Police Unity Tour & Service for Slain UK Police Officers at the National Memorial Arboretum

Despite being ex-RAF Police, with oodles of mates who went on to join the civilian police, I’d never heard of UK COPS.

UK COPS cares for the families of police officers who have died. We recently did a fund raiser for Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the intent is much the same as that organisation.

When I joined my current organisation I met a colleague who had taken part in the Police Unity Tour, with a special tandem bike borrowed by the business so a partially sighted work colleague could also take part. When he told me about the UK COPS, COPS being an acronym for Care Of Police Survivors, I was very interested.

So when the opportunity came up to go the National Memorial Arboretum, which is only 10 miles from my house, to see the Police Unity Tour and the UK COPS organisation I jumped at the chance.

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A young boy looks at a Staffordshire Police Cadet at the UK COPS Police National Unity Tour, the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

I’m not quite sure of the relationship between the Police Unity Tour and UK COPS, obviously they’re synonymous with remembering slain officers and looking after their relatives, but I believe UK COPS is a charity and the Police Unity Tour is organised by the police themselves, much like Light The Lakes, where each rider wears a wristband in memory of an officer.

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Staffordshire Police Cadets carry flowers at the UK COPS Police Unity Tour at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

Anyway to the day itself, rain is falling and has been since Saturday, the beautiful weather we saw last week is gone and the heavens have opened. The day starts with a significant number of police cadets supporting the route which the cyclists will take into the Arboretum, as mentioned it’s raining and even with all their gear, it’s still cold when you get wet, so respect to these young men and women who stood for so long to line the route.

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A woman battles with the weather at the UK COPS Police Unity Tour at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

The crowds gather, a mix of high-ranking police officers, relatives, friends and supporters, a siren whelps in the distance, it’s not a UK police siren, the noise is strange as it is carried on the mist and rain.

A police car with it lights flashing rounds the path that goes around the main memorial at the Arboretum, followed by the riders from the Blue Knights, who are supporting the Police Unity Tour, numerous bikes file into the Arboretum followed by a standard, unmarked divisional traffic car, and then the cyclists.

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There are 450+ cyclists and each one of them wears a wristband for a police officer who is no longer with us.

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A Police Unity Tour Rider at the UK COPS event at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

The impact is not lost, 450 people who went to do a job and never returned.

The riders go past, some are joyous, some reflect and others are overcome with emotion, as am I.

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A Police Unity Tour Rider is overcome with emotion, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

After the riders, the source of the strange siren appears, an old American style police car, decked out with more modern-day strobe lights.

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An American police car at the UK COPS Police Unity Tour, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

Once the cyclists have arrived, people move to the marquee where they reunite with friends and colleagues and take their places, all the while being entertained by the West Midlands Police Band.

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The conductor of the West Midlands Police Brass Band, UK COPS Police Unity Tour, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

After a short while a piper plays some laments and the room falls silent, the service begins. I don’t take photographs of this, there are plenty of UK COPS photographers in the service and my equipment is absolutely soaked, as am I.

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A piper plays at the UK COPS Police Unity Tour event, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

 

This is quite an event and I’m extremely moved, hopefully I’ll be able to attend next year, the weather will be better and I’ll get to see the wreath laying ceremony on The Beat.

If you want to donate to UK COPS, you can support this wonderful charity here.

On a final note, one of my very good friends, when I was in the RAF Police, was a chap called Barry Davies, shortly after I left our the unit at which we were both based he left the RAF and joined Dyfed Powys Police. Barry sadly died in a car accident within a few years of joining the force.

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Ex-RAF Police Officer Barry Davies, Dyfed Powys Police

This blog post is dedicated to him.

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Review: Lowepro Photosport 300 II Backpack

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The Lowepro Photosport 300 II

I picked up the Lowepro PhotoSport 300 II recently for a trek up Scafell Pike. I have Lowepro’s Flipside 15 AW and sometimes use the spaces not filled by camera equipment for hiking gear, trail snacks etc. The Photosport, however, has slightly more capacity, with dedicate camera and gear sections.

