Saturday, 30 November 2013

Day 334: burning, burning sky

I was heading into Richmond town centre but I glanced behind me and could see a burning sky of a sunset. At this time of year the sun doesn't set conveniently parallel to Richmond Bridge making the prefect backdrop to the boats, the swans, the evening strollers on the river path. It sets over there, tantalisingly behind various buildings, houses, obstructions. But I thought I'd see if I could find something before it disappeared for the day. I carried on walking down the road staying at the sky, looking for a vantage point without all the street furniture in the way. I walked past one bus-stop but still no decent angle, I carried on walking to the next bus-stop staring fixedly at the orangey-pink streaks in the sky willing them to linger longer. I figured if I stood on my tip-toes and craned to get a view over the rooftops I might be able to capture the vibrant sky. There's a perfectly placed large tree (oak I think) framing the picture and the silhouette of the chimneys and aerials against the fiery sky.


Friday, 29 November 2013

Day 333 : the first robin

Last year I made a shopping list of festive images I was hoping to capture with my camera. Namely a snow dusted holly bush, icicles, a snowman, footprints in the deep snow, a robin, snowflakes, a Narnia style snowscape. I managed to tick a few off, I'm surrounded by holly bushes so all I had to was wait for the snow. The snowscape was the prefect snow-carpeted scene through my window, I half expected Narnia’s white witch to pull up in her sledge proffering fluffy rose-scented Turkish delight. One morning I spotted some fine icicles hanging from the railway bridge but a decent snowman shot totally alluded me. I only had a fleeting glance of a robin, so no chance there. But many months later I'm a little luckier.

A few doorsteps down from mine I spotted the elusive quarry perched tantalisingly on the metal swing gate. My first robin of the year. Curses, my camera’s in my bag and getting it out of the case is noisy (note to self, must find an alternative for the Velcro) Perhaps in this case it will be safer to use my iPhone 5S to try and be more discrete. Luckily I had good enough light to not really need the wider aperture but I still would have preferred to have the considerably greater control my Leica offers me. I'd love to compare them both side by side because I think this photograph is a little soft and would be intrigued to see exactly how it would be different.

Now I have managed to photograph my first robin, I'm ready to up the ante. A robin, some holly with vivid red berries and snow. Is that too much to ask? I guess now I've upgraded from stalking baby snails to sneaking up on robins. Now to find some silent Velcro.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Day 332 : Christmas penguin

What a lovely surprise half Spanish EM and dark cloud SG bought me a fabulous surprise Christmas penguin bauble. She is plump, so very shiny, has sparkly red shoes and blushing cheeks. Currently she is adorning my monitor bringing a sprinkling of penguin festive magic to my desk. It’s made me think I should make some personalised Christmas cards, time to consult the site again, oh and select some suitable images.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Day 331 : a Frui festive cheer

The Frui Christmas party was tonight and the social challenge aspect is normally missing from the party nights. Though there was an unexpected challenge tonight, find the pub location of the party when the invite had the correct postcode but the wrong pub name. When you copy these two bits of information into Google maps, Google favours the pub name so if you blindly follow the directions you end up in a totally different pub, a very nice pub, but a pub where the Frui party is not happening! It took a while to establish where I should be for the party and schlepping across town twice to find it did not put me in the finest of moods. I should know better because Frui has form when it comes to ambiguous and confusing directions. I'm hoping that their new assistant will add the attention to detail that Frui sometimes lack.

When I arrived the obligatory quiz had started so it took some time for me to get into it. Towards the end we were told to grab our iPhones and photograph “festive spirit” from around us. I figured I could do better and grab my Leica and close-up filters and head towards the Christmas tree in the corner of the pub. Festive spirit for me is sparkly fairy lights, shiny baubles and glitter. Sticking my camera into the depths of the Christmas tree seemed to be a way to get the effect I wanted. And of course my camera has a built in star filter for that extra touch of pizzaz and bling.

AL and I had coincidentally both decked our fingernails in a festive manner so she suggested I'd see if I could combine one of my penguins and her sparkly nails. It was tricky to get it to balance on the shiny curved surface but we did and entered it for the festive photograph judging. The Christmas tree picture fared better though, with an eight out of ten.

Much to my shock my cacophony shot did win the social prize alongside the infamous semi-naked policeman and AL’s hand of God recreation. CM took the holiday prize for one of his Mexican photos. I was flattered to win but I suspect it could have been Hobson’s choice!


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Day 330 : holiday and social

Tomorrow is the Frui Christmas party and we’ve been asked to submit our best shot from a Frui holiday and Frui Social to win the prize of having it printed A3 size. There's not much notice as were supposed to pick our shots by tonight. That's a little harsh for those who don't carry all their photos around on their iPad but I guess that means as I do, I have less competition! But what to choose as my two entries.

