Thursday, 28 March 2019

Lane End Farm, Tong, West Yorkshire

Here are a few images of the farm animals I found at Lane End Farm in Tong village. They were taken back in February and were one of the first iPhone images I took, but I've just processed them now. I decided to crop them square and wonder if the quality would have been much better if I took them in square format in the first place. But, at the time of taking these shots I had a different composition in mind and only afterwards felt square crop actually worked better. One of many good sides of using square crop is that square images appear much larger on social media sites than rectangular ones. The processing apps I used here are Snapseed and PhotoToaster; I must say I'm falling in love with monochrome photography all over again, even if it's only about converting digital images into black & white. It is amazing what the absence of colour can do, especially if you are able to come up with good monochrome tones.

There are a few lovely working farms with shops not far from where I live, and this springtime I intend to visit them all. For me there is no more pleasant and enjoyable time then being in the countryside and watching animals and nature. And coming back home with a bagful of some delightful local organic produce, and .....of course, some nice pics to play with.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Town of Halifax In A Few Monochrome Snaps

In my previous post I blogged about a great black and white photography exhibition by Helen Burrow, entitled "A Brontë Reader", which I went to see in Halifax. Despite being a city child, these days I don't go visiting large towns and cities unless they hold something specifically of interest to me, and to be honest, my passion for photography doesn't include anything to do with cities and large towns. Halifax is a typical West Yorkshire, Calderdale town, but it does have a couple of distinctive and attractive landmarks that made me want to reach for my iPhone to take pics.
Helen Burrow's exhibition left me in sheer awe and tempted me to edit the photos I took on the day in black and white. It is at times like this that I miss having a film camera and a darkroom I used to have in the 80's when I first took up photography. Times are different now and I'm having to stick to digital photography. To convert these images in black and white I used the PhotoToaster app.

Dean Clough, a 19th century former factory mill where Helen Burrow's photographic exhibition takes place.

A typical view over Halifax

"The Old Post Office" pub

Halifax Minster and the "Ring O' Bells" pub

Daffodils at Halifax Minster

Piece Hall, originally built in the 18 century for handloom weavers to sell their pieces of cloth, hence the name.

Today Piece Hall houses various retail shops. It is an unusual shopping centre with great ambience, well worth a visit.

In the courtyard of Piece Hall there is a flea market Thursdays and an open market Fridays and Saturdays.

While walking around the streets of Halifax I was reminded of another beautiful site of the town - Shibden Hall, a historic house which was the home of Ann Lister, the English diarist. I have been to the Hall twice in the past, but have not blogged about it yet. Not far off there is also a Brontë landmark, Law Hill, Southowram, which Helen Burrow captured in one of her outstanding images, and which I am yet to visit. So it won't be long before I head back Halifax way for some more exploring and some more enjoyable time.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

"A Brontë Reader", Photographic Exhibition By Helen Burrow

It had been a while since I was at a photography exhibition; the truth is that there are not very many taking place around here where I live in Leeds, or at least I don't hear about them. So I was very pleased and excited to learn about Helen Burrow's photo exhibition running in Dean Clough, Halifax, 9 February - 21 April 2019. What was specially interesting for me is that the photographs are based on Haworth and places associated with the literary Brontë family of whom I am a huge fan. On the first opportunity I took a bus to Halifax and paid my very first visit to the fascinating Dean Clough, a group of 19th century factory buildings, presently used to house various art exhibitions and business venues. Here is a glimpse and a taste of Helen's exhibition which, of course, cannot be compared to the experience of viewing it at the gallery, but it can give a rough idea to those who are unable to attend in person.

I personally was very impressed by what I saw. It was wonderful to see work by another photographer who is a fellow Brontëite and who, like me, takes photos of places with Brontë connections. After retiring from being a mental health nurse Helen did a photography degree to become a qualified photographer. She lives with her photographer husband in Lancashire. Good part of her work is monochrome and so is her "A Brontë Reader" exhibition which consists of cca 40 black and white images in square format. They are very moody images conveying the often broody and even dark atmosphere of Brontë related places as well as the atmosphere emanating from their literary works of art. All the images are low key, some of them perhaps too dark, but I like how Helen is telling us it's ok to go very dark in order to express a feeling or mood. The photos are taken on the inexpensive Holga camera, which is a plastic medium format film camera. You can tell straight away that the photos are taken on film as it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to emulate that film look on digital photos. The images have blurry vignette with just a small part of the image in focus; Helen says that is how she sees the world - "with only a small amount in focus at a time". I love the dreamy, romantic quality the blur creates in the images. The subject matter varies widely from a graveyard detail to buildings, to a scene in open moorland, but each image looks perfect in black and white and generally the way it is presented. I think that Helen has succeeded in expressing how she feels about these places extremely and admiringly well.

