Saturday, 31 January 2015

Day 31: No snow!

Facebook is chock full of pictures of snow, trees dripping in snow, unadulterated fields carpeted with pristine whiteness and just deep, deep snow. Other than some flurries we saw from our seventh floor vantage point that didn't stick, we've been entirely snow deprived. I was hoping today that the promised snow would arrive but apart from some early morning frost, nothing. Okay the frost is pretty, and I could play with my close-up filters but I'd set my heart on the white stuff. There was rain yes, maybe almost sleet but we remained snowless. The last time I managed to photograph snow was nearly two years ago. If I was in other parts of the UK I'd be well over snow by now. But here, in London, in Richmond, no snow! Maybe tomorrow!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 30: A bridge too blue!

At the end of our road, London Bridge Street, a road that no one seems to heard of is a bridge. At night the shiny tubular bridge is shot with changing colours. It's curious, with my naked eye I can easily discern the alternating colours but through the camera, when I review the images the bridge seems to be only blue. I change the settings as still blue. Eventually I get much closer and focus carefully where the colours seem the brightest and manage to record the covetable pinker hues.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Day 29: Brunch with a view

This morning I caught up with an old friend I haven't seen for five/six years and it seemed appropriate we met for brunch in the tall, pointy building close to London Bridge Station which is perfect for Em zooming back to collect her adorable son from school, and me to get back to some pressing spreadsheets. I haven't indulged in breakfast or brunch in Aqua Shard, but one glance at the menu online and spotting the two words Lobster Benedict, and I was smitten.

The sky was sunny and blue on arrival but I had the same problem as when taking photos through the glass windows in our building next door. There is double glazing but with a large gap between the two panes. This means that your camera really wants to focus on the glass, if you let it, so the view behind is all fuzzy. It's easier when the sun isn't hitting the glass, the clouds help clear the scene, bizarrely. Here I was waiting for a break in the clouds to allow St. Paul's to be bathed in a shaft of light.

One of the extremely handy things about being neighbours of the Shard is that we can get a reservation, and a good table at that, with little notice. I suspect getting a table for breakfast isn't as tricky as dinner, which I can vouch is difficult, but who would argue that a window table isn't extremely desirable.

From my seat I can see our roof carpeted in the solar panels that makes us a bit greener, and the window cleaners in their precarious cradle ready to swing into action. They are hovering over the balcony on the fourteenth floor, where I go to chase the cobwebs away or take photographs of the night skyline.

Behind our building is Southwark Cathedral, then the roof garden on top of Cannon Street Station, the almost glowing St. Paul's and the River Thames snaking off into the distance.

And I have to admit, the Lobster Benedict was awesome, an Egg Benedict turned up to eleven!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Day 28: Shades of grey

I'm back to lampposts and seagulls again. Not the ornate distinctive fossil emblazoned ones silhouetted against a cornflower blue sky in Lyme Regis, but just an ordinary lamppost on a wintry day. What is curious is that this picture is in colour but you can really tell! Not fifty, but several shades of grey.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Day 27: Those fine eyes!

I was lucky to be able to spend time with the fabulous MZ and her gorgeous Miss B a couple of days after her christening. Sadly Miss B. wasn't at her best with an eye infection and a bit of a fever but she was still well enough to fling the odd wooden toy around. I was determined to get some new photos but the light in the elegant white living room was subdued and didn't capture those stunning eyes as much as I wanted. Later we were tucking into some of Whole Food's finest cheeses in the kitchen, like a good little Italian girl she was keen to get her hands on a little morsel of bread too! I was transfixed by the wintry light pouring through the kitchen window and illuminating those fine eyes (a little Jane Austen reference there!) I fired off a few more shots whilst I could grab her attention. Despite her less than perfect health she had such a sweet look.

I had a modicum of post-processing to undertake to complete my grabbed portrait, I didn't think the eye infection needed immortalising, and her colour was a tad high causing a flush around her cute little jaw. The monochrome could deal with the too rosy a colour and some delicate spot healing could eradicate the temporary imperfections from around her perfect eyes and the delicate rosebud mouth.

