Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Walking around Hawkshead and Grasmere, The Lake District

The other week we holidayed in our favourite Lake District haunt Hawkshead with our besties Dave and Liz. We love not only the storybook look of the village, but also the tame countryside around it, and the fact it is close to some other lakeland places we love, such as Grasmere. The weather was not very good; it rained a lot every day, and there was no great light for my photography. But, one thing that is always there in the Lake District to capture by a photographer is the unique atmosphere and mood the mountains surrounding the lakes create, so that is what I endeavoured to do.

Sunday, the first full day of our holiday it rained non-stop all day. We decided visiting Brantwood, John Ruskin's house at nearby Coniston would be a good idea under the weather circumstances. The house itself was really beautiful and very interesting with lots to see and admire, but it was too wet to walk around the extensive gardens with beautiful views of Coniston lake, even carrying an umbrella.

Monday it also rained till late afternoon, so we went to Keswick and Ambleside trailing around the shops and cafes. It was only on Tuesday that we finally had a chance to go for a much longed for walk. We walked to the pretty hamlet of Outgate, then on to Blelham Tarn and Wray Castle. After a quick coffee and snack at Wray Castle (which was crowded with kids enjoying school holidays) we walked back through fields passing a few charming lakeland farms. To the left there were views of Latterbarrow fell and behind us magnificent views over Blelham tarn, Windermere lake beyond and distant mountains. 

On Wednesday Liz and I separated from our men. The men went on a walk around Grizedale Forest, and us girlies visited Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's charming farmhouse and gardens which was followed by a walk around Esthwaite Water and Castle Woods. We loved it at Esthwaite Water, a peaceful, less known lake where we only met two people while there - a woman and her young son. There seemed a path all around the edge of water, and we decided to come back here on our future holiday and explore the lake more closely. Beatrix loved this lake lying on her doorstep and chose it as a setting for many of her children's tales.

On Thursday there was more rain, especially in the morning. We drove to the Grasmere village, which we all love and stayed at in the past, and sat down in a cafe sipping coffee while waiting for the rain to stop. When it finally happened we set off for a stroll around the village. We left the village joining a steadily rising path with excellent, moody views to Helm Crag. Rainy clouds hung down very low....

We reached Allan Bank, a lovely villa on high ground, the property of National Trust. Poet William Wordsworth moved in here when Dove Cottage on the other side of Grasmere became too small for his growing family. Liz and I went in to have a look around. It was teeming with children engaged in various craft activities and games. The best thing for me were the stunning views out of the large Georgian windows that enabled me to take some of my favourite photos of the holiday.

It has been a while since I played with texture layers in my scenery photography, and this particular photo with its winding path, unusual perspective and composition was shouting at me to have a go. I must admit I am unlikely to ever outgrow the painterly, watercolour-ish look the use of textures gives to your photographs in postprocessing.

On Friday it rained yet again and there was no forecast of it relenting, so we just had a relaxing day mooching around the village, doing the last bit of shopping and starting to pack our suitcases.
I still have a few images I took around the lovely cottage we stayed in and will share them in my next post.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A Return to Hawkshead, The Lake District

Last week we went for our usual yearly week's holiday in the Lake District. Each year we go at a different time of year depending on when we can get the same time off work, and this year it happened in the middle of summer. We chose to stay in Hawkshead for a second time, a pretty village we both fell in love with for many reasons. We thought it was going to be crowded, but were relieved to find there wasn't too many people around despite peak season (more reason for us to love Hawkshead).
Unfortunately, we were not very lucky with the weather: it rained every day at least half the day and we hardly saw any sunshine. The village was wet, but still beautiful and cheery with lots of lush green plants laden with gorgeous summer blooms and colourful flower baskets dotted around whitewashed houses.

The Honey Pot, an irresistible delicatessen shop, and The Kings Arms, probably our favourite village pub 

Flag Street, one of the most charming Hawkshead streets

A typical Hawkshead alleyway 

One of the most distinctive Hawkshead scenes

Queens Head, a lovely 17th century inn

Wordsworth Street. The poet William Wordsworth lived in the second house on the left (Ann Tyson's Cottage) while attending Hawkshead Grammar School
More about Hawkshead can be seen in my last year's post here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Portraiture Photography With Mehgan

Recently I had a chance and a great pleasure to photograph a very beautiful young woman - Mehgan Weatherley. I first met Meg six years ago at a Christmas temp job, and we have stayed in touch through Facebook. I was delighted when she said she needed some photos for her business and asked  if I'd take some portraits of her. It didn't take long to happen as both of us were very keen at the prospect. Meg lives in Bingley, so I suggested the beautiful Bingley St Ives country park for our location which she accepted gladly. We knew it was going to be a hot, sunny day and we wanted the best light. Not being an early riser I suggested meeting after 5 o'clock in the afternoon when the harsh sunlight begins to soften, but Meg preferred early morning. I thought I'd make an effort as an idea of early morning photography sounded very appealing for a change. That day I got up at 5 o'clock, and it was well worth it. I had an amazing day with everything a photographer could possibly wish for: a beautiful, willing model who is a pleasure to work and be with; gorgeous nature setting that looked magical in the early summer morning and lovely, mellow sunshine casting soft shadows and turning light into glimmering bokeh in the photos.

