Saturday, 28 February 2015

Day 59: Firsts

Today has been a day of firsts. I realised as I pulled up in an emergency black cab outside Elys in Wimbledon, that I'm fairly confident I've never been to Wimbledon before. Wimbledon Village, yes, I definitely remember visiting Matches and other boutiques many years ago, but Wimbledon proper, I don't think I've ever had the pleasure. My next first is advising on a beautiful white dress designed to look good from the back. I'm better known for a love of black dresses, but I can stray to the light side for someone special. I dispel my inate compunction to be drawn to marabou feathers, top-to-toe Swarovski crystals, lashings of sequins and gorgeous bunny capes and put myself in another J's little shoes, she's just not going to go for the full-on bling. There were some distinct possibilities, but all the time it made a previously tried on dress seem even more alluring. So we promised to think about it, left, and immediately secured an appointment for later at another wedding emporium in the West End.

Then we head off for another first for me, a manicure. It's not that I don't paint my nails very regularly but I've never had someone else do it. I had no idea what to do, how long it would take (way longer than I expected) and when I could stand up from being 'dried' (I didn't sit for long enough). I opted to forgo my standard black and think pink, I figured if I'm having my first manicure I should make it count.

After that experience, I managed to find something I rather enjoyed in a Mexican restaurant (almost a first!) and then helped finalise (spiritually) the purchase of the most perfect wedding dress, and not a bunny in sight!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Day 58: In clover revisited

The rain has just stopped and I stack some close-up filters to my camera and go stalking in the churchyard for a likely subject before hopping on a bus to start my morning's commute. The bed of clover I spotted a few weeks ago is perfect, the raindrops glisten like diamonds and the filters pick up the delicate hairs on each leaflet of the clover leaf. I discovered that clovers are part of the pea family, these ones look fleshier than some and look very fine in their sparkly coat.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Day 57: Shard at night

Another late night in the office and every time I leave I am compelled to look up to our big brother. The Shard is compelling, your eye is drawn to its towering pointiness. There are some annoying trees in the foreground so I have to get closer to eliminate them from my photograph which spoils the angle rather, but it's a fine building at any angle really.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 56: Red, black, stars and some fine Krug

I haven't been to a Social for ages and ages but Cambridge C convinced me I should give it another go, I nearly bailed when I realised who was hosting but I was itching to try another challenge. They'd returned to the old skool format and we had to run around St James' Park, The Mall and environs reproducing the essence of some famous paintings. I had an attempt of Rothko's Red and Black using a red warning sign and Harvey, my furry scarf. I added a painterly effect by upping the ISO to add noise. I managed an 8.5. Cambridge scored a 10 with his Rembrandt's portrait using tutor S as a model with my Russian princess hat and my scarf, again, as a backdrop.

I also had a go at Van Gogh's Starry Night by piling on the close-up filters to make a dreamer look and giving the moon a bit of an aura, we didn't use this one though as another member of our team had only tried this one.

It was a great evening, Cambridge C kindly treated us to some very fine pink Krug and middle-of-the-night Croque Monsieurs back at his very French hotel. Some of the questioning got a little pointed, and some unflattering things were said, but I'm fairly confident that I'm the only one who will remember a single word of it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 55: Raindrops on snowdrops

I returned to check out the snowdrops I'd been monitoring. They've now bloomed and the delicate white blooms are glistening after a recent rain shower, it seemed rude not to whip out my ever present Leica.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 54: The Queen's second best hat!

After my elicit failed attempts at capturing (only photographically mind you) some of the royal bling yesterday, I have to laugh when I see a poster at Waterloo advertising the crown jewels with a picture of the Imperial State Crown we were peering at yesterday. The Queen wears it at each State Opening of Parliament. The crown has existed in various iterations since the 15th century. This crown itself was only made in 1937 as the previous crown holding these precious gems started suffering under the weight of all that fabulousness. And this is a serious piece of fabulousness, the vital statistics shape up to a mere 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies. There's a few eminent jewels, the cross at the top is set with St. Edward's Sapphire and another of the sapphires belongs to Edward the Confessor. The stunner of a ruby at the front was the Black Prince's (and is actually a spinel). The Second Star of Africa, (or Cullinan II) is sparkling like crazy at the front of the band above the ermine, comes from the infamous Cullinan diamond. This humdinger of a diamond was discovered in 1905 at Premier Mine, near Pretoria in South Africa, and is named after Thomas Cullinan, the chairman of the mining company itself. It was a whopping just over 3106 metric carats and measuring over 10cm in length. After eight months of painstaking cutting, grinding and polishing by three craftsmen the result was nine principal numbered stones, 96 small brilliants and nine carats of unpolished fragments. The largest is Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa, and weighs in at 530.4 carats, which is mounted in Sceptre with the Cross, also part of the Crown Jewels. The Second Star of Africa, at a lesser 317.4 carats, sparkles here.

