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.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A June Ramble in the Brontë Country

I was so overjoyed when my bestie from Haworth asked me if I would go for a walk to the Brontë Falls with her. "Always and anytime" was my answer. She couldn't have come up with a better idea for us to spend a Sunday afternoon together.
We had a light lunch in the Cobbles and Clay cafe before heading towards Haworth Moor and the beautiful Brontë landmark the bridge and the falls are. The weather was perfect for walking - overcast and warm; even the usual moorland breeze, which can be quite strong, was absent on this occasion.
When I am in company I don't stop as often to take pics as when I am on my own, nor do I spend as much time composing shots, taking different angles etc; I am quite happy to just take a quick snap here and there, so here are some such pics from the day.

Path through Penistone Hill

View from the path on Haworth Moor; loved the white spring blossom trees dotted around the landscape

I always stop in front of this missing gate opening in the dry stone wall to admire the view

My beautiful Haworth friend, Tish, sitting on the seat shaped rock known as Brontë Chair

Very lazy shot of Brontë Bridge from where we sat down to have a rest. On the right there is the rocky path we came down by. The Falls were just a trickle as it hadn't rained for quite a long time, so no photo of Brontë Falls this time. 

Someone was entertaining themselves and everyone around by making stone stacks around Brontë Bridge

Scene from the top of the very steep path leading away from Brontë Falls looking towards Stanbury

I'm always on the lookout for interesting detail in the countryside

Opposite Lower Laithe Reservoir there was this huge pink rhododendrons cluster -  sheer exultation of June

Shirley Street, Haworth; back from our walk I took a few shots around the village

Church Street with a view of Brontë Parsonage and Old School basking in the mellow late afternoon sunshine

Path along the bottom of the Parsonage cemetery and the kissing gate leading to the start of the most familiar route to Haworth Moor. This was the first time I had seen it with the rhododendron above in full bloom.

Brontë Parsonage and the cemetery wall bearing a stone plate marking the site of the gate leading to the church, which was there in the Brontës time.

I so love poppies and am always looking forward to seeing them at this time of year....

....I saw these gorgeous poppies in the front garden of this beautiful stone house on North Street

Top of Main Street in the early evening, when the visitors had gone home and the charming place resumed its air of idyllic tranquility.

Lounge of  the lovely Weavers Guest House (formerly Wilson's of Haworth) where I stayed for the night.

Visitors Information shop in the early morning misty light. The colourful bunting heralds the oncoming Summer Festival weekend.

Some peonies I found near the Parsonage, another wonderful sight in the month of June

The original "Pillar Portrait" - the only portrait of the Brontë Sisters we have today, painted by their troubled brother Branwell in his teens. It is a property of National Portrait Gallery in London, currently on loan  to the Parsonage  for Emily's bicentenary  birthday at the end of July. Popping into the Parsonage to see  the painting was the perfect thing to do at the end of my visit to Haworth.

So this was yet another walk, another visit and stay in Haworth, my personal paradise on earth and my future home; place that makes me happy like no other. And I am so lucky and grateful to have such a lovely friend there with whom the love for the Brontës is just one of many things I have in common. All in all, I do consider myself a fortunate woman.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's Farmhouse, Near Sawrey, Lake District

"It is as nearly perfect a little place as I ever lived in, and such nice old-fashioned people in the village" ~ Beatrix Potter

We don't go abroad for our holidays. We always go to the Lake District as we love it so much we don't feel a need to go anywhere else. And every time I am in the Lake District I always think of the acclaimed artists from the past who lived and work there and who inspire me in many ways, like the Wordsworths and Beatrix Potter. A visit to Beatrix's charming cottage is always a must, and last year I happened to be there on a glorious May afternoon. I was thrilled to find that photography was now allowed inside the house, and that subsequently I am able to create my first blog post on the house around the photos I had taken.
Beatrix, a remarkable Victorian woman, who was not only the famous children's stories writer and illustrator, but also a landowner and a business woman, bought the house with the proceeds of the sales of her first world-renowned children's book "Peter Rabbit". She furnished the cottage with an eclectic mix of objects, which works a treat aesthetically, and proudly made it a home. However, she never actually lived there, but used the farmhouse as a place for work and for entertaining. The house was also an inspiration for her books, and many of her stories settings are based on the real places of the farmhouse, gardens and the village.
I processed the images according to my recent decision to include some black and white images in my work, as well as colour desaturation techniques. Because of the subject matter and the fact that they are all quite contrasty images they all lend themselves quite well to black & white conversion, but I thought I'd be careful with the b&w choice and only convert those images that I felt would look more interesting if not better in b&w.

