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I've spent some time in Oxford this summer with my family. My eldest son has a student house there in a lovely part of Oxford called Jericho. We're paying rent on this place, even though he doesn't go back until October! So we decided to make use of the house for a while. He is within walking distance of the city centre in one direction and Port Meadow, the canal and the river in another. Jericho is full of little deli's, a cinema, lots of lovely pubs, cafes, grocery stores, vintage shops and bookshops. Down the road is a beautiful Byzantine style church, full of beautiful objects, and then there is the Ashmolean museum with its collection of Pre-Raphaelite pictures, and the Pitt Rivers Natural History Museum close by - just perfect, I could move there tomorrow!
I spent time wandering by the river and canal at dawn, and taking pictures everywhere. I took quite a few photos at night after we'd eaten out, dragging my tripod with me to the restaurants! Rosa was happy to pose for me in the above photo, I was practising 'bokeh' techniques, the little out of focus circles of light in the background.
I also took some 'traffic trails' with moving vehicles leaving their lights streaking through my photos. This is what happens when the camera is set at a very slow shutter speed. Most of these pictures were taken using a tripod on ISO 400, f16 for 10 seconds. I set my tripod up on a roadside in St Giles in the centre of town. The one above is an image of fire engines rushing through with their lights flashing.
You may be able to see the buses whizzing through the image above.
I'm not sure how everyone else feels, but I am weary of watching/listening/thinking/analysing the UK riots in general, and London in particular. Like most people, I was sickened by the whole thing and depressed by the state of our society. The fact that the perpetrators were my children's generation somehow made it feel worse.
I felt angry that the riots came so close to my area in South London - Croydon, Lewisham, Peckham, Eltham. I don't uphold the idea that all this was caused by the 'cuts' which haven't even started yet! I think this was an abdication of morality and discipline across an entire generation. I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Melanie Phillips, columnist at the Daily Mail, and Allison Pearson, columnist at the Daily Telegraph.
Yet in the middle of all this chaos, the dignified humanity shown by the father who lost his son in Birmingham after he was killed by a hit and run driver along with two other men. Also the clean up operation which has been inspirational. So there's still some hope for us I think...
I am officially no longer the mother of children, only teenagers. Tom had his 13th birthday today, and has just started his yet to be illustrious career as a Dance Music DJ... Meet 'SoundMan Rush-T', pun intended.
His longed for present was a sound mixing machine and headphones. He and Oscar tried to educate me on the difference between dub step, drum and bass, house, garage, trance, rave, techno... I like most dance music, but still got lots to learn. Judging from today's volumes, I'm going to get a sound education.
Happy Birthday Tom... you're such a life force and a pleasure to have around, but must invest in some earplugs. He was so happy with this kit!
My family visited Blackpool recently, on the occasion of a father/grandfather's 80th birthday. Coming from Lancashire myself, it was a place I frequented during my teenage years, usually searching for boys! I have fond memories of the place, the September 'illuminations' or 'lights' as they're known locally, the donkeys and 'kiss me quick hats', and especially the rock. So I was quite looking forward to seeing the place again after 35 years or so.
I was quite sad to find Blackpool Tower falling down, literally, it seems.
The detail above, from the base of the tower, gives some idea of its plight. I hope the current reconstruction will be completed soon, and the tower will be resplendent once again.
Wikipedia states that the tower was opened in 1894, and was inspired by the Eiffel Tower. It is 158 metres high, and has a 'time capsule' buried beneath it. It was built with 5 million bricks, 2,500 tonnes of iron, and 93 tonnes of cast steel. The building is distributed in such a way that if it did ever collapse, it would fall into the sea! Painting the Tower takes 7 years to complete and there are 563 steps from the roof of the tower building to the top of the tower. If the wind exceeds 45mph, the top of the tower is closed. There are 8 kilometeres of cables to feed the 10,000 light bulbs which are used to illuminate the tower.
My children were most thrilled by the famous Pleasure Beach and the plethora of arcades for losing all their money. Some things never change!
The whole place was under reconstruction, not just the tower. Large parts of the beach were inaccessible for the same reason. The whole place had a sad 'down at heel' feel to it. The weather didn't help, wet, dull and very windy.
