Happy New Year 2016

New green shoots

Happy new year 2016. A fresh start, new plans, and green shoots. Here’s wishing prosperity to all our readers.

~ Wandering Cows

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Peacock feathers

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Peacocks are beautiful creatures and they embody positive virtues in mythology – characteristics like knowledge, patience and immortality.

Oddly enough however, peacock feathers are a symbol of bad luck, largely because its many-eye pattern is considered to be the Seer of Everything. It is said that if a person sleeps on a bed of peacock feathers, it will bring him death. Hmm. Bear that in mind next time you go out to buy new bedding !

~ Spotted Cow

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What a wonderful world it has been

Building against Antarctic ice

It’s that time of year, filled with lights, Christmas parties and Secret Santas. Amid the frenzy and the excess, we look back on 2014. Our following is thriving in ways we didn’t imagine when we started the blog around 14 months ago. The blog’s personality is still growing and developing, and we’re less uncertain than we were at its birth. Writing the “post”-cards has become second nature.

Along the way, we’ve made a few friends and one real one even, who lives down the road in London! We’ve featured and guest starred on a few other sites. And the Weekly Photo Challenge has become a fairly regular exercise.

We’ve recently started Snap Chat to talk about photography tips and techniques. This hasn’t been as regular as I would like and I need to get better organised in 2015. I still owe a couple of Snap Chat posts on Aperture and Panning, but haven’t got around to them. It’s a case of translating what I do instinctively in photography into words. It’s not that easy. When I think of Panning, my head automatically move from left to right … but surely that can’t be all there is to it! I’ve been meaning to get the camera out onto the street to observe exactly what I do.

If you’d like to leave some tips on how busy people look after a blog, we’re all ears.

For now, we’ll be taking a break for a couple of weeks to chill out. So, have a good one. We’ll pop by to wish you a Merry Christmas and then we’ll see you in the new year.

~ Spotted Cow

Money for old rope

Ship rope

Although we had our amazing dinghy and land expeditions, there was also a lot of time spent on the boat during the Antarctic trip.

When I exhausted the day’s shots of icescapes, I took photographs of the ship’s features, notably the rope, which there was a lot of. It made me think of the saying “money for old rope”.  It has a nautical origin and comes from the days when sailors sold the good, (shorter), undamaged bits of rope when they came ashore.

~ Spotted Cow

More ship rope

Bird seeking shelter under rope

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone but not forgotten

Skeleton

I came across this skeleton on one of our daily land trips on the Antarctic Peninsula. It made me think that Antarctica is like a natural Natural History Museum. There wasn’t a guide close by to ask, but I guess it was a stranded whale.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone but not forgotten

~ Spotted Cow

I missed the whales breaching !

Whale tail. Antarctica.

We had tannoys in our rooms on board the Antarctic expedition boat. I was lying in bed dozing to the rocking motion of the sea when the announcement came from the ship’s bridge that there were whales breaching. This, I had to see. I donned all my layers in double quick time and ran up on deck. Alas, I had missed the acrobatics. I did, however, manage to burn through over 100 pictures of their humps and tails going in and out of the water.

~ Spotted Cow

Four whale humpsWhale tailWhale tail with barnaclesWhale spotting

30,000 year-old ice for your gin & tonic

Giant iceberg

It’s a massive understatement, but there’s a lot of ice in Antarctica. Great giant blocks of ice the size of castles. In fact, they’re the young ‘uns, the bits of ice that have broken off glaciers or ice shelves and drifted out into the sea. It’ll take about 20,000 to 40,000 years for them to melt down to something you can put into your measure of gin & tonic.

We had excursions in motorized dinghies around these iceberg graveyards, to get a sense of their enormity, broadly aware that the ice is continuously melting and the iceberg could potentially tip over on one of its sides. Do you know the sound of groaning ice? I would like to have known, albeit from a safe distance !

~ Spotted Cow

IMGP0668 Ice the size of castles Seal on the iceIceberg perspective

Seals in Antarctica

Seal on ice

Penguins get all the hype, but my favourite creatures in Antarctica are the seals. They have wonderfully enigmatic expressions on their dog-like faces.

