Thursday, December 18, 2014

Maud Foster windmill - again

click photo to enlarge
Today's post is my fourth featuring what I have described as my favourite windmill - the Maud Foster Mill at Boston, Lincolnshire. It's the third taken from approximately the same spot - a bridge over the Maud foster Drain. And, given the way it looks in this photograph you may wonder what all the fuss is about. If so, admire its full beauty and interest in this shot.

I took today's photograph during a morning shopping expedition into Boston. The weather was slightly overcast but the forecasters had promised sun and cloud, a combination I like for compositions in flat regions where a big area of sky is often unavoidable in a landscape shot. When I framed this photograph the cloud was starting to break up and some blue sky was peeping through. Its reflection on the surface of the large, canal-like drain was quite striking. So I made that the real subject of my shot with the windmill an eye-catcher point of focus at the top of the frame. Its a photograph that makes use of the windmill without showing it off in any way.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14.2mm (38mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Harry Harvey stained glass

click photo to enlarge
When I lived in East Yorkshire it was my delight, when visiting churches, to come upon stained glass by one or other of the two Harrys - Harry Stammers and Harry Harvey. The former was twenty years the senior, and had worked for Powell & Sons, then Wippells in Exeter, before establishing his own studio in York where he did many windows for the churches of the diocese. The styles of the two artists had certain similarities but they were quite unlike most of their contemporaries, producing work that was modern in appearance (and often subject) but still deeply grounded in the traditions of English glass making.

Harry Harvey was born in 1922 and began his career in stained glass with the Birmingham firm of Pearce & Cutler. After serving in the navy during the Second World War he worked for Wippells. Then, in 1947, at the invitation of Harry Stammers, he moved to York to become his assistant, a position he held for nine years. In 1957 he opened his own studio in York and worked in the county until his retirement in 1987. Harry Harvey he designed stained glass for about seventy Yorkshire churches, medieval and modern, including those of the architect G. G. Pace. He also did work for about sixty other churches throughout England. The church of St Mary and St Nicolas at Spalding has two of his stained glass windows, both dating from 1966.

I like the example above, one of the Spalding windows, for its characteristic clear, angular drawing, mixture of modern and traditional subjects and fine use of colour. The locality's secular side is represented by workers picking tulips and gathering potatoes. The communion scene at the bottom is all the better for showing the fashions of the day, and the religious subjects are handled in a typically direct and bold manner.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: 5
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Churches and bowling greens

click photo to enlarge
Speaking of English scenes and John Constable (see yesterday's post), I've often felt that the view in today's photograph represents a certain kind of England. The manicured lawn (itself an English obsession), is actually a bowling green. Now bowls is another English obsession; just about every village has a green, and certainly every town and city has multiple greens. Beyond the example in the photograph are large deciduous trees and hedges that mrk the border between the recreational space of the green and the sacred space of both the churchyard and the medieval church of St Mary and St Nicolas. What makes it even more representative is the fact that the bowling green is part of Ayscoughfee Gardens that surround Ayscoughfee Hall. These are now a museum and park having formerly been the residence of one of the richest and most influential men of the town.

The conversion of the houses of the rich gentry into either public or semi-public spaces is a theme that is commonly found in England, and frequently such buildings and grounds are next to the Anglican church. The twin powers of the local clergy and the state's local representative in the form of the lord of the manor often sat shoulder to shoulder in this way, each buttressing the position and influence of the other and hence the dominance of both. None of this, of course, influenced my decision to take this photograph. Here I was motivated by the lovely late afternoon light, the contrast of the church's stonework against the dark sky, and the long shadows falling across the perfection of the grass.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15.1mm (41mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, December 12, 2014

Constable, Lik, Lutyens and ducks

click photo to enlarge
Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder so too does repetition make the eye grow weary. The sort of repetition I'm thinking of is the far too frequent pictorial representation of something. In my childhood it was the painting by John Constable called "The Haywain". It's an image that, for many, encapsulates a lost England, a past of horses, thatched cottages, roads that have never seen or heard the motor car, villages unadulterated by mass housing, superstores and the showy paraphernalia of modern life. In short, somewhere that really only exists in fond imaginings. When I was young "The Haywain" featured on calendars, chocolate boxes, reproduction paintings, advertisements, jigsaws, birthday cards, coasters - just about anything that would take its image. This mass bombardment by Constable's fine painting not only devalued it in the eyes of many, but also made people fed up with the sight of it.