On the plus side, the Imperial Hotel, near the North Pier, was lovely. A grand Victorian elegance inside, and predictably crumbling on the outside. The staff were wonderful, the food very good, and the company of our extended family made the weekend.
A beautiful pub in Oxford, a short distance from the town centre. The Perch is a 17th century thatched inn, accessed via Port Meadow, the Oxford Canal and nearby River Thames. If feels like a country pub because it is surrounded by meadow, but is actually in the village of Binsey. The place is steeped in history, the land was originally given to the Freemen of Oxford by King Alfred in return for fighting Danish invaders in the 10th century. The site also featured in the English Civil War when Charles I was based here for a short time. The Inn's website gives an account of their history, but the pub is more recently associated with Lewis Carroll and the writing of Alice in Wonderland.
There is an amazing garden, full of interesting things to look at and take pictures of.
I'm not sure if there is any Buddhist connection, maybe they just like the statues. I believe they serve delicious food, but on this occasion we ate from a food bar in the garden - lamb kebabs with a tahini and yogurt sauce and salad. It was a very windy day, so despite being May, we all had our coats on. Many of the photos were taken with fast shutter speeds to keep things still! There are many more things I would like to take pictures of at the Perch on my next trip.
My son will be living close by next year, so I hope this will be a regular stopping point. In fact he has a house which we're now paying for, although he doesn't start college again until October!! Perhaps a visit in summer will be in order then...
We used to go to this pub often in the late 1970's when we were students ourselves, although I wasn't at Oxford, but I lived there. The walk across the meadow and the river is part of the process, although it's possible to drive to Binsey from west Oxford.
Definitely a pub to visit if you're ever in Oxford.
I'm a little grumpy at the moment because all my portrait pictures are importing to this blog in landscape format... I don't know why? So lots of pictures I'd like to put on here are waiting in the wings until I work out what's going on. So, if you, like me, need to improve your mood somewhat, why not take a look at the work of Gretchen Rubin, a New Yorker who has written a book called 'The Happiness Project'.
I'm usually fairly cynical about such ventures, and self-help books - but on the other hand, it can't be a bad thing, and the book is quite interesting. 'The School of Life' is one of my favourite blogs, and I found the interview with Gretchen on there.
I'm listening to Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders singing 'Stop Your Sobbing' - wonderful song. Robert Elms on Radio London points out, however, that it's actually a Kinks (Ray Davies) original. I do prefer Chrissie's version though. Meanwhile I'm eating lunch, actually I've eaten this twice this week. It's my favourite sandwich at the moment.
I first came across the combination of beetroot and avocado at a beach cafe on the Costa del Sol many years ago, and the idea has stayed with me. This is delicious with hummus, smoked paprika and rocket. I can't help feeling that all these ingredients have that 'Marmite' thing about them though, you know, love them or hate them...
My other soon to be 15 years old daughter is desperate to learn photography (they both are actually), and likes to take pictures of all sorts of things. My main problem is restraining her, insisting on radical pruning of her pictures, otherwise I would have hundreds on my computer! This is, of course, a perpetual problem with digital images. She loves the Fuji Finepix camera, and wants one of her own for her birthday.
She took this in Canterbury, and I can't believe it's possible to open that door.
I love this photo, just wish there was one more human leg in the procession.
My girls outside the Primrose Bakery, with their friend (centre), who spends a huge amount of her time taking photos. Perhaps it's something about the current teenage generation who've grown up with cameras on mobile phones.
The produce of the Primrose Bakery...
...and the aftermath!
One of my almost 15 year old daughters is in vintage mood and has taken these pictures with a Fuji Finepix of her latest acquisitions. The red leather gloves from e-bay are amazingly soft, but now she has to put them away until winter.
She's bought some lovely clothes and accessories on e-bay very cheaply. I suppose I used to do the same, but it involved trailing around all the vintage shops, which were then just called 'second hand shops'.
I can't believe satchels are desired objects again... I hated my school one, which looked just like this, with a passion! Another e-bay purchase, my daughter loves it.
I love all the 1970's scribbling on the flap. Mine used to have engraved names of boyfriends and rock bands I liked, too embarrassed to name them!
The inside of her satchel is much more interesting than mine ever was - of course she wouldn't dream of using it for school!
