Friday, 24 January 2020

Anne Brontë's Scarborough, North Yorkshire, 19th Jan 2020

Despite being a lot different from what it used to be during Anne Brontë's lifetime, Scarborough is still Anne's town. It is still the same place where she visited every summer with the family she worked for as governess; the same place she came to love a great deal and where she spent the last days of her painfully short life; and it is the place where she will stay forever being buried in Scarborough's St Mary's graveyard.
Last sunday, for many of her fans, including myself, Scarborough was all about Anne Brontë. Throughout the day Anne's 200th birthday celebration events were taking place, organized by the Brontë Society. I attended the morning forum with Brontë experts and writers at The Grand Hotel and the graveside and church events in the evening. In between I chose to go off to take photos of the town and enjoy the winter sunshine on the seafront, Anne never leaving my mind and spirit. 
Much as I enjoyed the celebrations immensely, I don't have any photos of the events; instead I have quite a few shots that depict the beauty, charm and serenity of the seaside retreat Anne loved so dearly, on a gorgeous winter day. I hope Anne would approve of them.

The Grand Hotel where Anne's bicentenary celebrations were held. As the blue plaque above the entrance says, the hotel is the site of the lodgings where Anne spent her last days and where she died.

View over the sea from a Grand Hotel window. In her illness Anne liked to sit at the window and gaze out at the sea she was so fond of.

The viaduct promenade near the Grand Hotel.

The weather was exceptionally beautiful for January; not too cold to sit on the bench enjoying the view over the sea.  

Mcbean Steps to Sands by the side of the Grand Hotel

But for the hats and winter jackets you would have never guessed this photo was taken in January! 

South Bay Beach with the Grand Hotel in the background on the right. Give me the low, mellow winter sunlight any time over the strong and harsh summer one when it comes to photography.

Love the Scarborough lighthouse and have to take a shot or two regardless of how many times I have photographed it before.

The harbour scene caught my eye with its bold seaside colours complete with a seagull posing on the mooring post.

It has been a long while since I last worked with layers in Photoshop, and Anne with her love of the sea has inspired me to have a go again. The idea was to superimpose a portrait of her over an image of the sea. I was not sure if I'd be able to find a suitable image as I wanted it to contain something else apart from the sea, but I did. So here is Anne watching from heaven over the Scarborough sea and the site where she took her last breath.

Lobster pots - a seaside place curiosity

After hustle and bustle of the seafront I started heading slowly towards Anne's grave and spent some time admiring Scarborough old town. This is the picturesque Princess Street. There was no people and no cars around; a huge contrast from the part of the town I just left behind.

Princess Terrace off Princess Street. I always find it thrilling to come across charming little passages like this.

There is a cottage called "Brontes Rest" in the passage, holiday fisherman's cottage, that I first came across on one of my previous visits to Scarborough. I thought what more fitting day to photograph it again than the day of Anne's birthday celebrations.

I created this rather dramatic, bookcoverish image of Princess Terrace.

At the bottom of Princess Street there are some old, rather run down, but full of character properties.

A view of the sea from below the car park opposite St' Mary's Church, also part of the view from Anne's grave.

Castle Terrace, near St. Mary's church. Lovely little cul-de-sac on top of a hill with stunning views of the sea.

I was delighted to find these hardy red roses on Castle Terrace. It amazes me how they managed to survive into January.

Anne Brontë's grave basking in the afternoon sunshine before the graveside celebration event. Around 4 p.m. a bouquet of white roses was laid on the grave, candles placed around the new Brontë Society memorial and Anne's poem "My Soul is Awakened..." was read.

St. Mary's Church. The last leg of celebrations was held in the church with a beautiful, specially commissioned piece of audio art by the sonic artist Sarah Dew, followed by closing words of a Brontë scholar.

The path and stairs on the edge of St' Mary's Church memorial garden.

Late afternoon sunny skies over the Scarborough sea; view from St Mary's churchyard.

The weather stayed bright and sunny and the day of Anne Brontë's 200th birthday celebrations was blessed with a gorgeous sunset. 

As I left the church the sun had already set having painted the sky most incredible vivid colours. Such an appropriate ending to a wonderful day!
It really was a marvellous day, and it was only a beginning! It is only January and there is a whole year of celebrations of Anne's life ahead of us in Haworth and elsewhere. I am so looking forward to experience as much of it as I can.

To close this post, here is the poem by Anne that was read at her grave on the day. It is about one of Anne's greatest loves - that of the sea.

"My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.

The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves, beneath them, are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.

I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray;
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing,
And hear the wild roar of their thunder today!"