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The dedicated, padded camera section – which cannot be removed

Firstly the gear section. It’s a fairly unfussy top-opening space which sits on top of the camera gear, the top of the camera gear section, or the base of the gear section is padded, so unless you’re carrying rocks, your gear should be protected. There’s a netted section to separate items, but it’s thin, so you’d only get small, thin items into it, without bulking out the back.

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You can get a good 2L bladder into this space, but it sits against your back

Sat behind that is the space for a water reservoir, there are advantages and disadvantages of this type of set-up, generally reservoir spaces sat against the back are bigger, so you can use a bigger bladder, the disadvantage is that they are not shielded from the heat of your back – so your water doesn’t remain as cold. I have another Lowepro backpack where the reservoir space is on the side and my drink remains much colder for the trip, however this can work as a rationing device, once you’ve consumed water from the tube, which is cold, the water goes warm, from the bladder – you’ve probably drank enough!

The padded space for the camera gear includes a few, standard Velcro fixed, padded separators and it’s a general box shape.

I can get a gripped or standard DSLR in this space with a 24-70 f/2.8 attached (hood reversed) and another lens, up to 70-200 f/2.8.

One unfathomable decision taken by Lowepro is to make the padded section fixed into the space, if it were to be removable, this would have made the bag significantly more flexible.

The padded section can be secured separately from the opening flap on the outside of the bag, presumably to deter thieves, I get this, I generally prefer my backpacks to be against-the-back opening for the same reason.

Externally there are the expected straps and pockets for a backpack of this type, including the obligatory large pocket for a rolled-up set of waterproofs. You can also fit a reasonable sized tripod onto the side and walking poles, if needed.

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All the important straps and adjusters (apart from strap height) are nicely coloured yellow

The comfy waistband helps support the weight of the bag, these include two small pockets for compass or small light. There is a pocket on top of the bag, slightly larger and good for trail snacks or a headlamp – or even both, it’s quite capacious.

A nice little touch from Lowepro is to colour code straps and fixings which are, comparatively, more important than securing straps. This covers the adjusters and top flap fixings.

The pack is reasonably waterproof, but in a deluge, Lowepro have included an all-weather cover in a zipped stowage pocket on the bottom of the bag. The cover doesn’t just protect your kit from the rain, it can be used to protect your kit from the heat if need be.

The shoulder straps are quite limited in their ability to be adjusted, so you should try the back before purchase to ensure it’s right for you, especially if you have a particularly large or small frame.

Finally, as is becoming more common these days, Lowepro have included a whistle on the chest-strap clasp.

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A whistle, could save your backside!

I’ve only carried my D810 with 28-300 attached so far, but I reckon I could get a bunch more gear into this pack, I’ll try and remember to update the configurations as and when I try them, but most important – it takes the 24-70/16-35 2.8/4 (respectively).

I’m a big fan of this pack, unlike my other Lowepro pack, the ability to split gear and photography equipment is a nice touch and there’s lots of additional pluses that make this an easy recommendation.

 

Scattered Black and Whites, Elbow in Concert

In the usual sniffy comment about these things, I liked Elbow before One Day Like This hit the mainstream charts and was used as a backing track for anything that required an uplifting melody.

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Guy Garvey sings to the crowd at the NIA, 23rd March 2011

Back in 2011 I was fortunate enough to photograph Elbow at the NIA in Birmingham, their shows are more reserved affairs, nothing like the lights and theatre of Paramore, Boyzone or My Chemical Romance, that doesn’t mean to say they don’t put on grand performances, just over a year after filling out the NIA, they would hold a concert at Jodrell Bank in the shadow of those grand telescopes.

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Richard Jupp (I believe, please correct me if wrong), The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Guy Garvey, the erstwhile front-man of the band Elbow is quite a figurehead, a more charismatic one I challenge you to find and I include the Gallagher brothers and Bono in that, why? Because he may not swear at a sibling and the press, nor wear ridiculous glasses and leather trousers, but an engagement with the audience not unlike Freddy Mercury is what he has and it bears out in Elbows’ concerts.

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A solemn moment for Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2019

Why is this? In my opinion it’s the songs.

