After three weeks of almost continuous rain, blue skies returned to Derbyshire one cold October morning. The low morning sunshine and crisp frosty air re-energised the face muscles. Squinting drivers fumbled with sun visors. Every subtle contour of the limestone plateau was thrown into relief, and the breath of the cattle briefly formed illuminated clouds in front of their noses. And yet it did not feel cold; it felt warmer, for the air was no longer laden with that moisture which seems to suck the heat out of your body. Good. Landscape time again.

Despite care in all stages of production, the results of the last attempts at landscape photography had been, well, less than pin-sharp. Only one explanation left. Camera shake. I couldnņt hold a camera steady enough. I needed a solid tripod.

Equipment lust took over. I found my way to a tiny back lane in Macclesfield. Not really a shop; just a door. Professional supplies. Customer expected to know what they want. Not this customer. The result was more solid than recommended. Didnņt like the ball type of head (as recommended) when I tried it. I prefer to control just one degree of freedom at a time.

So I bought a Manfrotto 55C with 414 head. Black. Assembled in the car to check before out-of-range in case a return visit was needed. It said "professional" on the box - but we take that with a pinch of salt.

Looked great with the auto-bellows on it. Like a real piece of "pro" kit - scientific - lab gear.

Headed for a beauty spot and got out the gear, like an assassin polishing the barrel of his rifle. Oh yes, I use a 55C with 414 head, and an OM4 - titanium body naturally. I just canņt help myself.