Sunday, December 04, 2016

Built to impress

click photo to enlarge
The first two houses that we bought and lived in suffered from a problem that many buildings have suffered from down the ages - more money was spent on the front than on the back and sides. One was built in the early 1900s and the other in the 1930s. In each case the quality of the bricks on the main elevation was better than those elsewhere. Ornament in the form of stone/concrete arches, oriel windows, and large bays appeared on the front, but not on the back, or where they did, in simpler, more pared down form. The fact is, those houses and many other buildings had relatively more money spent at the front for a reason that is obvious - to impress the buyer and passers-by. Interestingly, and refreshingly, this wasn't so pronounced in a house we bought that was built in the late 1970s. Our current house, part of which is oldish and part relatively recent uses the same quality materials throughout but has a much more "composed" facade.

Constraints of this sort did not affect the affluent builders of the country houses of the Georgian period - all elevations aimed to impress. At Belton House the main (south) facade and the rear (north) elevation are almost the same. The east elevation is composed with symmetry in mind, is flusher than either north or south, but then doesn't have the main entrances that those feature. Only on the west, where stables, courtyards and other ancillary buildings are found does the main house lose something of its imposing appearance. And here this is compensated for by those subsidiary buildings being large, ornate and monumental.Today's photograph shows Belton House's plainer east elevation from one side of the wide avenue of trees that frame it. Incidentally, my composition was prompted by the desire to find a composition that was a little different, that emphasised the building's setting, but also by a desire to minimise the featureless blue sky.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen


Photo Title: Belton House, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm (84mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, December 02, 2016

Too colourful wheelie bins

click photo to enlarge
My household refuse is disposed of in one of three wheelie bins; the landfill bin that is mid-green, the green waste bin that is brown(!) and the recycling bin that is bright blue. We hide them out of sight behind a short length of fence that I erected for the purpose and in front of which I have grown Cotoneaster franchettii. The contents of each bin is taken away every fortnight by a large refuse vehicle. For this to happen I have to put the bins near the road that passes my property.

Now I can just about live with the subdued brown and green bins but that blue bin drives me to distraction. On the morning they are emptied the village looks like it has been invaded by blue extraterrestrials that are standing guard outside each house, the blueness of each one forcing itself on to my eyeballs. Who decided blue would be good colour for a wheelie bin? Has that person ever been asked his or her reasons for selecting it? Its even worse in towns where smaller properties can't easily hide away the bins. There the blue bins are on permanent display negatively affecting everyone's "visual amenity". More thoughtful local authorities chose grey or a brick-like dark red/orange: I've even seen a dark purple. Such colours are a much less glaring addition to the street scene.

When I was photographing the frost on the date of manufacture of my blue wheelie bin I wondered how much longer the receptacle would last, and whether there were any plans in hand to introduce a better colour as the blue bins expired. But then I reflected that at thirteen years of age they are mere teenagers, probably have several more years to go, and there's little chance that anyone in authority thinks as I do. Perhaps I should plant the thought in their minds.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Frosted Date On Recycling Bin
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm macro (120mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:500
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Late autumn trees

click photo to enlarge
We have reached the time of year when, due to the low sun, for much of the day the daylight is tinged with yellow. Sometimes this can be a little disconcerting, giving buildings for example, what appears to be a colour cast. But, if you are photographing the last colours of autumn that yellow tinge adds to the palette that nature provides.

On a recent walk through the extensive grounds of Belton House in Lincolnshire we walked through a an area of parkland dotted with trees of many varieties. This particular section of "nature improved", as the early English Landscape Garden theorists and pioneers called such places, was not so densely planted with trees that the low morning sun could not penetrate: in fact in some spots it was flooding in and offering me the opportunity for a shot with colour and contrast.

The two photographs on offer today show much of the same contre jour scene, but differ in their approach to contrast. The main photograph has more, the smaller one less. Consequently the main shot is more muscular, the subsidiary shot, more delicate. The increased contrast comes from the composition, particularly the tree hiding the sun (and its shadow), but also by the increased negative EV.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title (1): Parkland Trees, Belton House, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fallow deer

click photo to enlarge
Pre-historic remains show that the fallow deer was an indigenous species in the British Isles but  that they died out, probably due to hunting. They were reintroduced, probably by the Normans but possibly by the Romans, and since that time have been a constant presence in our woodlands.

