Posts Tagged ‘photography’

I went back through my photographs today and realised that I’ve got very lazy about taking pictures, which I used to do with a passion when I first came to Somerset.

Weather vane

With the arrival of Nora the dog, now eighteen months old, the big camera’s excursions dwindled to only a few times a year. Then I bought a compact camera so that I didn’t have to lug the DSLR about and that kept me happy for a while, although I only really liked its ability to take pictures in low light. The rest of the images could be disappointing with the focus often not quite right. Being a bit longsighted doesn’t help and I’ve missed having a viewfinder. When I got a newer iPhone the photographic equipment’s outings stopped almost completely. It takes pretty good pictures and I can use Photoshop to improve the original, but I don’t enjoy it as much. So, although I haven’t made any resolutions this year — I hate the idea — I intend to go about a lot more with the big camera in 2015.

Here are some ‘proper’ photographs, then, that a recent photo request reminded me I had taken in 2010 in Montacute, a village centred around a late Elizabethan mansion, that I’ve blogged about before. They are not fantastic pictures. I don’t claim to be any kind of photographer but they remind me of a good day in a beautiful place.

Montacute House, Somerset

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Tudor window with leaded lights

tudor window exterior

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Chinese screen

Row of shaped trees

Signpost in MontacuteHouse in Montacute

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Snow was forecast overnight. Drawing the curtains in darkness this morning, the electric outside light revealed a couple of centimetres of snow in the garden. Further afield, particularly uphill, there is a little more, so after a bone-warming bath and breakfast we head up the nearest hill for the dog to experience her first snowfall.

reflected chandelier

Before we can even get there, she goes a bit crazy in the garden but not at the snow, which she takes in her stride. It’s the frozen pond that freaks her out as she desperately tries to eat the incomplete sheet of ice covering it. “What’s this? Why can’t I pull it out? It’s so heavy. And COLD. I’ll zoom around like a lunatic because this is blowing my mind!”

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The snow reveals all kinds of things I don’t normally see: footprints of birds and deer that have passed only a short while before, branches that arch above my head pointing at vaulted structures of deadwood and ivy. A new beauty. It also hides uneven ground, deep mud, drifts of leaves that trip me up, cowpats that squelch over my boots as they get sucked into the ground beneath. I forgive them all.

snowy gate

dog in snowy wood

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snow covered old tractor

thawing snow

view from hills

Back home now. Holed up, hunkered down, behind battened hatches, I listen to the wind whooming down the chimney. That is the noise that it makes. The fire finally decides to stop smoking and I relax and curl up on the sofa with a book, a cup of tea, thick socks, a blanket and a sleeping dog. Bliss.

cottage in the snow

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tree in sunshinefrosty leavesthawing frosty leavesdry oak treetiny hazel catkins

black labrador

dog drinking from trough

We woke to a freezing house this morning because I hadn’t set the heating properly but the brightening landscape, clear blue sky and frosty ground soon resolved my annoyance.

Then Nora and I headed out up the hill for our morning walk. Unsually, we met my neighbour Suzie and her spaniels and Nora was delighted to play with them for a while. One of the things about country walks is that while people say hello more than in town, dogs don’t stop to play and people often apologise about their dogs sniffing yours, which is strange if you’re used to town dog behaviour. Single dogs are unusual – because they need the company I suppose.

Then I went off to get a Christmas tree from farmer John Hardwick at Cobbs Cross Farm just down the road. I could hardly get up the lane to the farm for people coming the other way down the narrow road. Looks like they’re doing well. I wrote about them in more detail a couple of years ago but they’ve got much more going on now. Someone there has definitely got an eye for an opportunity.

I was supposed to go Christmas shopping in Taunton – there was free parking but with the weather so lovely, I did some pruning instead and made a wreath for the front door with some of the results. It ‘s pretty ropey (you try making wreath with your dog running off with everything you put down for more than a second) and probably won’t last very long in this windy spot but at least it’s unique in its combination of bay leaves, heather and a few other bits and pieces. There’s even a tiny bit of holly.

