2012

And so Christmas begins.

We have had venison for Christmas dinner for the last two years, so this year it's time for a change. Here is a fine shoulder of feral sheep, shot atop a mountain in Scotland and carried down by my own fair hand. It is in a marinade/glaze of garlic, rosemary, thyme, and mint all vigorously crushed and suspended in virgin olive oil. The meat sits on a trivet and there is an inch of water in the bottom of the baking tray, this will keep it moist during the cooking and as the meat juices and the residue of the glaze drip into it, it will make the foundation of a terrific gravy. This will all be covered in foil and go int a very low oven for about 8 hours with the foil taken off and the heat turned up for the last 20 minutes.

I, for one, can't wait! (we have a turkey too for the less adventurous)

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Cigors Gundogs - Website now up

6 months after registering the kennel name with the Kennel Club I have finally got round to building a small website to show who we are. We will be breeding from Sookie early in the new year and Simon is very keen to show his prowess at stud Happy

http://www.neil-rice.com/cigors/ and our own Facebook page HERE

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Whillanbeck Gundogs - Holway Peckham (Bear)

I had a training session with Sue Hutton of Whllanbeck Gundogs. It was a cold day with the temperature hovering around -2 degrees C, It was a good session and Simon worked well. Afterwards I took some pictures of her Golden Retriever, Bear. This is a really handsome young dog that Sue has great hopes for in the field trialling world in the future.

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Playing about with masks and composites.

Playing around with different methods of isolating images from their backgrounds, I think I have almost cracked it.



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Pheasant at Sketchley Farm

The dogs were in their element today, Sookie is still not steady enough, it is starting to get more than a little frustrating, she is very keen and very fast but way to excited.




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Getting Christmas Dinner

Spent a long weekend with Andrew on our lease just outside Eskdalemuir, in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. The weather was pretty typical, sunshine on Friday, fog on Saturday and rain on Sunday.

It is a very steep piece of land so there is quite a bit of work to do getting up to the top where there is a large area of clear fell with new saplings, of course getting up there is only half of it, getting down carrying whatever you have shot is the really hard work.

Here are a few pictures taken with a P&S to give you a feel of the place. I have included a picture of our luxury 5 Star accommodation, so you can see just how refined are sojourns into Scotland are.

And yes we do have meat for Christmas Happy

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The start of a long climb up to the tops. This was originally a quad track, but is no longer suitable for any means of transport other than on foot.

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With the sun directly at my back, I set off up the hill.

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One of the boundary rides leading up to the clear fell.

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Some views over the clear fell.

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Andrew looking for dinner.

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An advert for Cabela’s.

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Home sweet home.

A day in the rough

I took Simon and Harley for a spot of walkup on Sketchley Lodge, rabbit and pigeon were definitely on the quarry list, but we struck lucky with a number of Pheasant cocks that decided they were going to liven up our day Happy

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Dahab - Day 9

A lazy lazy day chilling by the small pool that is right next door to our room, this is at the top level of the complex where the “Delux Rooms” are. On the one hand you have this exclusive pool (and it really is exclusive as we seem to be the only people here) but on the other it is almost 300 steps to the sea.

Apparently the place will fill up tomorrow with Palestinians who are coming to celebrate Eid, it could be interesting Happy

I will not be around tomorrow as I am off to dive “The Blue Hole”

This is our house………

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And this is the neighbourhood …….

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And this is Teresa chillin’ …….

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Dahab - Day 7 & 8

We are staying at the Mercure Dahab Bay Hotel, it is a couple of kilometres outside Dahab and is a small almost village like complex nestled on the slope between the Sinai Desert and the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia is clearly visible over the water. The complex is almost empty and the place has the feel of the Prisoner television series in the 70s, it is not quite Portmerion but not a million miles away.

Here are a couple of pictured taken from the main pool to give you an idea.

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The dive centre is within the complex, it is a German run operation, and is one of the most efficient and friendly dive centres I have ever come across. Their kit is first rate and the they have all that is required for try-mix technical diving, as well as the usual air, nitrox and any other hardware that may be required. Nikki who runs the place is incredibly friendly and knowledgable.