The herd of fallow deer at Belton House, Lincolnshire, was probably established in the seventeenth century. Today it numbers around 300 animals. Due to the many visitors that this National Trust property attracts the deer have become used to the presence of people and some allow quite close approach. I'm not a wildlife photographer but as someone who points his camera at a wide variety of subjects I take the opportunity with animals if they present themselves within range of my lenses. This group of deer were eschewing the longer, wilder grass of the fields around the stately home and instead were cropping the already short greensward of the lawn in front of the main facade. The silhouettes that the animals made in the morning sun appealed to me, as did their position in front of the line of trees.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Fallow Deer, Belton House, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, November 25, 2016

That time of year

click photo to enlarge
In November the centres of our cities and towns enter what I call "that time of year" a.k.a. Christmas. November is, in my view, too early to think about Christmas, but commerce, ever eager to whip us into a spending frenzy in order to part us from our money, thinks otherwise. So after the interiors of shops start displaying their festive period goods in October, at some point in the second half of November the first trees and Christmas decorations start being hung in streets and market places. There they will be seen until mid-January. I find the drawn out nature of this annual spending binge quite depressing.

Today's photograph shows the view of Newark's wonderful market place from Bridge Street, one of the four roads that enter it at its corners. Above is a fine sky with clouds piled high, beyond the red and white striped market stall canopies is the fine eighteenth century town hall, the work of the architect John Carr of York. Other Georgian and Victorian buildings can be seen fringing the market square and on Bridge Street. The busy shoppers in the shady foreground add their silhouettes to the composition. What spoils it for me, however, is the wires crossing the street awaiting the decorations that will be strung from them, the five tall poles that are also waiting to be festooned with wires and Christmas paraphernalia, and the Christmas tree in between the columns of the town hall portico. These may not worry the casual viewer who will concentrate on the good things about this view. However, for someone like me, who feels photographically thwarted at this time of year every time I go around a town with my camera, they stick out like sore thumbs.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Market Place, Newark, seen from Bridge Street
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, November 21, 2016

English and U.S. place-name confusion

click photo to enlarge
It was George Bernard Shaw who described England and the United States as "two countries divided by a common language." By that remark Shaw was highlighting the differences that have arisen between English as spoken by the two countries. And whilst there are nouns, verbs, adjectives etc that appear in one version of the language (sidewalk, thru, etc) and not in the other, or which mean different things in each country (trunk and boot), or which are spelt differently (curb and kerb) the fact is that the overwhelmingly the vocabularies are the same: they have much, much more in common than that which is different.

The other day I was in Newark (full name Newark-on-Trent). And, in thinking about the truncated version of that town's name, I reflected that the use of the same placenames in the U.S. and England (or the wider U.K.) actually leads to more confusion than does the differences in vocabulary. To someone from the U.S. Newark is a place in New Jersey, just as Boston is a place in Massachusetts. However, to someone in the East Midlands of England those two towns are relatively near neighbours in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire respectively. The duplications between the two countries are numerous - Birmingham, Woodstock, Durham, Cambridge, Oxford, Springfield, Marlborough etc. For a fuller list see this Wikipedia page. This mattered little before the rise of the internet, but today it leads to confusion and great care being needed when searching, because otherwise much time can be wasted.

Today's photograph shows Newark's "slighted" castle, the River Trent and the Trent Bridge, a structure of 1775, still the main crossing in the town, with cantilevered footways and railings added in 1848.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Castle and River, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 31mm (62mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Go ask Alice

click photo to enlarge
"Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall", From the song "White Rabbit" (written by Grace Slick) sung by Jefferson Airplane, 1967

It's difficult to "go ask Alice" today because Alice, like Maude, Vera, Sybil and Winifred are hard to come by, being names that have dropped out of fashion. In the mid-twentieth century such names belonged to mothers and grandmothers and were seen as old-fashioned. A group of new names took their place, and once they became common-place they too dropped out of use and along came yet more new names. But, in the later waves some of the older names began to be recycled and Sarah, Rose, Victoria, Daisy, Olivia and Lily, to name but a few, made a re-appearance. But not Alice, Maude, Vera, Sybil and Winifred - well at least not in the lists of popular UK girls' names that I have scrutinised.

