Sunday, 30 June 2013

Day 181 : getting the painters in...

Inspired by the wonderful (albeit slightly crazy) Swedish CJ taking her little miniature figures out in the wild I thought I'd introduce some of my collection to the grounds of Marble Hill House. I enacted a variety of scenarios but my favourites are the painters adding the final touches to some of the flowers.

I was able with great care to get my mini figures to stand up in the grass and the pink flower was substantial enough to accommodate the pink shirted decorator during his ministrations with his paint roller. I think they enjoyed their day out!


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Day 180 : belladonna

I've definitely become more observant since commencing my 365 project. My aim is to secure a photograph a day and it starts from when I leave my front door each morning. Much of my daily inspiration is drawn from what I see around me, and it’s made me so much more aware of the minute changes to my environs that occur day-to-day. I would never have been so aware when reluctant flowers finally throwing off the austere mantle of winter, when tiny buds are emerging and then bursting into bloom, when spiders have spun new intricate, sparkling webs, when hungry caterpillars have been munching through a field of leaves and when a new surprise plant springs up from nowhere.

Today an innocuous green leafy bush has a sprig of deadly nightshade poking through from its nether regions. I can't recall when or who told me about deadly nightshade but I have an innate need to recoil, isn't that poisonous? I'm intrigued, I can't see where it’s growing from, the bush is too thick. Maybe a witch lives there, I believe belladonna has all sorts of venomous and hallucinogenic properties and was attributed to be used to make “flying ointment” - a trippy tincture that ’gives you wings’ perhaps. The name Belladonna comes from the Italian 'beautiful woman' as it was ingested to dilate the pupils to make them look 'more beautiful'.

Well I have no intention of eating the flowers or the leaves and if I see any of those little berries (devil’s tomatoes!) I'm keeping a very wide berth. Tomatoes are from the same family and I give them just as wide a berth, well you never know, they don't look trustworthy! And I'm well aware that the genus also includes potatoes, those I don't fear however, anything that tastes that good mashed with butter or sliced in cream and garlic can't be that bad!


Friday, 28 June 2013

Day 179 : blushing rose

These roses has been flaunting themselves at me on a daily basis. Since they've bloomed their full heads have bobbed and bent towards the passers by pounding the pavement alongside the rose garden. Some of them have adopted a blushing pink tinge to the edge of the petals to enliven the pure white.

This morning as I pass, the roses have been caught in a shower, the drops glistening on each open petal. After my sojourn in France I feel raindrops on roses are one of my things, so here's another for the collection.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Day 178 : shiny curves

There's a buzz at Canary Wharf outside the tube station they have parked a McLaren Formula 1 racing car and the iPhones are snapping away. I'm drawn to the gleaming silver and orange curves, the glinting metal of the wheels and the fat tires. Everybody else is either taking a picture of the entire car or the mysterious racing car driver all suited and helmeted up. I wonder if it’s Jenson Button. There's a huge picture of him behind the car but I can't find any identifying features on his suit to confirm that. The driver has Johnnie Walker across his helmet (though I suspect it’s promoting the scotch rather than his name). There’s a large McLaren Mercedes down one leg and BOSS and a Mercedes logo on one shoulder, SAP on his elbow and Vodafone...pretty much everywhere!

I could have checked with the other eager liggers but whether it’s Jenson, Top Gear’s Stig or someone posing as Jenson to add to the atmosphere, I'm more interested in small details of the car rather than the whole scene. I suspect it's not Jenson anyway as I would expect him to be without helmet and hence draw a bigger crowd, but people are queuing up for the official photographer to shoot them with whoever he is.

The photographer is intrigued by my camera and one of the hostesses points out that it’s a Leica. A Leica that likes shiny things!


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day 177 : fancy a snog?

After the Frui Social in Islington AL suggested we have a Snog. This turns to be fat-free, artificial sweetener-free, low GI, sweetened with agave nectar, natural frozen yoghurt.

First you get to choose a yoghurt base, both AL and I opted for chocolate, naturally. Then you choose from a variety of fresh fruits and chocolate adornments. Mine was studded with crunchy Oreo pieces, cubes of moist brownies and jewels of vibrant fresh raspberries. AL had pineapple on hers, but then each to their own.

That was my first Snog, I suspect it won't be my last!


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Day 176 : leaf X-ray

For a change, I take a meandering walk home from the bus stop allowing me to explore some streets around where I live that I've never visited before. On one of these unfamiliar roads I spotted a bush cloaked in ruby red leaves. In the golden hour before sunset the dying rays highlight both the skeleton of a lone leaf and the delicate tiny hairs around its edge.


