Thursday, 30 April 2020

Early Evening Bluebells Magic at Bramley Falls Park, Leeds

I consider myself lucky in a few ways in the current situation of coronavirus lockdown, one of them being that there is not one but four parks within walking distance of my home. I am also lucky that one of the parks, Bramley Falls, boasts a spectacular display of woodland bluebells at this time of year which, of course, I make sure I don't miss. They are about at their prime at the moment, so last Saturday evening I headed for the park, my camera slung over my shoulder, to take my daily exercise walk. The late April sun was slowly slipping towards the horizon casting warm spotlight on the trees and mellow dappled light on the carpets of bluebells. I love how their colour changed from pale pink to magenta, to purple and blue depending on the light in different parts of the woods. The atmosphere was truly enchanting, and I often stopped and stood still just absorbing fairy tale scenes, sweet spring scent of bluebells mingling with the smell of wild garlic here and there and the cheerful song of birds. It was truly uplifting and invigorating experience!

"A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breaths
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell."

~ Anne Brontë ~

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Wild Garlic Pesto - Stay At Home Still Life V

One of the joys of springtime for me is foraging for wild garlic and making pesto and scones with this wonderfully tasty and healthy plant. And, of course, you can then shoot a still life with it, too which is just what I did.

I would love to do more still life images with food, but, much as I love food (both cooking and eating), at the moment I don't find it as inspiring a subject for photography as flowers and fruit. But food still life is certainly an area of photography I'd love to experiment with. There are some interesting Instagram accounts I've been currently looking at for inspiration; the present situation of coronavirus self isolating seems a perfect time to take photos of food. 

Saturday, 25 April 2020

A Trip To Haworth Moor

Since daily exercise guidance during coronavirus pandemic has recently been reviewed, and now it is allowed to drive to the countryside to take a walk, I decided to treat myself for my birthday to a much needed and longed for ramble on the Haworth moors. We didn't go to the village, but parked at the bottom of Cemetery road and went for a walk along the south of Haworth moor, taking a route not popular with walkers. We also avoided popular locations such as Brontë Falls and Top Withens and instead took the track towards Harbour Lodge Farm with exhilarating expanses of Haworth moor on our right and sweeping views over Leeming reservoir on the left. Having met only one person and their dog during the entire walk, we virtually had the place to ourselves.
It was a glorious day, perfect for walking on the moors. There was quite a strong, but not very cold wind which kept me from getting too warm. The lighting wasn't the sort I'd choose for my photography, but I wasn't complaining by any stretch of the word: it was just truly wonderful to be there and I was grateful for that with all my being.
I seemed to be using a lot the top end of my 18-200mm zoom lens, and hand holding the lens in windy and rather hazy conditions didn't result in very sharp photos. However, regardless of technicalities it is always possible to capture the mood of the day, which is what I invariably aim for.

It was a relatively short walk, but one that I will always remember with a grateful heart; I don't recall  ever craving the moors as much as I did in the past few weeks. Being able to breathe that air again, have the wind in my face and hair, touch the heather, marvel at breathtaking distant views and just losing myself in the liberating, soul cleansing feeling which standing on those beautifully bleak hills gives you is something beyond words. Needless to say, it has given me a fresh strength in the disturbing situation we all have to go through at the moment.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Springtime Blossom

Every year I marvel at majestic blossoms that attire tree branches in spring, and this year, in the present situation of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and turmoil, it is more so than ever. Knowing how short-lived this floral exultation of nature is, I cling to every day, every moment of it: I stop to admire and gently caress the clusters of little delicate flowers; I stand in the shadows of  blossom laden trees surrounded by a flowery curtain, gazing upwards towards the top of the tree the blue sky just visible in between the sea of tiny, soft petals; and I take photos....I take photos to celebrate and immortalize such ethereal beauty and grace....

"Spring drew on....and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps."
~Charlotte Brontë~ 
my perpetual Muse whose birthday is today

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Home Isolation in B&W Pictures, Part I

One of the ways to carry on taking photos while in self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic is, obviously, to take photos around your home. It is something I don't really do in normal living circumstances, so I thought I'd create a series of photos which will reflect my life in the pandemic imposed quarantine. My aim was to make photos that primarily tell a story, and I decided to present them in monochrome, mainly b&w technique. I feel that the absence of colour allows the eye to focus on the story and the message of the image in the first place, which is what I intended to achieve.
All the photos in this series are taken spontaneously, on impulse with my always to hand iPhone and were edited in Snapseed using the Black & White Film tool (hence the graininess). As usual, the edits were then adjusted in the Lightroom.
Being a rather introvert and private person, I wouldn't normally publicly share photos of my home, but since a good part of the world is in self-isolation right now, and so many people around the world are in the same frustrating and more or less troubling situation, sharing pics like these seems fitting at the moment.
So, here are my first ten images of the series, starting with the room I seem to spend most time in.

My little "computer room", which is much more than that; it is also the reading room, rest room, videos watching room, diary writing haven, really.

My three muses and imaginary friends always watch over me from the shelf - Brontë Sisters 

The futon in the corner of my computer room complete with a Cathy Earnshaw and Jane Eyre cushions.

The Brontë Society book of days where I record my activities to do with the Brontës - visits to Haworth, books read etc.

My computer room window and the view over north-east Leeds

My bedroom

Bathroom window

Small bedroom detail

Dining room table and my vintage cake stand that always contains some home baked cake.