Quite pretty, I think.

wreath on front door

 

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While in the Blue Mountains, we drove about a bit and came across the pretty little town of Leura. Like many smaller places in New South Wales, the town looks mainly wooden-built. The original development seems to have been mainly between 1915 and 1940 and there is, of course, newer construction on the perimeter.

It’s a lovely little place with many shops that would have been interesting to have a proper look at, but as we got there rather late in the day, we had to make do with window-shopping. My purse thought that was a good thing though.

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Sydney Harbour is so vast and has so many bays that the seafront is miles and miles long and stretches from the city into the far distant suburbs. There are cliffs, woodland areas and parks, as well as wharves and industry, although less and less of the latter. We came upon water almost everywhere we went and here are a few of my impressions.

beach 4

beach 1

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beach 2 beach 3  beach 5 beach 6

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beach foot

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I hope people will not mind the lack of words. I seem to have few of them at the moment.

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While a great many multi-national corporations operate in Canada, on my trips to Vancouver to see my family, I’ve been noticing that a lot of fairly individual styles of shopfront and associated typography co-exist with the more modern global brands. It feels quite ‘small towny’, which makes it all the more charming, although I don’t imagine those I know over there will be delighted with me for saying so. No-one wants their lovely city described as that, but it is meant as a compliment.

I have a feeling that most of this atmosphere will be swept away by the rapid redevelopment that is taking place across the city. Sometimes, as in Yaletown, this has made huge modern residential areas out of what used to be mostly derelict land. Elsewhere, parts of the University of British Columbia campus are being developed for a mixture of student and other housing. Older single-storey shops are often dwarfed by the high-rise apartment buildings that grow up behind them. It feels like low-rise construction all over the city, from downtown to the residentials suburbs, will be gone in a few years to be replaced by something less individual. I hope this isn’t universal, as that would be a great loss to the city’s character, which is largely still one of small stores owned by individuals.

In one of the most down-at-heel areas of Vancouver – on the east side – there are still some really old and characterful signs advertising hotels that might be better described as ‘flop-houses’. Like most cities, Vancouver has its darker side and this is part of it. The streets are filled with down-and-outs, drug users and homeless people, and feels like it has been forgotten in a time-warp. A lot of lovely advertising signage from the 1950s remains here and some of it is really imaginative, even if rather dilapidated.

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Footnote: I called this post ‘Vancouver Old-Style’ because it’s the only city in Canada that I have visited a lot, so I don’t know whether the typographic phenomenon I’m observing is common to the whole country or just to British Columbia. I did once spend a month in both Montreal and Victoria on Vancouver Island, but it was a very long time ago before multinational companies, beyond maybe Kodak and Martini, were as ubiquitous as they are now.

 

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trellis seen through screen of flowers

bee feeding on flowers

wedding bouquet of peonies

wedding dress train

hand with engagement ring holding bouquet

Flower girl wearing garland at wedding

Vancouver west side street scene

flowerallotment

dilapidated building and lichen-covered tree

So we packed our bags, took Nora to her home boarding place in Sussex and headed off from Heathrow on a rainy and chilly Tuesday afternoon. Arriving in Vancouver for a family wedding (the third in two years), it was easy to relax in the warmth and sunshine. We were lucky with the weather all week, apart from one day. I’m writing this back in cool English temperatures and am about to change out of my sandals into some warmer shoes. Home sweet home.

Our time away was a mixture of emotion, enjoyment and exploration. We watched a young couple marry amid a throng of family and friends, bicycled along rivers and up and down hills, went in a motor boat on a fjord – yes, an actual fjord – learned to love Orange Is The New Black, explored the seamier – and typographically more interesting – side of the city (a neat line in 1950s lettering styles, some of which are still practised today, about which more in another post), went to hear some blues at a casino, walked a lot, and ate a lot – a lot – of delicious food.

And we went to yoga but still have cricks in our necks. Om.

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