Monday, 24 June 2013

Day 175 : big moon, small moon

It's a huge, bright moon tonight, everything around me is dripping in its silvery light and I really want to photograph it. I want my images to be bathed in the ethereal glow that my eyes can see. But the effect I am getting from my view is just not being captured by my camera. The moon is somehow hugely diminished in my view finder and the resultant images just don't live up to expectations.

I like the highlights on the points of the black iron rails protecting a little private road close to where I live. Their street lights are more stylish than our regulation tungsten ones and emit more of a halo of light which adds to the scene.

Maybe I’ll try again on the next full moon and see if I can produce a more dramatic image, I rather like the idea of a vibrant cityscape with the "Cosmo's moon" hanging above.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Day 174 : b-day

Curiously less than an hour ago I was enjoying AL’s glorious celebratory birthday barbecue feast alongside the pool in the rose garden, and had been discussing macro photography with KR. We’d been pondering the challenge of capturing a bee shot as they don't generally linger long and there's the jeopardy of getting stung if you get too close.

Not so long afterwards I was meandering my way home, feeling the urge to walk off some of the Lacey’s Pieces, armed with my camera and I stumbled across some bees.

This bush, smothered in tiny pink flowers was attracting a small troupe of busy bees, loitering briefly on each flower before buzzing to the next. With my close-up filters attached, I have to get extraordinary close and trying to focus on these frenetic bees was a real challenge. As soon as I think I've got a good, sharp shot I click and the image revealed is either entirely devoid of bee or has a fuzzy yellow and black stripy blur to one side. But I keep trying, narrowly avoiding being very stung, channeling Winnie the Pooh’s advice regarding interacting with bees. Though he was trying to steal their honey and I just wanted to capture their image for posterity. Though I'm not entirely positive bees can be distracted, Pooh suggested humming a song about being a cloud but I opt to try not to look like a flower (though to be fair, I'm wearing a dress covered in large B&W photographs of flowers topped off with another huge grey flower) so possibly failing on that point.

However, I just about managed to get my bee shot and remain blissfully unstung, happy days!


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Day 173 : a seed

A other foray, not beyond the garden gate, to see if anything catches my (close-up) eye, and the delicate dandelion seed ensnared by a leaf did just that.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Day 172 : crossing over

I'm back in Canary Wharf and whilst I'm waiting for the people I've come to see I check out their artwork. They have some B&W images of both the inside of their building and the environs. I'm rather taken with one which show the X’s of the structure with the walkways intersecting the crossbars.

When my appointment was over I decided to stand on one of the walkways and capture an image of my own. Now how I thought that I could take a photograph of the inside of a large global bank (with a history of paranoia) without provoking anyone was curiously misplaced innocence. The person who came over to ask “are you okay?”, which was clearly a euphemism for “what on earth are you doing and can you immediately leave?”, actually is familiar with me enough to know I was really supposed to there (at least in the building, maybe not on the walkway), I'm very unlikely to be a terrorist (as I've visited this building on countless occasions and never once attempted to blow it up) and when I alluded to the artwork that had inspired my behaviour clearly had not ever checked it out and had never heard that as reason for anyone doing anything.

I got my picture, totally different from the original, however. I had been waiting for the lunchtime traffic to populate the walkways somewhat and try and get a couple in full stride. I'm sure Henri Cartier-Bresson didn't have so many security guards to contend with!


Thursday, 20 June 2013

Day 171 : arty Richmond

On Sunday I popped into Gallery One and was very taken by the work of Tom Butler, not only does he mix paint with scraps of paper and newsprint but many of the fabulous pictures depict my beloved Richmond. I learnt there was a little soirée promoting his work tonight and scored an invite, depending of course if I can tear myself away from work on time.

And I'm later than I intended, by nearly an hour, but I made it and AL and I drool over some inspirational and beautiful paintings. I even see a painting of a lovely little café I know in Paris and have photographed myself (in B&W naturally). Some of Tom’s new original works has particularly entranced us, I hope wen see some prints.

AL is buzzing with her good news so after our creative interlude we walk down to the river to get a celebratory drink.

The sun is departing for the day and casting a golden glow on the cobbles alongside the Thames silhouetting other early evening riverside revellers. Yet again I'm reminded I live in a beautiful place.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Day 170 : the hungry caterpillar(s)

Another hedge I dash past each morning on the way to the bus stop starting the daily commute again has undertaken a transformation overnight. Clearly some hungry caterpillars have been having a major pig-out and the entire hedge has been perforated by tiny voracious jaws. I get the close-up filters out again, I can almost hear the munching!