It's Mothers' Day on Sunday I believe. I made these photo designs because I thought my youngest son might like to sell them at school as cards. He goes to an all boys school, and most of them won't have organized themselves to buy cards for their mums, I'm sure. He loves to sell sweets, illegally, for a small profit, but it always seems like a lot of effort for little return. So I suggested I could make him a batch of cards to sell for a better profit. You'd think he would have been delighted, but he's decided that it's just too 'neeky' and he won't do it! He was horrified when I suggested he could also batch buy some nice sweets or chocolates, wrap them in cellophane and tie with a bow, to sell with the cards. Okay, maybe that is a step too far in a boys' school, but the cards...? I tried to explain that a budding entrepreneur needs to be one step ahead of the pack, but I don't think we'll be seeing him on Junior Apprentice!
As for me, I hate breakfast in bed as a Mothers' Day treat. I prefer to curl up on a sofa with a lovely plate of toast and marmalade, a pot of tea and a good book, left undisturbed for a couple of hours. Moreover, nothing beats a card handmade by my children, I will encourage them to eschew all the above.
This week's photography homework was to take a photo to illustrate a poem. I chose this one by Yeats, and did a couple of designs.
The background is a collage/montage of three photographs illustrating embroidery and tapestry, and also some words. At one stage it looked like this...
I used 'overlay' in the Photoshop layers palette to blend them together, and 'dissolve' on the leg. In fact I did a lot in Photoshop... can't quite remember everything!
On my way to the doctor's surgery today, I turned a corner and found an old lady lying on the ground - she had obviously fallen. Her name was Adelaide, a beautiful name I think. She was 86 years old and lived in my neighbourhood. She was trying to get to the doctor's too. I called an ambulance, but also found myself wondering what I should do for her. It didn't look like she'd had a stroke or a heart attack, and I knew I shouldn't move her. She seemed to be able to answer my questions, so I just covered her with my coat and put my fleece under her head. She seemed such a lovely lady and I was struck by her frailty. She was taken to hospital, and I think she will be okay. During the day I kept thinking about her, I knew she lived alone, and I wished I could do something to help. I wondered if I might be able to visit her, do some shopping for her. The doctor wouldn't assist with putting me in touch with her. I know... I could be someone dangerous, but the fact is I'm a neighbour who would love to help, yet it appears I'm not allowed to. Just doesn't seem right somehow.
I've been taking pictures of wooden things recently...
I love the colours of these wooden beads
One day, when my children were tiny, and we were out in the park, the decorator painted over the height chart I had penned on the wall, and wiped out the precious record of their youngest years... I was broken hearted. I decided I would never again record their heights on a wall. I bought a plank of pine and nailed it to the wall. I measured a centimetre scale up the side, and we are still using it. When we moved house I simply removed it from the wall and took it with us. I wish I'd done the same with the pantry door which was festooned with sticky labels of all types, from food, toys, games etc - they loved it! I think I have a photo of it somewhere. The height chart is now a little messy with the measurements of 6 people.
This is my favourite lunch, at the moment. I'm so fed up with tuna mayonnaise sandwiches, usually made with far too much mayonnaise, so this is a lovely alternative for tuna lovers...
Cut a bagel in half. Mix a tin of tuna, some chopped fresh parsley and a small tin of butter beans together - mash with a fork. Add some natural yogurt to desired consistency. Spread on bagel and top with a little grated cheese. Grill and add black pepper. Delicious!
Carrot soup is another favourite of mine, (but I don't like carrot and orange soup). Cook onion, garlic and a lump of grated ginger in some olive oil for a few minutes. Add 1kg of roughly chopped carrots, 4 sticks of chopped celery, 4 small potatoes - peeled and chopped, cook for few more minutes. Add 3 litres of hot chicken stock (3 Knorr stock cubes for speed). Tie some fresh herbs together with string, whatever you have in the fridge eg parsley, thyme, sage etc. Tie one end to pan handle and dangle the other in the soup. Bring to the boil and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove herbs and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and a slug of cream, single or double. Eat with good crusty bread (and cheese if you're starving).
