On The Matter of Ourselves

There’s something deeply disturbing about our personal anxieties, and let’s face it we’ve all had them and been affected by them at some time in our lives. The effect our worries have on our general well being are very great and damaging to both our mental and physical health, especially if not addressed when we need to.
Most people never get the help they need because we accept that worry is just a part of everyday life and little or no attention is paid to it, like it doesn’t matter. FEAR is the most basic of our emotions, it’s been with us hardwired in our brains from the beginning of our existence and has helped to protect us and survive, It’s a vital part of our physiology and without it we wouldn’t be here. In the early days of  humankind our needs were simple, survival was the name of the game and all our attentions were concentrated on staying alive, as long as we had food and shelter we could be safe and procreate; fear was our friend.
However things have changed over the last two million years or so and our lives have gone from not needing to worry about anything much, to worrying about lots of things all at the same time, like Work, Money, Mortgages, Relationships, Health and our fear factor has gone right off the scale. National statistics suggest that many people have mental health issues, and many more of us with related health issues that stem from an underlying psychological condition I think is simply ‘FEAR’.
If we had no fear it would almost surely lead to our demise as a species, but being under it’s influence every waking moment can and inevitably will drive a person to unnatural actions if we don’t learn how to turn it off when it’s not needed. The biggest problem in life for most of us turns out- not to be- what we should do for a living, or where to live or what to eat or if we should have children or not, it’s because we live above our means spending more than we earn. The problem is not so much money, as we like to think it is, but more the fact that we live under constant pressure to fit in and comply. Advertisers seduce us into buying stuff we might like and think we need when we don’t have money to afford them, and we fall into the trap of financial servitude or ‘DEBT’ as it is more commonly known.
The rest we are all familiar with, the dysfunctional family, Divorce, and poor health that are mainly to blame for the fact that we seem unable to live as we ought to, because we are too busy living as we are persuaded to by governments and corporations because, it’s good for business.
Of course none of that will change any time soon, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t escape the treadmill that threatens to wear us out and chuck us on the scrap heap; not if we really want to. So who’s fault is it Really when our lives are unfulfilled and our pockets are empty, sadly it is Our Own.
Believing in the system is probably the biggest mistake any of us could ever make and should know that our hard work good will and integrity never really count for anything as far as the system is concerned.

Love is the way, it always has been, and always will be and for what it’s worth remember

  “It is better to Live Simply Love and be loved rather than to live for Money and Possessions”
Weather we are aware of our mortality or not, we all die
– You Cannot Take It With You –

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Count no man happy until the end is known



Schoolboy Errors



When we eventually leave school and begin our first jobs we forgive ourselves – and are forgiven by others – for the mistakes and mishaps that afflict us. At school I was taught the value of initiative, learn to think for yourself young man and become a do’er – They Said – get on with the task and your superiors will appreciate and reward you for your enthusiasm and courage, don’t ever say In your own defence that it wasn’t your fault because you were Left Unsupervised, that just won’t do.

I remember the advice as clearly today as the day it was given, the message was knocked into us so it should penetrate even the dullest of minds, and for the greater part of my life it seems to have worked, except for today.

As is sometimes the case when I’m out taking pictures, I find others are doing the same. Some carrying equipment of a quality far superior to my own and looking as much for conversation as they are to take pictures: they are the ‘Techy Nerds’.

An enquiring lot, they always ask what gear I’m using & how much it cost and so on and it quickly becomes more interrogation than conversation, a more ‘My lens is longer than your lens’ kind of thing, until I change the subject to something like photography or they feel satisfied they won the
Who’s got the best camera kit contest, and move on.

I must say that most folk I meet are nice enough and today was no exception. When Mr Geeky finished telling me about his most recent purchase and how he had to sell a kidney to pay for it, he proceeded to tell me how he loved to take photo’s of swans but almost always lost detail in the plumage, to make him feel better I said Yeah ! it happens to me too, a lot, try spot metering and bracket for minus one stop to be sure of a decent exposure Blah Blah, and that should do it.