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Day 169 : flower in the rain

And yet again the almost summer has been replaced by rain. We have bursts of fine weather and then blink, it’s all over. The blue sky is chased away by grey clouds or just bland whiteness. An early morning shower has scattered shiny jewels on the petals of flowers adorning the bush at the end of my road today. I suspect we’ll have several more rapid changes of weather before the days out, I guess I better just go with the flow.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Day 168 : overflowing with colour

Last time I dined at Caravan at the Granary, the building also shared with St. Martin’s College, I had wanted to photograph the coloured fountains. There looked beautiful on my arrival but I was cutting it a little fine for our reservation so I deferred the photograph for later. But when I left the fountains had all been extinguished so I had to look for inspiration in the lights catching the railings at the end of the plaza instead.

On these repeat visit we arrived earlier but the fountains, though spouting in neat rows, were not remotely coloured as I recalled, maybe I had missed my chance. I tried a few shots of the silver stripe painted across the buildings facade blending intriguingly with the grey sky, but it wasn't really what I hoped for.

However the smokers, on returning from a crafty drag or two, tipped me off that I needed to go outside immediately. I removed the close-up filters attached to my camera, already slung around me in anticipation and dashed outside.

And it was worth the wait, the fountains spurts jets of water at various heights and every now and then each mini cascade is illuminated with a vibrant colour. And I can now see why they don't light it up until it’s dark, otherwise the effect would be wasted.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day 167 : all that glitters...

I popped into the fabulous little Theo Fennell very fine jewellers in the Royal Exchange as I was on a mission. It was for a possible present for someone else, I wasn't intending on shopping for me, no absolutely, not at all. But.....when I arrived, K the lovely shop manager, pointed out a particular little shiny thing that I’d admired on a previous occasion was now 50% off. Hmmm, it’s very sparkly, there’s a skull, a perfect contrast of black and white, on a thick white gold disc, mmmmm how very tempting! It’s very unusual that the pavé setting has stones of multiple dimensions which they refer as a mosaic texture.

In its close up, it is reminiscent of one of those tests for colour blindness where you discern numbers in the various sized dots. Though I suspect if the dots are black and white it would be a poor test. I’ll just have to wear it around my neck instead then.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Day 166 : Things to make you go urghhh!

When I asked myself early on in my self-challenged 365 project why would I, or possibly anyone take a photograph, I pondered "Would it be to capture a moment, a memory and essence? A scene of beauty to enable a revisit albeit virtually or an aide memoir? Or perhaps an incongruous or funny event that might be shared on Facebook later? Documenting an auspicious moment, perhaps for the family album or to share with the world your on-the-spot reportage of the momentous, the challenging, the downright depressing?" I’m fairly sure I had no intention of photographing the antithesis of beauty (well, in my mind) as a dying upturned stag beetle.

I spotted the specimen as I stepped off the train, I really didn't want to get too close. The creepy little legs were flailing around and I had a fear it might suddenly flip itself over and jump at me. Okay they're endangered and their colonies in Richmond Park were instrumental in the designation of a National Nature Reserve but they still freak me out. According to the Richmond Park website "The Stag Beetle is a gentle giant of the insect world. Despite a reputation for summoning thunder and lightning, the male Stag Beetle is entirely harmless. They may look scary to some people but their large jaws are only used to wrestle with other males and their bite is too weak to hurt you." Hmmm they can't hurt you, well I can vouch for the fact that when one of these shiny armoured-plated huge things fly through your open window waving its nasty red-tinged pincers and makes a beeline straight for your face, you're in grave danger of a sudden heart attack!

What I found curious that after spotting this marooned creature at Richmond Station I noticed another a little later also on its back at the end of my road. Two in one night, does that constitute a plague?


Friday, 14 June 2013

Day 165 : a roof with a view

When I find myself at Canary Wharf on a sunny day I have a strong urge to see if I can capture some striking architectural shots playing with the reflections and lines. Today the sun had its hat on so I looked for a likely shot. I had some retail based missions inside so headed for the shopping centre that spans underneath Cabot and Canada Squares. As I took the escalators to Waterstones, I noticed that the view above the escalators might be worth a closer look. One floor up, standing outside Byron’s, the burger place, I see what will be today’s image.

If I look up to the glass domed roof I can see One Canada Square, the tallest building here at Canary Wharf with the pointy top, framed elegantly in the ’cobweb’ roof. Reflections and lines done!


