Saturday, November 22, 2014

Curvilinear

click photo to enlarge
I was introduced to the word "rectilinear", as many are, in school mathematics. I came across it later when I was studying the history of art. The third definition of the word in my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) best describes what I usually mean by the word: "Of a figure or angle: bounded or formed by straight lines". Often these meet at right-angles. It was also the history of art (actually, architecture) that introduced me to the word, "curvilinear". Looking up this word in the OED I find the first definition, for my purposes,could not be bettered. It says: "Consisting of, or contained by, a curved line or lines; having the form of a curved line. (Opposed to rectilinear, and in Gothic Archit. to perpendicular, as applied to window tracery."

Today's photograph is a detail of the fourteenth century curvilinear (often called "flowing") Gothic tracery of the main south transept window of the church of St Andrew at Heckington, Lincolnshire. You can see all of the window, in its setting, here. This style of tracery, and variations on it, was the fashion in churches and other buildings of substance, for most of the 1300s in England. I've often imagined what it must have been like to be  the designer of such windows. They seem to have been motivated by a desire to achieve forms that embrace utility (admitting light whilst offering structural support to the arch), beauty and novelty. However, looking at the tracery of many churches within a given locality you do wonder to what extent inter-parish rivalry figured in the production of these elaborate designs.

Architectural historians call it the Decorated style and it replaced Early English, a style of narrow, pointed (lancet) windows that later had tracery of geometrically correct circles and cusps. The real characteristic of the Decorated, Curvilinear or Flowing style is the "ogee", the elongated, serpentine, "s" shaped line that is everywhere in this window. Here you can see it in the main ribs that curve upwards from the capitals of the mullions, in the top cusp at the head of each light, and in the top and bottom cusps of the mouchettes. This style was followed, in the fifteenth century, by one known as Perpendicular. This, the OED rightly notes, is essentially rectilinear in overall form, and has sometimes been identified by that name.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 80mm (120mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Photographic drought

click photo to enlarge
Most of the photographs I post on this blog are reasonably current; they appear rarely more than ten days to a fortnight since I took the shot. Sometimes, however, I break this self-imposed rule and post a photograph that may have been taken a month or two earlier, or sometimes six months to a year earlier. The circumstances that lead to this departure from usual practice are two-fold. Firstly, I sometimes decide that a photograph I overlooked is one I should have used. And secondly there are times when my life is so busy that I run out of new photographs - or rather, new photographs that I think suitable fro posting. Today's shot is one of the latter group.

It's a photograph I like, and had I not posted one quite similar last year, I'd have posted it around 27th October when I secured it. So, today it's here because I have little else to offer. My previous effort was posted later in the year so the silver birches have fewer leaves than those above and there is no green bracken to be seen (there are few such fronds in the shot above). So, to appease anyone who craves novelty above an attempt to produce a better shot of the same subject, today's image is bigger (1000 pixels across) rather than my usual 700 pixels. The size we view images is really important in our appreciation of them. Landscapes, in particular, benefit from bigger sizes. I'd love to post all my images on a larger scale but they just get used and mis-used without acknowledgement or permission when I do, so today's will be one of the few that get this treatment.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (67mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/180 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photographic moments

click photo to enlarge
Sometimes the right moment is when the subject's face has that animated look, often it's when the morning or evening light is just right, or it could be when all the elements in the frame work together to give the perfect composition. Photographers know these times, episodes which are sometimes fleeting and require the press of the shutter to be perfectly timed - the "decisive moment".

But not all decisive moments work in this way. A while ago I walked past some exterior plywood that has, for a couple of years, filled the doorway of a large garage under slow construction. Work on it seems to have paused, and the plywood has gradually developed the patina of age. It had just stopped raining when I looked at the plywood and the wetness emphasised the grain. I liked the almost flower-like patterns and thought they'd make an interesting photograph. But, unusually for me, I didn't have a camera in my pocket.