I take few photographs of people, especially intimate portraits but with such a stunning subject, I could be persuaded to take more I guess.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Day 26: Early Spring

Another leftover from Y's birthday, a beautiful bunch of white Spring tulips. Okay, a little early for Spring, but I guess it's Spring somewhere. Irresistible!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Day 25: Oh mummy!

Today was a long overdue trip to the British Museum. L(a) has been studying hard here as part of gaining her ’knowledge’ for the coveted blue badge, the symbol of the guild of Blue Badge Tourist Guides. And boy do they have to know their stuff! Theres an intensive two year course, and if like L(a), you have a full time job, you somehow have to manage all that learning and cramming in of knowledge around your day job. No mean feat I reckon! I've been to her National Gallery (test) guided tour several and also the city walks, but the British Museum one had so far alluded me.

Sadly due to an uncanny mix of errant and escapee iPhones, passengers taking ill at stations and the general 'joy' of Sunday travelling, I missed the first part (the Rosetta stone etc) so I joined the group round about the time we were due to hear about china in China. The incredibly ornate porcelain figurines that accompany a body to the underworld were particularly intriguing. So elaborate and yet buried with you, so not seen by anyone.

We then nipped over to Egypt and visited the mummy collection. Here is very crowded so we don’t stand in front of the painted sarcophaguses and bandaged mummies, but go into a further room instead and huddle in front a man who’s been buried in a shallow sand grave, and had mummified without the 70 days of treatment a mummy normally required. Named after the place he was found, he is called Gebelein man and it is astonishing to consider we are peering into the climate controlled cabinet at someone who lived in 3500 BC. We learnt that the ginger-haired man was murdered, he was stabbed in the shoulder.

They were plenty of visitors craning to see the figure arrange in the foetal position, so we stepped back and had the process of mummification explained to us. The ancient Egyptians believed that you would need your body for the afterlife, but not your brain, so they removed all the organs and then added the heart back into the prepared body ready for the final journey.

We revisited the main mummy rooms and set ourselves the challenge of locating the mummified eel! And I found it, alongside the mummified cats.

For the final stop we examined some of the hoards of treasure that have been unearthed around the UK. We admired an intricate mosaic depicting possibly the earliest rendition of Jesus, discovered in a field in Dorset. You can even see where the farmer swing his pick axe and hit something hard! Next an ornate probably ceremonial shield that had been thrown into the river at Battersea, an incredible silver dinner service and finally an amazing beautiful chess set carved from the very hard walrus tusks.

When I first came to London I regularly haunted the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, with the occasional foray to the V&A but my tendancy towards hermit like behaviour generally takes over at the weekend. I really should address that in 2015.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Day 24: By the light of the silvery moonstone

It seems apt that the day after Y's birthday that I photograph her very favourite ring of mine. I did buy her a ring for her present, but I bought her emerald topaz and crystal in a vintage setting. I think it was very her, she seemed to approve anyway!

Thinking of hers inspired me to photograph mine. My beautiful ring is a ball of luscious moonstones (born on a full moon, I feel I have an affinity to moonstones) and a scattering of tiny diamonds. It is something rather special. I purchased it from my favourite jewellers, the wonderful Bolder & Co. in Richmond. A fabulous but rather dangerous place for my bank shiny...look at the shiny things!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Day 23: Welcome to the Circus!

Tonight is about celebrating Y's birthday and she's booked a table for sixteen at Circus in Covent Garden. I have not been there before I don't really have any expectations, but I suspect there'd be some sort of trapeze type act, or juggling element to the evening. As the day wears on, it transpires that the people who'd previously booked on the performance table bailed out and the restaurant call to ask if we'd like to be upgraded to sit at the top table, this means we're going to be a little bit more part of the show.