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Guy Garvey catches the camera, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

There are far too many Elbow songs to analyse, but take the song in the title of this blog post as an example:

A high-back chair, he sits and stairs
A thousand yards and whistles marching-band
Kneeling by and speaking up
He reaches out and I take a massive hand
Disjointed tales that flit between
Short trousers and a full dress uniform
And he talks of people ten years gone
Like I’ve known them all my life

Most people my age can surely relate to these words, my uncle used to sit in the same chair, every Sunday, and regale us with stories of life in the Navy.

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Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Similarly, Elbow have a song called Station Approach, which details that feeling of coming home after being away for a period of time.

It’s not all schmalz, Leaders of the Free World is a damning verdict on wars, specifically the Iraq War.

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Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Elbow are something special, you may not agree and their music may not be your thing, but there’s a heart-felt quality and meaning to their songs which is undeniable. If you liked One Day Like This, perhaps it’s time to check out their other works which, once you hear their lyrics, will demonstrate the depth and love they put into their work.

In a review some years ago, NME called them “the drinking man’s Coldplay,” I agree completely.

Jodrellites!

Footnote
The photographs here are stylised unapologetically using a Kodak Tri-X 400, the favourite of Don McCullin. I’ve not done a predominantly black and white conversion and I feel this set is appropriate for such a treatment.

Also, it’s quite forgiving in low light!

Moving from Adobe Photographers Package

A few years ago, Adobe took the decision to drop the sale of stand alone products, well drop isn’t quite right, they’re still there – you just have to look for them buried deep within their product catalogue.

The move was controversial amongst the photography community.

By ending support and updates for standalone, you were effectively forced to move onto the new subscription package that they had created. You were now paying, what started at £8.49, now £9.98, for Photoshop and Lightroom.

The pricing sounds very reasonable and god forbid you dare moan about the subscription model on the Adobe forums, you’ll be leapt on by zealot supporters of Adobe, however if I equate the subscription to how long I’ve been using Adobe, I would have paid for my Lightroom version 4 times over.

Since the introduction of the subscription model I’d tried several times to find a different product so I could get rid of it and not have to pay monthly.

Let me first say, Adobe have been refining Photoshop and Lightroom for many years and it is a mature product, there’s nothing particularly bad about it, nearly all the tutorials you see in Amateur Photographer refer to steps in Lightroom or Photoshop. Finding an alternative was always going to be difficult.

I’ve tried numerous products over the years and they’ve all failed to achieve a simple aim, provide a degree of Lightroom functionality but be simple to use and have good cataloguing facilities, the latter is essential if you do any type of serious photography, maintaining your catalogue is almost as important as any editing.

At the beginning of the year I came across ON1 Photo RAW 2019, after a quick install of a demonstration version, I was more than happy to purchase it and cancel my Adobe subscription.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that ON1 does poorly and you can find many posts on their peer to peer forums about these issues, what I am aware of so far:

  • Crashes, I’ve had a few, with no recovery nor information as to what has gone wrong
  • Editing changes not being applied to exports, you have to flick to ‘Browse’ mode for the changes to be applied
  • It’s not particularly fast, although I caution that the speed may be affected by the size of the images being edited, for example the majority of my pictures are in RAW format (Canon CR2 & Nikon NEF) the Canon files are around 22mb each and the Nikon 34mb.
  • Exporting is very slow, JPG & PNG, with PNG being particularly painful. This is a known issue and ON1 are promising a fix later this year.

You may be thinking ‘Why on Earth did you change then?’ Well my priority requirements were:

  • No subscription
  • Flexible catalogue options, either catalogue or sidecar files
  • A familiar and easy to use interface
  • Non-destructive editing of RAW files

With Photo RAW 2019 you get all this, for example, here’s the browse interface:

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ON1 Photo RAW 2019 ‘browse’ mode

And here’s Lightroom’s catalogue:

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Adobe Lightroom’s catalogue (picture Peter Cripps Photography, used with permission)

Although there are differences, they’re every similar – catalogue on the left, contact sheet in the middle and information on the right.

Similarly with developing a photo, press ‘Develop’ in Adobe’s catalogue or ‘Edit’ in ON1 and you’re good to go editing your photo, here’s ON1’s interface:

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ON1 Photo RAW in Edit Mode
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Adobe Lightroom Classic in Develop Mode

As you can see, the histogram and sliders are in the same place and the preset menu is on the left, Lightrooms is hidden in this picture, but they’re in the same place.