Today's photograph shows an artwork by Cristina Lucas. Like the quotation above it draws its inspiration from Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland", more particularly the episode in which Alice eats the cake marked "eat me" with the result that she grows to the point where she can't fit in the room and puts her arm out of the window. The location of this piece is the former Carthusian monastery sometimes called La Cartuja, in Seville, a place where Christopher Columbus once lived. The monastery has an interesting history. After it ceased its religious function it was bought in 1839 by a Liverpudlian businessman, Charles Pickman, who set up a large tile-making works there. Some time after the business ceased producing tiles in 1984 it became a museum of contemporary art - hence Alice. The smaller photograph shows the archway in the main photograph from the outside of the building. Its current status relating to art explains the blue objects in the water and the stainless steel, cylindrical "bus shelter".

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: "Alice", La Cartuja, Seville
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (40mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wisbech port colours

click photo to enlarge
There has been a port at Wisbech since the medieval period. Of course, inland ports (Wisbech is over 10 miles from the sea) made a lot of sense when land transport was so limited by the size of carts and the speed at which they could travel. The town originally stood on the River Ouse but when the mouth of this river silted up and it was diverted to King's Lynn, the River Nene was made to serve the town.

The port became prosperous in the 19th century following the drainage of the Fens.  The area was noted for the  largest grain market outside London. Ships from Wisbech sailed down the Nene to The Wash, and from there took agricultural produce up and down the eastern coast of Britain and across the North Sea. Returning ships imported a variety of goods but notably coal and timber, the latter from the Baltic region. Trade with the Baltic continues today as does the import of timber, some of which can be seen in the photograph. A fortnightly service runs from Wisbech to Riga in Latvia.

As we walked past the docks the other day the bright blue of the sky was set against the red of a crane and the yellow warning triangles on the flood defence gates. This conjunction of primary colours seemed a good subject for a photograph.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Primary Colours, Port of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wisbech's London plane tree

click photo to enlarge
More than half of central London's trees are the London plane (Platanus x acerifolia), a hybrid of the oriental plane and the American plane. The first of these trees was planted over three hundred years ago and the oldest are massive, providing not only the beauty of their leaves and bark, but also shade on hot summer days and fascinating silhouettes in winter. Some of the examples in Berkeley Square (where the nightingale sang) were planted in the 1720s and have very asymmetrical outlines with large, low hanging boughs.

Walking through the main park in the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech recently I stopped under a large plane tree that I first noted several years ago. On the ground below the canopy were many brown leaves, the first to fall from the tree this autumn, but up above there were still plenty of green leaves clinging on and many hanging fruit balls. This tree has a large, low bough - you can see it on the right of the photograph, and in taking my wide-angle photograph I made sure to include it. The main trunk has lost its attractive pattern of old and new patches of bark, but you can still see this on the low bough. The bright sun piercing the foliage, and blue sky behind, make my photograph look like it was taken in spring. But this is an autumn sight and a fine one too.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: London Plane Tree, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 9mm (18mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Autumn duck pond reflections

click photo to enlarge
There's nothing like a walk on a bright autumn afternoon for suppressing in one's mind the memory of the lies, bile and bigotry that has surrounded both Brexit and U.S. presidential election. And though deep concerns would, I knew, return once the walk was finished, I determined that I would take the time to stand and stare, as well as use my camera, and drink in something of what makes this time of year special.

In the Lincolnshire village of Swineshead is a duckpond. As we walked by and the ducks, presumably well fed, shunned our presence, I admired the reflection of the sky and the surrounding trees on the slightly rippled cloudy water. The leaves floating on the surface gave a second plane to the image and added some depth. I've always liked the reflection of trees, anything in fact, in gently stirred water, and especially the painterly feel and semi-abstract quality that it can lend to a photograph. Here the wide range of colours and textures gave further interest.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Autumn Duck Pond Reflections
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15.6mm (42mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On