Today, in photography, Antelope Canyon, a beautiful geographical feature in the United States has, in recent years, received "The Haywain" treatment. It too features in everything from advertisements to calendars to motivational posters. Worse than that, far too many enthusiastic photographers seem to have journeyed to this phenomenon simply to take their over-saturated version of the "Antelope Canyon" shot. And one is bound to ask - Why?!  What is the point in reproducing a photograph that has been seen so many times before? Why add to the hundreds of thousands of existing photographs? Isn't it better to find a subject that hasn't been photographed to death and try and make something of it? Something or somewhere in your locality, something that you are familiar with? There's a challenge, and there's an opportunity to add something new and original to photography.

Of course, the answer to my question about why would you photograph this much snapped canyon has been answered in recent days: "Because you may be able to sell the image for millions of dollars just as Peter Lik has done." Well, perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps now that Lik has "monetized" (as they say today) the subject, maybe people will give it a rest and take to more mundane but no less interesting subjects, such as silhouetted ducks on water in front of a Lincolnshire cenotaph designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20.2mm (54mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO:125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Worcester Cathedral, tripods and good enough

click photo to enlarge
I've photographed in churches for forty years or so. I began with an SLR, a rangefinder camera, a variety of films and a tripod. Today I'm shooting with a couple of DSLRs, a compact camera and I rarely use a tripod. What liberation the higher ISOs and image stabilisation of today's cameras have conferred on the photographer! Not only are you less burdened by the weight of a tripod, you get in people's way much less. Moreover, in locations such as the cathedral shown in today's photograph, you don't get someone asking if your photographs are for commercial purposes.

In the minds of many the equation "tripod = professional photography" still exists. And, while it's true that many people who actively and purposely seek to produce saleable pictures do use a tripod to get the sharpest image and the required depth of field, there are many instances where that goal can be achieved with a hand-held shot. However, the interior of a cathedral during the late afternoon of a dark day at the end of November isn't one of them. To get a sharp shot with a decent depth of field a tripod is a great help. But, if, as here, you are looking for a "good enough" image, then a wide aperture, a higher ISO and image stabilisation can produce the goods. What appealed to me about this shot was the contrast between the areas of dark and light, and the different colours that the incandescent, fluorescent, LED and natural lighting added to the scene.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f1.8
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 640
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, December 08, 2014

Winter sunshades

click photo to enlarge
Sunshades are something that we usually associate with summer. When the sun is beating down from on high, hot and bright, we shade ourselves to keep from being burnt and to see better. But, the onset of winter doesn't completely do away with the need to shade ourselves from the sun. Driving east in the morning and west in the afternoon is made difficult and sometimes dangerous by the nearness of the sun to the horizon. The car's in-built windscreen shades are indispensable at these times. I'm not one of those who wear sunglasses on sunny winter days, and I know that for many who do they are year-round fashion accessories worn regardless of the weather, but even I can see a need for them on occasions during the colder months. Or a peaked hat or cap. Or a strategically placed hand.

Today's photograph shows a resident of Walker Street, Newark, shading his eyes. He's not, as appears to be the case, looking at me, but is watching the departure of a visitor. As I scanned the facade of this interesting if basic terrace of houses, his appearance at his door offered me a point around which I could build a composition. My previous photograph of this street with its colourful doors used a tree for that purpose.

