Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Heart of Darkness

click photo to enlarge
Joseph Conrad's novel, "Heart of Darkness", as a piece of art reminds me, in a couple of respects at least, of the eponymous album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico" - massively influential, long lasting, but read (or listened to) by fewer people than know of it.

The book centres around a river journey into darkest Africa to find an ivory trader, Kurtz, who is worshipped by the natives of the area. Conrad weaves a number of themes into the novel such as horror, racism, imperialism and colonialism. The most famous adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel is Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film, "Apocalypse Now" set in the Vietnam War.

On a recent visit to the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford we saw another art work that uses Conrad's novel as its inspiration. Clair Morgan's piece features thousands of flies fixed to hanging threads in columns and rows that collectively form a cuboid shape. It adopts Conrad's title and is not one of those works that the viewer finds agreeable or pleasurable. Rather, it fascinates in a disquieting sort of way, a characteristic it shares with Conrad's opus.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Heart of Dearkness by Claire Morgan
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.5
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO:640
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, August 28, 2016

St Mary, Whaplode, Lincolnshire

click photo to enlarge
It is customary for English churches to have a bell tower that rises above the top of the nave and chancel roofs. In England it is most commonly found at the west end of the building and connects with the nave, as in this example at Aswarby in Lincolnshire. If it isn't at the west then it is likely to be a crossing tower situated between the chancel and the nave, and often featuring transepts, giving the plan of the church the shape of a Christian cross. A few, often Victorian churches have a bell tower at the east of the building. Where there is no bell tower a low bellcote is usually found on the west end of the nave roof (as at Gosberton Clough, Lincolnshire). This is a short, open tower, only a little bigger than the one or two bells that it shelters under its pitched roof.

However, there is another position for English church towers - detached, or almost detached. Where a tower is completely detached, as at Fleet in Lincolnshire (see small photo) English usage is to refer to it as a campanile. This takes the Italian name for all bell towers and applies it in this particular circumstance. Sometimes the tower is attached by a short corridor, a porch, or some other extension that links it with the main body of the church. That is the case above, in the medieval church at Whaplode in Lincolnshire. Was it once completely detached but subsequently joined to the main building? We don't know, though that is likely to have happened with some "semi-detached" towers.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: St Mary, Whaplode, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 9mm (18mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/2500 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, August 26, 2016

Number 63

click photo to enlarge
Peter Cook, one of the founders the 1960s British architectural group, Archigram, has in his 80s, laid into some of the current generation of architects. He is particularly scathing of the King's Cross development in London, and is reported to have described some of the work as resembling biscuits, and the architects who build in this fashion as "the biscuit boys". The past twenty years, he maintains has been characterised by a dearth of interesting, adventurous architecture, and he is said to dislike the greater use of brick that is now evident (something I have found interesting). Cook's praise is given to practitioners, such as Zaha Hadid, who embody the characteristics that he has advocated for much of his life.

I reflected on what he had to say recently as I looked at a new London building that I thought was very biscuit-like. The building is on Clerkenwell Road, on a corner site that it wraps around. It has deep blue tinted windows that contrast with the facade's light coloured, brick-like strips that are laid with mortar. Something more akin to artisanal biscuits would be hard to find. But I like the building for the choice of these materials, for the fine detail of its surface and for some of the subtleties that are visible as you pass by. One such is the way the number of the building has been has been built into the brickwork - to my mind it manages to look both crude and sophisticated at the same time.

As I took my shot I also reflected on the fact that numbers are starting to become a theme in my photographs and perhaps one that I should develop further. See, for example my blog posts Number 9 and Number 5.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Number in Bricks, Clerkenwell Road, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 31mm (62mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Old roofs, walls and towers

click photo to enlarge
One of the charming features of many old Norfolk buildings is a plaintile roof featuring tiles of different colours. Bright orange, brownish orange, grey, black and cream are often placed randomly to give a delightful mottled appearance. The roof in the bottom centre of the photo exemplifies the style perfectly, and the others show it to a greater or lesser extent. Plaintiles are rectangular and flat  and pre-date (though were also contemporaneous with) the equally prevalent "S" curved pantiles. They first became popular in better houses but eventually were a common and sympathetic accompaniment to many vernacular brick walls, such as the kind seen in the lower right of the shot. In the nineteenth century they declined in popularity following widespread adoption of cheaper Welsh slate.

I took today's photograph for the muted colours, the lighting, but most of all for the contrast between the ornate, finely worked stone of the medieval towers of St Margaret's church, with the humble plaintiles and brick of the medieval buildings in the foreground.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Old Roofs, Walls and Towers, King's Lynn, Norfolk
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 67mm (134mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, August 22, 2016

The real Prince Charming and Cinderella

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph was taken for my grand-daughter while we were out shopping and shows Prince Charming and Cinderella. Not any old ersatz Prince Charming and Cinderella, but the actual, real, one and only Prince Charming and Cinderella. I know that to be the case because I asked them and they replied in the affirmative!

