Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Mid May Outdoor Still Life

When I feel it is time to do a still life I cannot rest till I come up with something. Inspired by some lovely images on Flickr I have wanted to create an outdoor still life for quite a long time. Living on the edge of a nice park means I do not have to go very far at all to find a suitable background or to carry my props to. I realized it was a perfect time of the year to have a go at an outdoor image with grasses growing tall, some dandelions still flowering while others are turning into the fluffy blowballs, and first buttercups just starting to spring up. It didn't take me long to know what I wanted to photograph. It had to be an image to satisfy my romantic soul and, as always, my love for vintage. It was also going to be about presence of people, a notion I got attracted to through looking at Trevillion Images photos. So out goes my antique chair I sit on at the computer, my recently bought floppy hat, an old book and a vintage style bottle filled with summer fruit squash. The bluebells are the most important prop with their gorgeous colour, the contrast they provide and their central position in the composition. I didn't have to go far to pick them either. They are growing in a wide pool around the tree just yards from where I placed the chair.
I took about 20 shots of the set up and chose to edit the one where the grasses and wildflowers are swayed gently by the breeze. Due to the chair being quite small the hat appeared too big in the picture for my liking so I reduced its size in Photoshop.The whole edit didn't take very long the focus being on creating a soft and dreamy mood with a hint of vintage toning.
Quite happy and pleased I have created my first ever outdoor still life. I also wrote this post in the same afternoon, another reason to be pleased with myself as I usually don't work nowhere near so fast.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Two Days and a Night in Haworth, 22-23 April, 2016

The 22nd of April was the day after the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birthday and the day before my own birthday. There was no better way for me to treat myself than spend a couple of days in Haworth, despite missing Charlotte's celebrations. I arrived around 12:30 p. m., dropped my overnight bag off to the Old Registry Bed & Breakfast, where I was going to check in later on, and made my way leisurely up the steep cobbled Main Street towards the Bronte Parsonage. No matter how many times I have walked here I always feel excited and extremely pleased to do so again. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but just a tad on the nippy side.

The very first scene that made me take my camera out and start taking pics. It speaks about some of the reasons why I love Haworth - quirky, independent shops, old houses, embracing seasons.... The delightful wheel cart outside the Embers of Haworth restaurants always contains seasonal flowers. It is such an attractive and inviting entrance to a restaurant.

Just couldn't resist sharing this image I took of the wheel cart a couple of years ago. My favourite spring flowers, hyacinths filled with spring sunshine was such a gorgeous sight.

The most charming and very photogenic Main Street. There are countless photo opportunities here; you can take hundreds of different great photos depending on the viewpoint, light, time of the day and season. It is impossible for a photographer to find himself/herself here and not take photos, regardless of how many photos they have already taken of this street in the past. It is just an endlessly inspirational street in so many ways.

As I approached the Parsonage, I started looking for signs of yesterday's celebrations. This beautiful floral tribute to Charlotte for her birthday was placed on the steps of the Parsonage.

There was another little half moon shaped floral arrangement on the other side of the Parsonage door. I thought I would compose my image so the tributes are framed with the spring flowers growing in the Parsonage garden.

The Old School Room near the Parsonage. This is a side view; you can see the front here. It is where the celebrations took place. Lots of people came for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. There were also some stage performances, one of which the Haworth Primary School pupils acting scenes from "Jane Eyre". I peered through the windows to see if there were any traces of the party, but the Room was all conscientiously tidied and cleaned up, and left in its usual state.

Daffodils were at their prime, so I had to take a few shots showing the magic they weaved around the place. I took this from Haworth Church graveyard where I got a view with the daffodils framing the house in which John Brown, a sexton to Patrick Bronte and Branwell's drinking companion, lived.

Bright daffodils adding some cheer to the Parsonage and Haworth church graveyards.

My next destination was Pensitone Hill. I wanted to see the film set construction site. I had it in my head that it would be not far from the main entrance to Penistone Hill - the one nearest to Haworth , but soon realized it was nowhere near that side of the country park.

The sun has completely disappeared by now but the moors were still inviting to me.... I took the usual path towards the Bronte Falls.

