Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Lymeward bound!

Going home for Christmas. That's what we generally do. There's songs written about it, movies dramatising the arduous journey. We expect traffic jams, violent weather, and delayed trains, as that's part of the tradition. I would always have way too many bags stuffed with elaborately wrapped presents for home and then a New Year in Cambridge. A massive M&S expedition would be on the horizon on arrival. I would be tasked with menu planning for the wider family party plus the more intimate festive fare, "never knowingly under-catered" was our motto!

My one regret is a lack of photos, from any of these lovely Christmases. But we always were a family of reluctant photographic subjects, so if I'd been attached to my camera as I am now, I'd probably have an artful, soft bokeh shot of the sprouts dusted with bacon slivers, and still not one of us!

A very early reoccurring memory is Christmas Day sat on the floor in front of the "visiting a children's hospital programme" in little Gran's front room (seemingly only used at Christmas), whilst I painstakingly ordered my new felt tip pen collection, yes there is a correct order! Even today I colour code my clients and arrange them in that very same order (my eight-year-old self would be very proud!)

Nowadays there's no home for Christmas for me, so I make other plans to celebrate the holiday. This isn't a cry for sympathy, just a fact. Of course I'm going to hark back to all those special times, the fabulously bedecked tables, the crazy obsession with canapés (that's you M!), the obligatory carols and festive films (D's domain), the first soft pfftt of a Champagne popping, the evocative aroma of M's Chanel No. 5, the patiently opening and admiring each present at midnight Christmas Eve before moving to the next, and the time we had a full Christmas lunch at 3am (and pretended it was normal!) A few ghosts of Christmas past, all treasured memories, surrounded by a train full of people going home for Christmas, I'm allowed a moment of wistfulness. And yes, secretly, I do wish that tomorrow morning I could set cross-legged in front of the TV, reordering my new felt pens!

But tomorrow there won't be any felt tips but I hope a delicious festive breakfast in my lovely hotel. I discovered Hotel Alexandra in Lyme Regis after a sadly slightly washed out photography workshop. Not that we hadn't had a great time and done fantastic photography but the weather really let us down. I stayed in the Alex, with the hatches firmly battened down but when the rain cleared I really enjoyed my time in Lyme. I figured it would make a great spot for one of my Christmas coast hotels but they haven't done a Christmas for thirty years. I checked them out again this year and fantastically they'd decided to lay on a Christmas package.

There's a fabulous warm welcome on arrival and I was delighted to hear of been upgraded to a larger room and more crucially, with a sea view. Immediately I set up my tripod and could try and capture the first seagull before a spot of afternoon tea. They've even provided a little robin ornament to decorate my room.

After a warm scone, the lure of the Jane Austen gardens and the distinctive lampposts had me wander out of the hotel grounds is search of my first sunset shot.

On returning, I added more sequins and headed down for a Christmas Eve dinner. I had remembered that the food is very good here and they don't disappoint. as usual there's the challenge of good photography on the ambient light in a dining room but I tried my best.

Feeling very pleasantly full, I retire to my elegant room and plan further photographic adventures tomorrow, no felt tips though!



Saturday, 20 December 2014

It was a damp and cold night

Every time I plan to visit Kent I'm convinced it's further away than the last time I ventured forth. And I suppose to be fair, Reculver is on the coast, just outside Herne Bay and perhaps further than previous Kent forays. The plan was to converge on a coastal car park for 2pm, armed with waterproof coat and trousers, warm hat, scarf and wellingtons. After I completed my three hour plus epic (bus, train, train, train and taxi) journey I was encouraged to wear all my spare clothes rather than carry them as its too windy on the beach to take extra items. Having eschewed waterproof trousers, I thought I could protect myself from the freezing, damp, gets into your bones sand with a groundsheet. But the aforementioned wind had other ideas. As try as I might to create a small zone to protect my camera bag, set up my tripod and perch upon, a cheeky breeze would whip it up showering new camera with damp sand and ensuring the merest movement would ruche up the edges until you're sat unprotected sand anyway. I may have to give up and succumb to waterproof trousers. Once the photography was over I still had another four hours before arriving home and able to get into dry clothes. Hmmm. Luckily the photography was pretty good. I've been dying to put the new baby Leica through its paces, perhaps a long shutter speed with a big stopper and ND grads. This seemed to be the perfect spot to play with the dramatic skies. But the Leica was like a sulky toddler. It had mysteriously acquired some sort of limiter that prevented a slow shutter speed, you could have as fast as you like but not slow. Robert suggested I reset back to factory settings to see if that would resolve the unknown issue, but I was determined to fathom it out. I had to just ramp up the more impressive ISO and clean up the resultant noise in post. Very infuriating! The train journey back I could see what was wrong but not how to resolve it. The shutter speed menu setting I wanted to alter, was greyed out so after going round in circles, been totally unable to reveal the hidden menu options, I restored back to factory settings. Annoying I don't know how it happened in the first place, or how to fix if it manages to get into a similar state again.
I'd been meaning to get on one of Robert Canis's workshops to Reculver, we'd been hoping to get our own private group together as a successor to Dungeness. However, the perfect storm of Robert's schedule, all our diaries, the tides, the sunset times and the prerequisite of it being a non-school night hadn't occurred, meant it had been impossible to organise. Luckily a spot became available for this Saturday, which I snapped up just for me and I can try to organise it for the group next year.
The ruined tower of Reculver makes a perfect focal point and I was surprised at what we could capture in the inky darkness after the sun had set and we walked to the other side of the tower. The advantage was that we were sheltered from the wind by said tower and in my case, could try and fathom why everything was so dark. Removing the polarising filter from earlier certainty helped that, but with the shutter refusing to consider the new "bulb" setting, it was all about ISO! I think I managed to whittle down 182 photographs down to a reasonable representative 5. Now to pick my next workshop!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Photo slices

I've been a huge go fan of business cards since I first saw them. I have the original rounded corner cards, I also created postcards and then also Christmas cards. But whenever I see a stack of the skinny Moo cards at the London Photo Festival, I wish I had some of those too. On the spur of the moment I reviewed a slew of photographs seeing if they'd work as slivers. And I guess I must have had some good feelings about some of them because I ordered 34 designs and when Moo whisked them to me, I decided I couldn't resist immediately ordering one of their special frames to display 20 of them. I also tweaked some of the colours, especially the B&W ones, that have a tendency to be gloomy if unchecked. And I added one more photo, hot off the press from our new building balcony. The frames are great because as long as you have an even number of portraits and landscapes, you can keep changing the pictures around. The only downside is that the frame seems to attract every teeny iota of fluff and dust floating about, and it's very attractive to fingerprints.

The plan is to stand the photo frame on my desk at work to inspire me to get of the office at a reasonable time, and throw myself into more photography. I know I crave the creative succour I get from immersing myself in what I truly love, I just need to do it more often.