Friday, February 12, 2016

Earworms and couplings

click photo to enlarge
Earworms are terrible things. I mean, of course, the snippet of a tune that keeps playing itself over and over in your head to the point where it drives you to distraction. I recently had the Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen song, "Love and Marriage", on replay in my head. It's a song I positively dislike, one I remember from my early childhood when it was popular through Frank Sinatra's recording.  "Love and marriage", Frank repeatedly tells us, "goes together like a horse and carriage", and what's more, "you can't have one without the other." That was never true when the song was current and it's even less so today.

But, it is true that there are many instances where "you can't have one without the other." One example is the coupling of trees and shrubs with twentieth century rectilinear architecture. Architects' drawings and builders constructions alike are incomplete without the waywardness of branches and leaves as a counterpoint to the rigid verticals and horizontals of windows, doors, roof lines, storey separators etc. I took today's photograph in the city of Peterborough. The exterior of these offices consists of the same concrete panel with its centrally placed window repeated across every facade. Nearby, to offer contrast and soften the hard lines, are large trees. So, I decided to co-operate with the architects and incorporate the two in my photographic composition.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Concrete Offices and Branches, Peterborough
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 80mm (160mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fan vaulting, Peterborough Cathedral

click photo to enlarge
On a recent visit to Peterborough we made a brief visit to the cathedral. I've said elsewhere in this blog that it is one of the most overlooked and least well-known of our major medieval cathedrals, a building of exceptional architecture that deserves to be much more widely recognised.

One of Peterborough's glories is the fan-vaulting of the retrochoir that is every bit as good as the more celebrated example at Gloucester. I've photographed and written about Peterborough's on more than one occasion on this blog, so I won't repeat myself here. On our recent visit the fall of the light and the visitors reminded me of the etchings and woodcuts of cathedral views popular in publications of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These frequently show small, relatively insignificant people dwarfed by the enormous columns and arches. This effect is heightened by naves empty of seating, something that is seen only occasionally today. However, the retrochoir is usually seat-free, and though it is a smaller space with a lower roof, the visitors here reminded me of those early illustrations. It took a few shots, a few changes of position and a wait for people to populate the scene before I got the image I wanted.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Fan Vaulting, Peterborough Cathedral
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 9mm (18mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO:500
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, February 05, 2016

Flying the Union flag

click photo to enlarge
I get the impression that the Union flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is being flown more in recent years than was formerly the case. In January of 2007 I posted a piece about just this subject, noting that it appeared less often than some of the flags of the constituent countries of the UK. Perhaps the referendum on Scotland's independence, that narrowly voted for that country's continuance as part of the UK, has concentrated political minds and a more concerted effort to promote the benefits of unity is under way. One can only hope so.

During my lifetime some nation states, for example West and East Germany, have merged. However, fragmentation has been much more common, and in, for example, eastern Europe, it has at times been very difficult to keep up with the number and names of newly appearing countries. This year the UK's lamentable government, that exercises total power on the back of a mere 36.9% of those who voted, is to invite us to vote on whether to accept a package of changes relating to our membership of the European Community, or to exit from that political grouping. This is being done largely in a (futile) attempt to resolve the ambivalent view of the Conservative Party about being part of Europe. I shall vote for continuing membership for economic and social reasons. I will also be mindful of the fact that wars in Europe are not uncommon, that they usually begin with disputes between near neighbours, and that the people of countries that work together and share common values and aspirations don't, as a rule, try and kill one another.

Today's photograph shows the Union flag flying on the City Hall in Peterborough. My first shot was from the side that was fully lit by the sun. It was fine but relatively uninteresting. I liked this contre jour shot better. It was taken when the sun was behind a cloud. The shadows of the building were much more dramatic and the composition gave greater prominence to the colours of the translucent flag.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Union Flag, Peterborough City Hall
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (90mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Bicycles and pedestrians contre jour

click photo to enlarge
One of the advantages of winter sun (in the northern hemisphere) is that it is relatively low in the sky. Consequently contre jour silhouettes and deep, elongated shadows are available during the day and not just early and late as at other times of year.

I saw these bicycles in a pedestrianised street in Peterborough when shopping the other day and liked the bold shapes they made. After I'd taken my shots I seemed to remember photographing bicycles against the light in similar circumstances before. A quick search of the blog turned up the image and proved my memory still works reasonably well despite my advancing years. The main differences between the shots is that I used a much wider angle on the earlier photograph and above I used a longer focal length to minimise the elements I wanted in the composition.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Bicycles and Pedestrians, Peterborough
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 56mm (112mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, February 01, 2016

Humber Bridge and a soft sky

click photo to enlarge
I have a liking for what I call "soft skies". These are cloud-covered skies with only a small amount of contrast and strong detail. Not the featureless stratus that is just unbroken grey. I mean those skies where the individual clouds are not strongly delineated but are either "smeared" across the sky or are merge into one another like a bed of feathers. I featured one of the latter skies several years ago above a collection of small boats drawn up on the beach at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Today's photograph, taken on one of our frequent, family-related trips over the Humber Bridge, has the former kind of "smeared" softness.

I've always maintained that a sky can make or break a landscape photograph and I take a great interest in what the day offers by way of cloud cover and the type of cloud. There are several photographs on this blog of the Humber Bridge, including a number from this location - Barton Haven. Each one has a different sky, and each sky lends the photograph a large part of its "mood".