I made a point of passing the plywood on a few subsequent occasions but it was either dry due to the absence of rain or the overhang of the doorway had prevented what rain there had been soaking into it. What was required was rain together with a northerly wind that would wet it and reveal those patterns. Finally, the other day I passed by after a night of such weather and took my photograph. I think it was worth waiting for the right moment. The knots and grain of the wood make it look like someone has painted semi-abstract flowers on the wood with a wet paintbrush and the green growth and odd blue spots look like a colour wash has been thinly laid over the surface.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 140mm (210mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:800
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Glass curtain wall reflections

click photo to enlarge
It's almost become a reflex action, a tic that I can't stop. I pass a tall office block or other large building with a glass curtain wall and I begin to search its reflections. I'm looking for either an interesting mirroring of the street, people, trees and other buildings; or I'm searching for the airy, almost diaphanous lightness that often arises between the plane of the wall and the sky beyond. There's something that fascinates me about the way the regular grid of slender glazing bars seems to lay across the sky like the rectilinear web of a robotic spider, and how it abruptly ends as it wraps around the corner of the building.

I've photographed glass curtain walls many times over the years and quite a few of  the shots have made it onto the blog. Probably my favourite is one that was, like the shot above, taken in London; though this time in the early evening so featuring incandescent clouds. And though it may look like the example in todays's post features the same building, it doesn't.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 112mm (168mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, November 14, 2014

Six sails at Sibsey

click photo to enlarge
The other day, when speaking about the eight sailed Heckington windmill, I mentioned the 6-sailer that is Sibsey Trader Mill. I suggested that six sails is less visually satisfying than four or five but better than eight. On our recent visit to Skegness we came home via Sibsey and stopped in at the mill for a cup of tea. And in so doing, I took the opportunity to check whether another viewing would confirm my judgement. It did.


Now that's not to say that there isn't plenty of interest in a windmill, regardless of the number of its sails: there clearly is, both outside and inside. On this particular occasion my photographs of the windmill in its setting were less than satisfactory due to the blank blue sky and the scatter of colourful cars parked at the base of the mill. However, I took a few detail photographs and here are a couple. The shot of the sails, cap and fantail is one that I often take when I visit a windmill. It shows off the intricate woodwork and metal work and fills the frame nicely. The other shot was one that I noticed when we climbed up and down the ladders that connect the several floors. It brought together, so I thought, two themes that I often return to in my photography - window views and shadows. Incidentally I extend my apologies for the tongue-twister title of this post.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 66mm (99mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Not a quiet day at Skegness

click photo to enlarge
The weather was very benign for early November so we decided we'd have a quiet day by the sea at Skegness enjoying the sun and the absence of wind. A walk along the beach, a few photographs of wind turbines and out-of-season amusement arcades etc. seemed a suitable change from our recent routine.

The morning didn't start well. Our usual parking area was packed with cars and there were far more people in the beach car parks and on the beach than we expected at this time of year. Then we saw a large car park full of motorhomes, large vans, pickups and trailers, many of them with motorcycles. As we approached them we saw lines of temporary safety barriers and the penny dropped. There was some kind of beach motorbike racing about to take place. We walked past the throng, disappointed that the day wasn't to be as we'd planned, and as we did so we heard over the loudspeaker that the racing would soon start. We saw- and heard - it in full flow as we returned and, to make the best of the day, I took a few photographs of the riders as they roared up and down the sand.I'm not one who is drawn to such events but as we watched the racing it occurred to us that a great virtue of having it on the beach was that, once the tide had been in and receded again, there would be no trace of the day's proceedings having taken place: which isn't the case when the countryside is used.

I was ill-prepared for this type of photography as well as being a complete novice with fast moving vehicles. But, despite not having a tripod and the single lens mounted on my camera being too short and not fast enough, I had a go at getting a few shots. These are the best of the bunch.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 95mm (142mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, November 10, 2014

Windless turbines

click photo to enlarge
As the rise and transformation of personal computing in recent decades demonstrates, specific technologies come and go. What I find interesting in this regard is how a continent such as Africa largely missed the desktop computer and laptop and went straight to the computer that is the smartphone. Clearly, the step-by-step evolution in computer technology that the industrialised nations have experienced is not the only way forward: it's possible to miss out a stage or two.

