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.