I also make a mixed vegetable soup, made in much the same way. I start with the same base of onion, garlic and ginger. Only use 3 carrots for this one and 3 celery sticks, all chopped. Add 1 chopped red chilli, including the seeds. Peel and chop 1 swede, 2 parsnips, 2 potatoes (and possibly a couple of turnips). Add 3 litres of chicken stock and proceed as above.
Beautiful tulips given to me by Gigi and Emanuela, my Italian friends visiting London. They are from 'Wild at Heart' - lovely treat, tulips are my favourite flowers. I love them best as they are fading, arching and twisting their stems in all directions...
I was, undoubtedly, a grumpy old woman over the festive season. As I watched the bank balance decrease, my stress levels increase, and as I wondered how many more times I would have to clean and tidy for whichever person was visiting... I did long for some sanity to return, usually about now. The children have gone back to school, and my routines are returning. I am beginning to feel normal again. I like New Year!
I do like Christmas, but only for a couple of days and especially after all the food has been cooked. I love to watch my children open their presents, and although I'm not religious, I love Christmas carols. I would even like to go to midnight mass, maybe at Southwark Cathedral, but I never quite get it together. I love the twinkling lights, the food, the alcohol, the rubbish TV... Beforehand I feel that I'm going to have a nervous breakdown though! I detest the shopping and commercial side of Christmas, the fact that it starts on September 1st! I just can't get into it, am always hopelessly disorganized, despite my resolve each year to get everything done by November. My life just doesn't work like that, too many other things to do. So I end up frazzled.
I feel that I'm unfurling slowly into the New Year. I didn't spend much time on the computer over Christmas, I didn't even take many photos. Mostly though, I need this quiet time to recover my senses - I'm in rehab...
I've been looking around my house, appreciating some of the things I own. Some I use regularly, others are decorative, nothing expensive, but precious anyway.
A stash of plates from my Mum's house, used everyday, probably bought at a local market. I use them for many of my photos...
I bought this mortar and pestle almost 18 years ago in Barcelona. I had been looking for something similar in London, but they only seemed to sell useless tiny ones at the time. I spotted this bright yellow specimen and loved it instantly, it's very robust, unbreakable I suspect. A strange thing is that my cat, Mr Fizz, also loves it. I have to remind myself to scrub it before I use it, because I have caught Mr Fizz energetically licking and rubbing it on many occasions, much as he would with catnip. I wonder which herbs he finds so attractive?
My home is full of such things... stuff picked up cheaply at markets, often unusual 'kitch' items, or bits 'n' pieces inherited from my parents. They are mostly cheap and irreplaceable, and not the kind of things my friends would have in their homes. I may have questionable taste, of course, but I think therein lies the attraction, I like my quirky things. I also love to look around other homes and see things I couldn't possibly have purchased.
Nevertheless, after some time I stop noticing all my special things. It's only when a friend comments that I realise how precious they are. Maybe I should move things around more often - so that I keep noticing them. So this year I am going to take some pictures of the things I have accumulated that I love, but which may be slowly disappearing from my view...
The snow, all of it, has gone. You'd possibly think it was Spring...
I like New Year, the idea that it's getting a little lighter each evening, heading towards spring again. It always feels full of promise in my mind - a new start.
The squirrels are out gathering their nuts and performing gymnastics around our oak tree trunk again.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year in 2011...
Then, yesterday morning at 8am, poor James Naughtie made this blunder on Radio 4 whilst introducing the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. I felt so sorry for him, after all he's a seasoned broadcaster - but it was very funny!
Ah, well... I'm sure he's had a good laugh about it, and at least everyone knows who Jeremy Hunt is now!
The snow is subsiding now, but it's still very slippy everywhere. I feel that it's been such a strange and unexpected week. I can't remember seeing so much snow since I lived in London, but maybe my memory is poor.
This is my 12' (30cms) ruler on the table outside. You can see that we had almost 12'' of snow! This is how it looks in context...
Now I know that in my hometown of Burnley this isn't such an unusual sight, but I can assure you that it is here! It's also been very beautiful, icicles everywhere, but chaotic - gutters falling down, my very large shrubs have fallen over with the weight of snow, and as all the schools shut down we were forced to take stock, slow down and wait.
