raw. The quality of the original, unfortunately, wasn’t the best ever (which nearly stopped me from using it at all) but I loved having the pair of bees both in focus.

The larger of the pair is I think a red-tailed bumblebee, the smaller possibly a white-tailed. The white-tailed bumblebees usually have more yellow in the banding across their thorax but I couldn’t find any other bees described that fitted it better. If anyone can identify it more precisely, please do let me know.  The flower they’re on is a thistle.


FFfAW: A Vision of Tranquility

This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Etol Bagam. The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you like it.

Photo Prompt: © Etol Bagam

Photo Prompt: © Etol Bagam

A Vision of Tranquility

He first saw it when still a child, ignoring the mean laughter of his classmates as he played alone. It twisted in the corner, a ribbon of colour that widened and spread as he approached, revealing a mighty waterfall aglow in bright sunlight. He was captivated.

No one else could see it.

“What an amazing imagination,” he teacher said.

His classmates just called him weird.

He saw it again, repeatedly. At school. At home. Out and about. In time he learnt not to mention it. No one understood; not peers, parents or doctors. He kept his continued explorations to himself.

The closer he was, the more the view unfurled until even the ground beneath his feet appeared a rocky outcrop. He gazed down at crystalline water, unfathomably deep, within which bathers splashed. Some days he could feel the moisture on his skin and hear the roar of cascading water as he stood at the edge, the view obscuring all thoughts of failed relationships and dead-end careers.

Those days he longed to dive in.

Days like today.

Word Count: 175

I knew light and fluffy couldn’t last for long. At least I managed a cheerful story for Monday and a cheerful photograph for Tuesday. I thought I’d let my imagination just go where it wanted to for this one.

I’d love to know what you all think. Unfortunately, I have to go out and work for a few hours this evening so I won’t be doing the rounds of everyone else’s blogs until later than I usually manage. I will try and make it around everyone, though!



One-Four Challenge: July Week Four

It’s time for the final week of Robyn’s One-Four Challenge for July.

This week’s image was not an easy one to produce – I had absolutely no idea what to do with it! At one point I had several different versions on the go, none of which I was happy with. In the end I decided I wanted to make it very different to the monochromes of the last two weeks and settled on a bright and cheerful painterly effect.

week 4.6_FotoSketcher

Week Four Edit

To create this I opened the week one image in Camera Raw, where I reduced blacks, shadows, highlights and whites. This left it looking bright without the whites being overpowering. I also increased the clarity. After playing around with lots of different artistic filters and texture layers in Photoshop I decided I couldn’t quite create enough of a painterly effect there and I abandoned it for FotoSketcher. There I ran it through the watercolour filter and added a canvas texture layer. I had also tried it out with several of the previous Photoshop edits still in place but I liked it best from just the Camera Raw base. To finish off I returned the image to Photoshop where I touched up a few areas where a little too much detail had been lost – in particular the edge of the boat which had become indistinguishable from the water!

As it’s week four it time to include a poll. Please let me know which edit you liked best.

Here are all the images together for comparison:



MftS: Black Fur and Whiskers

Here’s this week’s entry into Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge, run by Barbara W. Beacham. This challenge gives you a picture prompt and the first line and asks that you finish the story in 100-150 words. The given line is in italics.

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

Black Fur and Whiskers

He thought he found the perfect hiding spot.

Jeffrey huddled beneath the curtain, listening tensely as tottering footsteps sounded nearby. Just keep going, he silently urged. Don’t find me. Please don’t find me…

“Where are you?” the high-pitched voice sing-songed. The accompanying giggle caused his hair to stand on end.

Why had he thought it a good idea to read that cursed book?

“Found you!” He gave an undignified yowl as the concealing fabric was yanked away and pudgy hands delved into his fur. Short arms hauled him off the ground. “Love you, Dada Kitty.”

“Meow,” he replied resignedly, rubbing his head against his daughter’s chin.

The spell was supposed to animate Emelie’s favourite toy – a bedraggled stuffed cat. It was not meant to turn him into a live version of the thing. As she dragged him back to the playroom he prayed it reversed soon.

He could only stand the toddler’s idea of fun for so long.

