Monday, May 04, 2015

Spalding tulips under trees

click photo to enlarge
I have a particular liking for tulips. I haven't counted, but I think they will be the most frequently depicted flower on this blog. The Lincolnshire town of Spalding, and the area around it, has a long association with this flower. For many decades it has been grown in the locality both for the blooms and the bulbs, both of which are grown to be sold.

The now defunct Spalding Flower Parade featured hundreds of thousand of tulip blooms on imaginatively designed floats, and the event drew many people to the town to witness the spectacle. The other day we were in Spalding and had a look at Springfields Gardens, the area that sits alongside the purpose-built shopping centre and which makes shopping there bearable (for me anyway)!

We came across sunlit flower beds that featured a great variety of tulips and smaller numbers of other spring bulbs. This didn't surprise us. What did amaze us, however, was the sight that greeted us when we walked through the adjacent area of woodland. Large drifts of tulips had been planted there and were showing off beautifully in the dappled sunlight. It was most unusual to find this variety of flower growing in this kind of location, but it worked wonderfully well and I wondered why it wasn't done more often. The plants had managed to grow and bloom because they reached maturity before the leaf canopy was fully open and had begun restricting the amount of light that reached the ground beneath the branches - in much the same way that wild bluebells and ransoms manage to flower in this kind of setting.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon 5D2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Old cinema architecture

click photo to enlarge
The design of the first railway carriages were closely modelled on that of the horse-drawn carriage. This seemed entirely right at the time. After all, wasn't there a similarity of function between a carriage pulled by an engine and one pulled by a horse?

When architects and builders began to erect the first purpose-built cinemas a similar mind-set seems to have taken hold. Cinemas were places of mass entertainment that held a large audience of people who all looked at the same spectacle in front of them. This was very much like the music-halls, theatres and concert halls of the time. Consequently it seemed entirely reasonable to draw upon their designs and decoration when building the new venues of mass-entertainment. To look at the music-hall architecture of someone like Frank Matcham and then at the cinemas of the first two decades of the twentieth century is to see many similarities. It is true that the sum spent on the average cinema's architecture was often less than on a music hall. However, the same debased classical features and the borrowings from exotic architectural styles (Moorish and Oriental were popular) pervade most such buildings.

The other day I stood in front of the former Tower Cinema in Hull. This was built by a Hull architect, H. Percival Binks, in 1914. The overall style is classical with domes, obelisk pinnacles, pediments, pilasters, rustication, swags, even a pseudo Diocletian window and an allegorical figure. However, it is faced in the then fashionable green and cream faience and has debased Art Nouveau touches - see particularly the stained glass lettering and its surrounding low arch. When built it must have seemed very up-to-date and quite different from the staid stone and brick of the Victorian buildings of the city; in fact, perfectly in keeping with the technological marvel of the moving pictures on display inside. Today it is no longer a cinema but some sort of night club. Mercifully, with the exception of a band of grey paint over the lower level tiles, little has been changed on the facade and so it remains an interesting building that speaks of its time of construction.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, April 27, 2015

Old show float, Spalding

click photo to enlarge
I recently spent a couple of days photographing an event at Springfields, Gardens, Spalding, for some friends. Most of my time was spent indoors, but a procession through the Gardens got me outdoors among the trees and the tulips. It was while engaged on that activity that I spotted, in a corner of the large site by a car park, the old float. At least I think that's what it must be, probably a relic of the no longer held, Spalding Flower Parade.

