Posts Tagged ‘photography’

That’s better…

I love the city’s ability to hide spots of nature in areas you think you know well.


Tired of dodging the runners on the Thames Path this week, Nora and I were tempted into a slight fork, deeply carpeted with yellow, fallen leaves. It looked like it just led onto the road again. Disappointed and about to turn back, I found myself looking at a metal gate leading to the Leg of Mutton Reservoir, unused for thirty-odd years, and now a nature reserve.

Tucked away beside a road I’ve driven along hundreds of times, it’s a little gem of a place. The low-lying water is still and sheltered, with pontoon-like structures on which stand herons, cormorants and ducks. A single, stately swan swims silently past. Moorhens peck at insects just below the waterline.

Cars drive past invisibly and don’t bother us, masked as they are from view. We pass a couple walking three dogs—it’s not until I leave that I see a sign telling us to keep dogs on leads—but Nora listens when I say no and they are all well-behaved, not chasing birds or going in the water.

We make a circuit, first alongside the road and then on the inside edge of the former reservoir that abuts the Thames Path. The runners keep on running while we walk undisturbed on our side of the fence.


We switch sides as it starts to drizzle again and head back, and all at once the main path looks a lot more inspiring and interesting than it did only twenty minutes earlier.

That’s better…

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Foggy morning

people and trees in the fog

As we drive south for our walk, the fog thickens and I put on the car’s fog lights, yet some people are still driving without any lights at all.

Pulling off the main road, I head down the long drive to the car park, wondering whether there will be anyone there and am surprised to find business more or less as usual. The car park is busy; people wearing lycra stand around chatting after their runs while others whistle to their dogs as they return to their cars. Only the usual groups of young mothers with pre-school children are absent. Less for us to worry about then.

cobweb in the mist


Away from the cars the fog blankets everything and deadens sound like snow. I stand still for a moment to sharpen my senses, listening to the drip, drip, drip of moisture off the trees, the occasional bark of a dog, a plane flying overhead along the flightpath to Heathrow and, unexpectedly, the bright chatter of a bird.

a path in the fog

We walk on through the mist, sticking to the wide main paths. I’m soon able to orientate myself though, oddly better than usual, perhaps because I know I need to concentrate harder in poor visibility.

pond in foggy wood

graffiti on a tree

Nora soon sniffs out a path to the small pond where she likes to swim and I follow her down a narrow trail through some birch trees so that she can have her dip. She swims and fetches the stick I throw her until it disintegrates and then we return to the car.


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IMG_0125I said my next blog post would be from Provence but I didn’t envisage how detached from the world I would feel when there was no internet in the house. The young people I was with went down daily to the épicerie in the bas village, or lower village, and sat outside to network on their phones and computers but after one or two essential hook-ups for info purposes, I no longer bothered.

Instead, I stared contently across the wide stretch of the valley from my terraced eyrie in the garden of our borrowed house in Simiane la Rotonde. I watched individual cars wend their way along the main road, overtake each other and disappear around the bend again. Sometimes, they turned off the main road into the village, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes dogs barked in the distance, sometimes they didn’t. Time began to pass more slowly…

Then one day, I got up and ran round the village photographing all the doors in the haut village and one or two outside its medieval walls. Actually, although there are over 100 here, I don’t think I got them all as I started trying to avoid a small group of Spanish tourists. The village is so little that I could hear them coming from around two corners but I think they thought I was a bit weird, loping off everytime they hove into view, so I stopped.

There were doors of all sorts. Old mostly; mended and warped and used for centuries. There were front doors, shutter doors covering French window doors, garden doors, cellar doors, wood store doors, cistern doors, garage doors, shop doors, a town hall and a church door. Doors low in the walls and below the height of the roadway. Doors used daily and doors closed for months at a time. After typing the word door for a while the word it starts to look quite strange, so I’ll stop and let them speak for themselves.

Perhaps you can see why I found them so fascinating?

Door in Provence, France




Door in Provence, France







Door in Provence, France
































































































And finally, my favourite door of them all: the door to our garden.


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Thames Path signpostWe’ve been in London for a couple of weeks. The Boy has been to stay on his way back to Europe from Australia and it has been lovely having him here even if it was rather brief (for now). There’ll be another instalment in a couple of months.

Always on the look out for new places to walk Nora, we were going to Richmond Park when I thought I’d stop in Barnes on the way and see if I could find a way down to the river. By ‘the river’ Londoners mean the Thames, although the walk actually begins at an old cemetery, alongside a tributary of the Thames called Beverley Brook which flows through Barnes both above and below ground. Most of London’s rivers were diverted into the sewers in Victorian times and their names, for example, Stamford Brook or the River Fleet, mainly exist as place or street names today.

Overgrown graves


Nora really loves this walk as there are good woodland smells, open grass and water to splash in.


For me, as well as the obligatory grungy bit to photograph and some wildlife, the walk’s a lot less challenging than trying to stop Nora from constantly diving into overflowing park bins, which is one of the less pleasant aspects of summer in the city. I am training her to stop scavenging but I wish people would take their rubbish home with them if they’re going to leave a lot of food waste for Nora and the foxes to play with.

