Thursday, 16 March 2017

Early Spring Stroll Around Haworth, Brontë Country

When my work rota unexpectedly changed last week, and I ended up having Friday and Saturday off, I immediately decided to spend that time in Haworth, always my favourite place.
From photography point of view the purpose for the visit was to capture the signs of spring, the slow awakening of nature after a long winter sleep.

As I got towards the top of the wonderful Main Street on Friday morning I turned back, and there was this beautiful, diffused yet glowing light, and a lovely smoke happened to briefly billow down in the valley; the whole street seemed enveloped in an unusual, nostalgic, almost surreal dreaminess.

The large wooden planters outside Sexton John Brown's house, on the way to the Parsonage, always draw my attention with their delightful, seasonal blooms.

Love the beautiful display of spring flowers outside the Parsonage, especially the gorgeous pink hellebores.

I spotted this delicate blossom while standing in the Parsonage garden. I immediately thought of Emily, who loved nature, and how she would have been delighted to spot this blossom, just like I was. I thought I'd pair the photo with a quote from Emily's poetry.

Saturday was a dull, sunless day. The churchyard still had that wintry/forever autumn look with its trees still bare and as yet hardly any signs of new leaves. However, regardless of the time of year or weather conditions, the churchyard always seems to retain its melancholic, bittersweet charm.

There seems to be more and more chickens in the churchyard. They started appearing not long ago. I hear they don't belong to anybody. There are some allotments nearby, and I suspect that is where the chickens come from. It looks to me like they have been abandoned by their owners, and although they are getting fed and looking beautiful and healthy at the moment, I fear there might be problems if nobody takes charge of them soon.

I was surprised to find that snowdrops were still at their best, because here in Leeds they have already gone over. The reason they are late in Haworth must be the more severe weather conditions.

On Saturday I went for a short circular walk towards Oxenhope, returning to Haworth via Marsh Lane and Sun Street. This young tree with its fragile pink blossom in Sun Street caught my eye. It looked beautiful against the contrasting background of the robust stone wall and blue light reflected in the windows of the house.

As always, I had a most pleasing stay in Haworth, and left ever more inspired to return soon, this time to photograph daffodils, one of my favourite flowers. I noticed their heads were just turning yellow, still firmly closed but ready to unfold in a day or so. I will be back to catch them in their prime.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Still Life with Mimosa

I am very happy that my first post this March is about the beautiful winter flowering shrub of mimosa. While it is widespread in Croatia, I had never seen it in England up until a few days ago. I was in Leeds market looking for some seasonal blooms for a new still life and was delighted to spot bouquets of mimosa. The florist said she got it from a Dutch supplier which for me just confirms the fact that mimosa doesn't grow in this country. I love the little yellow pom pom flowers with their subtle, honeyed scent.

As mimosa reminds me vividly of home, I thought I'd use it to create a nostalgic still life. I chose natural, partial backligthing from a window, a lot of fabric including an old fashioned table topper with crocheted edges, and an old, written postcard. I like yellow and blue colour combination; hence the vintage blue and white cup and saucer which add some colour contrast to the image.
The lighting is pretty effective in itself, so the image didn't need much Photoshop manipulation. I just used a couple of Jessica Drossin's actions, and that was all.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Photo Shoot with My Partner G, Haworth Moor, Oct 2016

It took me four months to prepare and publish this post. Because it is not particularly related to a season, I felt it could wait till I work on other, more "urgent" posts; and to be truthful, I wasn't sure how I wanted to process and present the photos. Even though I have tried portrait photography quite a few times since I first took up photography, it is still not my domain. However, I do enjoy it and hope to do more portraiture work in future.

It was the day before Halloween, and G and I were staying in Haworth overnight. (We both love this place and are waiting for the day we move to live here). On arrival we had breakfast at Villette cafe and then headed for the moor to have some photography fun. Well, that is what it was supposed to be, but I must admit, at times I wished I had never initiated the whole thing at all.

