Sunday, 31 May 2020

Oakwell Hall, Birstall, West Yorkahire

One of the few things I've missed during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown are some museums, notably Oakwell Hall. The Hall is one of the Brontë landmarks which I, as a huge Brontë fan, am fortunate enough to live not far from. I happen to have some pics of the hall I took in May last year which I haven't shared yet, and right now seems a perfect time to do that.
Oakwell Hall is a 16th century Elizabethan  manor house which used to be the home to the Batt family, members of  Yorkshire gentry. Today, it recreates the interior of the house as it was in 1690s. Charlotte Brontë visited the Hall in 1830s when it was run as a girls' school and featured it in her last novel "Shirley" under the name of Fieldhead.
When another Brontë landmark, Red House at the nearby Gomersal, sadly closed in 2016 I was very worried about the future of Oakwell Hall. Then, during the visit in May last year I was reassured and so pleased to see that the Hall had undergone a series of great improvements. Now, as the beautiful museum with a whole wealth of things to see and learn remains closed due to Covid19 crisis, my fears for its future are back.
Any place associated with the Victorian literary Brontë family is always a great source of inspiration to me in many ways and particularly for my photography; Oakwell Hall, sitting almost on my doorstep with is marvellous gardens and surrounding woodland is the most cherished of such places.

The front of Oakwell Hall

The Great Hall

The Great Parlour

The Great Parlour Chamber 

The Great Parlour Chamber

Painted Chamber (Lady's Bedchamber)

New Parlour Chamber

New Parlour

The back of Oakwell Hall with its gardens

Wisteria in Oakwell Hall garden

The back of Oakwell Hall

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Kirkstall Wildflower Garden, 25/05/20

I have never been nor will I ever be an earlier riser. But I often try, especially in summer months when it is warmer and it gets light early. On sunny mornings the thought of beautiful, low and mellow sunshine casting its magic in nature is often too much of a temptation not to get out of bed and go outdoors.
Monday, the Bank holiday morning was glorious, and I took a walk to the nearby Kirkstall Wildflower Garden, a steep meadow just off the main road at the top of Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve. At the moment it is teeming with white crown daisies, buttercups, cow parsley and pink clovers. I adore wildflowers and loved spending a quiet moment in this delightful spot.
For me there is something charming and mysterious about old stairs found in nature. The first photo of stairs I took in the wildflower garden, and the second in the woods on the goit side walk a short distance away.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

A Few Images For The Book Cover Market

Here are three images of mine that have recently been accepted for the book cover market. They are far from my usual photographic style and have been created as part of some lockdown fun G and I have had. In fact, they are purely his ideas. The blood is fake, of course; I bought it at Halloween time last year in the event I get to create a Halloween still life. Well, the still life did not materialise; instead, I ended up with these image. One thing is sure: I do love G's hands! They are so youthful for someone who is not far off 60 years of age.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Armley Beach 20/05/2020

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny and warm day; G was on a late turn at work, so it seemed a perfect time for a good early evening walk. I've been itching for quite some time to discover Armley Beach, a beautiful spot with a weir on the river Aire, nestling in Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve. The other day Google took me to a similar place further up the river in the Kirkstall area, very beautiful too, but having seen photos of Armley Beach I knew that wasn't it. I was very confused; it was the first time I saw something on Google that was wrong.
I couldn't rest and I trawled through some Armley Facebook groups posts for directions to this mysterious place, and when I finally found some I took a screenshot. I followed the directions last night and eventually, only eventually (I'm rubbish at both giving and following directions ) I found myself standing on the gravel of Armley Beach! The tide was very low as it hadn't rained for a while and the weir in its beautiful natural setting looked very beautiful and idyllic. It was quite busy and I couldn't move freely to take photos, but it was so good and satisfying to discover such beauty virtually on my doorstep.

Gotts Park Mansion

The weir on the river Aire at Armley Beach

The River Aire at Armley Beach

It was nearly half past eight as I walked back through Gotts Park, and there were still some golfers around.

The bridge over the canal near Aire Valley Marina

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Armley Is Beautiful

When we first moved to Leeds from London back in 2003, we lived in a rented house just off Armley Town Street. The following year we bought a house in the neighbouring Bramley where we live now. However, my local walks (with or without our puppy) still regularly take me to Armley and of course, I take photos on all my walks. So when a Facebook friend sent me an invitation to join the group called "Armley Is Beautiful" I gladly accepted. It is not just a great place to share photos of the area, but also to learn about the local history as well as the present. One thing I have learned is that the beautiful Gotts Park, which I love so much, actually belongs to Armley and not Bramley, as I thought. Ok Armley, I give it to you - you are more beautiful than Bramley!
Here are some of my first photos to share with the group, all taken in Gotts Park. The May blossom is magnificent at the moment.

I simply adore this red hawthorn tree! Gotts Park Mansion is visible in between the blossom.

White rhododendron tree near the mansion

Purple rhododendron tree near the mansion. 