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Yesterdays diving was all very technical so no room to take a camera but it was an excellent dive and I reached depths I had never got to before. Today was much more recreational, we went in search on Nudibranchs and found them, hard to think that finding two inch long yellow and black slugs can be so exciting, but it is.

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There was plenty of other stuff to see, so here is a sample.

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Here is an observation test for you can you spot the fish?

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And this is how close it was to an Anemone Fish family

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Dahab - Day 6

Spent today on the beach and house reef, Teresa came out to meet the fishes this morning, she is not very confident in deep water, so she did really well. The weather was more overcast today, which, to be honest, has been a bit of relief from the blazing sunshine that we have had to date.

The house reef here is very good, there is a wall that runs parallel to the beach which only drops about 6 meters to a gently sloping bottom and then at about 30 meters out there is another drop off to about 20 meters, at various points there are some great coral blocks with some great wildlife. Here are a few of the interesting things seen today.

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Dahab - Day 4 & 5

Really chilled and relaxed couple of days, the weather is constantly delivering 35 degrees and all day sunshine, the only downside to the place is the food which is beyond bad, I had my first totally edible meal today and given that it was a burger and chips gives you some idea of how bad the food is, Tomorrow is a big day for Teresa as she will be coming out exploring the house reef with me. I will take some pictures as I have managed to get the GoPro working again..

Teresa’s watch has not turned up and things are not looking good as she remembers putting in a bag next to her lounger on the beach, I was diving so not around. In the bag was her watch, 125 Egyptian Pounds, her top and shorts. The top and shorts are still there and the watch and money gone so it looks like theft rather than an accidental loss.

There are some great people watching opportunities here, there are a number Russians here and not only do they all smoke, constantly, the women and girls all dress like hookers, I am not complaining at all but it could be very confusing for any prospective punters. Watching them teetering around in 6 inch high porno shoes and micro hot pants in the restaurant almost makes up for the poor food.

Here is a picture of Teresa, she is not a Russian and is not dressed like a hooker Happy

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Dahab - Day 3

They say its good to get your bad days over early in the holiday, so hopefully it will all be plain sailing from now on. Up at the crack of dawn to head out for a check/orientation dive with the dive centre. Seven of us went out and given that it was going to be a lightening trip around the house reef I did not take a camera. All the usual exercises, mask off, regs out and discarded and a buddy breath with a simulated accent. All went well so we headed off around some wonderful blocks of coral that were teaming with life, lots of scorpion fish, a couple of big lion fishes and a big napoleon being the highlights for the big stuff, at a cleaning station there were some lovely little shrimps plus the ever present wrass looking to nibble at anything that looks like it should not be there. so, all in all the morning went well.

Back in the afternoon to spend some time on the blocks with the camera. Why do the people who run dive schools always try and mess you about. I told them the weights I wanted and I sorted my belt and had a great dive in the morning, they however thought I should try reducing the weight on my belt and add a tank weight, not a big issue so to please them I gave it a go. One of them then reconfigured my kit (I know it is ultimately down to me.) The walk down to the jetty is quite long but we eventually made it into the water, the configuration was not that bad and all went well till we got to 10 meters then the tank slipped down out of the straps landed behind my knees and almost pulled the regulator out of my mouth. Someone spent 10 minutes trying to fix it, no joy, I then took off my BCD and tried to do it myself, not easy at 10 meters surrounded by fragile corral and at one stage a significantly pissed of lion fish. I could not get it sorted, the tank was way too low in the strap and the tank weight did not help at all. The rest of the dive I spent with the camera clipped on and unused, my BCD loosened right off and pulled up like a bra with me holding the cylinder in place with my hands behind my back! I had to do this to get the weight up my back as far as I could as my feet were being forced down and also to give me enough hose for my regulator so I could turn my head.

A seriously far from fun hour under water !!

I took a couple of pictures just to show how impressive the colours are if you can get some light down there.