Brontë Parsonage in snow, one of Helen Burrow's images at the exhibition. This image was used for the book cover of Juliet Barker's seminal biography of the Brontës         

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful booklet containing Helen's images, extracts from letters by members of the Brontë family and their friends, extracts from the Brontë novels, some of Emily Brontë poems and Helen's epilogue on what the Brontës mean to her and why and how they got to inspire her. And there is even an extract from Queen Victoria's diary on reading Jane Eyre!

"A Brontë Reader" exhibition moved me deeply and made me think about my own style of photographing and presenting images of the Brontë places. It has made me see how good these places lend themselves to monochrome photography and has made me want to employ more of black white medium in my own work. It has introduced me to an excellent photographer based not very far from me, but who I somehow didn't know about. I am very much looking forward to exploring and admiring Helen's work further. For those who would like to know more about Helen Burrow and this remarkable exhibition I recommend this article published by the Yorkshire Post.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Late February Weekend in Haworth, Brontë Country

Last Sunday the weather here in Yorkshire was incredibly nice for this time of the year. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the warmest and sunniest February day on record. I must admit it was a bit shocking, and I wasn't sure what to make of it, but the truth is that it was a stunningly beautiful late winter/early spring day. And I was so grateful to be able to pay my first visit of the year to Haworth, the place where I need to go to as often as I can; the place where my heart tells me to go to; the place where my soul finds respite and my mind inspiration for everything I do/want to do in my life; this is where my home will be in a not so distant future, I hope.
There was a lot I wanted to fit in a still short winter day: a walk on the moor; a visit to Brontë Parsonage where a new exhibition opened at the beginning of the month; a look around the Main Street shops, and a hearty meal and relaxing moment in one of the village's cosy haunts before I headed back to Leeds. And of course, a bit of photography, too.
I came to Haworth very light with only my iPhone for a camera. It felt so good and liberating to walk around without the heavy weight of my DSLR. I kept my backpack as light as possible as well. 
Here are the photos I've chosen to share as my favourites of the day.

Delightful crocuses in the churchyard were a must to include in a photo.

It was a snowdrop time and the snowdrops made the churchyard look ethereally pretty. 

Church Lane bathed in the mellow February sunlight.

Detail from Mr Patrick Brontë's room at the Parsonage. This year marks 200 years of Patrick's appointment as a perpetual curate of Haworth, and to celebrate this there is an exhibition at the Parsonage under the name "In Sickness and in Health".

The kitchen, which was the heart of home life at the Brontë Parsonage.

Branwell's room, an ingenious and moving installation created for Branwell's bicentenary two years ago. I was pleased to see it still in place for a third year running.
Path to Oxenhope taken from the junction of two paths the other path leading to the right on to Penistone Hill, part of Haworth Moor.

View of Haworth from Penistione Hill

Looking towards Worth Valley from Penstione Hill

Penistione Hill landscape

Literary Sculpture on Penistione Hill

Penistione Hill moorland

Camping on Penistone Hill

I have now installed a third photo editing app on my iPhone - PhotoToaster (the first two being Snapseed and Mextures) and have used it as the main app to process these images. It's a very good app and I think I'll use it a lot, especially its lighting and colour fixing brush.
I am hoping to get to a stage where I process the pics taken on iPhone on iPhone only, but at the moment I find that app presets, while interesting and appealing on one side, can make the image look rather flat; can cause dull highlights, loss of brilliance, or they can produce blown out highlights or too contrasty shadows. For that reason I gave each of the pics a quick fix in Lightroom after I finished editing them on my iPhone. I think the secret is to use app presets sparingly and in moderation. I intend to make a note of what works best in each app for me personally and stick to those choices.