Red Valerian in the Rose Garden 

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Hawthorn & Bird Nest - Stay At Home Still Life VIII

I am very grateful that Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has happened during spring and not some other season. Spring with its awakening of nature and explosion of life and colour has distracted me from the gravity and sadness of the situation and enabled me to nurture myself through the beauty of nature.
I love decking my house with blossom, flowers and anything beautiful from nature I find on my walks or around my house and garden. Much of it serves as inspiration for my still life work.
The image below features hawthorn blossom picked in the park next to my house and an abandoned blackbird nest from my garden. I took a lot of joy in watching a female and a male blackbird building the nest, but alas, it was built too low in the bush and eventually abandoned, probably because the birds felt worried by my dog who, of course, was showing a lot of interest in them fluttering in and out of the bush.
In the postprocessing I used texture layers to enhance the mood of springtime, with a faint impression of a tree on the left hand side and overall pastel tones of soft green, yellow and brown.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Walks With My Dog - Local 13/05/20

It has been six months since I last added an entry under the title "Walks With My Dog". The reason is that our gorgeous young dogo, Midge, developed a slight limp on his back leg that just wouldn't go away, so we have been cutting his walks as short as possible and taking him out only for the toilet. It finally looks like he may be close to full recovery, but we are still careful and are watching him closely.
I love taking Midge to this tiny local park, called Lilac Grove Park. Not sure why it's called that name as there is no lilac in it (the photo below was taken on the street I live in), but at the moment there are some other lovely blossoms, especially hawthorn and broom shrub. The place looks truly enchanting right now and has the aura of some sort of secret garden. I've even been thinking of creating some outdoor still lifes there!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Still life With Lilac - Stay At Home Still Life VII

Having walked locally more than ever during the coronavirus lockdown I have made some delightful discoveries from nature on my doorstep, one of them being a massive pale lilac bush. And it does not live in anyone's garden, but in a field, so I didn't have to refrain from cutting off a few branches for my still life work.
The sweet smell of the gorgeous blossom is divine, so I thought I'd pair it with a vintage perfume bottle for a hint of conceptual still life.
The soft pastel tones and softness of detail are inspired again by the paintings of the lovely contemporary artist based in Leeds, Judith Levin.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Home Isolation In B&W Pictures - Part II

Here is the second and final part of my home isolation in black and white/monochrome pics series; the continuation of Part I. In a nutshell, all these are quick, spontaneous snaps, taken with my iPhone around my house, that tell a concise story of my coronavirus home isolation time. To help the story telling feel I opted for the absence of colour and converted the images into monochrome.

I love spending time in the kitchen cooking, baking or just pottering around doing bits and pieces.

My lockdown Easter dining room

My little kitchen window, where I express my love for seasons; a little corner that cheers me up on a daily basis.

Sophie, my little country girl, my alter ego.

I've been trying to have more baths during home isolation, as part of my aim to slow down and learn to relax unhurriedly. I must admit, having always been a shower person, I am still to achieve the goal of regularly having at least one bath a week.

I celebrated my birthday in the lockdown. Among other things, I treated myself to some Pimms and crab apple blossom.

G and Midge - my boys, my world 

I have never been the one to watch TV a lot and it has been no different during the lockdown. I like to watch reality programs, Britain's Got Talent being one of my favourites, and apart from a few programs I plan to watch, that is more or less it. 

I have created quite a few still life images during the home isolation, the latest one being a tribute to my muse Emily Brontë, who loved staying at home.

Ten books that have been great companions in my home isolation and have helped to keep me sane and happy. 

As the lockdown continues, I have decided to finish this series now and focus fully on my other series started during the coronavirus outbreak which I entitled "Stay At Home Still Life". So far I have shot nine still lifes during this strange time we are living in at the moment and have shared six of them up until now. I'm looking forward to editing and sharing the other three in the next couple of weeks, all inspired by the wonderful season of the year - springtime.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Tribute To Emily Brontë - Stay At Home Still Life VI

Emily Brontë, my soul sister, my dark Muse, who for me shines brighter than the brightest star in the sky, has continued to inspire me greatly during the coronavirus pandemic self isolation; she has also inspired me to create a still life image in her honour as part of my lockdown still life series.

Emily and her sisters, who, of course, are the famous Victorian literary Brontë sister, lived in isolation and were very much socially distanced in their community. But their isolation was of a different kind to the one imposed on our world today due to the virus outbreak. They lived on a hill at the end of the village of Haworth, in a weather beaten parsonage, on the edge of windswept moors. Their isolation was not only physical; the fact that they were daughters of a parson and therefore of a different social class to other villagers, combined with extreme shyness also contributed to their lonely and isolated lifestyle.
But Emily embraced the isolation and solitude; she loved staying at home; and she loved going for daily walks on the moors in all sorts of weather. She didn't feel the need or wanted to go anywhere else; all she needed was her home where she could write, read, bake bread and interact with her family and the moors where she could roam freely enjoying nature and drawing inspiration from it. In her tragically short life, Emily was absent from home only four times; each time it was a prolonged absence due to either schooling or working as teacher which resulted in desperate homesickness and a huge relief on returning home.

To create the homage still life image for Emily I used the following props:

* An old, signed copy of Charles Simpson's biography of Emily Brontë, first published in 1929.

* A sprig of dried heather I picked on the Haworth moor last summer; it retained just enough of its purple colour for me to be able to enhance it in the editing of the image.

* My Victorian style nightdress bought in Haworth years ago, from a shop that sadly doesn't exist any more.

* The chair that I sit on at my computer.

I edited the image with the texture layers by the American photography artist Jessica Drossin. She created these textures after returning from a visit to Haworth. The textures are inspired by and named after the Brontës and their literary characters.

This is my second still life tribute to Emily Brontë. The first one I created two years ago for her bicentenary birthday here.