Friday, 17 January 2020

Happy 200th Birthday, Anne Brontë! (Personal Tribute)

This year the Brontë Society are celebrating the fifth and the last of the five consecutive bicentenary birthdays in the literary Brontë family - that of Anne Brontë, who was born on today's date 200 years ago. Anne was the youngest of the four siblings surviving into adulthood. As a writer and artist she was overshadowed by her two more famous sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Despite being just as talented and productive as her sisters Anne ended up being "the other sister", her talent and works  unjustly underrated or undervalued. In her tragically short life (she was just 29 when she died) she wrote two novels, "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" and also some poetry. Like her sisters and brother she was also a visual artist and created a number of drawings, paintings and sketches. I am not going to write much about Anne here, as there are many sites and articles about her elsewhere on the internet. For anyone wishing to learn more about Anne Brontë, as well as her sisters Charlotte and Emily, I recommend blog by Nick Holland, a Brontë expert and acclaimed writer, who also has an interesting new book out for Anne's bicentenary entitled "Crave The Rose".
On this occasion, as photographer, who is also a keen Brontëphile, I would just like to share my personal tribute to one of my Brontë muses in the form of still life image I created specially to mark Anne's big birthday.

All the props I used are objects taken from around my house. The portrait of Anne in an oval antique frame hangs on my living room wall. It is a portrait by Charlotte Brontë made in 1834 when Anne was 14. The flowers are white hellebores, also known as Christmas rose; I chose them because they flower at this time of the year, which is the time of year Anne was born in.

Today I am going to spend the day in Haworth, the beautiful village where Anne lived with the rest of her family and wrote all her literary works; the place I hope to live in before long, too. There is a preview in the Brontë Parsonage of this year's exhibition celebrating Anne's life, "Amid The Brave And Strong", which I'm very much looking forward to seeing.

Then, on Sunday I am going to Scarborough, the seaside resort on north Yorkshire coast which Anne loved and where she died. I am going to attend some of the celebratory events organized by the Brontë Society, including visiting Anne's grave. I am very excited about the day.

You can view my previous Brontë bicentenary tributes as follows: Charlotte's, Branwell's, Emily's.

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.”
~Anne Brontë~


Saturday, 11 January 2020

Photography New Year Resolutions 2020

January Trees

It's the time of year when many of us think about the new year ahead and what we would like to achieve in it. I like to write down my new year resolutions, but not as a list of things that must be completed at any cost, but simply to set myself some goals or to define which direction I want to be going. Typically, I usually succeed in realizing some of the resolutions and failing others, but I don't kick myself for any failures. Instead, I like to think that I did what I could and simply carry over onto the new year any resolutions that I still want to try and accomplish. So I was successful in three out of five of my last year resolutions which means I will carry over onto 2020 two of them. I have mentioned below which two they are.

Here are my 2020 photography resolutions:

1. Start using my DSLR camera again It's been a year now since I bought my first iPhone. I fell in love with it so much that I decided to use it as my sole camera equipment for the whole year ahead. That year is now out, and even though I can't really say I missed my bulky Nikon D7100 very much I feel time has come to dig it out and start using it again. Without my 18mm - 200mm zoom lens I have certainly been restricted in terms of what pics I could take with my iPhone. I want to take the same photos with both my iPhone and my DSLR to compare the image quality and see the actual differences in the photos they produce and what advantage there are in using a "proper camera.

2. One outdoors photoshoot a week. It is the first time I have set myself a target like this. When I was in employment such target would have not been realistic as life would get in the way too often and too much. Now, it sounds more promising although there will still be one or two things to consider. But if I have to skip a shoot one week, I may be able to make up for it the following week.

3. Use my iPhone to take everyday snaps. I seem to only take photos if I am out shooting and looking for photos or creating a still life at home. I have hardly any snaps of people in my life, myself, my dog, anything material or any cherished moments. My best friend from Zagreb is always sending me her snaps, and I never have any to share with her. I'd love to change that now, so I'm going to try taking more pics just for the sake of memories.

4. Produce a 2021 calendar. This is not necessarily to sell at retail outlets, but perhaps just having a few printed for presents for my family and friends. I'll see how it goes. I don't have much experience with calendars having created only one calendar (2019) so far.

5. Focus more on the book cover market photography and try to have more images accepted by Trevillion. This is one of the two of the last year resolutions that I failed at. Since this year I am going to have more time for photography I'm putting more hope into this resolution. It doesn't mean success will be secured even if I do my best, but one thing I can do is try properly, and try I will this year. The thing is that I don't seem to be a natural book cover photographer much as I thought I was. I have a good idea by now what is required; it's just that I naturally wouldn't take such photos, so I need to make a conscious effort. I want to make the effort as for me there is hardly anything more thrilling and satisfying than having your photos used for a book cover and getting paid for it.

