Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Loose end photography

click photo to enlarge
I'm an impatient patient. During my recent bout of illness I found myself unable to settle to any task, frustrated by this, and willing my body to recover. But, of course, these things have to take their course, and no amount of imagining or fortitude or stubbornness will return a person to health until the body is ready. However, I do find that when I'm well enough to get out and about my mind is engaged by matters other than my unwellness and this is all to the good - hence yesterday's photograph - and today's.

The image above came about, as some of mine do, when I was standing about at a loose end. My wife was visiting a couple of shops on Stamford's main shopping street and I'd elected to wander about in the vicinity looking for a few shots. But, I saw not a one. As I waited - for longer than I thought would be the case - I saw an advertisement in an optician's window for "free retinal photography"; a check on the health of the eye as part of the usual optical measurement. I positioned myself so that I was reflected in the window and took several shots making use of my own reflection, the eye in the advert, and passersby. I produced a couple of shots I like. This is one of them. I may post the other if my supply of new images doesn't increase fairly soon.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 130mm (195mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped to 4:3 ratio
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:140
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Man-made reed beds

click photo to enlarge
A couple of days ago I got up from my sickbed* and accompanied my wife on a shopping expedition to Spalding. Because I hadn't been out for a while we also had a walk round Springfield Gardens, a 20 acre site adjacent to a shopping centre. As we came upon an area of reed bed and water I reflected on how well this feature had developed. In particular, how natural-looking it was, what a welcome contrast it made to the areas of formal planting, and how it must increase the biodiversity of the site.

There was a time in the latter decades of the twentieth century when, on the back of the rise in environmental consciousness, every garden seemed to acquire a "wild" area. It could be as little as a pile of rotting logs, a bed of nettles or a structure made of bamboo tubes for bees to colonise. Or it was a meadow area, a natural-looking pond or perhaps a stand of native trees and shrubs designed to attract birds and insects. What characterised many of these developments was their unnatural appearance; the way they were clearly bolted on to a traditional garden. Rather fewer fulfilled their aim of being a haven of wildness in an area of manicured order, a place attractive to native species that was a counter-balance to the regularity and species-poverty of many gardens and much agricultural land.

As I gazed across the greater reedmace, reeds and trees, I could, for a moment block out the sound of traffic on the nearby A17, forget the hum of air-conditioning in the buildings behind me, and imagine I was out in the marshes where bearded tits flitted about, bitterns boomed and the only sound was the reeds rustling in the wind.

* My absence from blogging in recent days is due, I think, to the generosity of one of my grandchildren. Not for the first time after a visit I was stricken by a minor illness; in this instance a sore throat, loss of voice, streaming nose and general lethargy. I seem to be on the mend.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, February 20, 2015

Obelisks

click photo to enlarge
The obelisk is a monumental form of long standing. This tall, tapering, four-sided monument, capped by a four-sided pyramid takes its name from the Greek "obeliskos" yet it pre-dates the Greeks and is common in Egyptian architecture. My introduction to the obelisk was in primary school when we learned about Cleopatra's Needle. This is an Egyptian obelisk of c.1450BC (far older than Cleopatra) that was brought from Egypt to London in 1877 and in 1878 was erected on the Thames embankment where it remains today. Paris and New York have similar (and similarly named) obelisks. In England obelisks were popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when they were used as memorials and eyecatchers alongside other Greek, Roman, and occasionally Egyptian architectural forms.

The example in today's photograph is an eyecatcher in the parkland that surrounds Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. My photograph shows a view of it from the Iron Age "British Camp" on the Malvern Hills near Herefordshire Beacon. Its purpose is to enhance the landscape and endow it with classical qualities. Follies, ruins, monumental arches, pillars, temples, rotundas and obelisks were all pressed into service by landscape architects such as Repton and Brown, as they tried to re-create the Romantic views seen in paintings by the likes of Claude Lorraine. This particular obelisk is about a mile and half from the castle on a low summit, a place where it would be regularly seen by the occupants as they walked around their extensive estate.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 112mm (168mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:400
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Church clock mechanisms

click photo to enlarge
I'm not someone who is particularly interested in mechanical objects. I maintain my bicycle quite well and don't mind doing so. But, I bought a car on the understanding that I wouldn't have to poke about in the engine. That indifference to things mechanical spreads to most other areas including old clocks. There are those who relish looking at and tinkering with the innards of clocks. Whilst I understand, I think, their motivation and fascination, I don't share it.

