Sunday, 20 July 2014

learning some new things...

I was given a great treat for my birthday of a 4 hour 'workshop' with a local photographer. Yesterday was the day, and with some trepidation (feeling a complete novice with new camera and not quite knowing what to expect) I set off to meet at the appointed National Trust car park near Blickling Hall.

After some glorious hot days, yesterday had been predicted cloudy at best, possible thunderstorms, and at 21C first thing in the morning, after spectacular thunder and lightning at 4am, I risked shorts & packed a waterproof.

The Blickling Estate park has some beautiful woodland and, it has to be said, when we started it wasn't looking promising for decent light to take photos in!


It transpired that the photographer specialised particularly in nature images and I rather suspect his photography (of many years) had originally come from his love of the local environment rather than the other way around. I guess maybe that's true of many - that the overriding interest, be it sport, or food, or whatever, is the thing that generates a source of images that interest you. He certainly has taken some beautiful pictures and was keen to share his experience both of photography and what we were looking at.

Some of the trees had impressive fungus growths and we played with different camera settings with this one...

The light was a bit muted for decent reflections - I think blue sky would completely change the look of the lake...

I was slightly craving a bit of colour by this stage so was pleased to find some pretty flowers and spent ages playing around with these...
I learnt a lot about framing, exposure and aperture setting...not all of which I will retain I'm sure! Interestingly, though, I think some of the composition techniques I had inadvertently/intuitively (not sure which!) been using already so it was reassuring to know I wasn't miles off track!

Over the space of a couple of hours, the skies changed from a grey that rendered the parasol like stems almost monochrome to the beginnings of blue and a hint of sunshine. A large patch of white meadowsweet gave us a chance to play with trying to pick out some blooms from the mass of fluffy flower heads. Not sure how successful I was but it was fun trying!


I was pleased with this one. I know its a bit of a tatty specimen, not the showiest and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, but I was just pleased to capture one, in focus...


I can't say fungus overly excites me but there were some interesting specimens, plus delicate flowers and damselflies flitting about...
 I quite like this one too...


It was quite blowy and there was something so delicate about these grasses. Not sure the photographer was convinced but it made me think this is a very subjective pastime. I'm not trying to take photos to sell or impress anyone else, just for my own pleasure and distraction and, rightly or wrongly, my view is if I like it that's ok.

I discovered he is a keen insects man but I'm afraid I had no burning desire to take lots of pictures of flies, even if they look 'like fantastic little monsters through a macro lens'. Yep, I'm sure they do, but fascinating though that is I'm not sure I want to keep looking at them!

Butterflies, maybe, and there was something of a compulsive challenge about patiently waiting to catch one with its wings open just as you pressed the shutter...


Blickling is a beautiful and impressive stately home...


...and afforded a slightly uncomfortable opportunity to try out the self timer on the camera...


Two amateur interested ladies on the right, professional photographer on the left! Has to be said the other lady was not such a novice either, with an impressive film Nikon and a pretty sound knowledge of photography herself. Just moi starting from basics!

As a process in analysing what I find pleasing, the workshop was an interesting exercise in itself - seems to me that what I enjoy most are light and colour. I can appreciate lovely trees and interesting fungi and creepy crawlies but they are not the images, on the whole, I want to take home. I love the sun breaking through the tree canopy...


...and the sunshine in these zingy yellow flowers with the butterfly a bonus...


The park was beautiful and I enjoyed the walk...
but I'm happy to have what was referred to as 'just a scenic shot' as a memory trigger of a place or an experience or a feeling...

This spot was particularly tranquil and, whilst it may have no particular merit in photographic terms, this photo evokes that for me...


I love the effect of the bright pink of these flowers which seem to pop out from the soft green background...



Apparently this is a black demoiselle, beautiful blue body...


We were out for almost 6 hours in the end and towards the end of that time the sun was out in full and temperatures up into the high 20s, and this patch of bramble was covered in butterflies. I took more photos than I dare confess to trying to capture these tricksy creatures, thanks heavens for digital...




The others went ahead and were absorbed by more fungus...
I had to agree this is an impressive tree, though I felt it was crying out for adventurous children :-) - my boys would have loved this...


So...I had a good time, I learnt a lot and it definitely improved my confidence with my new camera. And overall, I would say I still feel I want to take pictures that I think I want to look at again, for whatever reason, just maybe I'll have a slightly more educated eye to view through now.

Need to keep practicing!

S x

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Random pleasures...

How lovely to hear from the nice people in blogland after my prolonged absence... I wasn't really expecting anyone to still be watching my little space, and to be honest, that has never been my reason for blogging but I can't deny it was very nice to see some comments pop up! :-) 

This is going to be a post of randomness... things that have made me smile or gasp or just feel a little bit enthused...

I live a 5 minute walk from the city centre now and sometimes I just go for an evening wander. On the way back a few days ago the sky was beautiful and stopped me in my tracks...


As did this giant inflatable Neptune by the market this weekend...


This was the weekend of the annual Lord Mayors Procession and I can't pretend to have the slightest clue what the relevance of this was (or the giant Octopus on the Guildhall or lips on the City Hall!!!) but it certainly drew your attention!

