Monday, November 12, 2012

Berliet and more French soldiers

Another pre- or during WW1 photo. This is a Berliet phaeton - a model C1 perhaps?, the Berliet - Lyon marque stamped on the wheel hubs. The two officers in the back could be a captain and a major, and another rank in the front with epaulettes. Their insignia is not clear enough to determine, but perhaps aeronautique militaire or even military police. It's incredibly hard to find out what these isignia are. Wonderful handlebar moustaches though! To the left are close ups of the rear passengers, and the Berliet logo on the wheel, and below is the photo on a poster. I'm no car expert, so if anyone knows which model/year it is, please let me know! The style of car says 1908, but of course the photo could have been taken years after that.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Magnat Debon and ?

My latest find, this vintage photo of a group of military personnel and their vehicles, has been a real labour of love, for a start, though a lovely historical record, it wasn't cheap (though I managed to get 10 euros off!). Secondly, nothing in it was identified, and thirdly it needed retouching - about 10 hours worth as there were little spots on it where the emulsion had been distorted. The first to be identified was the motorcycle which seems to be a Magnat Debon from between 1905 and 1910. I haven't had any luck with the car at all, though it has quite a distinctively shaped radiator grille and very plush seats, and it's in the phaeton style of that era, probably used for collecting officers from the station.
Most of the men have a distinct insignia on their lapels, which I also haven't been able to identify. One has a white armband and others dark armbands - one with writing on it which is unfortunately not readable. the soldier on the motorcycle doesn't have the lapel insignia, but a logo on his puttee which can just be seen through the motorcycle - no clues there either! He's also carrying a rifle slung behind his back, it took me several hours to notice that, and up until then I thought they might be civilian - railway workers or postmen. Next, on to the location - there must be thousands of "Hotel de la Gare"s in France, so it was just down to dogged persistence and looking through old postcards until suddenly I came across a different view of the same hotel. Double checking on Google Earth confirmed. The cafe, which says H. Caziot above the door, is now a house and the hotel is now apartments, in the region of no. 22 Avenue de la Gare, Gannat, Allier, France, which is not too far from a garrison in Clermont Ferrand. Coincidentally or not, I'd already discovered that the car registration "F", if a private car, was registered in Clermont Ferrand. This is a very detailed photo which enlarges well, here it is on a poster:

Hotel de la Gare, Gannat, France

Sunday, November 4, 2012

And possibly a narrowboat anorak!

I now have a blog dedicated to waterways - please visit

I've loved canals for years, ever since my first holiday on the Llangollen in 1968. Numerous holidays later, including helping people move boats from A to B and many happy trips on Aber in the 80s, I now live in France, a good 2 hours from the nearest canal. So, to help with the withdrawal symptoms, I've been going through my old trannies and copying a few lucky find postcards. Large Woolwich Aber (GUCCC no. 101) and Heidi, the bearded collie
Many thanks to the various people with FMC resources who have made my research much easier! The first one is I believe a pair of Fellows, Morton and Clayton narrowboats moored up in the entrance to a lock presumably at Berkhamsted on the Grand Union. The butty could possibly be Grange No. 261 though the boats are slightly out of focus for artistic reasons, I can just make out NGE on the left side and it could easily be GRA on the right. The wording on the cabin of the motor can only be Fellows Morton etc. The photograph was taken by J T Newman of Berkhamsted and was posted to France in February 1917 with this wording on the back.
This shows the frozen canal. The ice has been broken by a special "ice-boat".
The icicles on the lock gates are just fantastic. the original has a slight sepia tinge but I've given this a pale blue tint as it looks coooold! Here shown on a Christmas card but prints and other items are available (sorry for the plug, but one does try to earn a living!).
The next boat took some research, as the low resolution image on the sale site gave me the impression it was another boat, however, it turned out to be FMC Bison No 289. Here seen running through the ice on the Grand Union next to the now rebuilt Wolverton station, Milton Keynes. I don't know the age of the photo but it must be fairly late. I still remember working boats at Croxley Mill in the 60s - what a pity I didn't take any photos!, but this is quite a bit earlier than that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I also love vintage motorbikes & cars