During my wanderings around churches I frequently come across the mechanical workings of tower clocks. Sometimes these are old, no longer used clocks, often dating from the late medieval or Georgian period, put on display in an aisle or a transept, gathering dust and tick-tocking no more. Other times I climb towers and pass by the current mechanism driving hands that can be five feet long on a face twelve feet or more across. That happened a while ago when we went up the tower of Holy Trinity in Kingston upon Hull. The workings, as can be seen in today's photograph, date from 1903 and came from the Leeds clockmakers, W. Potts & Son Ltd. Everything looked beautifully kept, well oiled, with nicely painted wood and metal, and shiny, polished brass; perfect for a photograph.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm (36mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped to 4:3 ratio
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/40 sec
ISO:900
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, February 15, 2015

St Mary Somerset among the towers

click photo to enlarge
I never cease to be surprised by the relative modernity of some of the buildings that are demolished in the City of London. The centre of our metropolis is a magnet to large, successful modern businesses and such undertakings require modern buildings. Consequently structures erected in the 1960s and 1970s - 1980s even - are often lacking the necessary technological infrastructure and adaptable spaces required by modern business, and frequently cannot be retro-fitted with the desired features. So, down they come to be replaced by a new tower that externally proclaims its up-to-dateness and individuality, and internally has all the fixtures and fittings that the twenty-first century requires. Such buildings are sometimes fine examples of the architect's art and craft. Others less so.

Mercifully our planning legislation of the twentieth century and after limits what can be demolished and what can be built so moderating influences are at work, even if they are not always evident. A group of structures that remain unchanged despite the frenetic activity around them are the collection of City churches built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. One such building is shown in today's photograph - St Mary Somerset. It was built to replace a medieval church lost to the flames and, unusually, it isn't a complete church. Only the tower remains. In 1871 the nave and chancel were pulled down because the congregation had become too small to support the building. Its parish was amalgamated with that of St Nicholas Cole Abbey. At the instigation of the architect, Ewan Christian, the tower was allowed to remain. It stands today with a small garden adjacent to its old stones.

There are those who look at such a sight and rage against the juxtaposition of the old and the new, regretting the mismatch of materials, scale and purpose of the buildings. I don't mind seeing the ancient and the modern side by side. It wouldn't do if that was all we saw and no old, intact streetscapes were preserved. However, where this isn't possible the contrast of old and new is thought provoking, sometimes invigorating, and frequently injects a sense of the passage of time where all new or all old buildings would not. I relished seeing this tower looking like it was squeezed between the sharply angular steel, glass and granite facing of the recent buildings. I choose not to see it as oppressed, rather as something proudly, resolutely and assertively claiming its place in the modern city.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm (90mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped to 4:3 ratio
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, February 13, 2015

Paragon Arcade, Hull

click photo to enlarge
Whenever I express my enthusiasm for the Victorian shopping arcade I find someone voicing their agreement. There's something about the shelter, light, architecture, ornament, cosiness, and atmosphere of them that appeals to people. Not all people, however. Quite a few traders find the shop spaces too small for their needs and it's a fact that only certain kinds of businesses can flourish in these old arcades. Often it is smaller, independent, niche retailers. Clothes, musical instruments, confectionery, jewellery, books, hair-dressing and cafes are typical of the goods and services to be found in them. Of course, Victorian arcades tend to be found in the centres of cities so rents are relatively high and consequently retailers have to generate good sales to afford the small premises. Perhaps it's this that results in what appears, to my eyes at least, the higher than normal turnover of businesses in them. That's not to say that some don't flourish for decades: I can think of one arcade that has had the same joke shop and hi-fi retailer for at least the past forty years.

The Paragon Arcade in Hull city centre has a short and straight configuration - many are curved or have a right angle turn or a transeptal arrangement. It was built in 1892 by W.A. (later Sir Alfred) Gelder, a prominent Hull architect and politician who became Lord Mayor, and after whom one of the city's main streets is named. It is in the Venetian Gothic style and retains much of its original character. But, like most shops, the upper storeys are least altered and in this case the glazed roof is intact too. The glass is supported by highly ornate arches of cast iron.