Seals are usually quite lazy. Mostly, I saw them lying around on the ice floes, watching the world go by. They’re attracted to the sound of the outboard motor and sometimes, they find enough energy to heave their blubber into water and swim up to say hello.

~ Spotted Cow

Seal swimming Seal of approval Seal and tourists

Did you see penguins in Antarctica?

Penguins on ice floe

Following on from the Snap Chat post about photographing in very white conditions, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on Antarctica.

I did an Antarctic trip several years ago and it was so bewilderingly beautiful that I almost never wanted to travel again because I thought that nothing could surpass it. The trip had a striking effect on me in more ways than one because I quit my job when I got home, having decided that I had to look down other routes. But that is a story for another time.

The most popular question I got when I returned from the trip was “did you see any penguins?”

The answer is a definitive yes. I saw penguins everyday. I smelt them every day too! Their poo – or guano, if you want to use the technical term – has a strong, sharp, pungent smell, which alerts you to their whereabouts. However, it doesn’t take away from how delightful and affable these little tuxedoed gentlemen are, waddling around on the ice and snow. Plus, you have the added bonus of getting up close and personal with them, if you can bear the smell.

~ Spotted Cow

Lone penguin in snow shower Penguins looking out to sea Solitary penguinClose-up

Goodbye Summer

Summer Holidays

I’m hanging onto the warmth for as long as I can. London has had a fantastic summer this year and I’ve been on three (!) holidays, which is very indulgent.

There was the May week to my friend D’s remote village of Esparragosa de Lares in Spain. Then, two weeks on a Turkey photography tour in July. And finishing off with a super hot August Seville flamenco and eating week. They were all very different trips and I thoroughly enjoyed the variety. Click on the tags to read the posts.

Since I’ve taken all my annual leave in the summer months, I am now chained to the office desk until Christmas when I see my family. However, not to worry. There’s plenty in and around London for weekend diversions. Coincidentally, there are 3 B’s on my list – Brighton (sea air), Bletchley Park (code-breaking, espionage and Enigma machines) and ballet at the Royal Opera House. Stay tuned.

Out-of-town readers, if you fancy a London weekend, they’re giving one away on the London’s Autumn Season video on the Visit Britain website. Come visit !

~ Spotted Cow

Behind the Wandering Cows. Virtual Blog Tour

Cows and cowherdess

You get a bit of a peek behind the scenes today because Andrea at Middle East Moments invited me to do a virtual blog tour. I have to answer four questions about my creative process and introduce a couple of blogs I like.

First, let me introduce Andrea. Her blog is called Middle East Moments and I came by it because I loved Jordan when I visited. I went on a conventional tour that took me to Petra and the Dead Sea, but it lacked the insight into people’s lives that I am interested in. Andrea is an expat Australian married to a Jordanian, and her blog is a candid reflection of her life – the simple pleasures, the personal relationships, the challenges of a different culture & lifestyle, and she photographs the environment around her. She once put up some pictures of black irises, which I had never seen before which really intrigued me.

Question 1. What am I working on?


I’ve just come back from a 2-week photography trip to North-East Turkey and there are 1300 images to work through and edit. It’s slow work because I have a day job and a summer social life, but it’s rewarding because I’m reminded of the holiday.

Question 2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?


When the Wandering Cows blog was conceived, we wanted it to be postcard style. We wanted it to be like the postcards we sent home to our folks – short, descriptive, personal and with pictures. Practically, it’s also about as much as we can manage. Most of the posts are in the 100+ word or less category. But there are a few – like this one – which veer into a longer format.

Incidentally, our folks were our first subscribers.

Question 3. Why do I write/create what I do?


The Wandering Cows is a family project. On the face of it, it looks like I’m the only one that contributes, but I’m just the “face”. My sister, Purple Cow, possessed the vision and designed the site. We go on the annual family trip together and my brother and the young ‘uns have a say in the itinerary.

But yes, I write the majority of the posts and I take most of the photos. In the past, I have occasionally been paid for writing travel articles, but I didn’t always like how they were edited and editors didn’t always want my photos. One editor made the language more casual to reflect their younger, less formal, budget travel readership. It may have been right for them, but it didn’t feel like my voice anymore. Here, you hear my voice in every post. Thank goodness the day job pays.