Word Count: 150

I’ve noticed that my stories have been getting steadily heavier and darker as the week’s have gone on so I thought I’d try for something a little lighter today. This was tentatively entitled ‘The Wizard’s Guide to Parenting’ as I wrote it. I would have liked to have left that as its title but felt it gave away too much of the story!

Jeffrey, by the way, is actually the name of my sister’s cat – I felt it suited my wizard daddy!  Here’s a picture of him that I took on my phone when I was visiting there last week. Unfortunately he refused to look at the camera…Jeffrey


To read other entries or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.


WOW: Widdershins

This post is in response to Heena Rathore P.’s Word of the Week (WOW). This weekly challenge is a great way of improving your vocabulary. If you wish to participate, simply create a post with your word and leave a link in a comment on Heena’s WOW post. wow (1)

Here’s my WOW for this week:


Widdershins (or withershins)

wid-der-shins (wĭd′ər-shĭnz′)

Part of Speech

In a direction that is contrary to the apparent direction of the sun; counterclockwise – sometimes considered to be unlucky or inviting misfortune

Word Origin
First recorded 1505-15 – mainly of Scottish use. From the Middle Low German weddersinnes, from Middle High German widersinnes: literal translation ‘against the way’ (i.e.’ in the opposite direction’) – probably from Old High German widar + sinnes

anticlockwise, counterclockwise

clockwise, deosil

Use in a Sentence
1) Great Aunt Helena could hardly believe her eyes – did those foolish children not realise that dancing widdershins would surely invite the most dreadful misfortune into the house?

Myles Birket Foster Ring a Ring a Roses

By Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899) (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2)  The hand began spinning widdershins around the clock-face as the time machine whirred into life.

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

Street Photography Countryside Style!

It’s not often that I get the urge to take photographs of vehicles or people. Generally, as a rule, I like to capture images of either the natural world or historical buildings and things. Today, however, the lanes around the village were full of tractors, trundling back and forth with trailers full of manure (not the most pleasant of loads!) and I do occasionally like to include a few of them in my shots! As the weather was rather miserable (overcast and threatening rain) I knew any pictures in colour wouldn’t be particularly impressive. This gave me the idea to do a little black and white street photography, countryside style.

Beware – there are lots of tractors ahead!

And just to prove that there are other things than tractors occasionally on the lanes, here are a few other pictures.

I thought I’d finish off with my favourite picture from today. If you look in the cab of the tractor, the farmer has his son riding along with him. They both look like they’re really enjoying themselves. They passed me several times and each time they waved as they went past.


FFfAW: The Lost Kingdom

This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provided by TJ Paris. The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you like it.

Photo Prompt: © TJ Paris

Photo Prompt: © TJ Paris

The Lost Kingdom

“I can’t leave,” she’d told him.

Arliss gazed at the expanse of ocean, age-gnarled hands clenching into fists on the weathered battlements, salt spray dampening her cheeks. Waves snarled against the rocks below – a pack of rabid hounds leaping at the once mighty fortress, longing to devour.

“It’s my home,” she’d said.

She remembered when the sturdy walls had been untouched by such elements. With closed eyes she could still see the patchwork of fields and villages sprawling across the rugged landscape, the coast a distant line. It had been a beautiful sight.

“Where would we go?”

They’d received no warning; offered no chance of escape. The massive wave had swept across the countryside, consuming everything in its path. In less than a day the land was drowned. Only the castle and its handful of inhabitants was spared.

“Then I stay too,” he’d told her.

Ten years had passed since the others left. She and Kinnard alone remained: Lord and Lady of a watery realm.

But maybe now she was ready to leave…

Word Count: 175

Considering I knew what story I wanted to tell for this picture pretty much as soon as I saw it, I’ve found this one really difficult to write. Trying to tell the whole thing in 175 words was not easy! I really do hope it made sense as I had to leap back and forth chronologically in order to fit it all in.

As I’m sure you know by now, my names generally have meaning. This week: Arliss is both an Irish girl’s name meaning ‘from the high fort’ and a Hebrew name meaning ‘pledge’; Kinnard is a Scottish boy’s name meaning ‘from the high place’.


One-Four Challenge: July Week Three

It’s time for week three of Robyn’s One-Four Challenge for July.