The whole weekend is taken up by street fairs and entertainment (only slightly dampened by the wet weather!) and prior to the main procession there is a tradition of a 5k road race on the traffic free streets. This is something of an elite event - I guess because of the timeframe, slow runners would risk being mown down by the floats or the marching bands! You couldn't help but be impressed by the first two runners who made it in just over 13 minutes - effortlessly sprinting to the finish line but we were there to cheer on a friend's son who finished an impressive 10th out of a starting lineup of 162, in under 16 minutes. Still looked like a sprint to me! Barely had time to down my Pimms before I needed the camera at the ready!


My other excitement is a new camera. That is, new to me - it is actually a secondhand Canon Powershot which as far as I can tell is something of a halfway house between my little point and shoot and a 'proper' camera. I'm hoping it will give me a bit more range with my photos (and incentive to take some!) though I think my grasp of the sports function leaves a bit to be desired!

I'm enjoying the macro option though...





I'm not a huge fan of hydrangeas but under the 'microscope', so to speak, they have a sort of waxy quality which holds the raindrops beautifully. And although this little beetle is doing horrible things to my sage plant it does have the most stunning shiny body...


It looks like a little drop of gold from a distance.

My teeny patch of courtyard garden has gone mad in the last few weeks and the hanging baskets and pots are looking lovely (though I say it myself!!)...


Perfect spot for a cuppa in the sun!

Looking forward to making time for photos - we'll see what happens, might be a pipe dream on a work day!

S x

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Two months!!!

I can't quite believe its two months since I looked at this! Life seems to have been so busy and things have got a little out of kilter in terms of 'work/life balance', whatever that is supposed to be...

I have taken hardly any photos but when I look back over what I do have, there seems to have been a surprising amount of blue sky...


Perhaps its just that those are the days I feel inclined to take pictures? Perhaps it really has been lovely and just most days I don't stop to take it in... Not sure, but looking back through these somehow reminds me of why I wanted to keep a 'reminder' in the first place. I think you can relive a walk, or a feeling, or a day... just by a frozen moment in time that conjures up all of those things in an instant. I'm fairly sure, in this picture of the cathedral taken from the river, I can hear the birds singing in the early May sunshine, smell the heady pollen of the cowslips and hear the children behind me feeding the ducks. And walking back through the cathedral close that day meant I saw the peregrine falcons nesting on the spire.

And  this pot of flowers, newly planted, brings to mind a satisfying day of clearing and potting up; that delicious feeling of warm crumbly compost, the smell of the thyme, rosemary and lavender nearby and the cup of earl grey tea I enjoyed in the sunshine afterwards. The courtyard seems to have its own little microclimate and everything grows like crazy. There are some lovely plants but, boy, is it overgrown! I am slowly making some progress, and the neighbours don't seem to be objecting, so I hope this will be much more useable space by this time next year.




This was another walk through the cathedral close, with blue, blue sky and cotton wool clouds and these fabulous chimneys that I don't think I have ever noticed before. Oddly, I know this was a day when I felt a bit out of sorts and low, and just walked and walked and walked...


This conjures up a lazy weekend, in the middle of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, after people watching in Chapelfield Gardens. We ate delicious ice-cream and expensive 'festival' food, then impulsively bought tickets for a late night toe tapping show...


These stocks and freesias had the most gorgeous perfume that filled the kitchen for days...


...and this was a trip to Wells-next-the-sea, where I had coffee and home made victoria sponge before we poked around in second had bookshops and walked down to the coast amongst hordes of bank holiday weekenders who had all had the same idea!


Some days I do miss a 'proper' garden, to just be able to walk around with a cuppa or hang washing out  (is it a bit sad that this is probably the thing I miss the most?!!) but there are lovely green spaces in Norwich and several just a few minutes away from my house, where I can take a book or just lay and watch the clouds scud by...


I am trying to take life a bit as it comes, to seize the moment and to try to see the positives however tricky that may sometimes be!

And I have had treats. Big treats. At the beginning of June a friend and I booked a last minute trip to Venice and had 4 days exploring the delights of that quirky, unique city, with its contrasting bustling central areas and quiet piazzas just minutes away...


We had heard mixed reviews of Venice but I loved its faded grandeur and sense of self-importance. There truly is a vast amount of art, beauty and music to be found and although it clearly relies heavily on tourism, I didn't once feel unfairly treated for that. The Venetians we met were friendly and happy to talk, there is a relaxed, safe feel about the place and a sort of mutual understanding I thought. Lets face it, I have never had a taxi driver in this country suggest I might find the bus better value and point me helpfully towards the nearest bus stop! Of course, the taxis were motorboats and the buses the very efficient vaporetto water buses...

You don't have to move far from the 'madding crowd' in the main attraction areas like St Mark's Square and the Rialto bridge (of course we did go and look at both of these too!) to find pretty windows and hidden courtyards...



...and the advantage of us both being early risers (aka lousy sleepers!) meant that we were able to be up and out before even the busy areas filled up on the main frontage to the lagoon...


...and looking across to the Bridge of Sighs (obligatory theatrical sighing essential!)...


The light and skies early in the day were stunning...


...and, frankly, who could resist a line of gondolas...


We found Venice a very clean place...


and I couldn't fail to fall in  love with all the beautiful glass, canals and bridges...





A trip to the glass-making island of Murano and lace-making Burano made a change and gave us a glimpse of the skill of these craftsmen and women, and a peek at a different, colorful architecture...



It was a lovely way to spend a few days - we walked miles, looked at lots of art, listened to a Vivaldi concert in a beautiful church and soaked up a little bit of Italian relaxation... bliss.

So, two months has flown by, and...looking back, some lovely days. Just need to try to sort out a better balance of lovely days now!