and photographs, and postcards. So, this blog is changing tack. It all started with me acquiring a couple of negatives of my grandfather and grandmother on a motorcycle. I printed them in the old fashioned way and recently photographed the prints with a digital camera. I don't know what the bike is except that it's belt drive, has acetylene lights and Premier on the crankcase.
Not long after getting the negs, I bought a BSA B18 (lovely bike - I miss it!), so the motorbike aspect is obviously inherited. The photo above was taken sometime in the 1920s. Just lately, I bought a scanner (an Epson v600) to scan my old negs and trannies, and my postcard collection. This unfortunately has lead me to scout out more photos and postcards to scan - an expensive operation! My three latest acquisitions are this 1900 De Dion Bouton vis a vis car, scanned from a tiny faded photo - it's quite amazing what detail some of these old photos hold, this one was only 8x8cms - and what a great scanner the v600 is (if your budget won't reach the next one up). Written on the back is August 1900 (in French).
Next was this Unic taxi with chauffeur, easy to identify as Unic is written on the wheel hubs. I've been scouring the internet for tips on removing the silvering from old photos - one was using silver polish. As this wasn't a particularly rare card, I gave it a try - it works wonders! You do have to be careful not to leave any smears as they show up badly in the scans. It doesn't seem to have done any short term damage though I'm not sure I'd use this method on a valuable photo, and I did rinse it afterwards (after all, photos are meant to be wet at some point in their lives). And of course, it's not that simple, there's still an enormous amount of retouching to do afterwards.
The third car I haven't managed to identify - I thought at first it was a Darracq but it appears to be something else. I'm a bit suspicious of the people in the photo, as they seem to crop up in various combinations in other cars. None of the others have the driver with the lovely moustache though. I have no doubt about the age of the photo though, probably around 1907-10, and perhaps the variations I've found were just photographers license. It certainly appears to be the French countryside.
Any identification help or corrections gratefully received!

Monday, May 7, 2012

I love insects!

They make fascinating if unpredictable subjects. I forget how many tries I have at each subject, but there's normally one that's OK. Hoverflies are great - they hang motionless in the air - until they move! Hummingbird hawkmoths on the other hand, hover for a second and then they're off! This is a hoverfly in full stop.
Hoverfly hovering zazzle_postcard
Hoverflies are one of the major garden friends - their larvae feed on aphids. This next photo is of a hoverfly laying her eggs on a honeysuckle flower smothered with aphids - a ready made buffet for her babies!
Hoverfly on honeysuckle zazzle_postcard
They are not too hard to catch, as long as you creep up on them delicately, they will stay motionless for ages. With hummmingbird hawkmoths on the other hand, they hover for a few seconds, and you need to focus on where you think they will be next. For the technically minded, this was taken with a Nikon D5000 and a 400mm Novoflex lens wide open (5.6) at 1/1000 sec, resting on a tripod but not fixed.
Hummingbird hawk-moth hovering zazzle_print

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I know this blog is mainly photography, but I do like to feature some talented artists from time to time, and this is one of them, and also subject related since there are birds. Sarah is British but moved to rural Australia in 2010. Her flower and animal paintings are just stunning, and here are some of them: An eagle owl, a kingfisher, two beautiful irises - a yellow and a purple one, a wonderfully lifelike rabbit portrait and a red chrysanthemum. Find out more by visiting her Zazzle store, Mylittleeden, or clicking on an image below. These are available as wrapped canvas prints /and or posters, as well as on some other products.
Portrait of an eagle owl canvas fine-art print wrappedcanvasKingfisher Ornithology portrait fine art print printIris inner beauty (warm yellow) square canvas wrappedcanvasFlag Iris (purple and mauve) poster print printPortrait of a rabbit grazing boxed canvas print wrappedcanvasRed floral canvas original fine-art print wrappedcanvas

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last years birds

Well, I did manage to take one or two birds last year, the first is this nuthatch sitting on the garden table. It's a European or Eurasian Nuthatch, Sitta europaea, which is slightly different in colouring to the American version. They are quite tame here and always on the bird feeder in winter. Taken with the nikon 18-55mm kit lens
I'd taken a series of photos before, but none of them big enough to use on their own, so I had the sudden brainwave to make a collage. It's all the same bird but in different poses. This one was with the Nikon 70-300mm lens
Another collage is this Middle Spotted Woodpecker and chick, Dendrocopus medius. We had just parked near a lake when I saw the hole in a tree, and the woodpecker fly up to it. I took this with my "new toy", a 400mm Novoflex. It's a huge lens and I was in contortions almost on the floor of the car to get enough angle to point the lens out of the window. It had to be a collage as the chick disappeared every time the parent arrived!
Another lucky encounter was this Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, again from the car while we were parked by a lake. In fact, it was so well camouflaged sitting about 10 feet away, that we didn't notice it until it moved.
Another photo taken with the Novoflex, this time the Goldfinch, carduelis carduelis, was only about 6 feet away as it came to drink at the garden pond, so I needed to use the macro bellows.