I wanted to photograph G because he is my much loved partner; because I believe that physically he makes a good model, and that as a photographer I owe it to him to take photos of him now and again. But when I first suggested this photo shoot, he point blank refused it: he was too old; he didn't look good on photographs; didn't like his photographs taken....all the usual you get from so many people when you want to take their picture. Then, very soon afterwards, he was going to go along after all; he couldn't deny me the pleasure...but he will have to wear what he chooses to wear. "Well, that is ok", I said, "as long as you also change into what I'd like you to wear, as well". After a lot of hard work I finally manage to persuade G to put on the clothes that I imagined would help create the mood and tone I wanted to achieve in the photos. Basically, I wanted him to look like a smart countryman, reminiscent of a past time, and I wanted to create images of mood and atmosphere influenced by the sort of landscape we were in.
As we got onto the moor, there was one more thing for me to tackle, and that was to coax G to take off his jewelry, as I didn't want him to wear any. I had secretly brought along a small jewelry pouch for him to put his earrings and chain in, but alas, he wasn't going to do that! Didn't I know he never ever took off the ank from around his neck?! Another tiresome quibble ensued before G finally dropped his earrings and chain with the ank in the pouch.
Furthermore, it was cold and windy (quite frankly, I personally was too busy to notice), so I was often being rushed. Anyway, G's patience is only short, and I didn't have very long at all to get the shots. Obviously, G is not a most compliant model, but because I know him well, I was able to take it in my stride. Right now, the most important thing is that we did manage to walk away with a handle of photos we both like.

G doesn't mind photos of his profile, so that is how we started.

I took a couple of pics of him walking from behind while he was trying to relax. All the photos were taken on Penistone Hill - the beautiful moorland park above Haworth.

Looking at the view of Lower Laithe Reservoir

There were some large stone slabs there, perfect to sit on and pose for a portrait with broody mood...

We both agree in this being our favourite image. I was really happy to come across this spot with tall, orange grass which must have turned that colour with autumn. It inspired me to add a cloud overlay in this and the next two images in Photoshop to create a different, warmer feel to the day.

Towards the end we came to what looked like a small pond. I liked the reflections on the opposite side. As G stood on the edge looking into the water, this dark and macabre image came to my mind, so I took a few quick shots of the scene before me. I actually processed this image first, and very soon after the shoot, as it was the only one I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like.

So, G and I have successfully done our first ever photo shoot. We are planning another one some time this summer. Now it would be really nice if we were treated to a book cover which would be based on our joint efforts. Well, maybe, ..... we'll see, never know.....

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Silver How, Grasmere, The Lake District, Feb 2016

Today is my lovely friend Liz's birthday, so I thought I'd create a post about something memorable that we did together. Last year at this time we were on holiday in Grasmere, the Lake District. One day we left our men behind for a change and went for a rather challenging walk up Silver How mountain. Well, to be truthful, the walk is rated as easy-to-moderate on the map, but for us, inexperienced fell walkers, it was far from being easy.

We left the village of Grasmere by the road that leads to the lake. I am always fascinated by the many white washed houses in the Lakes strewn all over the landscape and making it look like scenes from story books.

I don't think I could have got a better foreground to a rural lakeland scene than sheep at their feeders.

We soon turned onto a rocky path and continued along a steep climb. I made sure to often turn back to admire the views.

Another scene with white washed houses caught my eye. Just couldn't resist their charming starkness.

Dry stone walls are another favourite of mine in any English countryside. There was a cairn near this one, a stone stack built by walkers, which is a regular sight in the Lake District. Cairns usually stand as landmarks, and come in all sorts of sizes and shapes.

We passed through many wooden gates like the one in the bottom right corner. At this stage the views were getting more and more spectacular. Love the curve of the dry stone wall framing the distant mountain.

The winter sun was trying to break through the clouds. I had to act quick to catch it shining on this beautiful tree and its surroundings, leaving behind the snow covered peaks in the distance.

A lot of the time the lighting was very contrasty for panoramic photography, and the exposure quite tricky as shown by the hazy and rather overexposed detail in the background of this image. But I must say I am not overly fussed with technicalities of photography, conveying the mood of the moment being my main interest.

Our path was getting steeper and steeper, but we were enjoying the ascent.

Another look much to marvel at in the wonderful world of nature!

  I love the mixture of beauty and drama in the lakeland landscape.

Liz, my beautiful friend, with her cheeks rosy from the cold air and energetic climb up the mountain.