(Oh and just to round thing off Teresa has lost her watch, it was a present from me, and no matter how many times I tell her it was only a watch she is storming around looking like she has he weight of the world on her shoulders.)

A meagre sampling of soft and hard corals ……

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Dahab, Egypt - Day 1 & 2

The flight from East Midlands was fine, we took off on time we landed on time and had a couple of little sessions of clear air turbulence just for fun. We landed at 15:30 local time (add an hour) to blazing sunshine and 35 degrees. Having turned down the opportunity to buy an Egyptian Visa for £30 we were straight into the waiting car for an hours drive through the Sinai Desert to Dahab. Now unless the Beduin have somehow managed to discover a way to eat sand and rocks I have no idea how they have survived, the place is barren, truly beautiful with amazing striations of colour in the mountains but devoid of any green and the whole area looks like it has been baking for centuries.

The hotel we are staying in is pretty empty, which is a good thing but judging from the meal we had tonight it could be that everyone left in search of a bit of flavour.

Today we woke to glorious sunshine (why doe we say that?) And after breakfast it was time to sort out the cameras before the serious diving starts tomorrow. Good thing I did, the GoPro died and I am not sure that it will recover, and I had a problem with the strobe on my Canon.

As you can see from these two pics (possibly the last that the GoPro will ever take) the place is not busy, this was about 11:00 hrs.


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I was getting a bit bored in the afternoon so went for a bimble around the house reef. There is very little current here so no sharks (shame) but according to Nikki in the dive centre there are some great blocks with cleaning stations on the house reef so hopefully I will find them.

The serious diving starts tomorrow, I had some real issues with the strobes on the Canon, which was a shame as I came across a really pretty (to his mother) stone fish and had to work with the available light.

So to wet your appetite here are my first new friends on the house reef.

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Martin & Louise Wedding and Handfast

I photographed a very good friends wedding today. It was an excellent day with the wedding taking place in the great hall and the hand fast in the ruins of the chapel of Tutbury Castle.

We were really lucky with the weather it rained all day Friday but Saturday started bright and then just went on getting brighter.




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Meet Simon, the latest addition to our family

On Sunday we picked up Simon a 3 year old fully trained labrador. We got Simon from Sue Hutton at Whillanbeck Gundogs. I am really grateful to Sue for letting Simon come to us.

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L to R - Sookie, Harley & Simon

The rain started half way through doing some work with the dogs, we got a bit wet but we also got a double rainbow.

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SIWSC Breed Confined Gundog Working Test

Yesterday we were at Chillington Hall for the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club Breed Confined Working Test. This was meant to have taken place in July but the wonderful British summer weather put the kibosh on that.

It was a great day, a really good turnout and the weather behaved well for a change too.

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Pigions and dogs take your mind off the damage

Spent some time working with the dogs on the pigeons.

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The storm damage

Having checked the cars we have damage to all the top panels, bonnet, roof and boot, on both the BMW and the Discovery, so we are awaiting the insurance assessors won are pretty busy round here at the moment.

We went down to the farm which is less than half a mile away and the damage is significant. There are hundreds of broken tiles on the roof, the guttering looks like someone has been taking pot shots with a shotgun and all the skylights on the farm buildings are in shreds.

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Poor Tom, my nephew, he is 17 years old and passed his driving test this month, this is his “Pride & Joy” first car which was a very clean Renault Clio prior to the storm, it now looks like it has been parked on a golf driving range.

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We had a bit of weather today ….

Around 12:30 today the sky suddenly became very dark and it started raining, I went to the window just to see how bad it was when all of a sudden hailstones the size of golf balls started hurtling down clattering against the windows and setting off all the car alarms, I stuck the GoPro against the window to try and capture this as the volume of rain and hail was greater than anything I have ever seen in this country. I had to stop filming after a few second as we lost all the power in the house as our garage flooded.

We only had about 3 inches of water in the garage that was more than enough to cover the two 5 Gang extension cables that we had on the floor powering the two full freezers and the trickle chargers for the motorbikes. It has also ruined the carpet that we had stored in there and I have yet to look in all the cardboard boxes that I just know are full of all the precious things that I have never got around to throwing away.