What are the chances of coming across two such characters in the middle of a Norfolk town you must be thinking. Well, how about this. A little later we came across Snow White and the Wicked Queen! And several other fairy tale characters who had assembled in the market place at King's Lynn for the entertainment of the local children (and adults). Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Prince Charming and Cinderella, King's Lynn, Norfolk
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm (84mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Old style wheat harvesting

click photo to enlarge
The Bicker Steam Threshing & Classic Car weekend held in the Lincolnshire village each September features a vintage Foster threshing machine powered by a traction engine separating the wheat seeds from the stalks. For this to happen regularly over the two day event a quantity of wheat has to be cut and saved. This must be done in a more traditional manner, without the involvement of a combine harvester. I was invited to photograph this recently. My photograph here shows a Lanz powered binder of c.1950 vintage pulled by a Fiat 90.90 tractor from (I think) the 1980s, cutting the wheat, binding it in "stooks" and laying it in rows ready to be forked onto a trailer.

photo and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Cutting and Binding Wheat for Bicker Steam Threshing
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 39mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, August 15, 2016

Floral Hall portico, Borough Market, London

click photo to enlarge
We've visited Borough Market, Southwark, in London on many occasions over the years. In fact, in a recent discussion with friends about London markets I named it as my favourite. It specialise in food, and is a great place to see the variety that the world has to offer, as well as somewhere to find an interesting snack or a sit-down meal.

In recent years it has been comprehensively re-developed but has retained much of its original structure that interfaces with the nearby buildings of Southwark (including the cathedral and the Shard), as well as the railway that passes over it.

However, there is one building in Borough Market that has always puzzled me. It is a steel and glass portico painted silver; an ornate, obviously Victorian structure that appears to be an entrance and which bears little relationship to the rest of the market. On our recent visit to the capital I resolved to find out what it is. It seems that the building dates from 1858-9 and was originally part of the Floral Hall adjoining Covent Garden Theatre. It was re-sited as the entrance to Borough Market in 2003 having been in storage since the 1980s when it was taken down during a re-development of Covent Garden. The architect of the piece was Edward Middleton Barry and the structure is Grade II Listed. It was been sensitively restored at the time of its installation and it makes an eye-catching addition to the street scene in this part of London.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Floral Hall Portico, Borough Market, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Red crane question

click photo to enlarge
A while ago I was on the street in Shoreditch, London, at 6.58 a.m. taking today's photograph. The EXIF details of this image show that to be the time. I have to say that it is not usual to find me taking photographs at that time of day, but it does occasionally happen.

What prompted the photograph was the angles in the composition, the crystal clear light that delineated the new (and terrible) hotel,the bright red crane next to it, and the backdrop of an azure sky. I liked the juxtaposition of the crane and its shadow with building, and the red on blue adds a blast of colour that compensates for the mushroom tones of the hotel's cladding.

As we waited for our rendezvous the crane driver came along to start his day working on the site below his machine. His first task was to climb the ladders inside the column of the crane to his cab at the top. This he did in a very slow and deliberate way, lunch bag over his shoulder, waiting for a couple of minutes at each stage, presumably getting his breath back. During the ten minutes or so that we watched he ascended about half way to his workplace. And, as we watched him climb, this question popped into my head - is there a toilet at the top of such a crane? If there isn't it's long way down and back up again to achieve relief! I recently consulted the all-knowing WWW in search of the answer and was surprised by what I discovered. Apparently built in toilets are rare. Climbing down and back up does happen. A bucket is often used. So too is an empty milk bottle. And someone has designed a "toilet-in-a-bag" for crane drivers who are caught short. So, not only is the job of such a crane driver lonely, it also lacks a workplace essential that most other people take for granted.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: M by Montcalm Hotel and Red Crane, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm (34mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.1
Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Watery reflections, Canary Wharf

click photo to enlarge
We were in London's Canary Wharf at about 7.30am recently,  Our reason for being there wasn't photographic but family-related. However, with a little time on our hands, I was photographing buildings and people in the clear, sharp, morning light. My photographic assistant, a.k.a my wife, knowing my liking for semi-abstract subjects, pointed out these patterns in some of the remaining water of one of the former docks. The reflections in the moving surface of the water were made by a building with a facade with very finely detailed fenestration. I took several shots of the subject but liked this one best showing the contrast between the building reflection and a section of water that mirrors only the blue of the sky.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Reflected Building and Sky, Canary Wharf, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70mm (140mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.5
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:400
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The endangered English church

click photo to enlarge
The medieval churches of England are an endangered species. Our forebears bequeathed large, beautiful, magnificent and very expensive to maintain buildings upon us, and many parishes are finding the cost to be unaffordable. These churches were built at a time when labour and materials were cheap and the church was exceedingly wealthy. Today skilled labour is expensive, in some crafts it is in short supply, and the church has far less money than formerly. Moreover, the congregation of many of the churches today is tiny (in medieval times an element of compulsion  governed attendance) and their money-raising powers consequently quite limited.

A few years ago I read of the possibility of the fine church in today's photograph closing for the very reasons cited above. An unforeseen cost arose at the time too, namely the theft of lead from a large area of the roof. I believe that action and sufficient funds have averted the closure. On our recent visit to the building the roofs had been restored, a car-parking space created and the churchyard was well-maintained with some new fencing on its perimeter. Today the church continues to take its place in the community as it has done for almost a thousand years.

My black and white photograph of the building was taken from the corner of the churchyard near where I took an earlier colour shot. In that blog post I wrote of the significance of the architectural crowning glory of the building - its very early broach spire.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Frampton Church, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On