The view to our left over Grasmere lake. It was taken from approximately the highest point we went to, about half way through the circular walk. From here onwards the path became less than a foot wide, completely exposed with sheer drop to the left, and boggy as well, as we approached a stream. The stream was only narrow but beyond it the path seemed unclear, sharply bending to the right, you could not see where. We decided going any further would be going out of our comfort zone; we didn't want any sort of stress to possibly spoil our hike, so we started retracing our steps to go back down the way came.

A view of Grasmere lake somewhere on our descent.......

......and another one as we were nearing the road.

It would have been nice to have completed the circular walk, but we were content with what we did, and just happy we'd got to do this together. Getting high up on a Lake District mountain to enjoy magnificent nature sights is all we wanted.
Back in the village it was time for a nice warming bowl of home made soup.
I couldn't think of a better way to spend time with a good friend and can't wait for us to do it again.
This is how we spent Liz's birthday in the Lakes last year; and this the day after

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Rokov Perivoj (Roko's Park), In Winter, Zagreb, Croatia

One afternoon, during my recent visit to my ailing Mum in Zagreb, I popped to town while she was having a physio therapy. I thought I'd take advantage of the time to capture with my camera some of the lovely winter atmosphere in my native town. I had previously been reminded of Rokov perivoj (Roko's Park) through the Zdenko's Corner blog that I follow and love. I think even though I knew about the park, I had never actually been to it. It seemed like a perfect place for me to go to on that cold, but sunny winter afternoon, so I did.

The park is situated in the heart of the city, but it is hidden high up on a hill, above the busy Britanski trg (British Square), and it can be reached either by a steep climb from the square, or by a long flight of stairs on the opposite side. It is a peaceful and serene place, ideal for a gentle stroll, a quiet, reflective rest, or simply for drawing inspiration from.

On this particular winter day the grass and paths were all blanketed in snow from a few days ago. Owing to freezing temperatures the snow never got a chance to melt; on the contrary it turned into icy stuff that crunches under your feet and gleams in the winter sunlight.

Childrens' playground features made for a striking, wistful detail in their snowy surroundings. I liked how the red slide stood out in the pale winter scene.

Until 20th century Rokov perivoj was a rural, farming suburb. With the industrial age and birth of aristocracy there was a growing interest in prestigious housing. In 1909, Viktor Kovacic, one of the most renowned architects of the time, was commissioned to design an affluent residential area at Rokov Perivoj preserving green spaces through urban landscaping. A number of villas were built and given to some of the most acclaimed artists, who in return donated their work to the city. Robert Franges-Mihanovic, a celebrated Croatian sculptor lived here, as well as painters Robert Auer and Jozo Kljakovic, to name just a few.

Villa Deutch, a fine example of Roko's perivoj's villas.

A close up of a detail from another villa.

This is Elegija (Elegy), the Franges-Mihanovic's sculpture which authorities refused to exhibit publicly. The ban was lifted only when the Franges-Mihanovic heir donated the sculptor's collection to the city on condition that Elegy was displayed freely.

St Roko's Chapel, a charming, recently renovated chapel which was built in the17th century as an act of gratitude on the part of those who survived a devastating plague. I really like the backlighting here and the pattern of the remaining snow on the roof.

An interesting point in the history of the park is that it used to be a cemetery. The cemetery was closed and exhumed in 1877 when the famed Mirogoj became the city's main burial ground.

Attractive Aleksandrove stube (Alexandar's Stairway), built in 1935. The stairs connect the park to the city centre from its eastern side. Whilst I am open-minded towards graffiti art, I am not a fan of random graffiti scribblings; sadly, a lot of people in Zagreb must be as the old custom of putting graffiti on Zagreb's walls seems to be impossible to eradicate. I think it's a shame that these people are not sensitive to the aesthetic appearance of their own city.

