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Photography: walking, thinking, plotting and writing – visual notes.

July 12, 2016
Westminster Abbey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Westminster Abbey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Anyone visiting here often knows I enjoy photography, walking, and visiting places of interest such as ancient houses, cathedrals, churches and interesting old villages.

Greensted Church (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Greensted Church (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Rye in Sussex - an inspirational place. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye in Sussex – an inspirational place. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

I love visiting the gardens of the great estates we are so fortunate to have in Britain. Not only are they interesting and relaxing…

 They inspire me.

Virginia Waters, Windsor Great Park (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters, Windsor Great Park (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Rather than take a notebook and mess around finding pens, or typing notes on to my phone in glaring sunlight, I prefer to take photographs. I know these will trigger memories when I come to write.

Some walks are for sheer pleasure and I take photos just for fun and to create lovely memories. One such recent walk was at Virginia Waters in Windsor Great Park. I love it there, here are some of the photos I took during my second visit.

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I don’t see violence or murder when I photograph something of interest. It’s hard to put into words. I suppose I get a ‘feeling.’  I look into a dark forest and I might get a flash of an idea for the location of a dastardly deed, or a character might pop into my mind, but what actually sets these thoughts in motion, I have no idea.  Looking at a scene of intense beauty shouldn’t inspire images of death, or conjure up a personality type for a one of my characters. But they do. 

Virginia Waters, Windsor Great Park (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters, Windsor Great Park (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Walking (often) on The White Horse in Uffington (Oxfordshire) is spectacular. You can see 6 counties from the top where there was once a Neolithic settlement, and archaeologists are often on a dig up there, and of course you can see the White Horse itself. The area is part of the ancient Ridgeway giving  a panoramic view.

The White Horse at Uffington in The Vale of The White Horse

The White Horse at Uffington in The Vale of The White Horse

Actually, at one time you could walk on the horse and Dragon Hill and there wasn’t a charge for the car-park, as there is now…you just went there.  Further down the hill and along a lane you come across Waylands Smithy…a Bronze-age burial chamber.

Wayland Smithy near White Horse Hill Uffington, Oxfordshire.

Wayland Smithy near White Horse Hill Uffington, Oxfordshire.

Somewhere our son spent the night when he was about 10, just to see if it was haunted and if there were witches there! I don’t think you can do that any longer. The National Trust runs the site.

It was whilst walking on White Horse Hill that I first got the idea for setting Ms Birdsong Investigates in the Vale of the White Horse. The rural setting, with its natural beauty and pockets of isolation seemed just the place to set her story.

View across The Vale of The White Horse (c) Jane Risdon 2011

Views across the Vale of The White Horse from White Horse Hill (c) Jane Risdon 2011

Facing an uncertain future after ‘voluntary’ retirement from MI5 I could imagine her fleeing to a such place where she  could try to come to terms with her changed circumstances and possibly reinvent herself.

Ms Birdsong's New Home in Ampney Parva

Ms Birdsong’s New Home in Ampney Parva

The fictional village of Ampney Parva sprang to mind – an amalgamation of many villages I’ve visited over the years when travelling around England.  It would be a rural village at the foot of  White Horse Hill with few occupants, most tracing their families back over generations in the area.

Huge Estate and Manor Hoouses Ampney Parva (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Huge Estate and Manor Houses outside Ampney Parva (c) Jane Risdon 2016

There would be one or two newcomers – ‘new money’ – recently settled in the area occupying some of the big  country houses which had been sold off to pay death duties perhaps,  but some of the larger estates were still owned and lived in by the same family over many generations; landed gentry living just outside Ampney Parva, secluded and mysterious.

When I started the divine Ms B (as I call her) she was a very different character to the one she is today, as I work on completing the first book in the series of Ms Birdsong Investigates. Originally she was going to be a modern-day Miss Marple, but a family wedding in a lovely Manor House on a 6,000 acre estate changed all that and as soon as I got home I started writing book two, based on my experiences at the wedding.

The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux. (c) 2010 Science Projects Ltd.

The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux. (c) 2010 Science Projects Ltd.

The 'Safe House' book three Ms Birdsong Investigates (c) Jane Risdon 2013

The ‘Safe House’ book three Ms Birdsong Investigates (c) Jane Risdon 2013

I’d also been taken to Herstmonceux Observatory for a birthday treat, and suddenly I had book three ready to be written, which caused a serious problem for me; the original Ms B I had written about was nothing like the Ms B from two most recent books: Murder at the Observatory and The Safe House.

I’ve had to complete books two and three, returning to book one to re-write her story and change her character so everything would tie in together. It has been a long slog.  

Book one has meant a great deal of research into the Security Services, organised crime and the various agencies trying to track and bring international criminals to justice, and a massive re-write…I am still battling with it.