A glorious early evening stroll

It was a beautiful early evening today so we took the dogs for a walk around the farm, they got really muddy so we then went for a stroll along the towpath and let the dogs have a swim.

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Bored over the Jubilee Weekend


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The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club shop has opened.

The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club has finally managed to source the right quality kit we need to start offering SIWSC merchandise on our website. You can get to the shop by clicking HERE.

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Chillin in the garden

An uncharacteristically warm evening, TC was tidying in the yard when I got in from work, it would have been a shame not to record it, later she had some bonding time with Harley.

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10th Wedding Aniversary

It was a gloriously sunny day yesterday and to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary T and I went out for dinner in the Garden Restaurant at Coombe Abbey. I grabbed a quick pic as she was getting ready. Thank you Teresa for 10 wonderful years.

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We have a Kennel Club Kennel Name

We are going to be breeding from our bitch Sookie at her next season, it should be around August. We have found a fabulous dog so things are looking good. In preparation for this we applied to the Kennel Club to register a kennel name. The first 6 were rejected as either being already existing kennel names, to common puppy names or proprietary names. Finally they have accepted and given us CIGORS (pronounced Keegors) this is Welsh and means Bog Dog Happy

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Sookie after her trim

Well the deed is done, Sookie has had a trim and Harley has had a wash and blow dry as well. So we have two of the sweetest smelling dogs around but I am sure the first opportunity they get they will be rolling in something which to them may smell sweet but we are not so sure.

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Sookie is in serious need of a haircut

It looks like Sookies skin problem is well behind her, about 6 months ago she was loosing her coat and looking very thread bear, a change of diet and the inclusion of Omega oil in her diet has worked wonders. Our week in Scotland has left her looking very shaggy and matted with some very impressive dreadlocks. The temperature is rising so the day after tomorrow she is off for a haircut, so these are the “Before” the “After” will follow in a couple of days.

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The Holiday comes to an end Sad

Well that is it we are back from Scotland where we have experienced a years worth of weather in one week, everything from sunshine to snow blizzards with every other weather systems in between. As usual the really good weather came on the day we left.

It has been a truly enjoyable week the setting and the company have been first class.

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Day 5 in the Big Brother House

Minor disaster on the Clay Pigeon front yesterday, the 9 mile dirt track had a pretty impressive impact on three boxes of clays in the trailer, resulting in them being turned into dust. A few were salvageable so we set about firing them, until the link between the spring and the frame on the trap broke Sad

Today has been a lot brighter, we set off to find the Golden Eagles early this morning it was a great walk but we did not see the eagles.



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Day 4 in the Big Brother House

The weather has not been so good, a fair bit of rain that has swollen the streams coming down the mountains and the river is flowing a lot faster and deeper than when we arrived. This really is a spectacular place.

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Athol Estate - Perthshire

An early start, up at five to pack the car and trailer and hit the road, 8 hours and a couple of stops later we arrived at the start of a 9 mile unmade track that would lead to our home for the next 7 days. The road was not so bad and the scenery was stunning, there were plenty of Red Deer on the slopes and the car put up quite a number of grouse, they must know that they are both out of season.

Coming round one of the final bends we were confronted with Bruar Lodge,

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After a good night sleep, with my feet hanging out the end of the bed, we awoke to a bright sunny morning, Eddie, Neil & Steve headed down to the loch to try and tempt the trout to rise to their flies, and I took the dogs to explore the heather. This is a truly desolate and beautiful part of the world.

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Kelmarsh Game & Country Fair

The weather has been really wet over the last few days and the forecast for today was for more rain, we decided yesterday that if the day started bright be would head off to the Kelmarsh Game & Country Fair. This is the first of the bigger game fairs of the year, but it is also the smallest.

The day started out bright so we set off, unfortunately we had an argument with the Sat Nav so it took us on the worst possible route, but at least Teresa and I can say that we have now both seen Nottingham City Centre.