So generally, the interface for both the applications is familiar, it didn’t take me long to get to grips with where things were.

ON1’s gradient mask is a little tricky to get used to and it’s these sorts of quirks that will come over time.

Overall, I’m very happy with ON1 Photo RAW, I’m particularly happy not to be servicing a subscription every month, when I may not edit a photograph for weeks. Yes ON1 has issues, but it’s mine and, so far, ON1 have said they will continue to support free updates for the software.

Update 23/05/2019

Whilst writing this blog post ON1 dropped version 2019.5, there’s numerous updates in this patch and it’s too much to list here, you can read what was changed, added and fixed here.

Things I have noticed since installing, exporting, it’s not whizzy, but it is certainly faster than it was before, similarly browsing through the folders of my RAWs seems to be quicker and less stuttery.

Another Update 12/06/2019

People are wondering if this [ON1 Photo RAW] replaces Photoshop, the short answer is no, I’ll do a blog post about the replacement [Affinity Photo] soon but a word of caution before you jump to Affinity Photo, a potentially expensive restriction has come to light – Affinity Photo is only licensed for the operating system. So a few months ago when I was running with Windows and purchased Affinity Photo – I have found, unlike Adobe Photoshop, Affinity won’t transfer the licence to Mac.

Bit of a frustration. I now need to choose to buy another version of Affinity Photo, go without or subscribe back to Adobe Photographer Package and try and sell my Affinity Photo licence.

 

England v Ireland, Women’s 6 Nations 2018, Ricoh Stadium, Coventry

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Some were less happy to be supporting the Red Roses!

England Women played Ireland Women in the last match of the 6 Nations competition at the Ricoh Stadium on 16th March 2018.

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England’s Sarah Hunter

England could secure a 6 Nations title with a win against Ireland, if France lost to Wales, unfortunately for the Red Roses this didn’t happen, England convincingly beat Ireland but France thumped Wales 38 – 3.

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Ireland & England line-up for the national anthems, prior to their 6 Nations match at the Ricoh Stadium, Coventry.

Tries for England came from Danielle Waterman, Marlie Packer, Amy Cokayne, Ellie Kildunne and Amber Reed.

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Amber Reed breaks for the line
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Amber Reed scores for England
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Ellie Kildunne tries to break Ireland’s defence
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Sarah Bern breaks through
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England’s Danielle Waterman
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Ireland’s Sene Naoupu
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England’s Rachel Burford is upended
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Ireland’s Louise Galvin chases back
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England’s Katy McLean

The only Ireland try came from Claire Molloy.

 

Aside from a truly cracking game of rugby, the stand-out event of the match was the sheer emotion of the game. The teams both looked tired and it had clearly been an exhausting 6 Nations campaign.

The Ireland fans packed out the East Stand to support their team and when the game finished, many of the Ireland players came to join relatives and fans, clambering over the advertising hoardings.

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England’s Shauna Brown signs autographs for fans
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Ireland’s Ailsa Hughes & Laura Feely
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Ireland’s Claire Molloy
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England’s Catherine O’Donnell
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Ireland’s Laura Feely
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The teams were both well supported with a record crowd at the Ricoh Stadium
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Ireland’s Niamh Briggs
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Ireland’s Niamh Briggs
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England’s Katy McLean

It was very emotional and lovely to watch.

 

Scafell Pike Hike

Last weekend a group of work colleagues and I took a trip to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in the Lake District.

I’ve previously climbed Scafell, some 20 years ago, but either by the Wasdale Head or Boot route, this route was via the Corridor route.

We gathered at Seathwaite Farm and proceeded through the farm premises, if you want to relieve yourself before you’re forced to do so in the wilds, the farm owners have helpfully provided toilets.

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Stockley Bridge, over the Derwent

The path generally follows the River Dewent, you cross Stockley Bridge and make your way up the hill to the right and crest onto the platau which will lead you to Styhead Tarn.

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The view towards Seathwaite from the hill past Stockley Bridge

From the resting point where a stretcher is helpfully stored in a box for injured walkers, we took in some water and some amazing flapjacks, baked by a colleague’s wife.