Both Meg and I are very happy with the results and agreed to have another photoshoot in the near future. She always needs photos for her growing business, and I always enjoy doing portraits of interesting people.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Still Life With Spring Vegetables

This time of year is abundant in lovely vegetables, so I thought veg would be a great theme for a seasonal still life image right now. I wish I lived near a market or a farm from where I could buy fresh homegrown produce (and be sure it IS homegrown), but unfortunately I don't and am having to rely on supermarkets for all my food. The first vegetable I chose for my still life was celeriac and I chose it for its rough, rooty texture as I wanted my image to have a rustic feel to it; secondly, I went for an artichoke for its lovely petals-like look and purple colour around the stem; I wanted a fennel bulb for its whiteness that was going to give a tonal contrast to the set up; asparagus spears looked good in a jug adding a balance to the composition, and some cut up spring greens served to add some depth . To top it all off I scattered a few radishes around purely for a splash of red which I always seem to crave in photographs. And to emphasize a sense of country lifestyle and rustic look I used my vintage enamel colander, a copper jug and kitchen utensil and a wooden chopping board. I tried incorporating a kitchen  towel as well, but opted for some hessian cloth in the end.
I try to keep my postprocessing quick and simple these days. Gone is the time when I'd spend hours editing one photo. Apart from some basic tweaks I used two grungy texture layers, which I softened slightly, blurred the hessian a bit and applied a vignette.

Nikon D7100  f/8  1/80 sec  ISO-560  52mm
After the shoot I always try to use all my edible props as I hate food waste. I blanched the spring greens, put them in some food bags and popped them in the freezer. I roasted the asparagus and fennel, and asparagus was delicious, but fennel was tough. Fennel is much better fried and added to casseroles, soups and stir fries. I didn't do anything with the artichoke and simply put it on my kitchen window sill as decoration. I've used radishes in salads and sandwiches and I still have to use the celeriac; I have never had celeriac before and need to find a recipe for it. I do love the way it smells.

For my next still life I will probably use a similar seasonal theme - summer fruits. Summer berries are different shades of red, which is my favourite colour, and then there are peaches, apricots and nectarines with their beautiful golden orange tones.......Can't wait to play with them all soon!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Brontë Society Summer Festival Guided Walk

June is the month of the Brontë Society Annual General Meeting around which other events are organized. I'm not the one to attend the AGM, but I'm always interested in walks and coach trips to the places with Brontë connections that take place each year. Last Sunday a group of about twenty Brontë fans including myself, guided by a very nice Brontë Parsonage volunteer, went for a nine mile walk on the moors that the Brontë sisters loved and drew inspiration from for their literary masterpieces.
The circular walk took five and a half hours to complete. We set off from outside Brontë Parsonage in Haworth towards the village of Stanbury and from there headed to Ponden Hall followed by Ponden Kirk, Alcomden Stones, Top Withens and Brontë Falls.

This is the path at the start of our walk just outside Haworth with beautiful sweeping views over Worth Valley.

Stanbury moor with delightful cotton grass bobbing in the gentle breeze

This photo, and the next three, are of Alcomden Stones, a curious and fascinating scattering of large rocks. There are many stories and speculations about these stones, but they are likely to be just a natural phenomenon. It is this place that attracted me to the walk the most and the only place of interest on the walk I hadn't yet been to.  It is remote with the path to it rather rough and not always clear, and I was glad I had a chance to walk it in company for a first time. The rocks lie high up on Stanbury moor, and are surrounded by extensive, distant views. It's a perfect place for a rest, lunch or reflection, and I am looking forward to going there again.

After Alcomden Stones the path lead us down to Top Whitens, a ruined farmhouse which is said to have been the inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw family home named "Wuthering Heights" in the novel by Emily Brontë. 

I can now say that this must be my favourite walk I have ever done. I must admit I was slightly worried about its length. Being a photographer who stops every so often to take photos I usually don't go for walks longer than five miles. This time, being in a group I knew I wouldn't be able to take many photos, but that didn't bother me. I just hoped to get a couple of snaps of cotton grass and of Alcomden Stones, which I managed to do. I was pleased to find that the length of the walk was not too much for me at all. Besides visiting the fascinating Brontë landmarks, it was also good to meet some nice people, all fellow Brontë fans; some of them came from as far as France, Belgium and even America. It was a great day that I shall remember for a long time.