The weather was ok, there were a couple of showers but no real rain, but the heavy rain of the last few days realy softened the ground and generated some pretty impressive mud, we left early but I am sure there would have been some entertainment watching some of the more unsuitable cars trying to get out of the car parks.

The show was really small, there was no Sporting Dogs Pavilion and no Gun Makers Row but still plenty to see, some good shooting and fishing competitions and plenty od scurries for the dogs.

I took a few pictures,

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SIWSC film for the CLA Game Fair

Here is a short film (5 minutes) that I made for The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club. It will form part of a larger film that is planned to be shown in the Sporting Dogs Pavilion at the CLA Game Fair this year.

In the Sporting Dogs Pavilion, visitors will be able to see all the breeds of gundogs officially recognised by the Kennel Club.

SIWSC Training Weekened - Somerset

We spent the weekend at a Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club training weekend at Redlynch, nr Bruton in Somerset. I was completing the film for the CLA Game Fair so I did not get much time to work with Sookie, but Teresa worked with Harley. Teresa has not done much field training with Harley so it was all a little new for the pair of them, but they both did brilliantly with them picking up a second place in the novice field trial at the end of the weekend.

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A Weekend Stalking on Pentland Hill

Set off with Oliver on Friday afternoon to Pentland Hill, our stalking ground just outside Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. I took Sookie for the first time and she was brilliant. She was very keen and pretty much nose to the ground the whole time. She got me onto two Roe that were deep in the trees with a perfect point but they were well off before I could do anything. As it was getting dark Oliver shot a lovely Roe Buck, on the top boundary, he dragged it down to near the road but then left it in the trees to give Sookie something to look for. It was an excellent and very quick result. As soon as Sookie was sent back she headed directly to the buck and found it in minutes.

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The above pictures were taken with a Canon G9, I have never really thought of my iPhone as a camera but given there was a certain amount of hanging around I decided to take a picture with my phone. The picture below has had a wee bit of Photoshop but the results are OK.

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Not your average British farm animal

There is a really interesting estate in Leicestershire that produces wild Venison and Bison, I spent a very interesting day in the glorious March sunshine (that’s right March Sunshine!) enjoying the spectacular views.

They are just changing from their winter to summer coats so they are looking pretty scruffy at the moment.

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Gundog day at Crufts

It was Gundog day at Crufts today, we met up with a party of friends from the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club (spookily we all ended up parking next to each other although we came from all points of the compass).

A great day, Sue and Judith Hempstead from the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club had great success with their working dogs picking up a 1st and 3rd in the Gamekeepers Class.

And to top it all an Irish Water Spaniel won the Gundog Group final.

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All around the National Exhibition Centre there are hundreds of dogs in little stalls (usually sleeping) awaiting their time in the show rings, occasionally the owner is a little more tired than their dog.......

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First Snow of the Year

It started snowing early yesterday afternoon and by this morning we had a reasonable covering of about 4 - 5 inches. Yesterday morning felt really cold and then strangely enough as the snow started it began to feel warmer Happy

We took the dogs out today, Sookie was very young last year when it snowed but she really seemed to enjoy it today.

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SIWSC Novice AV Retriever 12 Dog Stake

Bright and early on Monday 9th January I headed off to Chillington Hall for the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club’s Novice Any Variety Retriever 12 Dog Stakes.

Mr Giffard and his guns shot very well and were exceptionally patient between drives as the dogs were tested. There were a couple of Irish Water Spaniels, a Flatcoat Retriever with the rest of the field being made up of Labradors.

It is getting near the end of the season now and many of these dogs have been working very hard over the last few months, you can see from the pictures that they are not couch potato dogs.

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For the very first time a few prints for the wall Happy

I have been taking photographs for over 40 years they have appeared in books, magazines, posters, adverts, websites, television and many other places but I do not have a single one of my pictures on the walls at home. All that is about to change as I have framed a few prints, all I have to do now is work out where to put them.

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Trying to develope a workflow for antique prints

Using Adobe Photoshop 5 I have been working on a new workflow to produce antique looking prints. It’s a combination of adding a texture, desaturation, some selective distressing and adding a sepia tint. It’s getting there I think.

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