The Paragon Arcade is a good, but not outstanding example of the type. It is modest, unlike the massive splendour of London's Leadenhall Market. Its ornament, though fine, cannot compete with that of The Royal Arcade, Norwich. And its glazing doesn't have the railway station scale of Southport's Leyland Arcade. But, its relatively modest scale notwithstanding, it is an ornament in the centre of the city where it stands.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm (90mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO:280
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Repairing Grantham church's spire

click photo to enlarge
On a recent visit to Grantham we went to see the parish church of St Wulfram where renovation work is being undertaken on its marvellous spire that sits on top of its beautiful tower. It is 282 feet from the ground to the tip of the octagonal stone needle, not the tallest such structure in the land, but by common consent, one of the best.When the finest parish church spires are being considered the Lincolnshire trio of Louth, Grantham and Brant Broughton are rarely absent, along with Nottinghamshire's Newark.

This spire dates from the medieval period. However, like most spires, it has undergone repairs on a number of occasions since it was first built. The inescapable fact is that every church spire is open to the full force of the weather. Wind, cold, heat and rain all take their toll of the stonework. In the case of St Wulfram's major rebuilding and restoration occurred in 1664, 1797, 1883 and 1945-7. It is now happening again. I read that the use of cast iron in the repairs of 1797 is one of the reasons that work needs doing now. Iron rusts and where it isn't separated from the stone by molten lead it can easily damage the stonework. £600,000 is being spent to take off the top 40 feet of the tower and repair it. That isn't going to be a quick job.

On our visit I looked up at the steel scaffolding on the west face of the tower and encasing the spire, at the nylon ropes, clamps, wooden planks and steel cables, aluminium ladders and reflected for a few moments. I'd recently read Ken Follett's "World Without End", a story about the fictitious town of Kingsbridge during the period of the Black Death. One of the main characters is engaged in building a tower and spire on a priory church, and the description of his labours on this task came back to me. As I looked at the scaffolding above I imagined all the metal replaced by wood, the nylon by hemp and further reflected that the means of working on such a structure today isn't too far removed from the methods of six or seven hundred years ago.

Incidentally, if you enlarge and look at the smaller photograph you'll see, on the left, the Beehive pub. In the tree nearby you'll also see the working beehive that makes this pub much visited by pub enthusiasts and quite unique British public houses.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:125
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, February 09, 2015

Photographing trees

click photo to enlarge
I like trees and I've taken a lot of photographs of them over the years. However, only a relatively small number of my many tree photographs have made it to the blog because making an interesting shot of a tree, where it is the main subject, is a difficult task.I've done multiple single trees, groups, parts of trees (leaves, roots, bark and more bark), seasonal trees, silhouetted trees, semi-abstract trees and reflected trees to name just some of the angles I've come at this subject.

One approach I do favour, however, is a shot of trees where order is imposed on the randomness of these natural forms. Today's main photograph has order that was decided by whoever planted this row by the River Slea in Lincolnshire. However, I've emphasised this externally imposed order by shooting at this particular angle and by choosing to include the reflections in the water.

My second, smaller, photograph was taken where this row disappears into the distance in the top photograph, and where saplings by the water's edge accompany the main row further back. In this composition I imposed order by using the junction of the river bank and water as a diagonal line dividing the composition into two roughly equal-sized parts. The top half  shows the trees, an old fence and the bank; the bottom half the reflection in the river. Here the colours, reflections and that slightly curving line assume an importance that is greater than if I'd included more of the trees and some sky in the scene.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped to 4:3 ratio
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, February 07, 2015

I really don't photograph birds...

click photo to enlarge
...except when I do! Today's photograph refers back to a post I made in 2008 which itself referred to a couple of posts entitled "I don't photograph birds" and "I DO photograph birds"(my best bird photograph). The latter pair are on a short-lived blog, PhotoQuoto, that I published during a break from PhotoReflect.

