Saturday, 24 October 2015

A Stay at Ponden Hall, Haworth

Friday, 16 October was one of the most memorable days of my life. G and I stayed at the wonderful Ponden Hall, a 17th century house with lots of Bronte family connections. It is situated above the Ponden Reservoir, in my beloved Bronte Country. It is a private home but the owners Julie and Steve generously decided to open three rooms for bed and breakfast over a year ago.

G and I arrived to Haworth very excited about 12:30. It was too early to go and check in so we had lunch in the "Cobbles and Clay" and wandered around a couple of shops before we made our way up to the Hall. I had met Julie before when I went for a "Tour and Tea" she organizes for those wishing to just have a look around the house rather than stay. And yet I did not expect us to be regaled on arrival with tea and home made Victoria sponge. It is not what you normally get when you check in to a B&B and is just one of  many kind things the lovely hosts do for their guests.

After a good chat during which we felt like we have known Julie and Steve for a long time we went to our marvellous room called the Earnshaw room. It is named after Catherine Earnshaw, the heroine of the "Wuthering Hights" novel, because it features the window which is believed to be the model for the window in Emily's book at which Cathy's ghosts appears asking to be let in. A while ago Julie and Steve had had a boxed bed made around the window that resembles the one Emily describes in her book. And it is these fascinating features of the room that made me decide I must stay in the room and sleep in the box bed. Of course, there are other things that give the room its irresistible, charming character like mullioned windows, log burner that was lit for us before we arrived, period furniture and breathtaking views over the reservoir.

By now it was already past four o'clock in the afternoon and the light was fading fast. This was the time I had to take my photos. I needed to work quickly, so using the tripod was out of question. I pushed the ISO settting in my camera to 1600 which allowed me to shoot at shutter speeds just fast enough to avoid blurry shots due to camera shake. I had to leave the room lights on to help me with the amount of light I had on my hands. The lighting in my photos is a mixture of available and artificial light which is not a conventional type of lighting at all but I do like it as it conveys the cosy atmosphere of the early evening in the room. For me it is also a precious record of the room as it was at the time I stayed in it.

In the evening we went for a meal to The Old Silent Inn . What an amazing and fascinating country pub this is! It is said to be haunted by several ghosts and it was fittingly and lavishly decorated for the upcoming Halloween season. The food was first class, really delicious.
While we were out Steve had thrown a few more logs into the burner so the room was lovely and toasty when we got back. We relaxed in front of the fire and I read a few random pages of "Wuthering Heights".
I woke up in the middle of the night to look at the Cathy's window inside our cosy box bed. I sat up and peered through the small pane. There was a faint light in which a shadow of a small branch with leaves was bobbing up and down in the frame. I waited.....but that was ghost..... I saw nothing scary.

In the morning we rose to an inviting smell of fried bacon wafting up from the kitchen where Julie was preparing our breakfast. We ate it in the beautiful Hall, at the huge oak table that once served for cloth cutting ( the ancient Hall tenants were cloth merchants). It was one of the heartiest, yummiest English breakfasts we have ever had, clearly made with love and care. At the table we met a nice couple from Essex, staying at the Giddings Room. For G and me it was soon time to leave. But not for good. I shall most certainly be back to see again this gorgeous place and our new friends, Julie and Steve.

A few shots of the outside of the house (I was lucky there happened to be no cars parked there as we were leaving) and of a very pretty walled front garden looking so charming in its autumn edition, and we were on our way back to Haworth, very happy and filled with most pleasant impressions we will always cherish.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Sunflowers and Autumn Fruit Still Life

I am one of relatively few amateur photographers who do classic still life photography. I am not sure how or why I developed the passion for still life. It may be the extra dimension of creativity it offers a photographer in that he/she creates the image from scratch rather than merely takes a shot of a "found" scene. Or it may simply be a fine sensitivity to the aesthetics of a harmonious interaction of objects put together. Whatever it is, I regularly feel an urge to create still life images and I do not think that will change for as long as I take photos.

The change of season we are just going through - the end of summer and beginning of autumn - automatically saw me looking for inspiration and subsequently conjuring up a still life composition in my mind. There were so many colourful fruits of nature to choose from. I pictured the cheerful, rustic sunflowers in the old earthenware jug as the main focus of my image. A few stems of the orange red crocosmia flowering in the car park outside my house served to give some volume to the bunch of sunflowers, and the supermarket bought autumn fruits added more colour and enhanced the season's theme.