We arrive and find our table is actually a smooth runway, a little wider than usual, with steps leading up to the centre area. We settle down and get some drinks we are told to not use our camera flashes (as if I would) and make sure we don't put things on the table when asked. A sign is projected on the centre of the table urging us to sit back and hold our drinks, lights dim, the music starts and the performance begins. The first dancer leaps onto the table wearing an intriguing bikini, with eyes and mouth and teeth. She grabs some hula hoops which she then lights and twirls around the body, her arms, throws in the air and all over the place in a wonderful colourful display. After this first act, she climbs down off the runway and our starters materialise. We're having a Pan-Asian sharing banquet with salt and pepper squid, crackers, sushi and edame beans etcetera.

After a bit of a jiggle with the girls, the man breaks off and grabs the hoop suspended from the ceiling, and starts twirling around above our awe-inspired heads. Clearly, he loves playing to the audience, ripping off his top and after flirting with one of our group, he then proceeds to give another one of the men a lapdance. He followed this by grabbing a mobile phone from his girlfriend, and apparently shooting down the front of his trousers. The resulting picture is a bit of a mystery, luckily! After a possible "pelfie", he leaps back onto his ring again and pirouettes and twists above our heads. When he's finished, the lights come up again and we immediately being assailed by our main course arriving. We start tucking into some amazing fillet of beef with chargrilled asparagus, teriyaki salmon and for those not so averse, jasmine rice and yellow curry with tomatoes.

When our dishes are whipped away, the next leopard-print clad performers ascend and one zooms in front of us on a mini motorbike. Then casting that aside, she grabs some torches and starts fire eating. When she has completed the usual routine of swallowing a seemingly excessive number of flames, she raises the stakes, by removing her brain top (whilst still breathing fire, I hasten to add) and igniting her nipple tassels. Who knew that was about to happen? Luckily she was able to spin the fiery tails around without singeing herself or any of our party. Okay, now time for dessert.

After some refreshing cheesecake the final act storms the stage. It appears that two athletic boxers are about to duke it out, though without gloves so bare knuckle or maybe just a wrestle. After a few tussles, the acrobatics start. The smaller of the two climbs onto the shoulder of the larger and balances there somehow, all mere inches from us. Looking like a curious four legged man! Then it's round two and the larger acrobat lies down, bends his knees and the smaller acrobat lies across his shins. It doesn't look comfortable but damn impressive.

After a couple more rounds the shorter 'fighter' shows his dominance by balancing on the other's head by his hand. The focus of the face of the larger man is compelling and the smaller guy strikes the poses above his head. In the final moments the victor finalises his knockout and the 'curtains' fall. We'd been primed to leap up and applaud and then we'd be transferred to another table at the bar. But we didn't have a moment before we were swept away and our table was pushed against where the kitchen serving hatch had been. Without seconds eager guests were clamouring to climb up and dance the night away.

I hope Y enjoyed her birthday party, I can vouch that this guest did. And I enjoyed the photographic challenge too.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Day 22: Red Eye at night

On the way home in the wee small hours on Saturday morning I spotted, from the back seat of my Uber cab, that the London Eye was very red. And despite being rather tired I was pretty sure it was blue last time I looked. When I remembered a couple of days later, I googled the colour change and found some bumf on Valentine's Day. But that's weeks away, why would it be red now? I searched further and discovered that I saw the very beginning of the new Coca Cola sponsorship, and they'd turned it red in honour. I wonder if they wanted to make it red AND white, but we're thwarted. There was enough drama about the single orange pod EDF instigated, too much branding apparently.

So Coca Cola have transformed the London night skyline with a red eye, being more partial to red than blue, I'm rather delighted about that. Will it have the lasting effect their transformation of Father Christmas undertook? Though it is not entirely true that the infamous red suit is purely the work of Coca Cola' marketing people. But when they commissioned some images for advertising in 1931, the artist, Haddon Sundblom, solidified the occasional red coat wearer into the jolly, round, white bearded, pink cheeked, white trimmed red suited figure we all recognise today, so I think they can claim a lot of the credit.