I never before noticed this seat placed there in memory of someone who loved the moors. Love discovering new things around the moors.

The building site soon came into the view, far in the distance, at the southernmost point of Penistone Hill. "Monstrosity", I've heard people call it; a blot on the landscape it may be, but it is only a temporary structure and it is needed.

A replica Bronte Sisters Parsonage is being built, where the filming of the new drama about the lives of the Bronte family, "To Walk Invisible", is going to take place. I for one cannot wait to see it when it is screened this Christmas.

The last shot I took from the broad track leading to the rear of the building before I turned off to walk back towards Haworth.

The path was meandering and the sky menacing. I preyed it didn't rain, but I was ready for it.....I was just happy to be on the moor and feel like I didn't have a care in the world.

The picnic benches overlooking the Lower Laithe Reservoir looked forlorn on the day despite the wonderful view. Undoubtedly, they were going to be happily occupied before long, when real spring weather arrived.

The section of the path to Haworth running along a hill with discarded quarry stones. It seems isolated and remote around there, but you cannot actually get lost on these moors. All paths lead to the main road.

West Lane and view over Sladen Valley as seen from the path running parallel in the field and leading to the Parsonage.

Something different for a change. These old wooden work clogs caught my eye hanging in someone's garden. I enjoyed playing with some presets in Lightroom aiming at an old photo look.

The scene behind the Parsonage. I like the wavy line of the dry stone wall with the gate in the mid distance and the tree at the far end; and of course, the lovely forsythia in the foreground even though its bloom was far from profuse this year.

The deep pink flowering currant shrub is always a lovely sight at this time of year, and I liked it against the stone brick wall of the Parsonage Museum shop.

I took this photo after I checked into my room and went back out to have an evening meal at the Kings Arms pub. It was past 8 o'clock now, still cloudy and getting rather chilly. I began to long for a long, relaxing bath and a glass of wine....

The Lilac Room at The Old Registry, where I spent the night. It is a lovely, cosy and comfortable attic room.

The view from the skylight window.

I particularly liked the bathroom.

In the morning it was simply wonderful to wake up in Haworth for the first time ever and on my birthday too! I felt that for a first time in a long while I had done something worthwhile for my birthday, especially in view of the plans I had for the day. I have no photos though; it was not a picture taking day, it was a socializing day. After a most beautiful Yorkshire breakfast I went to the Parsonage to have another, closer look at the "Charlotte Great & Small" exhibition in the Bonnel Room. Then I met up with a friend, and after a couple of drinks we went to Ponden Hall for a fascinating bicentenary talk by Ann Dinsdale, the Bronte Parsonage Museum Collection Manager, entitled "Charlotte and Me". Julie, who runs Ponden Hall B&B, prepared a luxurious cream tea for those who attended and took us on the tour of the Hall which has many Bronte connections. No matter how many times I have heard about the history of the Hall I always enjoy listening again. To top off the marvellous day I went back to the Old Registry for an evening meal with G. It is such a great place not just to stay, but eat too. We so enjoyed the warm, romantic ambience, friendly service and most delicious food. All in all, it was a birthday to remember and treasure.

Phew, this is a marathon post for me! Special thanks to everyone who has read it all. I think I shall stick to my usual length in future.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

My New Cameras

As a photographer I have never been overly interested in the equipment, and have always believed that photography is not about what camera and lenses you use but what you do with them. You can take great pictures with a simple and inexpensive camera as long as you have a bit of flair and know how. However, the image quality does improve with technology, and that is something every keen photographer wants to keep up with.
I decided that my 6-7 year old, second hand acquired Nikon D40x DSLR was a bit out of date by now and have upgraded to a D7100.  For my outdoor work I had been using two zoom lenses, an 18mm-55mm and 55mm-200mm, but to be fair I could hardly ever be bothered to change to the latter, so I thought I'd try an "all in one" lens, the one that spans the focal lengths of both lenses - an 18mm - 200mm. I was a bit worried about its weight when attached to a camera body bigger and heavier than the one I had, but after testing the weight at the local Jessop's I was confident that I could get used to it.
I am still getting to know the camera, but I am ready to use it as my main one now and can say that I am completely satisfied on all fronts -  performance, weight, value for money etc.