I figured, just in case I did actually win, I should pick two photographs I'd like to live with. I struggled with my holiday shots but figured I'd pick a typical landscape from the desert of Almería. The palette was very soft there, not the normal punchier colours I'm drawn to, just pastel paleness. The line of immature trees breaking up the miles of sun-bleached landscape made this photograph for me.

For the best Social photograph I wondered if I should pick the album cover that scored me a ten but if I did win I couldn't really imagine doing anything with it. However, the solo image I took that night when we had to shoot our sound and I choose to photograph an organic image of the Oxford Street lights that I entitled “cacophony”, was more me.

I'm not sure if anyone else managed to reach their computers containing their photographs in time for the submission deadline, I’ll guess we’ll see tomorrow.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Day 329 : angry birds

The Friday Frui challenge this week was “your best photograph”. This is a tough challenge as how do you define “best”? I decided to plump for this shot as it's one of those decisive moments when the right place, the right time and some rather scary, and clearly hungry, gulls coincided. I particularly like the gull at the front with the missing leg as he looks so sinister. And the larger bird at the top ravenously clutching food in its beak. Capturing this moment is extraordinary as the gulls look so different from when they're at rest. Somehow the birds almost look like computer generated, but obviously they’re not, but they could be the original angry birds!


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Day 328 : I see ICM

On the way to the Apple store on Thursday night eager to get my hot hands on the fabulous new iPad Air I got talking to my black cab driver about photography. Clearly we share the same passion! I alluded to the picture I took from the back of a black cab ten days ago and he asked if I was a fan of ICM. And this was the first time I realised the streaky Monet style bluebell wood, the stripy Waterloo Bridge skyline, the fabricated album cover incorporating fuzzy neon and the previous cab exploits have a name - and that's intentional camera movement. Yes I am a fan of ICM, I don't think I'm remotely on the way to being an aficionado but I definitely want to explore further and see the possibilities. After my successful foray into the Apple store I had to stop and capture the lights on Oxford Street. Thinking about our conversation about ICM I had to see if I could do something with the Christmas lights, the lights from the traffic whizzing past me and street lights. And this was the result.

My cab driver gives me a name to look up - Valda Bailey, who embodies this style. I love her website and it reminds me so much why I embraced photography. When I was younger I was always drawing, painting, creating pieces. But I was never quick on the draw so it was a time consuming hobby. In later years I would occasionally tackle projects, like the painstaking reproduction of Monet’s lilies in teeny, tiny coloured squares of paper. But it took weeks slaving over a hot Pritt glue stick and I found generally I didn't have time for creative projects. When I picked up a camera more seriously again, when digital meant I didn't have to flaunt my mistakes in front of the processing team at Boots and later my friends at Virgin Photo. The pictures I was drawn to were not dissimilar to what I would draw and paint, still lives, details, jewellery, flowers and landscapes. I very rarely drew people or anything alive other than perhaps a plant. My main argument was I needed so much time to make something I was proud of, people didn't want to sit that long. If I drew animals I would meticulously reproduce images in pencil of gorgeous photographs from my animal books. We didn't really do life drawing at school, I posed (fully clothed I hasten to add) for some expectations with charcoal, but didn't partake myself. A few years later I posed for a painting for a friends A-level art, where he had me pose reclining with my long hair tuning into branches of a tree. I never saw the finished work but he was a talented artist It was unusual for me to draw from memory, I needed the subject in front of me. A project I did when I took my art O-level was a crushed Coke can became a regular revisited subject. Over the years I reproduced it in many media, tiny dots of red, black, silver, grey or soft watercolour strokes, bold acrylic, blended pencil lines, felt tips etcetera. I always loved the interplay of the facets of shiny metal, the light and the shade the crushing of the can would produce, I was never interested in a unadulterated can in the same way.

Now I can see the parallel between me painting these Coke cans and getting lost in some minutiae of detail through my close-up filters. ICM can give photographs a more painterly feeling, moving from realism to abstract. To some extent using a 10-stop filter to produce those soft, milky seas and creamy, smudgy streaked skies is another form. This is not the scene our eyes perceive but a more abstract interpretation.

My cab driver also told me of a photographic workshop he was involved in and it sounds very me. The tour involves driving around a London in a black cab and stopping to get out to photograph landmarks. Hmmm photography combined with a black cab, sounds pretty perfect for me! He mentioned the photographer he partners with to run these workshops - Doug Chinnery, and suggested I should check out his website. I did, I liked gear I saw, signed up for one workshops and enquired about two others. I've a feeling 2014 is going to be even more photographic than this year.


