Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beatrix Potter: 150th Birthday Anniversary

2016 sees big birthday anniversaries of two of the Victorian women whose life and work have long been a constant source of inspiration to me: 200th birthday of Charlotte Bronte back on 21st April, which I marked with a personal tribute here, and 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter on 28th July.

“What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?” 
~Beatrix Potter~

Beatrix Potter (1866 - 1943) was an amazing woman who managed to accomplish her goals in an era when ambitious women were still firmly discouraged from becoming successful. She is best known for her children's stories about animals, especially "Peter Rabbit", which she beautifully illustrated herself. However, her talent and achievements did not end there. She was a natural scientist; a farmer winning prizes for breeding Herdwick sheep which are a common and distinctive sight in the Lake District where she lived; she was a shrewd business woman who bought and managed a number of local farms and a considerable amount of land; she was passionate about conservation and left a large estate to the National Trust after her death.

I love the Lake District, and go there at least once a year. And every time I am there I like to think about Beatrix and her life, and go for walks involving places associated with her. The most fascinating of all is, of course, the "Hill Top", the farmhouse she bought with the proceeds of sales of her first book "The tale of Peter Rabbit". Apparently she never lived at the Hill Top but she wrote some of her stories there. She did furnish it like a home, and a very inspirational one. Today it remains as she left it, and is a busy museum where timed tickets are issued. I just love coming here and looking around not just the house but the gardens too. And the whole village of Near Sawrey, where the cottage is situated, breathes the presence of Beatrix and her animal characters through various sites used in her stories.

Earlier this year, during a week's stay in Grasmere, I went to see the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness on the Windermere lake for the first time. The establishment  itself is celebrating a special anniversary this year - 25 years of the day it first opened its doors to the public. It's a magical exhibition place where Beatrix's much loved characters are brought to life. I thought I would share some of the photos I took back in February as part of my tribute to Beatrix for her big birthday anniversary. All photos are quick snapshots taken with my mobile android phone, and were given just a basic edit in Lightroom.

A figure of Beatrix as a young woman with a couple of her animal characters by her side near the entrance to the exhibition.

Old Mrs Rabbit, the mother of Peter Rabbit and his siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail

Peter Rabbit, Beatrix's first and most famous character, a naughty rabbit who goes into Mr McGregor's garden and helps himself to some of the vegetables.

Mr McGregor is planting out cabbages at the moment he spots Peter Rabbit in his garden.

Jemima Puddle-Duck, a naive but endearing duck who decides to build a nest away from the farm she lives on.

A cunning fox whom Jemima meets in the nearby wood, and who lets her build a nest in his comfortable woodshed.

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in her kitchen, the adorable hedgehog, a short and plump woman who washes and irons the clothes for the animals.

Mr Tod, the disagreeable fox, the arch enemy of the badger called Tommy Brock.

The table set for a meal in Mr Tod's kitchen.

Tommy Brock , the badger, sleeping in Mr Tod's bed with a pail of water balanced over his head by Mr Tod who hoped to play a trick upon Tommy.

Mr Jeremy Fisher taking a break from fishing to eat a sandwich sitting on his lily pad boat.

Mr Jeremy Fisher is seized by a huge trout and pulled into the water. He manages to escape and invites his friends to dinner.

A scene created by the illustration from "The Tale of Pigling Bland"

Two soulmate piglets from "The Tale of Pigling Bland".

A life size figure of Beatrix in her later life. She liked to be called "Mrs Heelis" at this stage of her life being happily married to the respected local solicitor William Heelis.

Me and Mrs Heelis. Just could not resist!

Beatrix's timeless tales never lost their popularity and continue to be enjoyed by children all over the world.
For anyone wishing to know more about this fascinating woman I strongly recommend Margaret Lane's biography "The Tale of Beatrix Potter" and the movie "Miss Potter" starring Renee Zellweger.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Zagreb Photo Sale

Just a quick post from a very happy woman. Last night I learned I had sold a royalty free license to the image below. It is my very first sale of a photo of my beloved native town Zagreb. That is great news for me because I don't live there anymore and therefore have very little opportunity to take pics over there. The photo sold in Austria through Getty Images. That is all the information I have. Unfortunately, the sale statement doesn't tell me by who or for what purpose the image has been bought.  I have previously published the image on my blog here.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Still Life With Flat Peaches

Time for a seasonal still life. I have been eyeing flat peaches in the local supermarket every summer since they first appeared a few years ago. I am always looking for unusual and interesting shapes I can study through my still life work. I can just concentrate on the shape, colours and textures, and keep the composition simple and minimal. For my props I used an old enamel plate my Mum gave me and also one of her old tea towels which I just had to take away from her. A little sprig of basil leaves gives a finishing touch to the set up.