Anyhow he said thanks, in a not very convincing sort of way, then decided to tell me how big his sensor was, Oooo Errrr, and guess what, it was bigger than mine,
Full Frame in fact then went on his way, Boo Hoo, Poor Me.

I stayed at the lakes for another half hour or so until the weather took a turn for the worse and decided to leave, at which point I realized that for the last two hours I’d been taking pictures with a steamed up lens, Doh ! I’d forgotten to clean it and everything I’d taken would most likely turn out soft. Sugar..!

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Blot On The Landscape

I’m not often stuck for words but my thoughts did stall a bit when when I came across this new addition to our local Canal. Here, I thought to myself, here is an architectural mismatch that should never have happened, an attempt to blend old with new that has missed the mark by such a wide margin I would have had it removed immediately had it been in my power to do so.

I had known this place from childhood and nothing much had changed in the last fifty years or so . Apart from the local canal preservation society doing it’s best to preserve what was left of the network it had pretty much been ignored since its abandonment in 1937 when a breach in a section running above the valley floor and the River Irwell gave way, and drained the section.

A wooden footbridge that once spanned the canal at the top of the, rather unfortunately named, ‘Nob End Locks’ had been missing for as long as I can remember, so you can imagine my shock when I came across the new one a couple of years ago. I blurted out a few profanities like – My Goodness My Eyes My Eyes, Oh No What happened here..! and  some, then rode my bike onto it for a while to take in the view from a vantage point I hadn’t had before.

If it was the intention of the designers that it should catch my attention, then It had worked spectacularly well, and if it had also been the intention that it should create a pause for thought, then it had succeeded in that respect as well, and if it had been the intention that such brightly coloured objects might create a stir in the community it had done that with style and bravado.

A few years have passed and I’m now over the shock, and as much as I wanted to dislike these new additions to our local amenities, they have grown on me, and I find myself quite liking that splash of colour and quirkyness the changes have provide to what was an area that could, at best, be described as ‘Industrial Heritage’ or worse the ‘Wasteland’      it was.

If ever the success of a Public Installation hung upon it’s incongruous nature, this one never had anything to worry about, although it’s a bit of a slap in the face on first sighting I have grown to like it for it’s Communal Spirit, Sense of Inclusion Fun and ability to Create Conversation.

Swans – Week Three

If two swallows don’t make a summer then two days of snow don’t make a Winter, and that’s all we have had up to now here in Manchester, but there’s still plenty of time for that to change.
For those who are here for the first time, each week I will be making at least one or two visits to see how the local swan communities are getting along, record details and take a photographs along the way and any worthy will be posted here on the IJP WP Site.

 I took the one above at lunchtime today and as you can see it’s anything but Winter.
Many swans have alphanumeric rings attached to their legs to identify them, the information is held on databases to helps to keep a check on such things as age / migration and so on but systems vary. Collecting IDs is difficult as I am using a pair of binoculars to read them, so it will probably take months for me to make a list to identify them all and find out which areas they are native to.
Some of the rings are blue plastic with three white digits, some with four, those with three have most likely been ringed locally at Farnworth, Ringley, Prestolee, and other places along the Irwell valley. Those with four digits beginning with a ‘T’ are from other places beyond the North west of England within the UK, some rings are metal and may be have been ringed in eastern parts of Europe where they are more common.
Anyway it should suffice to say that it’s always a pleasure for me to sit and absorb the beauty of these beautiful birds. Even though the day was chilly it was a Pleasure to sit in the Sun and wait for something to happen.
I will be adding a Photo section on the site just for Swans & Waterfowl as soon as I can find the time, with a Link at the end of each BlogPost.