L(a) told us that the Queen refers to the crown as her second best hat! I wouldn't mind seeing her first best hat.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 53: The Tower ravens

L(a) is finishing her revision and asked for some willing volunteers to visit The Tower of London and be guided. My tube decides to malinger so I miss the meeting time and wander around, in out out if various buildings waiting for the party to emerge and keeping an eye out for the ravens. It's a miserable day, relentless rain and the ravens are sensibly taking shelter. I'm doing the same sitting on a bench against one of the ancient walls thankfully under a stone arcade. I'm looking up a the white tower silhouetted against the bland sky and I espy one of the elusive ravens perched on top of one of the large cage averies. Luckily it remains there long enough to capture a rather gothic shot.

There purports to be six ravens plus one spare living at the Tower. I spotted two on Tower Green overlooking where some of the infamous beheadings took place. Henry VIII anyone? The ones on the green are very puffed up and look rather indignant by the inclement weather. One is close enough to be identified as Hugin, or Hugine as she turned out to be female. I'm not sure if the raven I spotted earlier has followed me to the green or these are two new ones. There's also a crow strutting around, looking so small compared to his pampered cousins.

When I finally make contact with the rest of the group, we head into the crown jewels again. We are not supposed to take photographs inside but on my first pass through I'm surprised to see a lot of camera phones out. I did try and grab a few shots of the sparkly stuff whilst we travelled on the conveyor belt but the guards spotted me, round on me and sternly asked for me to remove them from my camera. Whoops! I'm guess I'm lucky they didn't lock me in the tower.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Day 52: Fine weather for ducks

I'm just crossing Richmond Bridge, the rain has just stopped and I'm captivated by how the red neon of The White Cross pub sign is reflected along the still rain soaked waterfront, creating such a dramatic scene. The tide is high and the ducks are happily taking advantage of the early evening light. I'm trying to photograph the scene from the bridge but feel I need to get closer, amongst the ducks and the red, red streaks. There are a few people around but I wait for the scene to be mostly clear. It's curious from this angle, everything surrounding the pub seems to have disappeared leaving it to stand in glorious isolation on Richmond riverside. I'm reminded, yet again, I live in a beautiful place.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 51: History of a view

I'm up on the top floor sorting out some work stuff but I did remember to grab my camera too. Nothing like a spot of multi-tasking! Of all the views we have, this is possibly my least photographed but it's a sunny, Spring day and I'm looking back towards our old home(s) around Warping, near Tower Bridge. In the foreground Hay's Galleria which I used to visit when I started in the city. I had a customer at Cotton's Centre and the small gallery of shop nearby gave me flashbacks to shopping in the US and that's probably due to the Christmas Shop. I think I experienced year-round Christmas emporiums and shops to with a very distinct mono-theme (like rainbows) for the first time on Pier 39 during a fabulous childhood family trip to San Francisco. We stocked up on candy canes, tin mail boxes, apples, pears and heart baubles and it was a revelation to us. Christmas shopping in summer, weird! And I still have those red ornaments, but now they hang on a black Christmas tree.

I've worked in seven buildings during my career here (one twice), so six separate buildings, and three are captured in this photograph though they are hiding behind other buildings. The buildings in Thomas More Square have greenhouses on the roof, our was the smallest. St Katherine Dock I 'lived' in twice, in two different companies, after I moved to the joint-venture. We stayed there until the wrecking balls came as it was well overdue for a major refit. Great location horrible building! We then moved to a nicer building not do far away but an awful location, on a main road with our nearest neighbour being a lap-dancing bar and on the edge of a little estate where you'd spot drug deals going down from the meeting rooms.

I can understand why our customers love admiring the views, pointing out old places of work, favourite pubs, ancient stomping grounds, the rooftop where that party was and perhaps that tryst. I'm lucky my desk is in the middle of the building, far enough away from the windows to not be distracted all the time. But when I wonder around, especially on the higher floors, I'm drawn to the glass and drink in all that we survey.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day 50: The mint with a penguin

I was unwrapping a Fox's Glacier Mint and thinking how it did look like a tiny iceberg. It got me thinking that my teeny, tiny penguins haven't had an outing for ages. There's some white boxes behind reception that I've had my eye on, sometimes they have books or newspapers stashed inside but today they are empty. There's one that made me reminiscent slightly of a light box, though with solid sides. But I did think the shiny white sides and back will make a nice neutral backdrop for what I have in mind.