Looking at my photograph on the computer, and at the man in particular, I was reminded of a photograph of someone shading his eyes that always makes me smile. It has appeared on quite a few websites in the past couple of years. The first time I saw the shot it was captioned with the words, "if only you could attach it to a hat". If you haven't seen it before I hope you enjoy it.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70mm (105mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Rotundas

click photo to enlarge
I've often thought that the designers of the temples of classical antiquity would be horrified by the uses to which their designs were put during the Renaissance. I've seen Greek and Roman style porticos attached to decidedly secular buildings - banks, libraries, railway stations, theatres, even greenhouses. The eighteenth and nineteenth century architects and builders of England's grand country houses took enormous liberties with temple styling turning it to the main and subsidiary facades of their houses, featuring it in the stable blocks and orangeries, and using small "temples" as eyecatchers in the landscape, locations that enhanced the view and provided a destination for a short walk and, perhaps, a picnic.

Today's photograph shows the Rotunda at Croome Court, a Georgian country house in Worcestershire. This round type of building was commonly used during this period, being thought to derive from the two thousand year old Pantheon in Rome, a temple with a rotunda and an affixed portico. I've seen many rotundas in England serving, mainly, as mausoleums and eyecatchers. The latter use was the purpose of this example. It was built by either the landscape architect, Capability Brown, or the architect, Robert Adam. Both have their supporters; I lean towards the Adam. Croome Court's rotunda has, like the main house and the other buildings in the landscape, undergone sensitive restoration, and today it is the paying visitor, rather than owners of the house, who enjoy a stroll to its location on the summit of a low ridge, overlooking the nearby parkland.

photograph and text © T. Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm (52mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Meliorative murals

click photo to enlarge
Most towns have a grubby corner, a place where time and weather do their work without anyone fighting back. Grubby, dilapidated buildings, litter, weeds and saplings growing wherever they choose, broken glass, rust and rubble; somewhere that slowly declines and tries to drag the surrounding area down with it.

On a recent visit to Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire I came across just such a place. A site with rusty, corrugated metal buildings surrounded by rusty, corrugated fencing. I have no idea what it was or is - except an eye-sore. However, someone, perhaps the town council, perhaps the owner, perhaps guerrilla artists, had decided that something needed to be done to brighten up this corner of what is, largely, a pleasant town. The answer seems to have been to commission someone to paint murals on the perimeter fencing. And what a good job they have done. On the dark, end of November day that we walked by the fence was positively neon in its impact. I liked the unnatural colours, the contrast with the rust-brown beyond, the way I had to work a little to decipher the images, eventually picking out the people with their umbrellas (or are they parasols?). I've said elsewhere in this blog that I'm generally not particularly keen on murals as a means of brightening up an area. Here, however, I readily concede that they are doing a great job.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17.2mm (46mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The dead blue tit

click photo to enlarge
This dead blue tit (Parus caeruleus) was on the gravel near our back door when we went out the other day. Its lifeless body retained something of the beauty of the living bird, especially the blended, muted blues, greens and yellows. The night had sprinkled jewels of rain on its inanimate form, the smooth rounded shapes contrasting with the detail of the feathers, and giving them a quality rarely seen in life.

How had it died? It clearly wasn't a cat or a sparrow hawk that had caused its demise - the body was too perfect and uneaten. My guess is that it hit one of our windows, momentarily deceived by a reflection that it mistook for reality. As I took a quick photograph before we went shopping I reflected on the colour of its legs. Though I've seen plenty of blue tits in my time, with the naked eye and through binoculars, I've never noticed that they have blue legs. I'll make a point of looking at them on the seed and nut feeders over the next few days to see if they do, or if the colour appeared only after death.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/25 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, December 01, 2014

Welland, Nene and Rolls Royce

click photo to enlarge
Long before I moved to Lincolnshire I was familiar with the names Welland and Nene. A teenage interest in aircraft taught me that the Rolls Royce aero engine company usually named its turboprop and jet engines after Britain's rivers. Consequently I came to know the Spey, Dart, Avon, Tyne, and many others, including the Welland and the Nene. I read that rivers were chosen for these engines' names because they emphasised the steady flow of power that is a requirement when powering an aircraft. If that's true it makes more sense than the naming conventions of house-builders when they come to name the streets that they create. Poets, castles, trees, birds, flowers, warships, aircraft, bishops, generals, towns, villages, and yes, rivers, are just some of the inspirations I've come across. I'm waiting for sponsored brand names to make an appearance - it can only be a matter of time.