At first, from a distance, I thought it was Santa's sleigh with reindeer. But, on slightly closer inspection I saw it was horses drawing a carriage. The construction involves a lot of wire, metal, and some kind of light coloured material. The latter is unravelling, each hard blow bringing more of it loose, making the horses look like equestrian mummies from a pharaoh's tomb. I quite liked the ragged look this imparted to the ensemble and I made a mental note to photograph it during a free moment. When that came about I couldn't find a satisfactory composition until I combined the "sculpture" with a background of five nearby trees. These, very uncharacteristically for the beautiful Gardens, are succumbing to a covering of ivy that is creeping ever higher up their trunks, which though harmful to the trees added some darkness and contrast to my shot.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon 5D2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, April 24, 2015

Norfolk reeds at Cley next the Sea

click photo to enlarge
Recently, as I've been travelling about, I've chanced upon several thatched buildings undergoing renewal of their roofs. English thatched buildings are generally roofed with either long straw, Norfolk reed or imported reed, combed wheat reed or sedge grass. The material of choice usually depends on local vernacular tradition, the availability of the desired thatching, and the depth of the pockets of the building's owner. In East Anglia, due to the presence of suitable watery areas, the water reed was widely used; elsewhere tall-stemmed varieties of wheat were more favoured. However, the amount of reed available in East Anglia is such that foreign reed, often from the banks of the Danube, has been imported for some years.

On my recent visit to North Norfolk, when passing through Cley next the Sea, I noticed that the reeds of the coastal marsh around the village had been cut for thatching. It was stacked on the flood bank in several piles, under tarpaulins, awaiting selection and use. This activity had denuded the thick reed beds and large, irregular areas were very flat where the reed-cutters tools had been at work. You can see something of this in today's photograph.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (30mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beautiful and odd aircraft and Buccaneers

click photo to enlarge
On a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) site at Duxford, a location that specialises in military and civil aircraft (though there is a tank museum too), I began reflecting on British aircraft design. Looking at the exhibits on display it occurred to me that a number of British  designs count among the most beautiful aircraft to fly.

In this group is, obviously, the Supermarine Spitfire, but also the Hawker Hunter, the Avro Vulcan, Concorde (honours shared with France), the Vickers VC10, the BAe Hawk and quite a few others, including, I think, the subject of yesterday's post, the De Havilland Dragon Rapide. But our country's designers were equally capable of producing inelegant designs, aircraft that look like they are made for an environment other than the sky. I'd put the Handley Page Heyford, the Fairey Gannet, the Blackburn Beverley and the Britten-Norman Trislander in that group. Then there are what I call the interesting oddities - aircraft that are not out and out beautiful but equally, are not without a certain charm. The English Electric Lightning and the Blackburn Buccaneer (above) definitely fall into that category for me.

I came upon this Buccaneer, an example of the aircraft that has been dubbed "Britain's last bomber" (purpose-built bomber that is) in a hangar at Duxford. Its wings were folded, showing its origins as a carrier aircraft with the Royal Navy. However, all the Buccaneers were eventually transferred to the RAF and this example is in the colours of 208 Squadron. The Buccaneer's oddness is seen in the air-brake that protrudes at the back of the body, the "hump" below where the fin starts, and the nose which is hinged to make the body shorter to fit on an aircraft carrier elevator. The saving grace - the beautiful bit if you will - is the elegant curve of the fin with its "T" tailplane. The arrangement of the aircraft and adjacent exhibits stopped me getting a good photograph of this feature but I liked the head-on view and so took that one instead.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 52mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO:900
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dragon Rapides and selfies

click photo to enlarge
A visit to the Imperial War Museum site at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, gave me the opportunity to photograph, once again, the De Havilland Dragon Rapide. The aircraft shown is one of two that gives pleasure flights from the airfield. I've always had a soft spot for the design of this aircraft. It manages to combine elegance with seeming fragility, yet still remains airworthy more than seventy years after its manufacture. In fact, this particular aircraft was built as a trainer for the RAF in whose service it was designated the DH89A Dominie. The military markings allude to its origins.

I took the photograph with a lens with a maximum zoom of 210mm (35mm equivalent) - too short for this kind of shot. However, the camera's 24 megapixel sensor can be cropped and still produce a very detailed image, hence the shot above. When I zoomed in on the computer I noticed that one of the passengers appeared to be taking a "selfie", with hand outstretched and cameraphone pointing at the owner. I've taken a few selfies in my time. However, they have been with dedicated cameras not phones and employed a tripod, self-timer or my portrait in a reflective surface. I have yet to photograph myself with outstretched arm clutching a phone because the resultant image is usually poor. Moreover, I have no sympathy with the motivation for such shots which appears to be egocentricity - "look where I was/what I was doing/who I was with". Almost all my photography involves looking away from myself saying "look at this".