Hill Top, Beatrix's late 17th century farmhouse. She added the wing on the left and extended the house to the rear. It was originally whitewashed like much of the village, but Beatrix changed it to grey render to give the old and new sections of the building a uniform look.

The entrance door opens into the hall, traditionally called "firehouse", the heart of the farmhouse where cooking and eating took place.

Beatrix's hat and clogs are on display in the hall. 

The parlour, which was once the main bedroom, with its marvellous mixture of different woods.

A corner of the hall with a spinning wheel and American rocking chair

The larder or buttery where food and utensils were kept.

Not sure which room I took this photo in; I believe it was the landing. I am not able to find out any info about the painting either, but I like the antithetical look of the dramatic landscape and calming flowers.

The writing bureau  in the New Room with the famous illustrated letter Beatrix penned in 1893 to Noel Moore, the young son of her friend Anne. "I don't know what to write to you", says Beatrix in the letter, "so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were....Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter." And that is how the tale of Peter Rabbit was born.

New Room in the new wing Beatrix added on at the back of the house which she used for writing and drawing. Being above the kitchen, it was probably the warmest place in the house.

Another writing and drawing corner in the New Room

Treasure Room, as Beatrix called it, her cabinet of curiosity, where she kept her pottery, porcelain and pictures, with a mid-nineteenth century ebonized cabinet

A corner of Beatrix's bedroom showing lovely William Morris's "Daisy" pattern wallpaper and an unusual asymmetric chest of drawers made of Japanese lacquer panels.

Hill Top from the vegetable garden

In mid distance there is The Old Post Office which appears in "The Tale of The Pie and The Patty-Pan", and the white house in the background is Castle Cottage where Beatrix lived with her husband William Heelis, just across the road from Hill Top.

Tower Bank Arms - the lovely rustic local pub which was used as one of the locations in "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck".

The charming village of Near Sawrey where many locations were used for Beatrix's children's tales. In the distance there is the stone Anvil Cottage, one of the settings in "The Tale of Samuel Whiskers".

The red post box in the heart of the village

Self service logs for sale - you need them in the evenings even at this time of year! A scene taken on the north-west end of the village.

Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, the former offices of W.H. Heelis and Son solicitors where Beatrix's husband worked. Beatrix set her story "The Tale of The Pie and The Patty Pan" around the building and adjoining cottage to the right.

The first post on Beatrix and Hill Top I created back in 2011. It contains my personal digital artwork tribute to Beatrix which I am very proud of. It is one of my images with most views on the internet.

I will be back in the Lakes in a couple of months; we have rented a cottage in Hawkshead and will be arriving incidentally on Beatrix's birthday, 28th July. Summer will be in full swing meaning it will be a good time to take pictures of gardens, so I decided this time I shall concentrate on photographing Beatrix's flower and vegetable gardens, the orchard and generally the farmhouse surroundings.

Here is some Beatrix Potter Literature (other than her tales) I enjoyed very much and highly recommend:

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Saunter Around Bingley St Ives Country Park, West Yorkshire

Last Sunday G, I and a friend of ours went for our first walk around Bingley St Ives. It is somewhere I wanted to go to for a long time, so I was glad the time finally came about. I decided it was going to be just a gentle, carefree stroll without a map for a change and without any plans as to my photography. The main purpose was to relax and simply enjoy nature and lovely weather. Here is a dozen of unpretentious shots of the day the highlights of which were extensive views over valleys and villages, fields of delightful yellow buttercups, purple carpets of lovely bluebells in woodland areas and spotting deer towards the end of our walk.

My buddies with a wood carving of a druid

Druids' Altar Rock

Bingley and River Aire

We thoroughly enjoyed this walk and will be back soon. There is a lot more to St Ives than you can see in one day. I think next time we will follow a map route to make sure we see new things, especially the two ponds. Here is a good website on Bingley St Ives.