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Mr & Mrs

‘A Short Post From Swanblog’

As part of my longform ‘Swanwatch’ I’m looking for two that make a mating pair so I can observe and document their lives throughout the year, here are two likely candidates.
Identifying which is which can be difficult, even for the experts, but I’m going to take a stab at the one in the foreground to be Female and the larger one in the background to be Male. I have written down their ring IDs so I might hopefully find them again later, along with other identifying details for good measure, time will tell if I am right, or not.
The Unlucky pair that gets me for company will form the focus of the watch, although there will be plenty of other pictures to look at too and maybe a few other species of birds thrown in just for variety.
I hope to observe their progress through the Nest building and Rearing period (at a distance of course) but if they fail to produce a clutch or just disappear to another location I will have to find another pair. It should go without saying that ‘I won’t’ be giving away the location of any nesting pair so as to afford them the peace and security they deserve, so please
Don’t Ask !
Although it’s early days and too cold for my fingers to work my equipment properly, I’m enjoying it already. I Intend to ease my way into the project perhaps visiting two or three times a week for an hour or so and see how I get along, but I don’t have much of a plan and it really doesn’t matter,

I’ll be Winging it…Haaaa.


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Two’s Company

The Sun is Shining the Birds are singing, and a quick trip to a local Water Park to shoot some wildlife (take some pictures) has left me in no doubt that Winter has finally appeared from the dampness of the autumn rain: Brrrrrr.

All the Birds a chap could expect to see were in evidence, just as I left them before the Great Rains came, overflowing the River and flooding parts of the village on it’s banks.

Luckily I live above the Irwell Valley and not in the ancient village of Ringley a hundred and fifty feet below (the valley is steep here) so there’s no danger of being flooded, unless the Gods get angry and melt the ice caps completely, then I may need a boat.

The river runs passed a collection of small lakes that once fed mills for making paper and other unpleasant industrial activities of the 17th and 18th centuries that so polluted the river it was effectively dead for the best part of a hundred years from waste dumped into it.

Today it’s is no longer the cesspool I recall it to be as a child. Sitting on the banks of the Canal above on a summer’s day made for a wonderful view of the river below. I recall the water was dark as peat with a smell of bad eggs and layer of foam behind the weir, definitely ‘Not’ something you would want to fall into.

Now the area has been landscaped, the lakes made shallow to prevent drowning and park keepers maintain the area for the public to enjoy the wildlife in safety. When your furniture’s not being washed away in torrent of water, life down in the valley is can be   very pleasant indeed.

Soon it will be ‘Spring’ (I’m Smiling at that thought) and the swans will start to prepare for mating with courtship and build their nests. Those that already have mates (they can pair for life) are already displaying signs of an amorous nature and two stood obligingly beside me and groomed themselves whilst doing the old  ‘let’s tie our necks in a knot’ routine, while I took pictures and lost the use of my fingers.

‘I Enjoyed It’

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Cygnus Olor – Mute Swan

– Background Info for the Novice –

Out of the seven species of Swans known to us most of us are able to identify a ‘Mute Swan’ when we see one, in fact most of the Swans we see here in the UK are ‘Mute’, successful because they are Big – Territorial -Adaptable – and have multiple chicks every year, around three to eight in a Clutch.

Other Species are the ‘Black Necked Swan’ – ‘Black Swan’ – ‘Bewick’ –  ‘Trumpeter’ – ‘Whistling’ – ‘Coscoroba’ & Whooper..

Swans reach maturity at three and usually mate at four if they find a match, they mate and a clutch takes 35 days to incubate & hatch. They live for about ten years in the wild longer in captivity and members of the Goose & Duck family.

If you’re a Swan Fan you will Know this already, I put this here by way of an introduction for people new to Swans or bird watching.
Please feel free to correct me if I make a mistake, I may be a Fan and Photographer of Swans, but I’m no expert on them. You can use the contact form to send or request information as you like, or Message me on Twitter.

This is ‘Photographic Journey’ not a fact finding mission, and I hope to create Images to satisfy the interest of those who decide to follow ‘SwanWatch’ Blog.

All the locations I visit will be local. Opportunities will be subject to the Weather, Light Conditions & Time, and although I hope for good luck only the following six to twelve months will determine if I am to be successful.