I also decided to invest in a little compact Sony DSC RX100. I needed a pocket sized camera too; the one I can easily throw in my hand bag and use for those quick socializing shots or in situations where I don't want to draw too much attention to myself shooting with a serious looking DSLR. Also the Sony will be more practical to use in inclement weather as it will be much easier to protect than the Nikon DSLR. I am ever so pleased with the little Sony. With its large sensor and 20.2 megapixel resolution the image quality is virtually the same as that of the Nikon. It also boasts controls similar to those of a DSLR which, considering its size and price, is an amazing advance in technology.

All in all I am very happy with both new "toys", and am also relieved that I won't have to look much at photo equipment in the next few years at least.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Hamlet of Lumbfoot, Haworth, Bronte Country, April 2015

Since it takes a lot less time to take photos than to edit them and write about them I always have a lot of old images "waiting to see daylight" and be dealt with. On this occasion I'd like to share a beautiful circular walk around Lumbfoot G and I went for about this time last year.
The map of the route can be found on the "Four Countryside Walks from the Pennine Village of Haworth" leaflet available at the Tourist Information Centre in Haworth. It is such an exhilarating and easy walk and quite different from other walks around Haworth in that it runs through the river Worth Valley countryside which differs in appearance from the famous adjacent moorland, adding to the varied beauty of the landscape around Haworth.

The wonderful view greeted us very soon after leaving Haworth Main Street with a dry stone wall on our left, Lower Oldfield Farm in mid distance and rolling hills beyond.

Lower Oldfield Farm - such a welcome encounter. Just love the rural setting and detail, all looking so appealing in the interplay of spring sunshine and shadow.

It was such a glorious late April day, perfect to explore this part of Haworth countryside. I felt so alive and buzzing with a liberating feeling.

One of the joys of springtime is lots of cute lambs all over fields. Loved this little scene with the lamb chilling in the shade snuggled up against its mother.

This must be one of the most idyllic and magical spots I have ever been to. When the old bridge came into view I just gasped with incredulity. The charming packhorse bridge over the river Worth, Grade II listed building, is paradoxically called "Long Bridge" as it is anything but long, although it may have been long by the standards of the time it was built in (date uncertain). The area around it is very peaceful and tranquil, and all you can hear is the murmur of water and all you can see delightful rolling countryside. G and I lingered here for a while soaking in the beauty and peace. It was a weekday, and there was nobody about. We had this amazing place all to ourselves. I decided I must come back here with a picnic blanket and book of the Brontes' poems, and I will make sure it does happen this summer.

The chimney stump and engine house of the demolished Lumbfoot Mill.

Lumbfoot is such a little gem in the Bronte Country. There is only a private road leading to it and a public footpath. I marvelled at the handful of lovely, tucked away houses thinking how peaceful and idyllic it must be to live here.

An attractive row of cottages at the end of the hamlet. One of them had its stable door open on this beautiful spring early afternoon (how I love stable doors!!!), and as we passed we could here from within the clinking of cutlery against plates as the inhabitants had their lunch. It all looked and felt like a bliss to me.

This lovely sign at the entrance to the hamlet made me smile. It tells you not only how many people live there but also how many dogs and cats. Lumbfoot was twinned with Lhasa, Tibet as part of the 1989 declaration of independence from the UK following a dispute between its villagers and those of the nearby Stanbury. It is a piece of history which I find rather bizarre.

We left the hamlet by a narrow, very steep, walled foothpath leading towards Stanbury with some lovely elevated views.

Lower Laithe Reservoir near Stanbury. With it's Victorian sluice house it is quite an attractive feature in the Bronte Country, especially in panoramas with dramatic light.

A breathtaking view over Sladen Valley, near Cemetery Road, Haworth. The wonderful vista stretches for about three quarters of a mile, and it is one of the most captivating I have ever seen.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Tribute To Charlotte Bronte (1816 - 1855)

"The human heart has hidden 
treasures, In secret kept, in 
silence sealed; The thoughts, the 
hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, 
Whose charms were broken if 

~Charlotte Bronte~

2016 sees the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth (21st April), and as I am a huge fan there has never been a better time for me to create a personal tribute to her. Charlotte is one of the three famous Victorian literary sisters who continue to awe, intrigue and inspire me, both as artists and as women. I was very excited and somewhat daunted at the idea of creating a still life image in her honour. 