I always shoot from different angles and camera heights and normally find the 90 degree (straight on) angle with eye level viewpont most pleasing. On this occasion, however, I felt the slightly higher viewpoint with the camera to the left of the set up worked better. I thought it made the positioning of the elements look more natural and casual.

As with all my still life images, I used texture layers extensively in post processing. I like how textures change the lighting, bring out colour tones and give a painterly effect to the image. Whilst I have been toning down the use of textures on many of my scenery images I continue to use them freely in my still life work.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Visit to Bronte Waterfalls, Haworth, 29/09/15

I woke up to a lovely early autumn morning. There was a fine mist up on the distant hills and the air was fresh and mellow. I knew the mist would give way to a beautiful weather later on. It was a perfect day for my planned trip to the Bronte Waterfalls up on the Haworth moor. G and I passed it on our way to Top Withins three weeks ago but it was a Sunday and there were far too many people around to experience properly the idyllic and inspiring spot. I made a mental note to return before bad weather set in. Now the day had come I could not wait to get ready and set off.

G gave me a lift to the Morrison's car park from where I took the 760 bus to Keighley.
It is an hour's drive, quite a long journey but I always enjoy it. The bus goes through Calverly, Shipley, Saltaire and Bingley, towns which are all of interest to me either from the photography or shopping point of view. I also spend some time reading on the bus and usually have a sandwich I prepare at home for breakfast. At Keighley I change for Haworth, another fifteen minute bus ride.

So I got off the bus at the Bronte Parsonage Museum and took the path beyond it to Cemetery Road from where my two and a half mile walk to the Waterfalls started. It was getting warmer with the sun pushing through some grey clouds and rising mist. The views from the road were stunning as usual, different each time you walk by, depending on the weather conditions and time of year.

My photos are shown in the order they were taken and are all processed with just a very quick and basic edit. All I did more or less is lightened them slightly because big expanses of sky tend to fool the camera into underexposure. Apart from that all the images are unadulterated and straightforward accounts of a beautiful countryside as it was on the day. Sometimes it is good to do just that - be less arty and just enjoy honest and pure shots.

All along Cemetery Road there are wonderful views over Lower Laithe reservoir. It is impossible not to take a picture or two no matter how many times you have photographed the reservoir from similar viewpoints. The fireweed, although fading now, was still a great pink colour and frames the shot well.

At the end of Cemetery road the route takes you onto the farm track that leads to the Waterfalls across open moorland. This is a view back towards Cemetery Road. I like the detail on the left hand side of the image and the defused light with just a hint of the sun trying to break through the clouds.

A photogenic ruined farmhouse with a lovely view beyond sits on a bend in the track making it impossible for a photographer not to take a shot.

The sort of view that accompanies you on your right the entire one and a half mile distance to the waterfalls.

There is a lot of lovely sheep around and I spotted this one being framed by the fence posts. I love their curiosity that so often makes them look at the camera. Such easy models!

This is roughly where the track narrows to a footpath just before a descent to the waterfalls. Now you can hear the sound of water and you can see the distant Top Withins on the horizon. Ferns most beautiful green colour make a change in the landscape around this area.

The first shot I took of Bronte Waterfalls. I was not completely alone there but it was not too difficult to take photos and have a quiet moment.

Sitting on a rock and reading Emily's poems with a soothing sound of the nearby waterfalls. A touch of bliss and magic!

By the time I was ready to go back, and now I felt well refreshed and revived, the sun has fully come out and was casting a beautiful warm glow on the idyllic surroundings. It was time to take a few last shots before crossing the bridge and climbing the very steep path up the hill.

At the top I walked across a field to Back Lane and then on to the lovely village of Stanbury. From there, after a quick refreshment at the Wuthering Heights pub, I took a bus back to Haworth where I did a bit of retail therapy. It is hard for me not to visit some of Haworth's unique, quaint and delightful shops every time I go there. And I always buy something from the Parsonage shop too for my ever growing collection of Bronte literature. One last thing I did (and usually do) before catching the bus back to Leeds is have a quick cappuccino at my favourite Cobbles and Clay cafe.

It was a most satisfying day filled with pleasure and inspiration. I do not ask for much more other than being able to carry on coming back to this wonderful part of the world.