The boys had a great time...! Not such a bad thing really. So now I'm totally disorganized. All the shopping and Christmas planning is awry, but I've never been good at meticulous planning, so why worry?
South Eastern Trains ground to a halt. That wasn't so bad, but the lack of information was shocking. My husband kept making an effort to go to work, walking to the station, no buses, but when he arrived there was never any information. He simply didn't know if a train was ever going to come. So he gave up and stayed at home too. Twitter became the only reliable source of information regarding train journeys, and many were very funny. The newspapers had fun with the cartoons, this is Matt from the Daily Telegraph...
One train out of London to Kent took 19 hours and people had to stay on the train overnight!
They must find us so amusing in Sweden or Chicago.
I was so amazed today to see the TV footage of the student demonstrations in Trafalgar Square. There was no snow... and yet 10 miles down the road, which is officially Kent, this is my garden...
Extraordinary difference. Here all the schools have closed and the roads are chaotic. This morning I set out gung-ho style, wondering what all the fuss was about. I swiped the snow from the car, set off, determined to get on with my day. As I turned out of my drive, I thought the cars were being a little too cautious, until I skidded from side to side across the road and immediately saw two cars slide into each other! Of course there's no turning back is there? Who would consider a three point turn in those conditions? I could feel the ice crunching under the tyres, and not a gritter in sight.
My youngest child finished school early but had to walk home a few miles, no buses and no possibility of driving to pick him up. He loved it, of course, snowball fights, wet through, but along the way he and his group of friends helped several motorists by pushing their cars.
This evening trains out of London to Kent and Surrey are not doing well...
I think tomorrow we will stay home, make orange and clove pomanders, play in the snow and tuck into all the lovely food I stocked up on today.
Also called Cape Gooseberries, I think they are delicious, both sweet and tart and resembling tomatoes in texture. They also have a lovely perfume.
I have been concentrating on developing some still life images this week.
The teenager is coming home next weekend, having completed his first term at university! It's gone very quickly. I'm so looking forward to having him home, but I haven't pined over him as I thought I would. My other children have two weeks holiday, but he will have six weeks! He also has to bring all his things home with him which is a drag... and means we have to take him to college and pick him up every term.
I remember my mother taking me out into the countryside to collect plant specimens with the help of these lovely books. There are still wild grasses and flowers nestling in the pages where she placed there. She bought the books second hand, the publishing date is 1896.
I fear many of the specimens she picked have long since disappeared.
Wishing Prince William and Kate Middleton every happiness for their forthcoming marriage... and just wondering if we will get a national holiday as we did on 29th July 1981 when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married...? I suspect not, as William is only heir to the heir of the throne, as opposed to Charles who was heir.
It's being said that her name will be changed from Kate to Princess Catherine - I hope the poor girl is more able to cope with the Paparazzi than Princess Diana was. From this day forward her life will change beyond recognition - imagine the security, the duty. She seems to be incredibly elegant, which I suppose one might expect for a princess, but she has no royal connections or lineage. On the other hand, she's hardly a 'bit of rough'. She did attend one of England's top public schools - Marlborough College in Wiltshire. Her parents are self made millionaires. In fact I used to buy all their produce when my children were little - they run a childrens' party company. Every year they used to send me a reminder that it was their birthdays... as if I needed that!
Although I don't consider myself a Royalist, it was touching to see Kate wearing Princess Diana's engagement ring. I also think it will be a tall order for her, filling Princess Diana's shoes. I don't think the royal family will expect that, but I think the great British public might... I still remember the amazing national outpouring of grief after Diana's funeral, it was surreal. They have been looking for a replacement ever since. Still, I'm sure she's considered that, and the pros clearly outweigh the cons - well I'm sure that's what I would think!
I remember Charles and Diana's wedding as if it only happened five years ago, and what a wonderful day of partying and revelry (euphemism!) there was all over the country. I was in my early twenties and living in Oxford at the time. We did watch most of the wedding, but also attended several parties. Everyone had woeful hangovers the next day...
It's being suggested that the possible date may be 13th August 2011, to fit in with the royal calendar. As yet unclear where the ceremony will be held. The future King will probably have to marry in London, so St Paul's (where Charles and Diana were married) or Westminster Abbey (where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were married, and where Diana's funeral was held) are high probabilities. There is also the possibility of a smaller, more private affair at Windsor Castle I suppose, which is only just outside London, and would be a certain demonstration of reducing pomp and circumstance in these harsh economic times.