Thames Path at Barnes

There’s always something though. This morning we were shouted at by a fat-arsed French lady who said she wasn’t cycling ‘orl zat forst’ when I complained that she almost ran Nora over. But if you have to do an emergency stop on a path where pedestrians have priority, you’re going too fast!

black dog in the grass

Dog on the banks of the Thames

The pictures are experimental as I was testing the Boy’s Nikon and I haven’t really got the hang of it. It has a bit of a wonky lens but I think I like it. It seems to have a good depth of colour and works well in low light on its point-and-shoot setting, which is basically all I have time for with all the other distractions…

Beverley Brook outflow


Thames Embankment at Putney

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In Jerusalem’s old city the flagstones have been polished by probably millions of footsteps. The pale, mellow stone brightens the narrow alleys, reflecting the sunshine that manages to penetrate between the overhanging awnings and radiates the warmth of the day after dark. In the souk, ancient stone ramps between the risers allow traders to push trolleys laden with wares up steep steps to their shops and stalls as they have for centuries.


On the shores of the Sea of Galilee ficus, eucalyptus and olive trees grow and tourists visit. Among the visitors are those who inscribe their names in their bark as everywhere in the world. Groups of pilgrims from all over the world paddle here in the shallow waters near the Church of the Multiplication, which celebrates the feeding of the five thousand, taking pictures on their iPads, while others sing hymns and speak in tongues.


In Bethlehem I snapped a fragment of Byzantine mosaic in the Milk Grotto, a Christian shrine. At the time, it seemed to be just a jumble of pale coloured stones. Now I see it is a Star of David. Like the swastika, this symbol originates from the Indian subcontinent.


Bethlehem is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and there’s a massive concrete and turnstile procedure you have to go through to pass from the Israeli side and back again. This particular bit of rusty barbed wire has nothing to do with the separation of the West Bank from the rest of Israel but its inclusion here is symbolic. The buildings in the background are in Jerusalem on the other side of the tall concrete wall that has been built around Israeli territory. The picture was taken from the Palestinian side.


These ancient and, I hope, disused letterboxes were the first thing that caught my eye on arriving in Jerusalem’s old city. I could have spent all day finding such delights but sometimes I had to listen to the guide and follow the rest of the group.


Impoverished as some of the neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv are, their inhabitants find ways of decorating their balconies. Sometimes cracked old pots full of vibrant flowers, sometimes just bits of fishing line threaded with beads. I wonder who did this: a grandparent entertaining bored grandchildren or someone who just wanted to brighten the view out over the bustling street market? I suspect that, while I find this picturesque, whoever lives here would love to sweep it away in exchange for something more stylish and glamorous.

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I have a confession. I am that person who is always lagging behind taking a photograph in a smelly street corner because there’s an interesting looking bit of peeling plaster that I just must capture. There’s something about worn layers of paint and plaster, and other decrepitude, that I find fascinating. I suppose they tell a story of previous lives and I love the muted colours that result simply from the passage of time.

Last week I was in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which gave me a lot of opportunity to indulge my obsession. As in most hot countries, buildings in the region fall into disrepair quite quickly. Add to that a degree of poverty, an abundance of graffiti and about a million tourists, and you’ve got an extraordinary degree of wear and tear on which to focus.

I usually use detail images like this to remind me of the feel of places I visit or to add a bit of context to a blogpost. But rather than waffle on generally about my trip I’ve decided to let some of these pictures speak for themselves. Except, of course, I’m waffling as well. Can’t be helped…


This bit of peeling pink paint on the outside wall of an old house in a Tel Aviv lane overshadowed by swanky, new, high-rise blocks reminds me a little of a printed furnishing fabric. I love the combination of colours: the pink and the grey with just enough cream to emphasise what could almost be a floral pattern if you squint.


I had to smile at this jaunty heart that cheered up a cottage in the same road. Tel Aviv seemed to be covered with graffiti’ed hearts. It will always remind me of a long walk in the blazing hot sun on our way to see the Bauhaus architecture of Boulevard Rothschild. We passed through this much older area when we weren’t quite sure where we were heading and started wandering around. Most of the old streets had been torn down to become temporary car parks or wasteland awaiting development but this little row of worn-looking but cared-for houses remained.


Number 29 was around the back of our hotel in the flea market area of Jaffa. It must have been in the process of being demolished when the work to ground to a halt, leaving a whole corner of the house behind.


I’ve no idea what these posters in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s old city say but I like the way that they have seem to have become part of the metal utility box cover they were stuck to. The grey, ochre and yellow complement each other and I can see both the colours and shapes being the inspiration for a geometric design of some kind. Perhaps something with a 1950s influence?


Here paint and rust have fused on the windowsill of an old warehouse in Jaffa that now houses a cool restaurant with a vibrant music scene called Container. The different shades of blue make me think of a piece of china, or perhaps of clouds and sea. Really quite appropriate for its portside location.

Maybe I’ll do an occasional series of Detail Freak posts. I’ve certainly got enough material…

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Sometimes people say they want to see what the inside of Spring Cottage looks like. The truth is I don’t take many photos inside these days but here are a couple of details from upstairs and downstairs.

I move things around quite a bit so nothing looks the same here for very long. These were taken a while ago when I was playing with a new camera. I must have been obsessed with lamps or something.

domestic interior shot

domestic interior bedside table

Most of the things in the cottage are old: mine and my parents’, or secondhand bits and pieces picked up here and there for not very much. They go well with the aged feel of the place. Perhaps if I tell you that the first thing that you notice when you go into the house is its smell – a mixture of wood smoke and old church – you’ll get the gist.

An exception is the painting in the top photo, which I bought as soon as it was finished from a French artist called Perrine Rabouin. She was using a spare room in a friend’s house in Provence as a studio one summer seven or eight years ago and I fell in love with her work. Perhaps not surprisingly, the whole living room colour scheme ended up being based on it.

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