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Day 327 : popping cherry

There's this cherry tree I pass most days a few paces from my front door that may be my favourite tree. I think it's cherry, though despite seeing copious amounts of blossom I've never seen a cherry. In the height of Spring the blossom forms a thick canopy that you have to duck under as you walk along the pavement. And when the blossom is raining down in a breeze you are very likely to be confettied. I've photographed it throughout the seasons but I'm missing a decent photograph of the tree heavy with snow, so I’ll add this to my wish list. I took a picture of some of the branches in the dark the other night on the way back from being out with the girls. This morning I spotted a lone branch partially clothed with vibrant cherry red leaves on the now nearly naked tree popping against the blue, blue sky.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Day 326 : happy morning!

There's been some great pinky dawns recently but they're so fleeting and I can't always grab my camera and get a decent angle when I'm primarily concentrating on getting ready and leaving for work. This morning I did have some time to try and capture it on camera. I could stretch as far as possible out of my open window to get an unimpeded view and the recent denuding of the trees removed some of the leafy obstacles. Happy morning!


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Day 325 : My Christmas will be light!

I'd been pondering a Christmas present to myself of the new iPad Air and then I got a monetary award and thought putting it towards a new iPad seemed a very fine idea. We had various machinations trying to figure out how to cash in the prepaid debit cards but we did and I'm proud possessor of a shiny new toy. Leaving walking on air with my new Air I caught sight of the Apple store’s window display was said iPad Air and the message “May all your Christmases be light!”.

Suitably inspired I turned my thoughts to other lights, the Christmas lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street. The Regent Street lights are a bit too product placement-y for my tastes though I rather like the frosty branches. So because of that I thought I'd concentrate on the giant sparkly snowballs on Oxford Street.

With a big aperture I was losing the sparkles on the balls so had to deploy my smallest aperture and hold the camera as steady as I could. I was concentrating so hard on capturing the shot I wanted holding my little Leica as so tightly and I didn't see the giant red double decker bus coming at me, luckily I held my nerve!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Day 324 : berry sunset

I like these berries, they look spiky but they're not. They look pleasingly edible but I would never try without being sure. They're soft and juicy when they fall from the tree and plop onto the brick wall. I think they're called Arbutus or occasionally strawberry trees (which is looking good for their edibility). The immature berries are yellowy, gold, ochre and orange and then turn to this pleasing raspberry red, like a sunset in the berry world. The tree has been shedding a few berries this morning, they've splattered on the pavement but some have had their fall broken by the wall. I had to stand in my tip-toes to sneak up on these and take the picture as the wall is just that bit too high. Hmmm strawberry tree, that sounds tasty!


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Day 323 : addicted to sunsets

Back at Canary Wharf again, my new second home. It's approaching that time of the day when the sun is slipping from the sky and the golden tones emanating from behind the buildings. I'm itching to get my camera but we have a tight schedule and have to hotfoot it from one client to another. As we approach the sun is a fiery orange ball exploding through a gap between buildings, it's so tantalising, and I so what to point my camera in that direction. So torn, so little time but I am clutching my iPhone. I need more time and I want to grab my camera out of my bag it I’ll have to compromise with the phone camera.

A swift shimmy to the reception to discover my next appointment would like to put back our meeting by fifteen minutes. Result! But then as we now have “all the time in the world” the receptionist slowly makes our badges whilst I'm surreptitiously trying to see if the sunset is still happening. Badges made we’re asked to take a seat and I figure I could just run across the road and catch the last few rays if I'm sharpish. I leave my bags with V and do that that but, noooooo, my battery is flat arghh! Back across the road again, through the revolving door I grab a spare charged battery from my handbag and hurtle across the road again but there's very little left. There's a deep terracotta line on the horizon, which is quite pleasing but maybe ten minutes earlier it would have been spectacular. It seems I can never get my fill of a good sunset, I don't think I suffer from SAD (bring a Northerner we’ve been acclimatised to sun deprivation) but I feel recharged by those pinky purples, orangey reds and the golden yellowy ochres streaked across the bruising sky, manna for my occasionally black soul. My name is J and I'm a sunset-aholic!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Day 322 : Ceci n’est pas une Magritte! Or is it?

I'm spending more time than usual at one of my clients and on their twelve floor they have a piece of art that I've been very intrigued by hanging on a striking green wall. In a previous life I'd visit Paris quite regularly with work and if I opted to stay over the weekend the Pompidou Centre and Musee d’Orsay would always be on my must-visit list. It was in the Pompidou Centre and again at the fabulous little museum shop around the corner that I was struck by the Belgian surrealist. I collected possibly my very earliest fridge magnets (now my collection is extensive) from that shop and the infamous pipe, the bowler hat, the umbrella with a glass of water balanced on top and the bowler hatted gent with his face obscured by a giant apple have graced my various fridges since.