I do need some extra light thoygh, there's a massive standard lamp near where I'm sat on the floor but I can't find find a a place to plug it in. I will have to resort to an iPhone torch instead. I ponder how many mints, how many penguins and after several scenarios, settle for the lone tiniest penguin stood on an open mint with a couple still wrapped.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 49: Baby Shard

Inside each of our lifts is a a distinct lack of buttons (as you're allocated a lift automatically on passing through the security gate or select from a panel) but there is a striking image of the building exterior on a small screen inside that sometimes depicts the logo of the inhabitants of that floor. There is something slightly surreal about it and I've been trying to fathom if it's a photograph (lavished with HDR) or an artist's impression but annoyingly it doesn't linger long as our lifts, once they arrive, are pretty speedy reaching their destination.

The vivid blue of the lunchtime sky drove me outside to try to capture a similar image of my own. I don't think I'm standing in the same spot and possibly a fish-eye lens was deployed in the one in the lift. But pondering afterwards, my attempt did make me understand why our building was formerly known as the Baby Shard before being named as the Place, and then renamed finally as The News Building when it became clear it was to become the new home of News Corp's enterprises. Obviously we are a mere pip squeak compared to our loftier big brother, but we share some characteristics. We both have the glass windows extending beyond the building structure, which in the Shard' case is exaggerated by the infamous jagged top where the viewing platform is. Our glass panels extend beyond the sides of the building forming quirky angles more visible at ground level.

I seem to have involved everyone in the quest to discover whether the lift images are an artist impression or not. Some say the white shirted men striding purposefully in front of the building seem too similar. I think the clue that possibly gives away that the picture in the lifts is not real, is that the lampposts look different. Our building was officially opened in September, we arrived in late November. It seems surprisingly to me that the lampposts would have been substituted in that brief time, but we will continue scrutiny.

PS we have a neon sign on the front of our building that glows white, or it did. In the last few days the white was replaced by red, white and blue, the next day the colours are cycling at some speed, then there's a single colour. It's intriguing why we abandoned the white for this multicoloured show each day, no one seems to know why, I wonder what it'll look like tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Day 48: Double Gherkin

I have some time to kill in between appointments so decide to see if something intrigues me around the infamous and iconic Gherkin. The sun is bouncing off the curved round shape and the distinctive diamond shaped windows are bring reflected onto the surrounding buildings. As I walk closer to play around with the angles, I espy a mini Lego version of the Gherkin built next door. I'm determined to try and photograph it. I watch others pass by, stand up close trying to grab a shot on their iPhones but I opt to stand back and work on the framing. If I stand with my back next to the door of the restaurant underneath the overhang at the base and shoot through the triangular aperture, I can get the mini Gherkin framed inside the entrance of the full-sized Gherkin. The added bonus is that the dancing diamond reflections the sun is casting on all the structures around the perimeter, can be seen above the carefully constructed replica.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Day 47: Frosty spikes

Another day where you think we might see snow but actually we have just a thin blanket of frost adding a little white spiky coat to everything in its wake. I normally turn my close-up filter donned lens towards the flowers and leaves but today the post box at the end of my road caught my eye. On top of the smooth curved hat are several rivets thickly coated in (naturally) pillar-box red paint. I'm rather taken by the punk-haired bump against the bizarrely pink rather than red of the rest of the post box.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Day 46: In clover

A little clump of clover caught my eye today. I couldn't spot a four-leafed one, sadly, but the three-leafed ones were rather attractive. I like the slightly plump leaves with their soft furry edges. I always enjoy viewing the world through a close-up filter as there is generally something new to spot that I wouldn't notice with my naked eye.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Day 45: Roses for Valentine's Day

I certainly wasn't expecting roses to be deliver for Valentine's Day but I had been rather hankering after a sparkling Butler & Wilson bib style necklace and I tracked one down online. It arrived just in time for the traditional rose bouquet receiving day. At least I don't have to unearth a vase as there's the traditional pink box to house it when it's not adorning my neck. Happy Valentine's Day to me.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Day 44: Rainy abstract

It's Friday night, it's pouring with rain and three J's are heading off for a celebratory meal. We're wedged in a Uber cab crawling along in the inevitable pre-weekend traffic. I am listening to another J on the phone whilst watching the rain dripping down the window rendering the other cars, the passing ambulance, the traffic lights, and the back light of a desperately pedalling cyclist as impressionist blurs. I am suddenly drawn to see if I can turn it all into an interesting image. I rather like the way the large aperture captures the psychedelic rain drips striping the back window and everything else is a dreamy soft focus blur. An artistic start to a fabulous evening filled with very fine food and finer company.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Day 43: Tube train, not!

I was stood on Westminster Station tube platform and thought I might try a slow shutter speed shot of the tube pulling in or pulling out of the station. I haven't played around too much with shutter speeds since upgrading my Leica and it works slightly different to its predecessors. I did figure it out eventually but by then the tube had disgorged its passengers, gobbled up some new ones and left. I checked my images and this seemed to be my favourite, bizarre the one with no discernable tube train at all. I could pretend I was attempting some ICM photography, which I was kind of trying to do. I rather like the effect, how the metal part of the roof turned into angular fractal shapes and the straight lines of the platform have been curiously rendered as wavy lines but a a slow shutter speed shot of a train, it's a fail! It looks like a dream sequence shot, and I'm am half asleep so actually it's pretty accurate.