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Humber Bridge Seen From Barton Haven, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, January 29, 2016

Belton Boathouse Pond

click photo to enlarge
Sometimes what you see isn't what you get. What could be called "inverse WYSIWYG" is a feature of most English country houses and comes about through the art and artifice involved in their planning and construction. Belton House in Lincolnshire is no exception. Here the main house illustrates it most obviously in the eighteenth century veneer of stone (and extensions) that overlay a seventeenth century structure. The landscaping of the park that surrounds the house is also subject to changes made in the interests of "improving on nature", that can be misleading to the casual observer.

Take Boathouse Pond, the subject of today's photographs. It looks like a perfectly natural feature among the trees, one that has been retrospectively adapted to leisure purposes. However, a walk up the slope to it, past the large earth dam that holds the water in place, shows it to have been constructed to beautify the area and provide somewhere for the wealthy owners and their guests to sail, row and perhaps fish or shoot. The boathouse itself also has its share of deceptive features, most notable the faux wood grain applied to the door and window frames using wood-coloured paint and a graining comb.

I took my photographs on a walk through the grounds of the house, a property now in the care of the National Trust and open to the public. The yellow light of a January morning gave a visual warmth that wasn't matched by the temperature, and the angle of the sun created dark shadows that, I think, made for a more interesting landscape view.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Boathouse Pond, Belton House, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wet weather photography

click photo to enlarge
I'm not really an all-weather photographer. Some of my equipment is weather-sealed but by no means everything. Moreover, many of the subjects I choose don't particularly lend themselves to rainy days. However, I do like to take photographs in wet weather as this blog shows. I appreciate the reflections that these days bring, especially when the light levels fall in heavy showers and during the evening. My umbrella comes in handy at these times and so does my photographic assistant a.k.a. my wife.

But, I also like to take photographs from the car in wet weather. My fondness for blur and semi-abstract images is frequently rewarded by shots through the car windscreen. Today's photograph was taken after we'd dashed back to the car as a heavy shower enveloped us. The raindrops on the windscreen, the condensation from our wet hair and clothes, and the almost monochromatic world on view all appealed. Even more visually enticing was the fact that some drivers turned their lights on in the temporary gloom and added points and bands of strong colour that acted as highlights to the scene.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: In The Rain Through The Windscreen
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.9
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:320
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter churchyard, Long Sutton

click photo to enlarge
Lincolnshire has many notable medieval churches, and those of the Fens are particularly remarkable. They were built with the money from wool, and as you travel from one to the other you have the feeling that the parishes of the time each sought to outdo the other in terms of size, ornament, or inventiveness. Many of the churches have a feature that distinguishes it from its neighbours, be it the tower, the window tracery, the woodwork of nave and chancel, the carving of capitals, etc

In the case of St Mary in the large village of Long Sutton the size of the church impresses, as does the thirteenth century tower that was originally completely detached from the nave, and the Norman columns and arcades are unexpected after seeing the later exterior. However, the stand out feature of this church today is the tall lead-covered timber spire (in herringbone pattern) with its four lead-covered pinnacles, all of which are said to be the oldest in the country, dating from the early 1200s.

I took my photograph on a damp January afternoon with the remains of autumn's leaves decaying by the gravesides and the skeletal trees allowing a better view from the west than is possible when they are in leaf.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: St Mary, Long Sutton, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Another Fenland sunrise

click photo to enlarge
I grew up among the hills, mountains and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales. In recent years, since we moved to the flat Lincolnshire Fens, when I reveal the place of my childhood I frequently get asked whether I miss the uplands. And the answer I give is "Yes and no". Yes, because unlike many of my contemporaries, I enjoyed the landscape, settlements, communities, wildlife etc. No, because I got fed up with the rain that falls steadily across many, many days rather than in large amounts with long spells of drier weather between. No too, because I like to experience living in different localities for reasonable lengths of time, something I've done during my life, and the Fens is different from anywhere else I've lived.

When people ask me about the Fenland landscape, at some point I start eulogising the skies. Lincolnshire is famed for its "big skies", and I take great pleasure in the changing displays that are always taking place above my head. In the depths of winter I particularly relish the sunrises that I see when I open our bedroom curtains. I posted a shot of one a while ago, and here is another from a couple of days ago. The intense colours filled the sky for only four or five minutes and then they slowly quietened down as the sun climbed fully above the horizon. And, though I've seen such sunrises many times, each time is as thrilling as the first time, and I can't resist photographing it.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photograph Title: A Fenland Village Sunrise
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (40mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.3
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rimless spectacles

click photo to enlarge
I'm sure that there are many photographers who have wonderful digital archives that can be searched by every conceivable parameter including subject, geographical location and photographic data, allowing them to easily locate an image. I am not one of those people. Like, I suspect, the majority of photographers, I have an archival system that is better than nothing, but not good enough to allow images to be retrieved without the expenditure of time and effort. However, the occasions on which I need to retrieve an image quickly are relatively few, so I'm never motivated to expend the energy to improve matters.

Today I searched for a photograph of a wooden screen in a Norfolk church on which were painted, in the 1400s, various saints, one of whom wore spectacles (glasses). These aids to vision were invented much earlier than many people realise. The earliest pictorial representation of spectacles with converging lenses for the long-sighted dates from c.1286, as I was reminded in a book about the medieval industrial revolution that I'm currently reading. Consequently it should come as no surprise to see them represented in a painting of the fifteenth century. However, it did jolt me. In the light of what I wrote above you won't be surprised to hear that I was unable to find my photograph after ten minutes search.

Perhaps it was reading my book that caused me to notice my rimless spectacles that I'd put down on a cupboard in my darkened study. I liked the glowing colour, the way the light of the lamp illuminated them, emphasising the delicate metalwork, and I liked the contrast of the light and dark areas. The simple subject called for a shallow depth of field and so I used a long lens in my relatively small room.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Rimless Spectacles
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:6400
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On