Imagine my surprise to see this homage to Magritte’s Son of Man. Many of my clients have extensive art collections and they are very much the originals. But this one perplexes me, it's like Son of Man but with the addition of another of Magritte’s motifs - umbrellas. I can't find a mention to this version anywhere but it doesn't mean it’s not genuine, and many of Magritte’s works don't appear to be signed. Maybe it's an elaborate pastiche, this particular piece has been very much copied particularly in advertising, perhaps this is someone who works here. They can definitely afford a real Magritte if they wanted one, but is this one?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Day 321 : 50 shades of brown

The Frui weekly challenge is “Autumn”, and I've definitely got plenty of material this time. Do I select the bright orange hue of the crenelated edge of a leaf or the cache of acorns in another? Or should I choose the colourful crunchy leaves against the cornflower blue sky in Richmond? Maybe I could select a fungi shot, though my favourite one looks more like a fairy umbrella and not particularly Autumnal. There's always the birth of a tiny oak tree but could that hint towards spring (dead brown leaves aside)? In the end I plump for the prickly sweet chestnuts close-up as epitomising the season of mellow fruitfulness. Was that the right choice?


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Day 320 : best laid plans!

I really intended to get out earlier with my camera before meeting up with the girls for dinner in Battersea. I even had a vague idea of trying to get some interesting shots of the power station itself. But the sun seemed to disappear pretty sharpish today and I was still recovering from my busy-week-induced-coma and missed the day entirely. Ah well, best laid plans and all that, clearly I need to embrace night photography it seems.

On my return from the super-chilled night at the pub I thought I would see if I could capture the leaves of one of my favourite trees against the inky black sky. I hadn't taken my tripod out for a girl’s dinner so it had to be handheld. I didn't use my flash but the nearby street lamp cast it’s orange-y glow over the outstretched branches. Not really an iconic multi-chimneyed building though.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Day 319 : flowers out of time!

I've been meaning to get a picture of these purple flowers for ages. Normally when I'm here, it's too dark to make an attempt but this morning I'm walking to the next bus stop to drop something at the cobblers so I have a window of opportunity. In the early morning dappled light the flowers are looking at their best. Im not sure what species they are, but they seem a little out of time. I expect it to be summer and bees would be buzzing around with great enthusiasm. But it's November, the bees are tucked up for the winter and these are still blooming.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Day 318 : memories and taxi cabs

Tonight I'm off to Vauxhall to attend a reunion. There might be people there I haven't seen for 20+ years so it could be an interesting night. As my taxi wends through the city we notice the London Eye is all lit up in blues and reds, I don't know if it’s for Prince Charles’ big birthday but for whatever reason, it looks most striking tonight. I want to try and capture it but we can't get the angle without swerving in the traffic or doubling back, which I doubt want to do. I figure I've missed the moment so wonder about further inspiration.
Being in the back of a black cab and feeling all nostalgic with the Virgin reunion coming up, I have a sudden vivid flashback. When we took over the Smithers and Leigh store at Marble Arch it became a bit of an experimental Virgin Megastore. Smithers and Leigh hadn't really been in existence for very long but they had grand plans and a large abandoned shop. In Virgin @ Marble Arch we launched a NFL American football store, XS our cherry-picked accessories, a photo lab and were the second store in the country to introduce E.P.O.S. For those who missed this incredible evolution in retail, I'm referring to electronic point-of-sale i.e. scanning barcodes at the till.
Having the photo lab gave us a new group of creative people and it got me back into photography. I had my ’proper’ camera for a few years but had become a little disheartened. I was lucky we had such facilities as I could get cheap film processing and printing by people who were sympathetic to my extraordinarily variable efforts (i.e. technically challenged)! I used to hang out with a couple of the guys and occasionally used to stay either at A’s enviable Neal Street fabulous fifties flat with the spiral staircase and a parachute silk ceiling or P’s super trendy Hackney House inhibited by an artistic bunch who were at St. Martin’s College of Art (yes, very Pulp!). They had a old dentist chair in the lounge and had randomly and, clearly memorably, decorated the bathroom with kingfisher blue Hammerite! No-one in my immediate circle of friends had been so exotic and arty. One of the girls’ jobs, who sadly I cannot recall the name of, was to make giant models of everyday objects (for someone impressive, possibly for the BBC). Two of the boys were working on a film project. They'd procured a black cab and installed a camera in the back. The idea was to record little vignettes of the passengers. I'm sure this wasn't candid camera but they'd been searching for suitable candidates to make interesting little films. I'm pretty positive I never saw the completed work but I do recall sitting around with the artistically inspiring people, drinking wine and talking about how we were going to change the world. It took me many years to move from mere dabbling to an obsession with photography but I think my brush with all that creativity and vision possibly sowed the seed.
Tonight, so many years later, I'm in the back of a black cab, clutching my camera and decide I need to capture the moment. By playing around with focus I get some interesting bokeh with the lights of the surrounding traffic and street, a good vibrant memory! Maybe tonight will generate more!