I like to use texture layers in the post processing of my still life images, usually to create a rustic, country look. Here I applied a texture from the recently bought pack by Jessica Drossin, called "Wuthering Heights" which is a famous book title by Emily Bronte. Being a huge fan of the Bronte sisters I was delighted to see Jessica has created textures inspired by her visit to historic Ponden Hall and the moors that the sisters loved and roamed. I just can't wait to try these textures on my other work, particularly Haworth and the Bronte Country. As to my flat peaches I also played with Jessica's Fine Art Tints, hence the lovely, warm and hazy brownish tone to the image.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Four New Book Covers

I am just a passionate amateur photographer who only takes the sort of photos my soul tells me to take, but, I must admit, one of the most satisfying, exciting, inspiring and flattering things in my photographic life are image sales for book covers. There are not many of them, and I know there will never be many, but I don't mind and am quite happy with just the few that come my way. In the last quater I have sold rights through Trevillion Images for as many as four book covers which is more than I have ever done in that space of time. The interesting thing is that three of the sales are based on the same image! And that very image had already been used once in the past so I've got four very nice sales out of the same image!

This is the winning photo. It certainly is one of my best images, and I am very pleased that it has been rewarded by repeated license sales. First it was used last year for a new novel by a famous German crime writer Charlotte Link, "Die Betrgene" (literal translation "The Betrayed"), and now a new license has been bought by the German online magazine "Spiegel Online", presumably to advertise the novel.

The image has recently sold twice in the United States too for the title "Growing Older and Wiser" by two different authors, one of which is Jack Kuhatschek and the other's name is still to be confirmed. At this moment in time the images of these two new book covers don't seem to be available online as yet.

This is a photo of the Castle Hill and Victoria Tower, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire I took back in 2009. I liked the isolated, windswept location and the starkness of the tall, narrow tower, and thought I'd turn the shot into a brooding, dramatic and somewhat eerie image by adding birds and moody skies and textures in post processing. Rights have just been sold for the book cover of the novel "Ecos del Pasado" by the Spanish author Diana Gabaldon. The image of the book cover doesn't seem to be published on the internet yet. From what I can see I presume it will be for a new edition of the already existing title coming out in December.

I shall post un update as soon as I have more information on these book covers.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Zagreb, Croatia, Spring 2016

It has been many weeks since I posted on here. My absence was due to my annual visit to Zagreb, Croatia, the city I was born and grew up in, and then my niece and her boyfriend's visit to us in Leeds. I've enjoyed myself immensely, but there was no time for editing photos or writing. However, I did take many pictures and am ready to get back on track with blogging now. With hundreds of new images I hardly knew where to start and what to prepare for sharing first. I decided to choose a dozen random photos of my beloved, beautiful Zagreb. The city was basking in mellow spring sunshine almost all of the time, and was gaily bustling with various events taking place around the city centre landmarks. It was a perfect time for a visit.

Tkalciceva Street. A very popular street in the old Upper Town, very close to the main city square. It is lined with bars and restaurants that are busy throughout the day, but it is in the evening when it assumes its real appeal due to its thriving nightlife. At night the street feels like it belongs to some popular holiday destination. As a matter of fact, there are more and more tourists coming to Zagreb every year, and the Upper Town is deservedly becoming a growing visitor attraction.

Ilirski Square. It is situated in the historic old Upper Town which I simply adore. The square got its name from the Illyrian movement in the first half of the 19. century which lead towards Croatia's cultural and political revival.

Some Upper Town houses with recently renewed facades, distinctive cobbled street, and an inviting rustic restaurant called "Grandad's Dream" that I am still to visit for a first time.

I am always on the lookout for interesting window shots. I loved this old arched window with its cheerful flower pots, hot pink blind and a drawer-like feature underneath it.

Opaticka Street, a typical Upper Town street.

Recently renovated buildings of the Zagreb City Museum which used to be a female monastery in the middle of the 17th century called St. Klara Monastery.

Strossmayer promenade, or simply "Stross" as the people of Zagreb call it. It is a very special place with the lovely, romantic alley flanked with trees on either side. There are beautiful views over Zagreb Lower Town to the south. During the summer months various concerts and shows take place here from 9 o'clock in the evening. This year for some reason, as yet unknown to me, the tree trunks have been painted blue and green "lights" suspended from the tree tops.
I processed the image with one of the delightful, recently bought Jessica Drossin's Lightscaping Overlays.

This is a view over Zagreb taken from around the middle of Stossmayer Promenade. In the bottom off the image there is the entrance to a lovely restaurant lying under the Lotrscak Tower the cannon of which has been firing and marking the noon every day ever since 1877.

In the Upper Town there are a few old, narrow stairways running between the walls of houses. I love lingering around them and taking photos. These stairs are called Mill Stairs, apparently because in the past they were leading to a mill.

Ilica, one of  the longest Zagreb thoroughfares connecting the central square and northwestern parts of the city. It is a beautiful, winding, very busy street boasting fine architecture, shopping and cultural sites. Every time I am in Zagreb I pass here on a daily basis whether on foot or on one of Zagreb's tramways.

Old Vlaska Street. Another street full of character and cherished memories for me. Just loved those ancient houses, and am thankful they have been restored preserving the original architectural style. In the middle there is a bronze statue of August Senoa, a renowned 19th century Croatian writer. The statute was placed there in 1988, the year I left Zagreb for England.

This image was taken in the area of the city where I grew up and lived in up until I moved to England. I used to walk around here every day on my way to school, or to catch a tram to town or elsewhere. My flat was just around the corner from here. I have set myself a project to photograph all the landmark places of my childhood and early adulthood over a two or three year period, and publish all the chosen photos in one or two posts. This photo is just a "taster" of  the project in making.

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.