Week Three Edit

Week Three Edit

For this week’s edit I began with last week’s black and white image and using Photoshop Elements 13 added a pen and ink filter. I shifted the levels slightly to bring out more detail in the boat but then found I was left with a very flat and bright area of sky. To counter this I added a slight sepia filter and then opened the image in FotoSketcher where I added texture and old paper defects using the vintage photo settings. I had to be quite careful here in the positioning of the sliders so as not to change anything else in the picture! I then opened the image in Camera Raw where I increased the clarity. To finish off I reopened it in Photoshop where I used the clone tool on a very low opacity in order to lighten the area of the vignette in the top left hand corner which had become incredibly dark through all of the previous changes.

Hopefully I’ve created a picture that looks like an old pen and ink sketch.

Here’s the original image and week one edit for comparison:



MFtS: Etched in Stone

This is an entry into Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge, run by Barbara W. Beacham. I haven’t joined in with this one for a while but with a photo prompt like this, how could I not? This challenge gives you a picture prompt and the first line and asks that you finish the story in 100-150 words. The given line is in italics.

Photo Prompt : © Barbara Beacham

Photo Prompt : © Barbara Beacham

Etched in Stone

The petroglyphs told the story of an unusual event, an event so horrific that, in the space of moments, Oræftan’s life changed forever.

Five left to follow the herd. Only he returned – a mangled remnant of himself.

He jolted awake from troubled sleep with a pounding heart, the memories that haunted his dreams pursuing him into the waking world. Each breath grated harshly against his throat; tears stung the raw skin of his cheeks.

With a trembling hand Oræftan reached for the stone wall of his shelter, his fingers trailing over the roughly etched images. Soon he’d be finished. Only one last section remained to complete his telling of events: the great wyrm that attacked them upon the cliff’s edge.

The burning substance expelled from the beast’s gaping jaws had left him blind, deaf and mute. There was only one way he could warn the rest of his tribe of the danger.

With touch his only guide, he carved.

Word Count: 150

This is actually the second version of this story I’ve written today. I’d practically finished it earlier – just had some edits still to do – when the laptop I was using (my new laptop!) decided it was time to do a restart. As I wasn’t in the room at the time I couldn’t even delay it until later as I usually would! This wouldn’t really have been a problem except it decided to freeze midway through ‘installing updates’. An hour later I decided to start again on my old laptop, which I’m still using now… Hopefully my new laptop will decide to work again soon.

If I’d had a few more words I would have liked to write a little about exactly how Oræftan managed to find his way back to his tribe after the wyrm’s attack. I doubt it was an easy trip in the state he was in…

The name Oræftan, by the way, is from the Old English for ‘artist’ or ‘craftsman’.


To read other entries or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.


Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Older Than 50 Years

ossington b&w

The Lady of the Ossington

Stairs creak, footsteps of a ghostly presence creeping ever closer. She watches through the veil as workmen transform her dream into her direst nightmare. As alcohol swirls in glasses, voices rising in drunken excitement, her ire grows. This was not what she wanted! How dare they defy her will? Fury crackles like static in the air. They may not be able to see her but she can still make her presence known.

Bottles shatter. Wine spreads like blood across the floor.

ossington b&w full

This post is for Cee’s Black and White Challenge. I couldn’t resist joining in again when I saw the theme for the next few weeks is ‘older than 50 years’! Old places and things are some of my favourite things to photograph.

The building pictured is ‘The Ossington’, formerly known as ‘The Ossington Coffee Palace’, and was built in Newark on Trent in 1881 by Charlotte, Viscountess Ossington. Her main aim was to promote temperance. She wished to draw as many of the local farmers and labourers away from the public houses as she possibly could.

For many years the Coffee Palace was run as the Viscountess intended, despite being requisitioned during both world wars. It was finally sold away from her heirs in 1978 and it was after this time that alcohol was first served in the building. Local legend holds that the spirit of the Viscountess was so disgusted that she returned to haunt the place. Her portrait was tossed off the wall, wine crates thrown off shelves and kegs of alcohol mysteriously bled dry with no signs of leakage. When workmen entered the building for renovations they complained of ghostly interference causing the job to take far longer than expected. They heard footsteps on the stairs, tools moved inexplicably and one morning they found the words ‘Get out of my house’ carved into new plaster as if by a ghostly finger…