Here's an example of technology arising and then vanishing. A couple of centuries ago the area that is now Greater London was home to about three hundred windmills. There were several thousand elsewhere across the country. These were not the generators of electricity seen in today's photograph, but machine/buildings for milling grain and other products. Today there is but a handful of working mills, none of them commercial. With that in mind I wonder how long wind turbines will be generating a portion of our electricity requirement. I've read that the life-span of a turbine is about twenty five years on land and I imagine it must be less than that at sea. But, the quite a bit of energy infrastructure is used beyond its sell-by date so it's likely they'll be around for a little longer than that. However, the fact is that it might be a new technology - one currently in development, or one yet to be imagined - that makes wind turbines redundant. When that day comes the wind "farms" that have sprung up on land and sea will be no more.

I have mixed views about wind turbines. I wish our politicians and energy companies would favour green power generation that is less visually intrusive, or even - heretical thought! - work seriously at reducing consumption. Yet, if they did, I'd lose a photographic subject that is undoubtedly interesting. I've taken quite a few shots of these tall structures at various Lincolnshire locations, including those offshore at Skegness. I took several more on a recent visit to that seaside resort. We arrived at the coast when the wind was barely perceptible, the sea was still, a light mist was clearing, and the sun was illuminating the stationary turbines. This particular image presents the white monsters looking benign and beautiful.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 112mm (168mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Beauty and Heckington church

click photo to enlarge
The church of St Andrew at Heckington is essentially a creation of the fourteenth century. It exemplifies a style that English architectural historians call Decorated. Anyone choosing Lincolnshire's best dozen churches would be likely to include Heckington. It is a large, town-size church - 164 feet long and 185 feet tall to the top of its spire - constructed of Ancaster stone located in a big village.

What makes Heckington church a beautiful and outstanding example of medieval church architecture? The exterior of the building is well-proportioned, though it could be argued that the spire is too short for its tower (or the tower too tall for its spire). However, it is the quantity and quality of the external decoration that sets it apart. Fine pinnacles and niched buttresses abound as do statues (38). Finials, crockets and gargoyles are abundant and elaborate. So too is the tracery of the windows with its trefoils, quatrefoils, mouchettes, daggers, ogees: those of the south transept (above) and east chancel window are classic, much quoted examples of the period. After an exterior of such quality the interior comes as something of a disappointment. However, it compensates by having a small collection of features - the font, a tomb recess, Easter sepulchre, piscina and sedilia, that transcend the ordinary and in some cases are of national significance.

Being a big church in a small churchyard, surrounded by quite close housing, Heckington is not easy to photograph in its entirety. The churchyard planting, though very good, adds to the difficulty. Consequently I was reduced to photographing a part rather than the whole, the tower, south porch and south transept, glimpsed between a couple of conifers.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Beauty and Heckington windmill

click photo to enlarge
It's good that Heckington windmill, the last remaining 8-sail windmill, is undergoing a restoration, and that the buildings around it are being refurbished and remodelled to make the site into a place that can better welcome visitors. It's good too that the rear of the premises will no longer be the eyesore that it has been for many years. And, it's good that the sails that were succumbing to rot have been replaced and are as they should be. All this is a testament to the hard work and selfless effort of the volunteers who have made, and continue to make, it happen.

However, as I view the mill from the A17 when I'm driving past, or when I stop off in Heckington and have a closer view of the building an unfortunate yet inescapable thought always occurs to me - Heckington mill is undoubtedly the least visually pleasing English windmill that I know.

I recently saw, on successive days, Heckington windmill then Boston's Maud Foster windmill. The temporal proximity of my viewings brought home the agreeable elegance of the latter (probably my favourite windmill) and the ungainliness of Heckington. Where Maud Foster has warm, subtly coloured brickwork contrasting with the white of sails, cap, gallery, windows etc and visually interesting subsidiary buildings, Heckington has cold, stark black and white and seems to tower in an awkward way over a disconnected jumble of sheds. I'm sure the redevelopment will improve the latter aspect. However, it is Heckington's main distinguishing feature that I find most displeasing - eight sails. It is simply too many, makes the mill look top heavy and gives the building something of the character of a whirring desk fan - even when it's stationary! By contrast, the five sails of Maud Foster seem to be the ideal number offering visual interest, pleasing angles and less visual weight.  Four sails are very common on English windmills and usually look fine, six sails are less common and that number is beginning to lose the coherence that characterises fewer sails. Five sails are also less frequently seen than four but that number is definitely - to my mind - the optimum: eight is simply far too many!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (30mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, November 03, 2014