Question 4. How does your writing/creating process work?

The creation of each post is an iterative process.

I make notes on things I would like to write about – an incident, a catchy title, a tactile turn of phrase, a smart statistic – because there’s nothing worse than forgetting something clever that you thought about earlier.

I try to write a couple of posts a week and do the Weekly Photo Challenge.  When I come to write, I’ll have the story and picture in my head. You travel to a place because you are attracted by one or two big things – Sydney & the Opera House, for example.  When you arrive, you find lots of other things which catch your attention – an intimate cafe in Surrey Hills, the milk bar burger with beetroot, or the White Rabbit Museum. What I try to do is focus on one thing, think about what happened, what I felt about it, and write it down. Then I edit, review and edit again. It’s getting better with practice, but it’s surprising how many superfluous words I use in the first write-up. If nothing else, I like the grammar and spelling to be right, so reading and re-reading is necessary.

As for the pictures, I usually know which image I’m going to use because I would have taken the photo for the story behind it. I find photography easier than the writing, although it has its own challenges and I write about that sometimes in the blog.

Introducing a couple of blogs

Now, the fun bit where I introduce a couple of blogs. I’ve chosen two that are quite different in their perspective. The aspect they have in common is that I look forward to them every week. In no particular order …

First, there’s The Slow Pace, who are two Spanish girls living in Germany. They have a lifestyle blog that talks about the things they like – design, fashion, recipes, travel, hotels, restaurants, you name it. I love reading it because they like some of the same cities that I do – Copenhagen, Seville, London (naturally!) – and I like reading the recommendations. Plus, I too aspire to a stylish life. They posted a blog about their bar cart which I thoroughly envied and wanted the exact same one with similar accessories. I didn’t know that I wanted a bar cart until I saw theirs!

Secondly, there’s Visual Venturing, which is a photoblog with an eye-catching layout. Stacy’s front page is like a candy shop of pictures. Black & white images sit next to colour in a complementary fashion. When you first see it, it’s an exquisite choice about what to click on. I like it because one of the things about learning photography is looking at lots of pictures to understand what makes a good photo. Stacy also does a After-Before Friday column where she puts up hers and other photographers’ before and after images. It’s very instructive.

Both The Slow Pace and Visual Venturing will post their Virtual Blog Tour on Monday, 18 August, so watch out for it.

~ Spotted Cow

Happy New Year 2014

Happy new year 2014 !

We always thought it was New Zealand first and Hawaii last to usher in the new year. And it kinda sorta is in terms of the big inhabited places. The new year timings tell us that its actually Samoa first and American Samoa last.  They’re only 80km apart, but in December 2011, Samoa shifted it’s time zone for economic reasons.  So now, you can take a one-hour flight and celebrate new year first and last in the world. How’s that for a bit of new year time travel trivia?

We’re going to leave you with this picture of a balloon flight over Cappadocia in Turkey. We like how it symbolises the far horizons we’re going to conquer. We’d better get cracking on the new year resolutions then.

~ Wandering Cows

Balloon Cappadocia

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our readers.  I hope you’re having a wonderful day and thank you for your support. We started our travel blog project a few months ago and we’re enjoying sharing it with you.

Let us know what you’re up to on your Christmas Day. We’re going to be swinging from the trees ! More about that later.

~Wandering Cows

Merry Christmas

Burning bush

You can see the Burning Bush at St Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt.

Yes, THE very bush where God spoke to Moses.  If like me, you’re one of the Ignorant and ask “but really, I thought it burnt ?!”, then you should know that it was the bush “that burned with fire and was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).  I learnt subsequently that some believe that the bush is a rare species of rose called Rubus Sanctus, native to the Sinai, which is extremely durable and long-living.  So, it could well be …

A fortnight later I looked at my pictures closely and realised that there was a fire extinguisher in the shadows.  I hadn’t noticed it at the time, although image searches on the web show that it’s generally there, awaiting God’s re-appearance.  Better to be prepared. I also noticed that the bush I photographed was more verdant than a lot of the dry and dusty images I found.  Maybe it’s because I went at Easter.

~ Spotted Cow

Burning Bush