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The delight of fossils

click photo to enlarge
If my memory serves me well I spent a fair chunk of my childhood looking for fossils. Growing up in the Craven District of Yorkshire with its plentiful outcrops and drystone walls of Carboniferous limestone was clearly the prompt for this fascination. I had only to walk along a road or lane that was bounded by walls to be surrounded by fossils. Each rock had tiny shells, corals etc. A desire to know more about how small creatures came to be rock led me into the world of crinoids, brachiopods and rugged outcrops that had once been coral reefs beneath tropical seas. From there it was a short step into identifying types of rock, the lines of faults, and the characteristic forms of the karst landscape.

Like many children I made collections. Fossils and rock specimens comprised two such hoards. Interests developed in childhood often stay with you throughout your life and so it has been in this case. There are things that I pursue more avidly, in greater depth, but the why and wherefore of landforms fascinated me then and still does. So, unsurprisingly, when I was in an English Heritage shop the other day and I saw these cut and polished ammonites for sale, at a very reasonable price, I bought a couple. Not for me as it happens, but for my grand-daughter. Perhaps the story of how these pieces of rock came to be formed from the body of an ancient creature will spark in her the interest to know more and she too will cultivate the same interests that have brought me such pleasure.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon 5D2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 0.6 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's that windmill again

click photo to enlarge
During the Second World War the British government gave a lot of thought, manpower and money towards keeping up the morale of the civilian population. One of the means of achieving this was through the "light entertainment" programmes of BBC radio. The comedy show, "It's That Man Again" was probably the most popular of these programmes. It ran from 1939 to 1949 and entertained listeners with its characters, jokes, story lines and the fun that it made of Hitler and the Axis powers. The show was built around a comedian, Tommy Handley, and when he unexpectedly died in 1949 the long-running series ended. I'm not old enough to have heard it broadcast during those years though I have heard clips. Moreover, I do recall quite a few of the performers who went on to star in radio and TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s comedy shows; people such as Derek Guyler and Hatti Jaques.

You might wonder what this has got to do with a(nother) photograph of the windmill at Cley next the Sea in Norfolk. Well, when I came to give a title to this blog post I came up with the one above. But it seemed a bit long and not very snappy so I thought of abbreviating the words it to ITWA in the way that "It's That Man Again" was always abbreviated to ITMA. It was at that point that I thought, "Tony, you're showing your age again, people (especially younger folk and  non-UK dwellers) won't know a thing about ITMA". So I stuck with the original title and blogged about that long-gone show instead!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 30mm (45mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lent rood screen

click photo to enlarge
In everyday usage the word "lent" is often confused with "borrowed". There should be no problem - "he lent me...", "I borrowed..." - where is the problem. But problem there is because the error persists. It's perhaps fortunate that the word Lent (with a capital "L") is no longer part of everyday usage; it might add another layer of confusion.

Of course, for Christians Lent is a word used annually because it describes a roughly six week period in the liturgical calendar that stretches from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. The Latin name for this period is Quadragesima which ties in with the approximately 40 days of this period in the church year.

In Roman Catholic churches and countries it is not uncommon for religious objects, particularly crucifixes and statues , to be covered during this period. In Protestant churches, including the UK's Anglican buildings this is much less common. However, some churches do veil objects, particularly on the altar, and frequently the three statues of the rood screen - Christ on the Cross (or just a Cross), St John and the Virgin Mary. In the UK the material that is used as a covering is often purple. We came across the example above in Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, a couple of weeks ago.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 56mm (84mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/50 sec
ISO:6400
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Love locks

click photo to enlarge
The first I heard of "love locks" was when I read a newspaper report in 2010 that told of the Parisian authorities' request that people stop fixing locks to certain bridges over the River Seine. Such was the number and weight of these locks that there was a concern about safety and the effect on the city's architectural heritage. However, I read that the phenomenon dates back to the era of the First World War when "love padlocks" were fastened to a bridge in Serbia.