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day 164 : vroom, chomp

U has arrived again from Berlin, much to the collective office delight, clutching a tub of Haribo. Today we have multi-coloured gummy racing cars and also rather fetching pink-headed gummy dinosaurs. She did postulate that she might see some sort of scenario later in her timeline like the unfortunate Gummy Bear murder, so the least I could do is oblige.

I wanted them to interact so my initial thought was the pink-headed dinosaur chomping on the trailing race car whilst they streaked past in the Gummi Grand Prix. The most appropriate backdrop I could think of was the grill for the AC/heating vents for the minimalist linear look.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Day 163 : shadowy leaves

Another late night spot on the wee small hours short walk home from the bus stop. I rather like the shadows on the pavement of the abundant leaves cast by the street lamps. Swapped the unnatural orange glow from the tungsten for good old B&W though.


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Day 162 : mooved by my Moo cards

My cards arrived today and they've come out rather fabulous, if I say so myself. After admiring my friends' cards from them I fancied some of my own promoting my blog and I guess my photography. It's a bit of a conceit but why not, they are little things of beauty.

I picked out eleven images (random I know), I didn't want them to be all poppies, and I opted for rounded corners after checking out LB’s. I wanted to mix it up a bit and have some black & white, a spot of street art from the Jewish memorial in Berlin, flowers - dandelion clock, poppies, rose and daisy, sunsets - both Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast and home in Richmond and also an example of my miniature figures perched on one of most favourite rings.

I have learnt one thing about selecting a variety of different images, is that people often want more than one. It's very flattering and I am more than happy to oblige. And as a consequence, I suspect I'll be a very repeat customer of spreading a little red dot snapper love!


Monday, 10 June 2013

Day 161 : late night marbles

The nice thing to do when the next bus stop is closed is to warn the passengers of this fact before or at the preceding stop. When it's getting close to 1.30am, there is not a single soul about, you could have done the above, maybe dropped the passenger just past the closed stop in the entirely empty road to save them the walk or sail past the closed bus stop and hurtle towards the next mumbling something incomprehensible about the stop closing yesterday (hmmm it wasn't closed when I used it this morning!) The only advantage to this unprecedented detour is that I'm stood on a piece of pavement I'm not sure I've ever stood on before and hence have a new view. I know Marble Hill House very well, I’ve picnicked and watched elaborate firework displays in the grounds, visited the elegantly restored rooms within the Palladium villa, wandered along the meandering paths and been intrigued by the found grotto plus the grotto that apparently exists underground undiscovered somewhere. Marble Hill House was built back in 1724-1729 for Henrietta Howard, the mistress of King George II when he was the Prince of Wales. It certainly paid to be the mistress of royalty back then!

I've never stood this end of the park looking at the house from this angle but here I am, in the darkness and stillness of the wee small hours so I thought I'd try and encapsulate that. Luckily the house is illuminated at night, the lights are in the bushes casting a greenish glow on the house and the street lights are throwing their tungsten orange over the nearby trees. I can't get any closer, the park is locked at night but I figure if I go into manual mode I might be able to capture the mood. I changed the final image into black and white as the orangey hue wasn't doing it any favours.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Day 160 : baby holly

I have never really thought of holly other than dark green spiky leaves interspersed with shiny red berries. But of course little baby holly leaves are cute bright green with immature diminutive spikettes! Ah!


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Day 159 : a grand day out!