Midge, our gorgeous border terrier puppy; he has been a wonderful self-isolation companion.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Flowering Quince - Stay At Home Still Life IV

Flowering quince is one of the first spring blossoms. A well established shrub will start flowering as early as first half of March. I love its bright crimson colour, the more so because all other spring blossoms are normally pale in colour. I certainly have never seen anything as vivid as the flowers of Japanese quince in springtime.
I've wanted to do a still life with flowering quince for many years. I thought I'd lost my chance again this year as it was getting rather late for it, when I spotted a young shrub in the local park. It was short and small, with not very many flowers on it at all; obviously not quite an established shrub yet, and therefore flowering later. What surprised me was that the flowers were deep pink rather than red, but then I found out they can be orange and white as well; I cut off a couple of twigs to take home. I love bringing nature into my home and now, in the present circumstances of pandemic self isolation, more so than ever.
So, at last here is my still life with flowering quince. It is a plant full of character in itself, so I opted for a very simple set up, the only prop being a glass with water.

Springtime for me means rebirth, light, and ethereal and exquisite beauty in the nature, and it is owing to these qualities that I have gone for an airy, high key image. I have also added a painterly texture layer in the postprocessing to add to the dreaminess springtime blossom always seems to exude.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Easter 2020 - Stay At Home Still Life III

Easter is my favourite time of year. However, despite keeping positive and calm in this situation of the coronavirus lockdown, I'd be lying if I said that my happiness this Easter holiday isn't tarnished. I am lucky that, apart from the freedom to go where my heart would want me to go, I am not deprived of anything. But there is a knowledge that a lot of people out there are suffering right now through being ill, not being able to see the loved ones, experiencing serious financial problems or going through one or more other difficulties. That knowledge makes me sad and has changed the mood I'd normally be in at Easter.
For this year's Easter still life image I have chosen the Simnel cake I made, an egg and a small handmade decorative nest, some antique copperware and twigs of white cherry blossom I picked at the local park. There is a subdued festive feel about the image which reflects my personal inner feelings about this year's Easter, and a nostalgic mood echoing memories of happier Easter times.

As I write this I'm thinking of the poignant, but beautifully evocative words by the Indian writer Haroon Rashid, which I saw in a friend's Facebook post yesterday. It is a powerful message I think everyone should hear/read in the circumstances the world has presently found itself in, and I would like to share it with my readers in this post:

"We fell asleep in one world and woke up in another. Suddenly Disney is out of magic and Paris is no longer romantic, New York doesn't stand up any more, the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress and Mecca is empty.
Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting our loved ones has become an act of love. Suddenly you realize that power, beauty and money are worthless, and can't get the oxygen you are fighting for.
The world continues its life and it's beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it's sending us a message. 'The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests, not my master...'"

~ Happy Easter ~

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Gotts Park, Leeds, 8/4/20

Just a few snaps from my leisurely walk in the local park yesterday. It was a gorgeous, sunny and warm day. Wispy and puffy clouds scudded across the sky in the breeze softening the sunlight. I was drawn particularly to the delicate white blossom imbuing the park with a dreamy atmosphere. It was so invigorating to lose myself in the healing beauty of the springtime nature and free my thoughts of the coronavirus lockdown, if only for a short while.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Rainbow Still Life - Stay at Home Still Life II

One of the things that help me cope in the strange and unnerving circumstances of the coronavirus lockdown is my passion for still life photography. It means I can still pursue my photography despite not being able to venture far from my home. And I am extremely grateful that the general atmosphere of restrictions and worries about the future hasn't taken inspiration away from me. I give credit for that to the  magic springtime is presently weaving in the nature around us; beautiful, colourful blossoms and spring flowers, bird song, scented air and breeze, sunshine and warmth...who wouldn't feel spirited and motivated?!

For my latest image, which was inspired by one of my favourite artists - Judith Levin, I have used kerria that grows behind my back garden fence and shop bought spray carnations and daffodils. I paired them with some enamelware for my usual vintage look. From the start it was going to be a light, airy and soft image, as these are the qualities the arrival of springtime evokes for me.

In postprocessing I added one of the Distressed Textures and made the background subtly reminiscent of blue skies, symbolic at what we see looking out of windows in our current state of  confinement. It was only at this stage that the colours in the image started reminding me of rainbow, pastel rainbow. Since the spread of the pandemic rainbow has become a symbol of hope and better days to come. Children draw pictures of rainbow, sometimes with heartwarming messages underneath, and place them in their window, on their front door or the street lamp posts for passers by to enjoy. I really like and welcome this new concept of rainbow; so much so that I decided to fittingly entitle my new still life "Rainbow Still Life".

Saturday, 4 April 2020

New Book Cover

In this frustrating and rather sad time of the Coronavirus pandemic it was good to receive news of a new book cover from Trevillion Images.
It is an American cover of the book by the American author Lori Rohda that will be released on 11 August 2020.

"The Mill Of Lost Dreams" is a story set at the end of the 19th century around Massachusetts textile mills. It is a story of love, friendship and sacrifice that provides an inside view into the daily life of seven courageous souls who leave home and risk everything for their shared dream of a better life.

My original image shows Gibson Mill and was taken on a glorious winter walk around Hardcastle Crags in the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside, back in 2011.
It is a second time this image of mine has been licensed for a book cover, previously appearing on the cover of a French novel by the author Colette Vlerick.