6. Refresh my blog or/and set up a new website. This includes having a page where I would sell prints of my work, which was the second of the two of my last year's resolutions that came to no fruition. I quite like the layout of my blog, but I haven't done anything to it for a long time, so it needs a bit of sprucing up. I may stay with Blogger or move my blog elsewhere. I may decide to set up a new website that will also feature a shop for prints of my images or I might set up a photography shop with Etsy. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do at the moment; I shall start investigating very soon.

One thing I do know is that I like to keep things as simple as possible and that I feel keener than ever to take my photography to a new level.

January Skies

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

New Book Cover For The New Year

I love all my January book cover sales statements from Trevillion Images. There is nothing better or more stimulating for me than start the new year with a new book cover. And it is a very special one as I am on it as well!! My image of still life with self portrait, taken back in 2012, was licensed for a Lithuanian book cover of the novel by the Swedish author Sofia Lundberg, entitled "A Question Mark Is Half a Heart". It is a story of a successful female photographer who sets out on a journey, both physical and mental, to overcome shame and guilt and to find the truth and herself.


Thursday, 2 January 2020

Otley, West Yorkshire, Between Christmas And New Year

On Monday, the 6th day of Christmas, I went to Otley, a small market town on the way to Skipton, which I love visiting now and again. This time of year may arguably not be the best time to come to Otley seeing as many of its unusual independent shops and cafes were closed, but for me there is always enough interest there to keep me occupied. The main reason I went on this occasion was to capture some of the pre-New Year festive atmosphere at dusk as street and festive lights started coming on while the sky was still a beautiful deep blue colour. I lingered around Market Square and Otley Church taking pics from about 3:30 till it got completely dark.

Jubilee Clock Tower built in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign. The attractive stone clock tower stands on the site of the original Market Cross - between Market Square and Kirkgate, the busy Otley thoroughfare. I waited rather painstakingly for a break in the traffic to take this photo. 

View towards Boroughgate.

View towards Market Street 

The entrance to All Saints' Church

A scene taken from the entrance to the Otley Church graveyard looking towards Chevin Forest Park

~ Happy New Year! ~

Monday, 23 December 2019

December Still Life

I had almost resigned to the fact there would be no usual Christmas still life from me this year. Time was running out, and I still had not had a remotest idea of a composition for my image. Then I saw on Pinterest this photo, and suddenly ideas started pouring into my mind. I have seen hundreds of Christmas decor photos on Pinterest this season, and none of them did anything in terms of giving me inspiration, but this beautiful, simple image unexpectedly just did the job.

I had a bit of a trouble post processing this pic and spent more time than I normally would trying to achieve the look I had in mind; still not quite sure if the look is there, but I am pleased my festive still life is here after all, and just in time for Christmas.
All the elements of the image are part of my this year's Christmas home decorations. The little hanging red hearts are from my beloved Zagreb. They are called Licitar hearts and are a traditional symbol of the Croatian capital.

~ Happy Christmas to my blogger friends, readers and visitors! ~

Friday, 20 December 2019

Christmas Time at Oakwell Hall, Birstall, West Yorkshire

Being a stalwart Brontëite, I am lucky to live near quite a few Brontë landmarks, one of the most beautiful being the 17th century Oakwell Hall. Charlotte Brontë visited here when the hall was a girls' school as she was considering setting up a school in Haworth with her sisters. The Hall is featured in her last novel "Shirley" under the name "Fieldhead". Even if it had nothing to do with the Brontës this place would still be one of my most cherished haunts being a fascinating historic house with beautiful landscaped gardens, surrounded with hundreds of acres of woodland and nature trails.
I've visited Oakwell Hall twice this month, both times mainly to experience traditional Christmas atmosphere as there were Christmas events taking place on both days. On both occasions it was a beautiful winter day, cold but filled with low glowing sunlight.

Sunday 1st December - Deck The Halls

On arrival I took some pics of the back of the house from the gardens and a few around the charming Oak Tree cafe. The low winter sunlight made the place look magic, but it also made for rather tricky lighting conditions for photography. To tone done the contrast between light and shadows I used some Snapseed presets in editing.

Inside there were stalls with local crafts people selling their lovely Christmas decor creations.

Sunday, 15 December - 17th Century Christmas

Before going in to the event I took a couple of photos of the front of the Hall. It was a bit later in the day than the previous visit and the contrast between the light and shade wasn't quite so stark.

Inside the house I found more decorations had been added around the place ....

Small table with festive snacks set up for Mr Batt, the historic owner of Oakwell Hall

The entertainment on the day was provided by The Leeds Waits, who recreated a 17th century Christmas playing seasonal music and enacting historic events. Here are a few snippets of their fascinating olde worlde music.

After the show the players talked to the audience about the instruments they used - harp, hurdy gurdy, recorder, cornett, crumhorn and bagpipes.

It was a lovely day in the runner up to Christmas; in fact, both days were right up my street; I enjoyed every minute of them.