Today was a jaunt that had been eagerly anticipated since January. I seem to recall I'd seen the details for Robert Canis workshops in the photography holidays booklet, possible with B&W photography magazine. I’d scribbled down some details and pondered that we could probably fill his whole Dungeness workshop. I threw the idea out there and got the agreement and Robert was happy to select another date that we could all attend together. We selected a mutually agreeable day, eventually, in March. The week we were due to go there was a sudden realisation that it would finish late, was on a Sunday and hence a “school night” and that this was far from desirable. There was much consternation that I'd organise such an affair thus but in the end Mother Nature intervened and the sudden flurry of bad weather again made everyone nervous that we'd be stranded in the snow AND on a school night, so we postponed.
Then all we has to pick was a new date and clearly, not a Sunday. This was momentous. When we finally agreed a new date that worked for the majority, we lost a few of our original group, including a much needed driver, and had to find some new intrepid photographers to join us in June. After literally hundreds of messages back and forth, confirming, re-confirming, changing minds, not reading the itinerary and hence making plans for the same night - doh, Stone Roses concerts, birthday plans, possible other commitments, we somehow got seven photographers and a dog to Dungeness at almost the same time on the same day. Really that was an achievement in itself, the photography was bound to be the easy bit!
Firstly we rendezvoused at the Pilot Inn to catch up and re-fuel for the machinations ahead. The Pilot Inn turned out to have an unusual interpretation of ’dog friendly’, in that “yes, we’re dog friendly but they're not allowed inside!” Hmmm, anyone see the problem here?
Firstly there was some dog sitting outside, it was really too windy to eat out there so we took it in turns, then DJ retired to the car for a little whilst we finished our desserts, I don't think he was that excited about the blustery conditions either. DJ is so well behaved everywhere, he shouldn't have to abide by the rules of lesser dogs. He’ll happily curl up under a table in a pub for hours whilst we eat, drink, debate, photograph. As long as he's close by LB, he's one happy pup. He now also has his new cohabitee AOL (we’ve all worked out who's living with who in this scenario) so if either leave, to go the bar etcetera, he has a momentary concern but remains still happily ensconced in a cosy spot. I will admit if you introduce fireworks to any occasion he does act in an extraordinary fashion trying to immediately discover a safe haven no matter how preposterous! But we are not expecting fireworks today or indeed, snow so everything should be alright!
After apparently a very fine steak for some, fish or vegetarian for the rest, a snooze for DJ, we were fortified enough to kick-off the photography bit.
Dungeness is really a curious place on many levels, it’s a desert, UK’s only desert. It is home to Europe’s largest stretch of shingle beach, France is only 27 miles away (we were sure we could see France but possibly we were looking in the wrong direction!). The nuclear power station (and the now defunct older nuclear power station) have been responsible for keeping some of the surrounding area and waters unnaturally ’warm’ so they attract a wide variety of bird life, flora and fauna. The beach has featured in a plethora of TV dramas and movies. The desolate, seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape is dotted with abandoned boats, rusting winching machines, dilapidated fishermen's huts, the general detritus of tangled nets, fraying ropes, burnished with use iron tracks with no destination. It is a photographers’ paradise and has been oft photographed from every angle, and today we’re planning to discover a few more.
Robert meets us where we will leave the cars and walk onto the shingle. He has bought various images he’s taken here on previous occasions to suggest some likely spots and angles, he talks us through some useful knowledge, a bit of hyper focal distance stuff and inspires us to get going. Luckily seven photographers (oh and a dog with his own doggie-cam) have entirely different ideas on what we like to photograph. DJ gets unduly excited about a dead fish head he finds, each to his own! AL likes shooting stuff through stuff (technical term there!), whereas FM is drawn to the tangled fraying ropes and old nets strewn about on the ground. I’m loving the boats, but attaching my close up filters I'm instantly drawn to the vivid orange nets being animated by the squally wind against the blue, blue sky. And then looking down the splintery old railway sleepers and rusty tracks catch my eye.
We all pick different viewpoints on the boats. AOR walks down towards the waters edge and can hence look up to a stunning, dramatic shot of one of the sun-tinged abandoned vessels. Our crazy Swede CJ takes a gorgeous, imposing shot of one of the boats and photographers in silhouette as the sun sets. Spanish JP finds me some interesting shells for some further close-ups.
After the sun has gone down on us we brave the cold, as the teeth-chattering temperatures I suggested we all prepare for descend upon us, and we have anticipated this in a variety of (mostly inadequate) ways, myself included. But I'm enormously grateful I did at least pack a very cosy hat, silk gloves that I can still operate my camera with, and a not very covering bright fuchsia pashmina which wants to snake above my head in the wind, not really doing its job! We attempt to stay warm by experimenting with flash guns bouncing off the decaying machinery and boats. Spanish JP grabs a few candids of the chilly snappers, thankfully recording for posterity what I'd look like in a wind tunnel! We’re waiting for it to get properly dark for some light painting.
The plan is that we line our tripods up with one the picturesque ramshackle boats in the foreground and behind the power station which is handily illuminated. Robert takes a powerful 2 million candle (though I didn't actually count) torch and ’paints’ the light of the boat’s frame whilst we leave our shutters open for 20, 30 odd seconds to capture the light-kissed form. The effects were rather startling and beautiful and each of us captured a slightly different take. For one of my shots a pink cloud appeared above the power station, and by the next attempt it had gone. It’s true - I do see the pink in everything!
We had an awesome day of photography, learnt lots, thanks to Robert, I’ll concede it was beyond nippy but when I'd warm up I had some striking shots to show for my efforts. Where shall we go next?