 Enjoy the photos.  Quite a few have appeared in previous blogs I’ve posted on here.

Photos (c) Jane Risdon All rights Reserved.

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28 Comments
  1. I’m always snapping away wherever we go (even on local dog walks – you just never know what you’re going to find!). I love that you do this Jane and it makes total sense to me 🙂

    Good luck with the re-write – I can feel your passion.

    #TalkoftheTown

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do much the same, Jane. Photographs are a great reminder, better than taking notes, and there’s always some nice pics to illustrate posts x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, especially as it is so difficult to get just the right photo from photo stocks of Copyright free ones that are just right for a piece. I try to take my own. As you say, lovely memories of places anyway. 🙂

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  3. Loved all the pictures Jane – so many beautiful places ….

    gramswisewords.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed this and do, lease, feel free to look around at some of the other posts I have put up from time to time about my visits to some really lovely and interesting places, cathedrals and gardens etc. You are most welcome. Thanks so much for visiting. 🙂 x

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  4. I love these kind of shots
    to see distant lands
    And the architecture
    It’s so inspiring

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure to share them with you Sheldon. Do have a wander around my blog, there are lots more. Let me know what your favourite is. I will try and find more for you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just love the old world architecture
        In the states they don’t do what they do across the pond
        That why is so interesting

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know. I have lived in and toured across the USA many times and it is a shame that older buildings are not kept. I know in San Francisco and LA they’ve lost older buildings due to quakes, but it is a shame. I am glad you find the posts I share of interest. Do feel free to browse some of my other pieces as there are some wonderful old places to see and read about. I always try and add some history too. 🙂 x

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Your story of Ms. Birdsong is fantastic. I think all of the locations you mention are beautiful. Can’t wait to see the printed books!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neither can I Jeanice. I am waiting for Only One Woman to come out first, which keeps being delayed and until I get a date for that the publisher cannot consider working on Ms B. I am still busy knocking her into shape and checking my facts re people trafficking and so on. I am so happy you are interested in her and want to read her stories. Chuffed actually. She has been an age in being born and I do want it to be worth the wait. Wish me luck with the re-write and so on…I am in dire need. Thanks so much again, I am inspired once more. I shall add some snippets here soon. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • All the best luck to you, Jane!! I know it will be awesome. I love your writing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks so much Jeanice, I really appreciate your words, especially on a day when I am wondering why I bother. LOL – seriously wondering. Hard some times to drag myself to the computer to work. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. jfredlee permalink

    I really enjoy the estate & landmark tours you take us on, Jane. Here, about the best we do do is to spend the day walking up and down Hollywood Blvd,. or maybe take in Farmers’ Market. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff, I love Farmers’ Market, such characters there. And don’t dismiss Hollywood Blvd…lol. I’ve met people wearing TV sets on their heads, someone wearing coat hangar aerials covered in tin foil on their heads (Martian?) and some of the most fascinating and eccentric people on the planet wandering around outside Mann’s Chinese Theatre. And we have our fair share here, believe me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s a great way to take notes and think through a novel (and not just because I do it myself!). A sense of place and atmosphere is so important. But I love hearing how certain events or scenes made you change your mind about your main character…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed Marina. So helpful for me and fun to do as well. I have not started photographing people yet, which I have been tempted to do but it would be rude without permission. But, now and again I see a face and think YES that is so and so in my book, I want their photo. Resisting the urge is difficult. Have you photographed actual people for your stories/books?

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      • Ermmm, no, but I do use pictures of actors or stock pictures sometimes to approximate what people might look like in my head. Perhaps some people might not mind to be known as a muse?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can imagine going up to someone and getting some strange looks. I would not be rude enough to shoot and ask later. Yes stock photos are good too. So far I have not needed to use people, just locations. Do you get problems using actors? Rights to their image etc? I know some actors managed many years ago owned the rights to their own images except if taken by a newspaper etc. Or are their images in the public domain? Just curious.

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          • I do take newspaper images of actors and credit the paper. Mind you, most of these are not shared with anyone at all, just for my personal ‘moodboard’ as I am writing the book, so I don’t think there is any problem.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I am sure you are right. I have been tempted but always held back. But mood-music is a good description Marina. I like that. It is dead on. How is your writing coming along? Hard at it, or in the resting, thinking period?

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  8. What an interesting post, Jane! I always learn from the way authors get inspired, and how they use that inspiration to support their stories. You’re fortunate you have so many lovely and interesting places to visit to help you in your writing. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure Margot. I have been having computer problems and so decided to do a test post and thought I’d try photos and some text and tried it out like this today. Glad you liked it. Big pain in the neck getting anything working this past few weeks. I am still hammering away at Ms B. How is Joel coming on? 🙂

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  9. Very enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

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