I don't suppose I'll be invited to photograph the occasion... shame, I'm reasonably priced, could save them a lot of money and impress the nation.
I have been blogging for exactly one year today!
This was my first picture... Reflecting on what has happened in a year is quite interesting. Some things never change though. I'm still wondering what to concentrate on when I blog. I think I thought back then that everything would just fall into place somehow. A year ago when I started, I thought I would concentrate on the various craft activities I enjoyed. I did this for a while, but then photography came along.
That took me by surprise, I hadn't intended to study photography last November. I had considered it, but only in the same way that I'd considered learning a language or a musical instrument or an English degree...
So now I find myself immersed in the study of photography, and I don't find it easy. I find it technical, hard to understand, frustrating, very time consuming - but I'm still doing it. I sometimes wonder why I'm doing it - I'm not naive enough to think it will be a life changing event, or that it will enable me to become a professional photographer, I suspect I'm a little too old for that.
It's partly because, having invested in the equipment, I now feel I must put it to good use. It's a horribly expensive hobby, there is no end to the amount of money you could spend improving your kit! Apart from the original purchase of camera and kit lens, I've only bought one lens, the cost made me gasp! I'm also going to purchase a decent flash gun, but then I'm going to stop for the forseeable future.
I know what I don't want to do, but that isn't very helpful. I don't want to shoot weddings, the fear factor of screwing up would be unbearable. I don't want to stand out in the cold for hours on end to get a fantastic landscape shot, although I greatly admire others who do. I don't want to be involved in the fashion world with all those egos to consider. I have no desire to take photos of posh watches and jewellery.... so what's left?
I love taking pictures of flowers, fruit, vegetables and food of all kinds. I don't know why, it just pleases me. I love taking pictures in low light, with lots of shadow and sludgy colours and great textures. I like pictures to look fairly natural, so no food dyes or pizzas screwed to the table top for me. I love to take close up pictures, or parts of pictures, Hmm, not doing very well here, can't imagine I'll ever make any money...
At some point I'd like to try crossing photography with art in some way, the creative direction appeals. I think I would also be interested in food photography, so long as it could be fairly natural. I love the work David Loftus does for all the Jamie Oliver cookery books. I think I would also enjoy 'lifestyle' photography, the kind of thing you see in Country Living or Living Etc.
But all this is just wishful thinking. Such opportunities are very unlikely to materialize. Meanwhile, this year I'm hoping to do quite a bit of studio work, with all those massive lights etc. Portraiture could be good I think.
So I wonder what I'll be writing about on my 2nd blogging birthday?
...at the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) on Tuesday evening celebrating the wealth of musical talent across the country. I was very proud to be watching my daughter, Kate, playing there with her group 'Forty Flutes'. This is part of the Bromley Youth Music Trust, (BYMT) where Kate and her sister, Rosa, are lucky enough to attend to play and have lessons in flute and saxophone with wonderful teachers, Kerry Anne Searle and Charlotte Buxton. There were three evenings of music altogether, and BYMT also had their symphony orchestra playing the following night.
I think we are very lucky to have this facility funded by Bromley Council. I presume not all councils are willing to fund this sort of activity. One or the other of my girls attends BYMT every evening except one, and every Saturday morning to play in one of the many orchestras. We are lucky enough to live within walking distance!
One day I'd love to be able to take some pictures at BYMT, health and safety permitting... At the RAH I only had my iPhone with me, and flash photography wasn't allowed. The photos show the end of the performance, when ticker tape and balloons floated down to the stage accompanied by fireworks! I couldn't take my eyes of the various official photographers, watching eagerly what they were doing. I wasn't very impressed by the many unofficial photographers, clogging up the aisles, spoiling my view After all, I could have done that if I'd realized it was possible... hmm, sour grapes I think!
Such a wonderful opportunity for the participants, I think they felt very special...
This was our photography homework this week. Shadows can be quite complex, it isn't always obvious how the shadow pattern is going to fall. It's difficult to get natural shadows at this time of year. Today we have gales and rain, but when the sun does shine, the autumnal effect can be lovely. In my house the sun streams in more beautifully now than during the summer months, due to the placement of my windows and the sun being lower in the sky. So I chased shadows around the house...
