Thursday, March 26, 2015

Town Hall, Bourne, Lincolnshire

click photo to enlarge
All Renaissance architecture draws its inspiration from the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome. English Renaissance architecture also borrows from the work of the Italian Renaissance architects who revived this style well before the architects of our islands mastered it. However, English architects, once they had come to grips with the challenge, showed themselves to be not only adept at using the traditional vocabulary of the style, but also capable of using these forms in new and interesting ways.

An example of this can be found in the 1821 town hall (former Sessions House) at Bourne in Lincolnshire. The architect, Bryan Browning, is not someone of national note. He is a regional practitioner who built much that is typical of the time and a few buildings that cause one to stop, look and think. His Bourne building has the piano nobile, pediment, Doric columns, arches, balusters etc typical of many other buildings of the Georgian period. But the way he disposes these parts is quite unusual. On a narrow, 3-bay elevation, he squeezes into the centre the form of a triumphal arch. This, quite unusually, contains a recessed entrance, a double staircase, columns, balcony and windows. Flanking it are shallow arches with windows above, the rightmost arch forming a passage through to the building's rear as well as offering further entries. Is it a dog's dinner or an innovative use of the elements of the classical style. I think it's definitely more the latter than the former.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm (52mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nothing as a photographic subject

click photo to enlarge
During my self-imposed sabbatical from my usual photography I've had to pick up images where and when I can. The previous post of the partial eclipse is one such example and today's is another.

Over the years I've quite enjoyed seeing and photographing elements of the interiors of my own or other people's houses. These subjects are easily dismissed as shots of "nothing". However, "nothing" as a photographic subject is impossible to achieve. An electronic device that records the appearance of that to which it is exposed always records "something". And, the "somethings" that can be found in houses are often interesting, not least because the image draws our attention to an overlooked reality and invites us to see it anew or as if for the first time. In recent years this photograph of light falling on carpeted stairs is one I particularly enjoyed, as is this shot of a lamp illuminating the corner of a room.

Today's photograph shows the sunlight through the Venetian blinds of our utility room casting shadows on a central heating radiator, the wall and a laminated wood stool. I liked the colours, lines, contrast and composition of this one.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15.1mm (41mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, March 20, 2015

Solar eclipse seen from Lincolnshire

click photo to enlarge
I can remember precisely when I first heard the word "confluence". I must have been about 13 years of age, sitting in a geography lesson, when the teacher used the word to describe the meeting and joining together of two streams or rivers into one. Over the past several days I've thought about that word, not in the geographical sense, but as a metaphor. Why? Well, several activities that I'm involved with have come together into a stream of work, all with approximately the same end date, forcing me to drastically curtail my photography in order to complete everything satisfactorily. Apart from the essentials of day-to-day existence, such as shopping for food, I've been focused on these activities to the exclusion of all else.

With one exception. Today, the sky being relatively clear, I set up my bird-watching telescope in anticipation of the coming solar eclipse. I read that at about 9.30am the eclipse in my part of Lincolnshire would achieve about 85% coverage of the sun's surface. So, at about 9.00am I set up a piece of white card, pointed the telescope at the sun, and began projecting the image of the partial eclipse.

I've done this before with eclipses, particularly when my children were young. I find it's by far the best way to safely view this phenomenon without risking damage to your eye. There are two disadvantages: firstly the image is inverted, and secondly and it's quite tricky to find the sun and keep it aligned and focused because you have to move the telescope in the opposite direction to the one you think is required. The revolving earth causing the image to drift out of view is a relatively minor problem. Interestingly, for about half the time I was projecting the sun's image a prominent sunspot was visible. I stopped at the point of maximum coverage (main photograph) because we had other things to do, but a neighbour came round to enjoy the experience and I was glad I'd taken the time to record the event.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen


Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28.8mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thornton Abbey and Wolf Hall

click photo to enlarge
During our return journey after a trip north, over the Humber Bridge into Yorkshire, we made a detour to look at the gatehouse of Thornton Abbey. This large, fourteenth century structure, made of bricks and stone, is the most substantial and significant feature that remains from the medieval Thornton Abbey that was founded by Augustinian canons in 1139. It is in the care of English heritage. Foolishly, prior to our visit we neglected to check that it was open and we were disappointed to find we had chosen a day when it was closed.