After dark I was drawn to our full width of the building balcony on the 14th floor to capture the image. It's certainly mighty cold up there but if you nip between the two walls of glass that surround the balcony, I can poke my camera through the gaps and photograph without the reflections of our building and/or the Shard obscuring the image. Any other floor I'd have to fight with the motive sensitive ceiling lights and that can cause major challenges in post-processing. Here, I just have to fight with frostbite.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Day 21: It's a new dawn, it's a new day...

...And I'm feeling good.

The first sunrise of the year through my living room window. Another one for the collection! A photographer friend recently said that it's a bonus if you can get your picture without having to put shoes on. And I went one further, the beauty of these shots through my flung open bay window, is that I really only have to dress the top half of me. The rest, is up to my discretion!

This picture is rather apt, today is the first anniversary of the end of the "purple reign". We had some very challenging senior management at work' and the chief instigator of all that was arrogant, egocentric and purple, some say a functioning psychopath, was encouraged to leave a year ago today. Sadly his legacy hasn't been entirely erased but with each new day, he, and all he represented, are a little further in history. Long may he stay away!

The announcement of his departure was announced at the end of the day in New York but I didn't see the email until the early hours. Realising the momentous news I couldn't immediately return to sleep, so I switched the radio on. To my delight, the song that filled the darkened room was Pharrell Williams' "Happy". And I was! Perhaps if Nina Simone doesn't mind, the first line of this post should have been...and I'm feeling happy.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Day 20: Appreciating penguins...everyday

So... it transpires that today it's Penguin Appreciation Day, who knew? Well I guess m(A) is, as he tipped me off to my lack of awareness. I can't imagine that anyone WOULDN'T appreciate a penguin, every day. Apart from MB perhaps, but he has issues! Sadly there aren't enough hours left to appreciate a penguin in the wild, or even the nearest zoo or aquatic centre so I thought I'd send the penguin that lives on my desk on Iceland! I figure if I'm going to "photoshop" him somewhere, it should be into a photograph of my own taking.

So he is stood on a pristine snow covered glacier with Reykjavik in the background. Where I tried to stand in a howling wind (you can't tell though) setting I could talk about series of photographs. I'm not positive he looks happy, and er appreciated but I tried. I have learnt however that World Penguin Day is on April 25th, yes penguins get two days. Though I'm hoping for a "take your penguin to work" day. If that doesn't happen I guess I will endeavour I settle with organising a penguin-shaped excursion in 3 months.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Day 19: The platforms that time forgot.

Monday morning commutes hold no joy for me, I'm not crazy about the other days either (especially super early Wednesdays) but the come down after the chilled pace of the weekend, is a wrench for sure. This morning as the crowded train coasted into Waterloo Station it was apparent that something was different. Since the middle of last year, very occasionally the train will creep surreptitiously onto platform 20, from whence the Eurostar formerly operated, and the passengers disembarking then have to nip through a handful of doorways, to access the adjacent platform in the rest of the station, and leave through the barriers there.

But today the train was boldly coming to a stop on platform 21 with no safety net of a neighbouring platform to disgorge the hordes onto. I felt oddly passport, no luggage. It occurred to me that the last time I was here I'd be catching a train to France. I think my last trip here was preparing for a long weekend in Lille back in May 2006, where somehow I'd only taken one pair of shoes and they were from entirely different pairs!

Waterloo stopped hosting the Eurostar in November 2007, when they upped sticks and headed for King's Cross St. Pancras. And possibly the last time ticket barriers were in operation. Though there's been some reenginerring as there are now only a few steps to get down from the platforms, and last time there were escalators zooming you up to ground level.

I did make one further visit to these elegant platforms though, even after the trains had gone. In 2010 the other J and I secured two front row tickets for a fabulous new adaptation of The Railway Children. They built the seats on the platform around the abandoned tracks. The piece de resistance was a real life steam train chuffing into view, billowing steam everywhere for the poignant and unforgettable "daddy, my daddy!" finale scene. Not a dry eye in the house, or should that be station?