Day 42: New rose

En route to the bus stop on the first leg of my daily commute, I espy a heavily pruned rose sending out its first tentative new shoots of the year. The deep pink draws me in and I train my close-up filters on the newly emerging leaves getting ready to unfurl, sending the background into soft focus. I have added it to my on-the-way-to-work nature watch list as I'd like to record the first rose blooming too.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Day 41: A mirrored slope

I'm up on the 17th floor, which is as high as our building goes. It's a great spot for someone armed with a camera as you can walk the perimeter of the building, though your way is broken up by the meeting rooms, board rooms and client dining rooms. If they're empty you have a 360 degree view. From one end, on a sunny day you can get some great reflections in one of the sloping sides of the Shard, and today I was compelled to photograph it.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Day 40: The beauty of decay

Generally I'm looking for the most perfect specimen, the finest example, the absolute best of something bursting with vitality, but very occasionally I'm not. Today my eye was drawn to the leaf skeletons left behind after someone has been chomping away on. Through my close-up filters the delicate infrastructure of the dry, brown plant are highlighted by the sun's golden rays and a new beauty emerges. The beauty of decay.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Day 39: Park life

I'm in Marble Hill Park late in the afternoon, the dying rays of sun are bursting through the trees and halo-ing a little old lady who'd been shuffling slowly along the path whilst I've been meandering looking for fine specimens to capture, camera wise. She tucks into a packet of sandwiches she'd squirreled away in one of her bags whilst in front of her a kick-about is taking place.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Day 38: A drop of snowdrops

Robert Canis set us all a challenge a week or so back to photograph some snowdrops. From previous years I was fairly sure where some will bloom before giving way to bluebells. It's not the most aesthetic spot, just a rough verge between parked cars and the bowling green but it does normally burst into life in the early months of the year. The long spidery leaves look promising, well at least for a burst of bluebells but I can't spot a snowdrop. I went scouting around the local park, but apart from identifying where some dafodills will most likely emerge, the little white flowers are eluding me. After doing a complete circuit I pop into the churchyard at the end of the road and amongst the flower beds I find a single specimen. The environs aren't ideal, they are dead leaves everywhere but I'm determined to capture the first snowdrop so a little bit of judicious gardening is in order. I only have this single plant with three bells so I approach it from several angles. I'm not absolutely happy with the shot, so I vow to have another go on another day. As I leave, I spot a patch where I think some further tiny snowdrops will unfurl soon so I'll add these to my watch list. From my previous 365 photo-a-day project I discovered a series of sites that might elicit some interesting images, and added them to a mental watch list. The bush where I'd first spotted the miniature baby snails, the garden a few streets away that has some beautiful poppies, the brick walls where I can get some sweet pink and white daisies without having to lie face down on the front lawn, some great places for ivy, moss, the most abundant cherry blossom or the choicest berries and a whole plethora of optimum places to stand to achieve some elegant framing. I will be back.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Day 37: The last sunset...this week!

The jungle drums around the office tell me that another stunner of a sunset is about light up the end of the day and end of our week, so I feel the need to wander over to the sunny side of the building again with my colour-loving Leica. S says that I must already have every possible photograph of a sunset from our building. But how can that be? Every sunset is different, in fact even one day's sunset can metamorphose from one moment to the next. This one is especially interesting because of the pink clouds and also seemed appropriate for the Photography Challenges cloud formation category.

One of my collagues was trying to shoot a video tonight but I suspect the infamous laser weilding aliens will have struck again all over her video and she'll be disappointed. I think I'll stick to a still or two. Or maybe three!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Day 36: Put a ring on it

Two of my most favourite people have recently gotten engaged. And I'm unfeasibly delighted about this. They chose a stunning emerald cut diamond ring in Tiffany but opted to frugally have it made in Dubai. Unfortunately when it was delivered (some say smuggled), it was a teeny bit snug so it needed some fine adjustment so no ring fingers will get harmed with this engagement. It's now back, bigger and can be seen from the moon. I couldn't resist a photograph and turned on the star filter in my camera. So dazzlingly sparkly!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Day 35: Reflecting on a point!

Thought I'd pop out on our blustery balcony On the fourteenth floor with my camera to see if I could get some interesting shots of the pointy, shiny, much taller building next door. I'm feeling somewhat dwarfed by the seventy two (or eighty seven, depending on where you stop counting) floors. I'd been waiting for a bit of sun because I figured it would be more interesting if reflections came into play. Not surprisingly I ended up capturing a rare and rather subtle selfie, but can you spot it?