The time of day makes a big difference to the image, even in autumn. Long shadows in the morning and evening when the sun is very low, slightly shorter in the afternoon. How far the object is from the light, and the height of the object make a difference. Also, whether the light is diffused to create soft light or direct to create hard and crisp images. The surface the shadow falls onto makes a huge impact on the result also. Sometimes the shadow just doesn't photograph well, the reflection is too weak. This week I tried to create soft and crisp images.
I don't have one to show here, but I love the type of shadows that effortlessly bend planes and climb up walls. Overlaying shadows can also give interesting results. Pictures of shadows can be quite abstract, especially if you don't show the source image.
Soft lamps can also be used to replace sunlight of course. In this picture you can see that the shadow has been 'lifted' from the source image due to the placement of the lamp at the lower right.
I like the way the source image intertwines with the reflection
I'm not normally a fan of the chocolate brownie, but these are an exception...
These are Nigella Lawson's chocolate brownies from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess', and are far removed from the dry and crumbly brownies you buy in the supermarket. These are squidgy and yummy and very calorific! Half of one of my squares above is enough, I promise...
The important thing to remember is not to overcook. I cook mine, religiously, for 21 mins, Nigella suggests up to 25 mins, but I suppose it depends on the oven. I usually put dried cherries in mine, not the sour type, and the addition of salt is important, I think. I usually make these for my daughters' birthdays. I agree with Nigella that these are far more impressive than most birthday cakes, especially when piled roughly on a beautiful old plate and festooned with lighted candles and edible glitter - heaven!
If you've never heard of the TED organization, please have a look. They make videos of 'Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.' The talks are fascinating and various - dip in and find something interesting.
Most people will have become aware of the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert, and the subsequent film starring Julia Roberts. I haven't seen the film yet, but I've read the book which was certainly thought provoking and apposite in our technological and speedy world. Here I'm including a TED video by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity. It was produced in February 2009 as her book became stratospheric...
Apart from the free daily newspapers online, I'm also very keen on...
All of the above deliver quirky, and insightful views and opinions on our daily lives and global concerns.
Continuing my photography homework on different views of the same subject, I decided to feature pomegranates. They cost a fortune, these were £2 each in Waitrose... but I needed them then and there and so they were purchased. So I hope I got my money's worth photographing them, because I can't see them all being eaten at home! I used to spend hours as a child picking out the glassy seeds with a cocktail stick, but then I suppose there wasn't much else to do. I find my children much more impatient, they will use the stick for a while, but inevitably end up bashing the thing on a plate to release the seeds!
I love the irresistible colour of pomegranates, all those blush and pinky shades together with their glossy sheen...
For the first time ever, I was quite disappointed by the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally this year. I just didn't see anything which inspired me so much it made me want to do something. It could have been my mood, which wasn't good from the outset. When I got to Victoria, some of the tube lines were out of action, which meant some silly circuitous route there and back on overground trains, and lots of delays. So I was in a huff by the time I arrived, much later than expected.
The forecasted weekend sunshine didn't materialize, so dull grey skies - the worst ever views from Alexandra Palace I've ever seen! I had taken my Nikon camera for the first time, only to discover that I wasn't able to take pictures of anything vaguely interesting. I should have known this I suppose, but it seemed worth the effort of dragging it around. So I didn't take any pictures, not even with my iPhone!
I like to go to view the exhibitions mainly, they were okay, but nothing spectacular. Lots to buy, as always, but I don't really do that. I did buy a few materials for my daughter's GCSE Art work, but nothing to do with knitting or stitching.
The food was woeful, but that's nothing new... they just don't seem to understand how to do the catering. I had a tuna sandwich which was so soggy I threw it away! I would advise anyone to bring their own lunch. This is a shame, because it's such a spectacular building, even the eating area is festooned with trompe l'oeil wall paintings. I brought my own dessert, made by Kate, and delicious...
