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.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Return to Black & White Photography

It's been a very long time since I worked in b&w photography. In fact, I haven't done it since I first took up photography back in 1987. At the time it was still a film only era, of course, and I was only interested in shooting b&w film. Colour had no appeal to me at all. I joined a photo club and had a makeshift darkroom in the spare room of my London flat where I developed my own b&w film and did my own enlarging and print processing. It was a very expensive hobby which I couldn't keep up for very long, so I was delighted when digital photography came about: now, all of a sudden, photography was free once you had your picture taking equipment and a computer; no more endless, hefty spending on film, chemicals and photo paper! However, shooting with a digital camera I quickly realised it was hard, if not impossible, to achieve the same quality b&w results as shooting on film.  On the other hand, digital photography saw a boom in colour photography; everyone seemed to share just colour photos on the internet. Colour was something new to try my hand at, so I started thinking and shooting in terms of colour.  I still tried to edit my photos in b&w as well, but colour versions seemed more effective almost invariably. So for many years I virtually forgot about b&w and shot exclusively in colour.
My desire to start creating b&w images again was born out of two things: the first is my recent decision to focus my efforts solely on mood photography, and b&w medium is perfect for creating mood. The absence of colour really helps you draw the attention to the atmosphere and mood; and secondly, I always like to make improvements in my work and learn new things about photography and I feel that converting colour digital images into b&w provides a great scope for making a progress in my work.
So here is a first  handful of selected images I took recently/not long ago that I thought would look good converted to black & white. Most of them I haven't shared before at all and one or two I shared as colour images.

Upper Ponden Farm, Stanbury Moor

Three Old Wooden Chairs, Haworth

Lake District Sheep

Reading Spot, Haworth

Brontë Parsonage, Haworth

Sepia, with its old photo look, is part of monochrome photography I am also eager to experiment with.

Wycoller Village, Lancashire
I always like to view other photographers' work; in fact I think it's very important to do that as a photographer, but I find that the longer I am doing photography the harder it is to see photos that really move me. But just recently I have seen some very beautiful, heavily desaturated, "almost black & white" images that did give me that inner glow and made me want to try the post processing technique on some of my images. I do like just a hint of colour in these images; I think it adds to the feel of the subject in the image.

Branwell's room, Brontë Parsonage

Earnshaw Room, Ponden Hall
This year for my birthday I got a most amazing gift from a dear friend - a gorgeous vintage wooden writing slope. It is special also because it comes from a great gift shop in Haworth, Number 71, run by mutual friends. Of course, a still life image was in order very soon!

Still Life With Vintage Writing Slope

I am not saying I will now be creating b&w images only. I will merely try and include them in my work as well. Not every image looks best in b&w and I am hoping to get better at seeing and understanding tonal ranges and deciding if a scene will look better in colour or b&w.
I bought an interesting, concise online b&w digital photography guide and am looking forward to seeing how I can apply the tips to my themes and style of work.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

16 Random Haworth Images, Brontë Country

I have been posting about Haworth quite a lot in recent times and I cannot apologise. For there is no such other place that draws me back to it, whether it be in person or in mind. There is no other place that inspires me in so many ways and for so many reasons.

A while ago when I had no new photographs to process and no time to take any I looked in my archives and thought it was a perfect time to gather some of the odd photos of Haworth taken over the past few years and post them together.  Incidentally, most of them were taken around this time of year.

Main Street, 4/2015

Old School, 4/2015

Bottom of Church Street, 9/2015

Bottom of Church Street, 4/2015

Arched Tunnel opposite Black Bull Inn, 1/2018

Lodge Street, 2/2017

Vintage Tractor, 10/2017

Outside Haworth Church, 10/2017

Sonia's Smile shop on Main Street, 4/2015

Linen shop on Main Street, now gone, 4/2015

Sweet Shop on Main Street, 4/2015

Street off Sun Street, 9/2017

Street off Sun Street, 9/2017

Little Street, 10/2017

On Railway Children Walk, 4/2017

Hill Top from Cemetery Road, 9/2015

I now have a special folder on my computer for random Haworth images and I look forward to collecting enough for a next post like this.