Category Archives: Stevenage

It was dead.

Stevenage Borough Council have replied to my email about that tree I blogged about last week. (Read it here.)  I’d hoped there was a good reason for its removal; turns out there was.

  • Was this tree subject of a TPO? (I note it is not listed on the website here as having a post-1999 TPO, but the page does stage older TPOs are not listed.)
    No the tree was not subject to a TPO 
  • What was the reason for its removal?
    This Elm tree was dead in its entirety.
  • What investigations were made (tree surgeon report etc) into alternative courses of action such as pollarding?
    The tree has been monitored over the last two years. Last year, with the exception of very few leaves, the tree was virtually dead. The council had then no option but to look into the removal of the tree. This year (2014) there were no leaves on the tree at all. When the tree was removed on 31 August 2014, the operatives noted the advanced degree of rot and decay within the tree’s crown and trunk. If the tree had been allowed to stay, it would have posed a great risk to highway users and residents.

Sad about a tree.

An email I sent today.

Dear Sirs*,

I noted with sadness this morning the removal of a large mature tree on Stevenage High Street, on the pavement outside Waitrose.

Aaw... wonder what it had done to deserve this?

Under the freedom of information act, may I request some details about its removal?
  • Was this tree subject of a TPO*? (I note it is not listed on the website here as having a post-1999 TPO, but the page does stage older TPOs are not listed.)
  • What was the reason for its removal?
  • What investigations were made (tree surgeon report etc) into alternative courses of action such as pollarding?
Yours faithfully,
*    Stevenage Borough Council
**  Tree Preservation Order

UPDATE: Just been pointed out to me that Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, Tweeted a few days ago about the “Dead Elm” being removed.

I shall still be interested to hear the council’s official reply.

UPDATE 2: They’ve replied. It was dead.

Rural wanderings

Been spending far too much time in front of a computer lately, so made a point of getting out behind a camera this morning. I was on foot, so only wandered a short distance from home, but I’m right on the edge of town so headed west for a bit on the public footpath network. Here are a few of the things I spotted.

Low-level livingThis oddly-placed bird box.

Lines of cropsParallel Lines

Field of wheatLots and lots of wheat

Hi-flyersThese guys reaching for the sky

Wheat Macro
Here’s a closer look.

Stevenage Water Tower

And here’s a surprise. I’ve always known that the Water Tower is built at the highest point in Stevenage, but it’s never occurred to me that you’d be able to see it standing out above the rest of town like this. Here’s a map to indicate roughly where this is taken from. Amazing how much of Stevenage is hidden from view from here.

water tower map


What made this one so fiddly? Oh, yes. That.

Cyclepath Composite(Click on image for fullscreen version)

When I did my first composite shot a couple of months ago, I had the idea to try one based on the cycle paths in Stevenage. Having spend what seems an age putting this one together, I’m wishing I’d never had the idea.

I’m quite pleased with the result, but not nearly pleased enough. I couldn’t print this one out and exhibit it; it’s not nearly good enough. So let’s look and see what made this one so much more fiddly and awkward than the others I’ve done?

First is the easy one: unlike people, you can see through the wheels and frames of bicycles. And what’s behind them? More bicycles. Which you can also see through. And what’s behind them? Yeah, you got it. Meant a lot more complicated masking to layer them all up. As before, every one of the cyclists is photographed exactly as they were as they rode through that morning. I’ve not ‘moved’ anyone. I did learn something from last time: it was definitely easier to plan ahead a bit and add them from the back, working my way forwards.

The other thing that surprised me – but shouldn’t have – was just how much the shadows changed during the time I was there. Every one of these cyclist’s shadows is a slightly different angle and a very different length, and the difference between the first ones I shot (about 8:20am) and the last (about 9:30) is really quite marked. I should have anticipated this; I’ve seen how a sundial works for goodness sake.

cyclepath shadows 8:20am

cyclepath shadows-2 9:00am

cyclepath shadows-3 9:20am

Notice how much the shadow of the tall lighting column moves across these three sample photos. The bicycle shadows do the same! 

Suffice to say, if I do another one of these, it won’t be bicycles!

On a cycling note, all I can say is: look how few helmets there are! 

Quick! Look busy!

Over the summer, I’m supposed to be researching and experimenting for what’s called my “negotiated project” for an assignment next year. It’s about time I made a start.

First up, a composite street shot. I’d seen these online recently:

©Pelle Cass

©Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass shoots a whole series of photos from the same location and then carefully composites them to make these over-crowded scenes. I read about his work on PetaPixel here (PetaPixel is a source of much inspiration and I expect it will get mentioned a lot on here) and straight away thought I’d like to have a go. I’d seen the exact opposite idea mentioned a while ago – to use the same technique to show completely empty street scenes – but this was a new idea to me.

Finally I’ve had a go. I started by doing a very basic test out of my front room window as the bins were being collected. This was the result:

A little test for a possible project idea.

This was only six layers, and very little overlap between the dustman’s positions so was relatively straightforward, but it was a good opportunity to test out several methods. (You did notice it was just one dustman, didn’t you?)

Having done that I set myself up in Stevenage Town Centre and shot around sixty versions of a view over the town square over the course of about 45 minutes. And then set to work making this composite:

Stevenage Town Centre was busy that day

Do click on the image to see a full-screen version so you can see properly what’s going on. The final image was made up of about 40 layers, opened as a stack in photoshop and each layer masked to reveal only those people I wanted.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 09.50.43

This time it was much more complicated, as now I had people – and more fiddly, shadows – overlapping. But I persevered and am pleased with the result. I’d estimate that it took up to about six hours compositing this all together, but I was refining the technique all the time and finding ways to make it easier, so if I did it again (and I plan to) I’d hopefully be a bit more efficient with my time.

Main lesson? Start from the back and work your way forwards. Would have simplified a lot. Just saying.


Update: I sent a link to this blog post to Pelle Cass to let him know I’d taken inspiration from his idea and had a go. Just had a reply from him saying “Nice compositing! You’ve got the technique down.” How nice to get positive feedback from your inspiration. Thanks, Pelle. 

“Do you wanna take my photo?”

I was out walking. With my camera. Taking photos. You know: brick walls, dark underpasses – the sort of things I normally shoot.

I walked round a corner: a small group of teenagers ahead. And as I passed, one of them said,

Do you wanna take my photo?

So I turned, shrugged, and said, “sure”.

And he smiled. So I took one shot, said “thanks, fella”, and went on my way.

This fella asked if I wanted to take his photo.

(PS: If you want to see the others I took, you can do just that here.)