I spotted padlocks on the new St Botolph's Footbridge in Boston, Lincolnshire, several weeks ago. On a recent visit to the town I saw them again, not greatly increased in number, but noticeable nonetheless. They are there in all shapes, sizes and colours, some with messages written on in marker pen. I have mixed feelings about them. One part of me sympathises with the view of the authorities in Paris; they do detract from the architecture and heritage (or will do if they approach the numbers experienced by that city's bridges). But I also like the fact that people still value symbolism and symbolic acts openly expressed.

The centre of this new footbridge has a trefoil  on each side, the only overt ornament of its bowstring design. Perhaps they are a nod to the Gothic architecture that towers over it. It provides a useful frame for the church tower, currently carries a few of the locks, and offers an interesting shape to the composition.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/1250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Former Empire Cinema, Wisbech

click photo to enlarge
The uses to which redundant cinemas have been put are various. I've seen them turned into supermarkets, carpet showrooms, nightclubs and bars. However, one use for these former picture palaces has been more prevalent than all the rest put together: I mean, of course the conversion into bingo halls.

That is the current use of the former Empire Cinema in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.This particular building was erected in 1932, the work of the architectural partnership, Ward and Woolnough. The style chosen, as for so many metropolitan and some regional cinemas was Art Deco of the Moderne variety. Reconstituted Ketton stone was chosen for the main facade where symmetry prevails left, right and above the main, entrance. The composition is stepped with a central "crest" and prominent oriel windows emphasising the middle. The glazing bars are quite unusual, eschewing the almost mandatory horizontal banding in favour of geometrical designs everywhere except for the sunburst of the main doors. Brick is used everywhere except at the front.

Most cinemas are, to my mind, interesting rather than beautiful, architecturally and socially noteworthy buildings that enliven the streetscape with their glitzy oddness. It's appropriate that they continue to be used as places of low-cost entertainment, not only because that continues by other means their raison d'etre, but also because it usually results in their exteriors and interiors remaining intact due to a lack of funds for refurbishment and "improvement".

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, April 06, 2015

Reflecting on photographic manipulation

click photo to enlarge
A recent prestigious photographic competition received much wider coverage than such events usually do because the winner was disqualified for claiming that one of his photographs was taken in a particular town when, in fact, it was taken somewhere else. What was less widely reported was that 20% of the photographs that made it through to the final round of judging were disqualified for excessive post-shot manipulation. Comparison with the RAW files was made at this stage and the judges were able to see where objects had been removed, added or moved, and where other adjustments had been made that resulted in photographs that were considerably different from the reality that the cameras initially captured.

I've said elsewhere in this blog that cameras do not faithfully reproduce what the eye sees and if that is the aim for a particular image then post-shot manipulation is frequently necessary. It's also true that the history of photography abounds with images that have been manipulated. The consensus today, is that heavy manipulation is fine as long as it is stated by the photographer, and that "traditional" manipulation - dodging, burning, global increase and decrease of contrast, vignetting etc - are acceptable. The competitors mentioned above did not follow these conventions and also ignored the competition rules forbidding the removal, moving and addition of objects.

I began my photography in the days of film and chemical processing and I find myself in agreement with the consensus. So, in this blog you won't find much "heavy" manipulation, and where it is done it will be stated. But, quite a few of my shots have the contrast selectively and globally adjusted, or vignetting applied, or saturation adjusted (more often down that up, contrary to modern tastes!) Moreover I frequently apply the digital equivalent of black and white filters and sometimes use actual polarising and neutral density filters of one kind or another. I sometimes, but not always, mention when I've made a "traditional" adjustment. Today is an occasion when I will. The photograph above has a global adjustment of contrast and a little blur applied because I liked the painterly look that it confers on the image. But then you could probably have worked that one out for yourself!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 38mm (57mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.2
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:1100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On