I think I've mentioned before in this blog that river names are some of the oldest words to be found in our language. Because of the importance of rivers as sources of water, food, soil enrichment (through flooding), defence and as territorial boundaries, the original name, given who knows when, has often continued in use, unchanged, to the present day. Which is more than can be said for the River Welland itself. Today, for much of its course, it is embanked and flows in a channel that is above the level of the surrounding land. Sections of it have been straightened to speed its flow. It has always been one of the rivers that drained the hinterland of The Wash, and today it is carefully managed to do that as efficiently as possible.

None of this is evident in my photograph of the Welland that was taken near Crowland at the end of November towards the close of an afternoon. I deliberately under-exposed the shot to increase the contrast and make more of the sky's details, the shiny ribbon of water and the delicate branches of the leafless willows.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO: 2000
Exposure Compensation: -2.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mist, photo cropping and relativity

click photo to enlarge
I've been using my relatively small DSLR body (Nikon D5300) and one relatively light and small lens (AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED) as my walking camera for several months now. I'm relatively happy with the combination's relatively low weight, relatively high quality and relatively wide zoom range. If that makes me sound relatively unenthusiastic, I'm not. Bear in mind that I was raised in Yorkshire, a county where the compliment, "Not bad", is high praise indeed. Seriously, I'm very happy with the results I'm getting: the technical qualities of the sensor, camera controls and lens are very good.

However, the 1.5 crop factor (relative to 35mm) means that the lens' range is 27-210mm and that's not quite wide enough or long enough for me. Better would be 24mm-300mm. However, such a lens would be bigger, heavier, probably not as bright, and probably not as sharp. All equipment involves compromises and my reluctance to carry the Canon 5D2, 24-105mm and 70-300mm (which clearly does cover my desired focal lengths) means that sometimes - maybe 5% of the time - I can't get the shot I want using the Nikon. But, one of the benefits of a good 24 megapixel sensor is the ability to crop the image and simulate a longer focal length, so one of the shortcomings can be addressed.

I took today's photograph with a heavy crop in mind so I ensured the camera was well stabilised. I estimate that I'd have needed a 400mm (equivalent) lens to secure this shot. Yet, cropping has left me with a file that is perfectly usable for most purposes. It shows a view from near Herefordshire Beacon in the Malverns, looking across the low hills around the Severn valley. On our recent walk in that area the mist was clearing when we arrived but started to thicken again as we departed. I liked the colours and gradations in this composition, as well as the detail of the trees and the plumes of smoke. It reminded me of traditional Chinese ink and wash paintings.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, November 27, 2014

People and landscapes

click photo to enlarge
It's my impression that most contemporary landscape photographers prefer to exclude people from their views. I struggle to find any that routinely - and deliberately - include the human form. So, in that respect, if I'm right in my judgement, I am in a minority because I often strive to include people.

Most English landscape painters of the eighteenth and nineteenth century considered their landscapes to be incomplete if there wasn't a figure or two somewhere to be found. Where people are absent an animal, domestic or wild, is used instead. Such inclusions are there as an area of focus in the composition; often a starting point for the eye's journey through the painted world the artist has laid out for the viewer. They also provide a sense of scale. And, for many artists, they say something about Nature and man's relationship to it. This is particularly so in the case of the painters of the Romantic Movement where the awe and majesty of a scene often towers over the diminutive people.

What these painters knew, and what many photographers also realise, is that the human eye and brain are adept at finding people in a landscape, whether the view is a real one or one in painted form This is probably an evolutionary trait: for millennia individuals and groups needed to be aware of other people as a potential danger and seeing them early increased their safety. Eyes became attuned to spotting the human form, and this is a trait that we still have today.

The photograph above features the view from near Hereford beacon across the nearby lowlands that includes the valley of the River Severn. As I was composing my shot I noticed a dog walker on a hill below me. When he stopped to admire the mist clearing from the patchwork of fields I seized the moment and composed my shot around him.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm (157mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On