It did not take long for a picture to form in my mind, but I did not have the objects I needed to realize it. I wanted to use a "Jane Eyre" book but did not have an old publication. By some uncanny coincidence I stumbled upon one in a charity shop just days after I planned my image. The book is from about 1960 and has Charlotte's dedication to the novelist W. M. Thackeray, which she first inscribed in The Third Edition of Jane Eyre in 1848. It is not as old a book as I would have liked, so I added an old paper texture in post processing to create a more antiquated look.
Charlotte was very short-sighted, so I used an old pair of spectacles found in the Saltaire Vintage shop, that are not dissimilar to those she would have worn.
She was fond of wearing neck scarves which gave me an idea to included one of mine (for want of a more appropriate one) that reminds me of the scarf she is wearing in the above portrait by J. H. Thompson. 
The presence of hyacinths is owed to the fact they blossom around the time Charlotte was born (and me too for that matter, two days after her); they are my favourite spring flowers, and in this image they represent my birthday present to Charlotte.

Haworth village and Bronte Parsonage Museum, where Charlotte lived and wrote all her works, are hosting many interesting and fascinating events and talks to mark and celebrate the bicentenary of her birth throughout the year. I am so looking forward to attending, photographing and writing about as many as I can.

"True enthusiasm is a fine 
feeling whose flash I admire 
where-ever I see it."

~Charlotte Bronte~


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Hamlet of Outgate, Lake District, 7 May 2015

This very pretty hamlet straddles the Ambleside Hawkshead road and lies about a mile and a half north of Hawkshead. We were on the way to Hawkshead to start a walk from there, and as we drove through the little village I gasped at its picturesque charm. I asked G if we could stop on our way back for me to take a few pics and so we did. I didn't have a lot of time as we were quite tired and hungry by then, so I just whizzed around taking quick and random shots of whatever was catching my eye.

I just adore this rural scene with whitewashed holiday cottages and the local slate fence. I normally remove telephone poles and cables from my images but I like how the wire frames the cottages here, and could just not resist adding some birds to it in Photoshop. I used one of bird brushes by Cheryl Tarrant available for free from her site.

The same row of cottages as on the previous image. It was a very peaceful and bright spring afternoon and the only sound I could hear was a soft laughter, presumably of a happy holiday maker, coming from an open window.

Of course, I had to take a close up of the old, red, English phone box, always a welcome and cheerful site and a great detail for photography.  Loved shooting with the sun in front of me.

The local pub, Outgate Inn, another house whitewashed in local tradition. Particularly attractive is the fence made of the Lake District slate, a lovely feature of the hamlet.

It makes me really happy and feeling fulfilled to visit and photograph country places like this one. It is definitely one the things I enjoy the most in life.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Hollens Farm Cottage, Grasmere, Lake District

I've just processed a few images of the Hollens Farm Cottage for a submission to Trevillion Images, and thought I'd write a blog post about them too. The 19th century farmhouse was our abode while on a week's holiday in Grasmere last month. I have written about the cottage back in January, so this time I shall just add a few more photographs I took in February.

The table in the charming, authentic, olde worlde  kitchen where we had our meals and played games. It was Valentine's Day on the second day of our stay, hence the red roses in the old earthenware pot.

The cheering log burner and fire our friend David look after each night and made sure the room was toasty and the atmosphere cosy.

One of the two armchairs in the sitting room matching the Chesterfield sofa under the window. On the seat there is the map of the Lake District we were perusing on a daily basis.

The lovely little window on the landing upstairs with a bookcase underneath. The windowsill features a pair of vintage binoculars, and I also put a vase with some of our Valentine's flowers on there.

Even the bathroom is full of old fashioned character. Among other things it boasts a fascinating wooden toilet flush and copper pipe.

I believe this sort of cottage is not everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. I hope dearly one day we will be living somewhere very similar, and if that happens to be in Haworth I will be the happiest woman in the world!