The fact is I'm not a bird photographer even though I have an interest in birds. But, as I explain in the posts referred to above, if a bird presents itself to me, in a way I can't ignore, or in a manner I find interesting, then I'll photograph it. This happened on a walk near Sleaford a few days ago. The semi-albino blackbird has more albinism than I've ever personally seen in this species, and that made it sufficiently noteworthy for me to take the shot. The heron is probably the bird I've photographed more than any other. Its large size, I suppose, compensates for my lack of long lenses. It also has the happy knack of presenting itself in photographically appealing ways. Here the bird was on the opposite bank of the river in a patch of sunlight, looking like it was the star in the spotlight. They're not great photographs. In fact, every other photograph of a heron I've taken is better than this one. But, they are interesting to me, and are further evidence that my photographic ouvre extends to more than inanimate objects!

photographs and text © Tony Boughen



Photo 1

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Holy Trinity, Hull

click photo to enlarge
Holy Trinity, Hull, is one of those medieval churches that should be much better known. Its absence from lists of renowned churches is probably due to its location in a city that, for people south of Watford, is imagined to to be a depressed northern backwater. In fact, it sits near the ancient heart of an old settlement, one that had and continues to have national importance, and which still retains many fine historic buildings in a very distinctive and different kind of urban setting. The church of Holy Trinity would grace any city, and were it in the home counties, would be feted and a major visitor attraction.

So, what does the building, erected between 1285 and the mid-1500s, offer. Firstly it is big (length 285ft/87m, width 72ft/22m, height 150ft/46m), often described as the biggest English parish church by area, bigger in fact than some small cathedrals. The size gives grandeur and awe to the interior, and the painted ceilings are spectacular. Then there is the transept walls and the lower stage of the crossing tower. These were built of brick in the 1300s, a very early use of this material in the medieval period, and said to be the first use of brick for a large building in Britain since the time of the Romans. The tower itself is a particularly fine example of the Perpendicular style and still able to hold its own against more recent tall buildings in the city. Finally there is the west front that overlooks the Market Place. It too is an exceptional piece of work, well-proportioned, symmetrical with good window tracery and a lovely entrance doorway. It has to be said that the setting of the church adds to its appeal. Around it are narrow streets, the old Market Place, the newer (1902-4) Market Hall, the old Grammar School (also brick, 1583-5), Trinity House, and a host of Victorian and earlier buildings.

The January day on which I took my photograph was cold and bright. I liked the way Holy Trinity's tower and the upper parts of the nave, transepts and chancel appeared to rise towards the light out of the deep shadows of the surrounding streets.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Out of focus highlights

click photo to enlarge
One of the things I like about photography is the "accidental" effects that lenses and sensors produce. Of course they are not really accidental - all can be explained scientifically - so perhaps unforeseen is a better way to describe them. What am I referring to? Well, it can be the way that shooting contre jour sometimes produces a sepia effect. Or it can be the flare that the sun introduces as it bounces around inside the lens elements. But for me the best unforeseen effects are present in out of focus highlights.

In 2011 I was using a macro lens to photograph some glass marbles; shiny, spherical glass balls with colours inside them. I was captivated by the beautiful out of focus highlight effects that I saw before I brought the lens into focus. At the end of the session I decided that these out of focus shots were far superior to the sharp photographs of the subject that I had originally intended to take. The other day, as I was photographing some sunlit steel mesh that filled in the rails at the side of a footbridge, I noticed some unusual out of focus highlights, examples that looked positively three dimensional. The small photograph above shows the mesh as I initially photographed it, with it gradually appearing and intensifying as sharpness decreases. The main image is a crop of a shot I took solely of the effect. Not great photography I think, but noteworthy and an addition to my collection of such phenomena.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 2
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, February 01, 2015

West End

click photo to enlarge
I remember learning in my school geography lessons that in Britain poorer housing and industry is often located on the east side of a city and better housing on the west. This is apparently due to the prevailing wind being a westerly or south westerly. The well-heeled preferred not to have noxious odours brought to them on the breeze and so, in the main, they chose the western side of the city in which to live. The poor had less choice or no choice at all.

I recall thinking that this seemed to apply to London in so far as I knew it; that the West End was upmarket compared with the downmarket East End. When I moved, several years later, to the city of Kingston upon Hull, the rule applied there too, though it was somewhat spoiled by the fact that the fish dock was in the west of the city.

On my first visit to Boston I noticed this sign on top of a cinema. Roof mounted signs are much less common in Britain than they are in other countries so they do catch my eye. Could the same rule apply in this town I wondered? Was this a West End in the London sense though on a smaller scale? The answer in both cases proved to be no. The sign seems to take its inspiration from London and the fact that the West End has many cinemas, but also leans on the fact it is located in a road called West Street. The clear January light was emphasising the sharp shapes when I looked up at it the other day so I photographed it against the cloud flecked sky in a very off-centre composition.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17.8mm (48mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/1250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On