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Day 18: Another year, another 365 photos

I did wonder if taking on such challenge as a 365 photography project again would break me; but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the evolution of my photography in 2013. And as I've said before, taking a photo a day is not such an onerous undertaking, but writing reams about each image can be. And I appreciate that's entirely my own fault. I will take a photograph and it will provoke some query in my mind as to "when did that first happen or when was it built?", "why is that like that?", "how does this work?", "I wonder if...". And then I can spend hours researching the answers to these questions, which then generally also leads to other intriguing snippets of information and I just have to keep reading. Then, when I've finally sated my fact gathering, I spend more time distilling this new found knowledge (or confirmation of something that I already thought I knew) by sitting down to craft a blog post. And then I wonder where the time has disappeared to. All in all, not unenjoyable but definitely a time thief.

The wonderful PR shot a photo-a-day and posted them on Instagram last year, and really only tagged them. I loved seeing her photos and it inspired me to consider another 365 days, but doubted whether I could emulate her. I'm not sure if I could curtail my ramblings to mere tags, history shows that I probably would struggle to stifle my verbosity.

So to ease myself in, I took the daily pictures but held off blogging them, and making a big declaration that I was tackling another full year of being a slave to my camera. That makes it sound like a chore taking the time to notice the little changes of the season, recording the minutiae of my daily environment, stopping to admire a scene and generally just opening my eyes and being more aware of everything. Who could really knock that as a way of living?

I can easily predict some of the initial images that would find their way to my SD card. Since moving to our new building in November, the view through our picture windows or from the balcony of the city around us is very alluring. I see the buildings opposite my desk starting to turn pink and I have to find a reason to grab my camera and head to the other side of the building and record another sunset. And I do love a sunset. Also our nearest neighbour is the Shard in all its pointy glory, a bit of a picture magnet itself.

I've always been fond of the architecture of Westminster station; concrete has never looked so curvy, dramatic and photogenic. The criss-crossing escalators, the pipes, the girders, the cables, oh and the passengers, it's all rather appealing. And now my commute takes me there very regularly, I predict the cathedral-like station will encourage me to make that location a frequent theme on my blog.

The first weeks of the year are generally not rich pickings for flora and fauna. I did find a cute little red leaf this morning, but there isn't a huge amount of greenery that isn't evergreen. My eyes will be peeled for green shoot alert now. Cross fingers for some snow, I don't think I caught a whiff of a flake in 2014. A good hoar frost would be rather desirable too. I still have a robin in the snow on my winter photo wish list, but both are looking a tad elusive now.

So here I am, eighteen days into the shiny new year, consigning myself to another 365 project and all that entails...eek!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Day 17: Everything is coming up roses!

There aren't really any flowers in bloom yet, it is rather too early for any that haven't been forced in a greenhouse. We have some pansies in the tubs on our balcony at work, but they looked rather desolate in the bitter winds last week and I'm not sure of their survival rate. I thought the roses in Waitrose had a pleasing pop of colour amongst the winter vegetables. There a bit too multi-coloured for my taste but if you can't have vibrancy in flowers, where can you?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Day 16: Dining room with a view

I'm standing in one of our swanky private dining rooms on the 17th floor, to take a picture of the "walkie-talkie" building opposite (and waving at Swedish C too, of course). Most of the windows on this side of the building have struts bisecting them which obscures the view somewhat, but I discovered the dining rooms have picture windows, so I just had to sneak in an empty one whilst the sky was a pleasing cornflower blue. Hopefully next time I'm in here, we can be tucking into some delicious food, I'll have to fathom if any of our clients deserve it at the moment.

Swedish C suggests I join her on the 31st floor garden bar one of these fine days, which no doubt will elicit further shots from the other side of the Thames. I'm looking forward to it!


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Day 15: Addicted to sunsets

I tried to resist, but I couldn't, the lure of the pink, purple and orange sky is just too much for me. And for a change I could get a nice shot of the London Eye. And such jaunty little vibrant clouds. My name is J, and I'm addicted to sunsets!