Anyway, I was so pleased I'd paid a visit to the beautiful, idyllic Rokov perivoj, and am looking forward to returning at a different time of the year to see how it gets transformed by seasons. It may even become my little haven when I need a quick respite and a bit of peace and solitude when I am in Zagreb.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

At Home With Mum in Zagreb

I had not been in Zagreb in winter since I left for England in 1988. I was always able to choose the time of year for my visits, and it was always spring or late summer, when the weather in Zagreb is nice, but not too hot. However, lately my Mum has been poorly after a stroke, so in mid January I decided I had to make a short, unplanned visit to see her. She is recovering well, and we had a lovely time together. It was bitterly cold with freezing temperatures going down as far as -12 degrees Celsius, but I took it in my stride and managed to enjoy winter in my beloved native town.
My Mum lives in Tresnjevka, the biggest area of Zagreb, only a few tram stops from the city centre. She lives in a house she had had built in the 1990s.
I wanted to spend all my time with Mum and didn't plan on going out to take photos. I didn't even bother to take my DSLR with me; I only packed my little compact Sony. One afternoon, while my Mum was having a nap, I nipped out and took a few shots of the area around the house. I also have some pics I took on my local shopping trips. In this post I'm sharing my favourite photos that sum up my brief stay with Mum.

The lovely log burner in my Mum's living room/kitchen. It was life and soul of our days creating a toasty and cosy atmosphere and adding magic to the cold  wintery days.

A little cul-de-sac branch of the street my Mum lives in, called "Nova cesta" (New Road). It is a quiet place behind a primary school. I like it particularly because it looks like it belongs to a village, whereas it is not far from the centre of a big and bustling city.

Nova cesta Street (New Road Street) is a very long street that changes its appearance greatly from wide and very busy stretches to quiet and narrow ones like this one. On the left there is the school behind which my Mum lives. This is always my way home coming back from either town or local shops.

A typical block of flats at Zagreb's Tresnjevka with a green in front of it.

This is Tresnjevacki trg, the main square of the area. The photo shows Konzum, the supermarket I go food shopping to. I also get off my tram here on my way back from town. The colours were lovely on this sunny winter afternoon.

My Mum is lucky to live just a three minute walk from Tresnjevacka trznica (market). It is one of the great city's outdoor markets surrounded by shops and kiosks, where you can buy virtually everything; as Croats would say - everything " from needle to locomotive". I love it here because it is one of the best places to experience the spirit of the city and indulge in getting what is traditionally Croatian. I always make sure to buy a few Croatian goodies to take back with me to England. The two photos above were taken on a misty and extremely cold morning; the sellers were covering their produce with blankets trying to keep it from getting frozen. I felt sorry for them, the more so because the freezing weather made a lot of people choose to buy their fruit and veg at the supermarket across the road.

Part of the Julije Klovic primary school. My Mum's house faces the rear of the building. Incidentally, the school was founded in 1962, the year I was born in, but I didn't go to school here as we lived in a different part of the city. It was a sunny afternoon when I took this photo, but so very cold with the old iced up snow glistening in the sunlight. I remember I could hardly feel my camera between my fingers.

The attractive, recently renovated chimney of Tresnjevacka toplana (heating plant). Its white plume of smoke on cold days indicates that heating is working well in the area. Love seeing the red and white stripy top of the chimney with its puffy, white smoke against blue sky.

This is the small park behind my Mum's house. I love it; there is nothing like living next to a little peace of nature. The park is beautiful in summer, of course, enveloped in the green foliage of trees, but it had a special magic charm on this sunny, winter afternoon.

The back of my Mum's house (the red one) and of the lovely neighbour's house (the blue one). I like the colours of the two houses together and the way they stick together, just like their inhabitants do. I may be a little partial but I do believe these two are the nicest houses in the street.

The warm low sunlight was painting everything in beautiful colours that afternoon....the whole world was beautiful..... it was a winter wonderland for me......

A row of brown winter hydrangea against the wall of a long and short building made me smile (I am a sucker for hydrangea), together with the little forlorn Christmas tree left out there after recent holidays.

This is the view of the park as we see it from my Mum's house. It is a perfect sight to look at at any time of day and especially to wake up to in the morning.

The unusual three step stairway always draws my attention ....

This is the gate and front of my Mum's house. There is a garage on the left built in front of the house, thus forming a secluded courtyard between its rear wall and the house. I must admit it all looks much more inviting and charming in summer when there are leaves and fruit on the huge fig tree in the yard, vine and grapes overhead inside the gate, colourful roses against the white garage wall and purple passion flower blooming against the wall opposite.

My dear, frail Mum resting with her two gorgeous cats who keep her constant company. I'm missing them all very much and cannot wait to return this summer; by then my Mum will have hopefully returned to full health, and we will be able to go together to all those places we couldn't go to this winter.