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Day 317 : and it's raining again!

Here I am again peering at various plants, flowers, bushes after the rain. I'm taking a slightly different route to the station so have some new flora to scrutinise. I never seem to tire of glistening raindrops on petals and leaves. This seems a perfectly sparkly example and is today's inspiration.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Day 316 : meeting room with a view

I'm up on the 27th floor of one of my clients today in Canary Wharf and I'm utterly transfixed by the view. We’re in a conference room that has floor to ceiling picture windows looking out back towards the city. Below is a construction site with a red crane highlighted against the twinkling Thames and in the hazy distance the Shard, and other well-known city buildings are silhouetted against the wintry setting sun. The honey tones are being reflected in the shiny buildings and the whole scene is suffused with a golden glow. Once the meeting is over I have to immediately grab my camera as the sun is starting to disappear. It's not too easy to capture through the tinted and seriously in need of a clean windows but I have to try. Okay, I've tried, so back to work now!


Monday, 11 November 2013

Day 315 : wearing with pride

This year has been poppy-tastic. I've finally achieved my dream of being in the middle of a poppy field, not with a lake as I'd always dreamt but even better, with my camera! I practically drowned in poppies on a long weekend in France. And have countless photographs to prove it.

This is the more common poppy time of the year, we’re all showing our support by wearing our poppies with pride. Some are paper, which have a nasty habit of falling off or stabbing you with the pin. Though I have to admit I have a soft spot for them as they are made on my doorstep in Richmond. Those with more flamboyant tastes go for the bigger silk ones. Or if you have a sparkly heart (like myself) you procure one of the fabulous crystal Buckley ones (I know very Strictly!). Mine is not the 2013 version, as I prefer mine leafless, and the gold stem has been customised with a few layers of my favourite black nail varnish as it too gold for me but I look forward to wearing it each year. It doesn't mean I haven't supplemented my poppy collection this year, I've added a sparkly crocheted one for my black bobble hat and a few poppy charms to adorn my bracelets.

I've never seen so many people out pushing poppies as they have been this year. Last week I was delighted to hear Gareth Malone and the Military Wives singing beautifully at Waterloo Station and there were pipers and guardsmen at Canary Wharf wherever you turned.

The tube trains had poppy decals on the cabs and some buses were scattered with poppy images too. There are giant poppies hanging from the gantries in King’s Cross Station. I'm not sure if there are more poppies everywhere than ever before or my photography project has opened my eyes to noticing things I wouldn't have been aware of before. The British Legion are aiming to raise £37 million, and if the efforts are anything to go by, this will be achieved. Less we forget!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Day 314 : leaves and cheese!

Meandering through Richmond Green again whilst catching up on the week’s shopping (the truffled Brie at the newly opened Wholefood Store is to seriously die for) the leaves are calling me again.

The sky is blue and the orangey yellow leaves are silhouetted against the cornflower hue is very refreshing. Yet again I'm reminded that I live in a beautiful place (and we also have very fine cheese!)


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Day 313 : a Cornish Gursky

The Frui weekly challenge is Andreas Gursky, he of the infamous photograph that sold for a very impressive $4.3m (which was then £2.7m) in November 2011 at a Christie's auction in New York. I am aware of Rhine II but I wasn't so familiar with his back catalogue. But when I did some research I realised I knew more of his body of work than I thought. The Chicago Board of Trade image from above I have admired before, hundreds of windows in an urban landscape and the roads through the sands in Bahrain, actually a lot more than I'd previously realised.

I was wondering if I should go for the general cacophony photograph using my image of my new bookcase filled to the brim with my colour-coded library, as that is definitely a theme of Gursky’s work.

But on consideration I decide to recreate my own Rhine II but with a different body of water. I want the horizontal lines, the slightly sludgy greeny grey palette. I look at my steely silver seascapes from the beach outside the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall last Christmas and can see shades of Gursky. The lines are probably not defined enough and I'm confident it will never get the tiniest part of £2.7 million, but a very slight homage nonetheless.