In the last few days I've been thinking a lot about altered states, mainly because I have been working on a similar theme for my photography homework. Autumn provides a wonderful backdrop for all sorts of changed states outdoors of course, but it also applies to other things. I was considering how to photograph something from a different viewpoint, changing the dynamic - so the same thing, but different. My daughter's cross stitch, for example - the back view...
...and the front view...
the same, but different...
In photography the altered state can be stage managed to some extent, at least in the area of still life.
These leaves can be viewed in different ways, dictated by my mood...
the same, but different...
In reality it's not so easy. I'm constantly surprised when I see photos of myself or hear my voice played back. I just don't look like I think I do, and sound very different to how I think I sound. Whether the real or perceived image is better or worse hardly matters, what's interesting is that there is that difference at all. It's a strange thought that you never see yourself as others do... you don't even see yourself for real, as viewing your own image is always a reflection. So the real you is always the opposite of what you see yourself. Then there is the feeling of being misunderstood. Have you ever been surprised by how someone has assessed your motives? I mean have you ever thought that they were completely wrong, that that wasn't what you were trying to get across at all? Very strange I think - the same, but different...
This evening I was reading Jane Brocket's blog, I'm an avid fan. Now I've built up an image of Jane in my mind over the years, obviously based on what she writes about, but also on pictures I've seen of her. I've never seen her on a video, and today I did for the first time. In my mind she has a certain way of speaking, particular mannerisms I suppose, I've never really thought about it very clearly. When I saw her on video, I was surprised - that wasn't the voice I'd imagined, nor did she move how I'd imagined. She didn't even really look the same on the moving image. So I'm now deconstructing her to fit in with my new knowledge of her. She was delightful and charming, of course, just not in the way I'd thought all this time.
The same, but different...
I fear this could turn into a philosophy lesson, maybe I should stick to trying to take pictures!
Homework this week was to copy a photographic image, any published and printed image, with an emphasis on re-creating the original lighting. I chose to copy David Loftus, the photographer who works on all the Jamie Oliver books. I love lifestyle photography, so it seemed a good place to start...
I can't upload the original image, but you'll find it here under 'genres' and 'tastes'. It took me forever. I spent a lot of time worrying about setting it up. I wanted to copy it as closely as possible, and was very indecisive about angles, props and lenses. I thought it would be simple... don't you think it looks simple?
Trying to get the lens to capture this frame was hard work, but the tripod, (with which I'm a novice) nearly killed me! This set-up ended up on the floor in front of a large window. Then I had to consider lighting, which was the main point of the exercise, I needed to get the shadows and highlights in the correct places - almost impossible. I managed to get the shadows almost in the right place, although they weren't deep enough, but I couldn't get the highlight on the cheese topped bread.
The depth of field was difficult to get with the angle of the photo, as for the colour of the soup... yeuk! His was a sprightly bright green, he had more pea soup in his bowl than I did, and bread floating just in the middle. Mine looked like sludge pouring into the Danube, with an off-centre floating bread. Actually my soup looked much more verdant before I took it to Photoshop to give the whole thing a 'blue hue' which seemed to exist in the original. This was a mistake. The chives were the easiest and I do like the reflections on the side of the bowl.
I ended up using a long 300mm lens, which weighs a lot, on a tripod. I was convinced the tripod was going to fall over and smash my new expensive lens, so cushions everywhere and weights hanging on centre of tripod. Also used my new remote control for the shutter which should have been easy, but wasn't. No one has ever explained to me how to use all this equipment, so it's very much trial and error and lots of tantrums! Keeping the cats away from the soup was hard work too. I thought my bread was going to sink...
Despite the frustration, it was a good assignment. I think I learnt something and it squashed my idea that I might be able to do some decent lifestyle photography in the near future! So much to learn...
So, I take my hat off to Mr Loftus, I think the simplest photography is possibly the hardest to copy accurately, and my plagiaristic tendencies endeth here! My tutor told me that food photography was difficult to do well. Although David Loftus tends to shoot his food pics naturally, probably no food dye for example, he may well have had his bread propped up on something, which I didn't even think of.
By the time I'd finished I was very hungry. The home made pea soup was delicious in reality (and much greener), as was the goat cheese toasted bread. Of course for my photo the soup was cold and I didn't eat that particular piece of bread... just in case you were wondering about me!
Now, if I'd just moved that bowl a tad to the right....