Consequently we were unable to enter the grounds and had to content ourselves with looking from beyond the locked gates and then across fields where there was a footpath. I wasn't too concerned because the light and weather weren't particular good for architectural photography. However, it did look like the kind of day when a black and white landscape could be made to work. As I looked at the building it wasn't the religious order who built the gatehouse that came to mind. Rather, it was Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister and fixer, the man who set in train the Dissolution of the Monasteries as a means of separating the English church  from Rome and, at the same time, filled his king's coffers with the wealth that was appropriated.

Like many people in Britain we've recently enjoyed the BBC TV adaptation of Hilary Mantell's story of Cromwell based on her books "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up The Bodies". The darkness of the tale as well as the dimness of the natural light in the indoor scenes, the latter something that annoyed quite few viewers, really appealed to me. Processing this shot, in which I increased the contrast and darkness of the scene, perhaps explains why I liked the director's approach to the indoor lighting in the TV series.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (34mm - 27mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, March 09, 2015

Newly painted

click photo to enlarge
I've heard it argued that the white marble, limestone (and whitewash) of Mediterranean buildings, as well as reducing the impact of the sun, enhance the architecture of the buildings of ancient Greece and Roman; that the styles that arose, the ornament that developed and the massing that was adopted, came about, in part, because of the way the bright Mediterranean sun is able to throw such forms into sharp relief against their attendant shadows. Those who hold such views often advance in support of their argument the suggestion that the Gothic style developed in less brightly lit Northern Europe because it was more suited to the lower levels of sunlight. I've never found these arguments very convincing. Venetian Gothic, for example, looks just as sharp as Classical architecture under bright sunlight. Were Gothic cathedrals painted white they would look sharper still.

Moreover, Classical styles in Northern Europe, when seen under clear blue skies, show similar qualities to Mediterranean examples. I thought this a couple of days ago when I passed the Classically-styled Methodist church in Bourne, Lincolnshire. It was newly painted white and positively shone in the sunlight, the shadows of its pilasters, pediment and architrave looking like they were drawn with a ruler. Quite a contrast, in fact, to the surrounding, unadorned, bricks and mortar.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 23mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Free retinal photography and me

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph is a variation on one posted a couple of days ago. This time I wanted more emphasis on the eye and my reflection. Hence, no passers-by and a different point of focus. I also quite like to include text in a photograph where the opportunity presents itself, and this example seems more than a little appropriate.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 90mm (135mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped to 4:3 ratio
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO:125
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Defacing buildings the modern way

click photo to enlarge
The terrace of houses known as Wood View, in Bourne, Lincolnshire, can never have been wonderful architecture. Though it is not without interest, and its scale certainly catches the eye, it was probably built down to a cost by a speculative builder. The main elevation is flat and uses stock bricks, with the only decorative embellishment being bands of orange brick that contrast with the buff of the walls, lintels and sills. What does stand out, however, is the chimneys. They are stepped, use similar bricks to the walls, and are very big.The dormers also catch the eye. Were they always there or are they added? I imagine the former. The whole terrace has been refurbished with new roof tiles, windows, doors, gutters and drainpipes. Any presence the buildings had and has comes from the long, straight row of almost identical dwellings surmounted by the rank of dominant chimneys.

But today the terrace has been defaced in the usual modern way, firstly by chimney-sited aerials and then by wall-mounted satellite dishes. The only blessing is that the roofs don't lend themselves to solar PV panels. Stick a few of those on and the row's disfigurement would be complete. As I travel about the country these three excrescences frequently scream out at me. The appearance of buildings good bad and indifferent is dragged down by aerials, dishes and panels (especially the latter), and the building in turn drags down its area. It's not impossible to have loft mounted aerials (ours is), and better locations (or solutions) for dishes are available. Moreover, we can't be far off the time when PV cells are built into roof tiles and panels can be phased out. Of course, the great danger with such devices festooning buildings is that eventually we stop seeing them. At that point we forget what we've lost.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 85mm (127mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

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