I’m calling this the first day proper of ‘SwanWatch’ Blog and I may even venture out into the cold for a second time today (first was with my dog) as it’s stopped raining and the light has improved, some what.

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A Most Loved Bird

– A Longform Project 2016 –

Swans have to be one of the most approachable animals around, they are everywhere. From Frozen Tundra to Village Ponds, we find them wherever we go.!
Our relationships with this magnificent creature goes back as far as recorded history and probably beyond, they are such a loved and familiar part of our landscape that we afford them special permissions we don’t always afford to other creatures in the Landscape.

As children we learn trust as we feed them, along with the ducks, who although arguably are more entertaining they are more than happy to play court jester to their their Regal counterparts. Whilst we all love to laugh at the antics of ducks we, have too much respect to do anything other than admire Swans for their
Elegance & Standing.

Not ones to shy away from attention and always happy to accommodate our cameras as they glide about, they repay our interest with a very personal insight into their celebrity style lives, whilst at the same time keeping us at a respectful distance so as to appear not so friendly that we might appear to be on speaking terms: as it should be when meeting Royalty or People of High authority and Importance.
They may be slightly aloof, but they sure ain’t Snobbish, they have way too
much style for that.

Nothing if not Grumpy, they require no security if the common folk get too close, especially at nesting time or when out with their offspring. Being in demand and playing to an audience is one thing but having a camera shoved in your face from one meter away is usually to much for any self respecting Swan, and such familiarity is often paid with a ‘Lunge for the Lens’ or a ‘Wing Flap’ to keep us in our place.

Once was the time when Royalty would eat these wonderful creatures, but now they are Royalty themselves, fed watered and cared for like no other they are possibly
the most loved, Pampered and Photographed
Birds in the World.

I’m now working on creating exclusively ‘New Images’ for this project some of
which I will be posting here at WordPress & Weebly You Can also Find me on irisphotojournal.twitter.com if you wish to follow me.

Pennine Memories

Back in the 1970s I made a promise to myself to one day walk the pennine Way. It wasn`t until the mid 80s before I found the time to do it all in one trip, I also remember thinking it would be a breeze, which of course it wasn`t. I gave myself two weeks, time enough for most people travelling in the traditional manner, using bed and Breakfast or youth hostel hospitality to dry out, enjoy hot meals and a warm bed for the night. Being the thrifty fellow I am I chose the rather less salubrious option of camping wherever I could, for free. I hadn`t walked anything like this distance before, and didn’t even own a decent pair of boots. All my equipment (with the exception of my stove) was to say the least; rudimentary. It was modest yet adequate, it also weighed so much it made me wonder, how ever was I going to carry it all for the best part of three hundred miles.
I had been on shorter excursions, taken to much & thought I`d learned sufficiently from the experience, not to carry more than was sensible, like `binoculars`, taking this rather weighty accessory on a previous trip, found them filled with mist, ( like they had their own micro climate ) and useless. I still had around 40 pounds or (18 kilos) in my rucksack and more about my body, which became something of an anchor as the trip advanced, it took three days before I realized I should jettison surplus equipment to lighten the load, sadly it didn`t make much difference as I needed most of it to survive. The official start was Edale and I was determined to walk the whole way, whatever the consequences; (there were many). It was a great experience and my memories of it are the best, I cherish them to this day and intend to go back soon to rekindle those memories and this time I will take more pictures. 

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“I went To The Hills & They Welcomed Me”



No other animal is more Iconic to England than the Swan, so I’m going to take a look at them to see what they mean to the people of the Nation. If we go to any suburban park we are sure to find people feeding and admiring them along with the ducks and geese. Most swans on open waters are (technically) owned by the Queen but this rule is not strictly adhered to. The yearly count is only carried out on certain parts of the River Thames over a five day period by a group of people known as the Swan Uppers.. It takes place annually on the last Monday of July, see a short video of this annual tradition in the video section Here.  Swans are Magical Creatures, for me no other animal quite matches the grace, strength and beauty of a Swan..

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“The Wild Swans At Coole”