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Stretcher box provided by Mountain Rescue

From here we turn left as you look at the stretcher box from the path and follow the route up the hill.

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Many cairns guide your route to Scafell, this shot is looking back towards Styhead Tarn

This is where is gets tougher, there are 2 scrambles and 1 climb, once past these obstacles there’s a reasonably easy ascent to the next decision point, I’m not sure if it has a name but they both lead to Scafell eventually. From the path the left route is shorter and more difficult and the right, longer but slightly easier going.

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We took the high road!

If you are attempting the right route just be mindful of a significant scramble up steep lose stone & rock, initially taking you to the platau between Green Crag and Scafell Pike. Once you’ve cleared this leg of the scramble there’s a further set of loose, jagged rock to tackle taking you to the summit of Scafell. This route is not for the ill-prepared.

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On a clear day you can see the coast, Sellafield and the Irish Sea

Once we’d cleared these hazards we joined the other hikers & climbers at the top of Scafell.

I had an issue with my Camelbak at this point, which was more about me being a moron than an actual issue, the water lock on the Camelbak differs from the Osprey, my old one, and my head couldn’t work a way round it. I only mention this as a precautionary tale of being tired and how the brain works in these conditions.

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Cairns – very arty

There are a few Cairns on Scafell giving you the shelter from the wind to enjoy some lunch and drink in peace and the opportunity to keep warm, but don’t huddle for too long – ensure you get the selfie on top of the stone pile and read the dedication plaque to the men and women who died in the great war. There’s also a helpful mountain range peak map.

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Sweaty, but I made it, also I forgot to take the obligatory panorama!

Obligatory panoramas are a must, the Lake District is very special!

Once we were fed and watered it was time to go back down and descend all the way to Seathwaite. Descending is my least favourite part of any trip! It’s a bugger on the knees and ankles, having suffered from patella tendinitis recently.

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Oh to have fours legs and a low centre of gravity!

Due to logistical issues our campsite is an hour and forty minute drive from Seathwaite, which is a little irritating, but a fine meal at the Kings George IV pub is the reward and we settle for a nights rest at the Fisherground camp site.

Sadly cramp plagued my legs and my sleep was restless, such is the burden of hill walkers!

However the view in the morning is sublime!

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Horses in a field adjacent to Fisherground Campsite

This trip was cathartic to say the least, it differed from my normal trips in that we didn’t ascend, camp and then come back down, my pack was lighter and I relied less on poles. The trip is a good basis for the Three Peaks Challenge which I hope to complete later this year. We have another trip to Snowdon due in June and I need to get to Ben Nevis which I’ve never climbed, so a reccy trip required, before doing the challenge.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please do ask below.

 

 

 

 

Loved Shot: Cypriot Banana Grower

Cyprus is one of our favourite destinations. The beautiful island is as diverse as it is populated by the British.

We tend to frequent the Paphos end of the island, rather than the popular destinations of Aya Napa & Limassol, there’s the busy touristy area of Coral Bay but it’s contrasted by the subdued restaurant laden areas of Peyia and Latsi.

The valley between the sea and the hills that will eventually lead to the Troodos mountains, are home to fields and fields of banana plantations.

These rustic leaf tree lines have to be irrigated, I can’t imagine the rainfall in Cyprus is actually adequate to support banana growth. These ladies had turned up to service their plantation near to the wreck of the Edro III, if you know the area.

Sadly, being a peasant British person who speaks only English, my lamentable attempts to communicate were mainly by showing my camera and pointing, rather than any skill in Greek.

After a few attempts I ended up with this shot, which I’m pretty pleased with.

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It would be easy to default to black and white for this type of photograph, but you’d lose the gorgeous colours of the rusting tractor and the deep greens of the banana leafs.

What I did manage to glean from these ladies is that they are mother and daughter, I wanted them to stand together, sadly it was a step too far to get that across!

This is the mother. I love the way the sunlight catches her face as her black dress blends with the shadows of the banana trees, this is her way to provide for the family, a tradition, passed down and it was a pleasure to watch them work.

The bananas grown here will eventually make their way to the docks and onward to countries like Britain, you don’t need to speak Greek to know this, they put signs up saying who the family growers are and where they send their produce, helpfully in English as well as Greek.

Thanks for reading.