With a supposedly reasonable day in the offing, today we set off to the National Arboretum at Westonbirt to see if we could catch the display of autumn colours. Carol had arranged to meet another photographic buddy there at 10:00 AM and, since Westonbirt is 90 miles away, we had arranged for ourselves the mercifully now rare delight of travelling with Joe Public during his Friday morning commute. This, of course, breaks retirement rule #1 but needs must.
At Oxford we drove into some rain. So much for our stunningly accurate weather forecasts, once again. The skies ahead looked decidedly gloomy but we carried on regardless. Well, we pretty much had to, since we had a rendez-vous. We arrived and parked to wait for our companion who turned up shortly afterwards, parked, and muttered, “this wasn’t the forecast”. No, quite. Undaunted both by the weather and the arrival of two car-loads of Satan’s Little Disciples, we collected our gear and set off. It soon became apparent that we had not arrived a day too soon; several of the trees had already dropped the majority of their leaves. There were enough left for us, though.
Our own native trees are capable of putting on a pleasant enough autumnal display, of course, but the real attractions in the arboretum are the maples/acers which seem to take autumnal colour to another level. We had visited Westonbirt once several years ago and on that occasion the ground around the more colourful acers was v. muddy. Given the almost incessant rainy weather that we’ve endured ever since some loud-mouthed official yelled “drought!” six months ago, this year was no different. What happens is this: folks wander along the gravel tracks of the arboretum until they espy an acer standing gaudily to one side, whereupon they naturally enough tromp over the grass in their walking boots/Wellies and circle it to look more closely before picking their angle and snapping away. The result is a picturesque tree surrounded by a circle of muddy ground churned up by countless fee-paying tourists. Still, that’s why it’s there and that’s the way it has to be.
Happily we avoided much more in the way of rain – just a few drops – but the air was v. cold and, since setting up tripods and taking considered photographs is not a very active pursuit, my body heat gradually ebbed away to leave me feeling somewhat as I imagine an ice cube to feel. [Note to self: I really must remember how to dress appropriately for winter.]
Flat grey skies are not the photographer’s friend and they really need cutting out, either in camera or in post-processing by what one might call “creative cropping”. Another approach is to try something a little wacky to add interest. Here’s a selection of our collected efforts at doing just that.