Autumn leaves

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph shows the multicoloured hues of a selection of plane tree leaves that I saw blown into a drift in a park. I took the shot for the shapes of the leaves, the contrast between the bright hues of the freshly fallen and the earth tones of the older examples, and for the way that the signs of decay gave them a hint of melancholy. Looking at them I reflected that soon the bright reds, yellows, greens and oranges would be gone and all would be brown, then ragged, and finally a wet, decomposing sludge that would return to the earth.

However, looking anew at my photograph, I decided that I would reprieve this particular group of leaves and let their fading beauty shine on through the winter and into next year. How? By making the shot into my computer's desktop image. When I think about the photographs that I've chosen for that particular purpose I find that I've chosen leaves more than any other subject. Leaves against buildings, leaves against sky, new leaves, dying leaves in water, crisp, dry leaves, fiery leaves and many more have been the image that I see when I turn on my computer. Until the fresh green leaves of next spring make an appearance it will once more be autumn leaves that greet me each morning as I sit down to my work.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Grass fields and droves

click photo to enlarge
When you move to a new part of the country you immediately notice accents and dialect words because, despite the long, dominating presence of TV and radio, and the fact that people move from place to place much more than formerly, regional differences are still evident. And we should be glad that they do because they enrich our experience and provide a link with a past that will, in all probability, eventually disappear.

I've got used to Lincolnshire women I've never met before calling me "ducks" and the way in which words containing the letter "u" are pronounced: computer isn't "compyouter" but "compooter" and the DIY chain isn't B&Q (Bee and Queue) but Bee and Coo! I've also reconciled myself to the fact that in south Lincolnshire the pastures are "grass fields" and that many roads are "droves". However, that field description still puzzles me. I know that over the past century sheep and cattle farming has declined in the county and arable has become dominant, but was the term pasture, a word widely used across Britain, never used in Lincolnshire? Drove rather than road is easier to understand. The roads so named usually lead from settlements into the lower surrounding fens, areas that in the past were poorly drained, used less in winter and wetter weather, and which must have seen much organised "droving" of sheep and cattle to and from the drier land as season and precipitation dictated.

Today's photograph was taken on a recent late afternoon. It shows a grass field that was sown a few years ago to provide fodder for cutting and feeding rather than for the pasturing of animals. The second growth of grass had a beautiful texture and a delicate yellow tinge in the afternoon light, a quality that contrasted with the blue tinged clouds and sky as well as the detail of the distant drove road marked by its collection of trees, farm buildings and a few houses.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11.5mm (31mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pine trees and weather forecasting

click photo to enlarge
I think that if retirement ever becomes boring - an unlikely eventuality - then I will become a weather forecaster. On the basis of the accuracy (or should I say inaccuracy) of recent forecasts for my part of the world I think my efforts have every chance of reaching the current high (or should I say low) standard on offer.

A couple of days ago, on the promise of sunshine and cloud with long spells of unbroken sun, we went walking at Woodhall Spa hoping to get some well-lit, autumn-themed, landscape and tree photographs. However, the forecast sun made a couple of fleeting appearances and then remained hidden by a blanket of cloud for the rest of our time there. On the day I write this we went shopping, me without a coat because no rain was forecast all day, and I was precipitated upon! These are only two of the many mis-forecasts of recent weeks. However, today's papers tell me all will soon be well because the Meteorological Office has ordered a new £97 million super computer. This will have a prodigious number-crunching capacity enabling previously unimagined quantities of data to be processed. The technological behemoth will spit out forecasts of undreamed of accuracy. Or so they say. We'll see.

On my Woodhall Spa walk I managed to get a couple of shots of passing interest. The stack of tree trunks appealed for the unexpected colours on display. They'd clearly been there a while so hints of green are not to be unexpected. But what about the blue?  Is it natural or was it applied in the cutting? I think it's the former. It seemed a good photograph to pair with the shot of some trees before they succumb to the woodsman's saw.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 75mm (112mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:11250
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On