Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Living by the river, Knaresborough style


Walking into Knaresborough through the Mother Shipton Estate you glimpse some lovely houses along the riverside.  These apartments have been converted from an old mill building, Castle Mill, that nestles at the foot of the castle rock. Originally a papermill, it was replaced in 1791 by a cotton mill that was converted in 1811 to spinning flax to make fine linen.  It had the honour of supplying linen 'by royal appointment' to Queen Victoria's household and in 1851 was awarded the Prince Albert Medal for producing a handwoven seamless shirt. (See the things you learn by reading this blog!)

But industrial development was rather hampered by Knaresborough's relative isolation, being a difficult place to connect by canal or rail to the major centres of population like Leeds.  In many ways that has been our gain, as it is nowadays a truly delightful and picturesque town, retaining much of its ancient charm.  In fact, I don't know why I haven't visited much more often. It's only about 20 miles from Saltaire.  I had a lovely day-out there.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Petrified


Beside Mother Shipton's Cave is Knaresborough's famous Dropping Well, 'England's oldest visitor attraction', which has been drawing curious crowds since 1630.  A fine example of what is known as a petrifying well, its ability to turn objects into stone was at one time thought to be the result of magic or witchcraft.  Now we know that it is a geological phenomenon.  Water seeps from an underground lake through limestone rock along aquifers, picking up mineral deposits along the way.  It rises to the surface in a spring which cascades down the rock face, leaving behind the mineral deposits, which form new layers of stone.  (It's the same process that produces stalagmites and stalactites in underground caves, but it is rarer that this happens above ground). Anything left in the water's path becomes coated with stone, and so for hundreds of years people have hung objects under the flow.  Teddy bears, hats and shoes can be seen and many celebrities have donated items to be 'petrified' - some can be viewed in the museum nearby.  Apparently it takes 3-5 months for a small teddy bear to turn to stone.  Nowadays the rock face is scrubbed regularly to try and prevent the mineral deposits becoming too heavy and breaking the rock.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Mother Shipton


Mother Shipton (born Ursula Southeil) was England's most famous soothsayer and prophetess. She lived some 500 years ago during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.  She was said to have been born in a cave by the River Nidd in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, during a violent thunderstorm.  Reputed to be very ugly (the archetypal hag or crone) she nevertheless married Toby Shipton, a carpenter.  The first book of her prophecies did not appear until 80 years after her death, and most of what is written is believed to have been invented after she died. Neverthless, the legends about her probably have some basis in truth.  She is said to have prophesised the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and Samuel Pepys's Diary records that she forewarned of the Great Fire of London (1666).


The cave and well associated with her are now preserved within an area of parkland, which was landscaped in the 18th century.  There is an attractive walk by the riverside, through an avenue of ancient beech trees.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rag rug

"Flower Garden" - a prodded rug by Isobel Waterhouse

There was a time when no working-class home in this part of the country would be complete without a rag rug or two. We had a big one on the tiled floor of our kitchen when I was a child and I used to love its colours and patterns - and the way it kept my little bare feet off the cold floor!  It seems this traditional craft is having something of a resurgence, now that recycling is fashionable and people are enjoying crafts as a hobby.  I came across a lovely little exhibition recently in the Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, up on Shipley Glen, showing a variety of rag rugs and panels made by members of the Airedale Ruggers.  The group came into being 5 years ago and they meet monthly at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley.  Their aim is to promote, encourage and develop rag rug making as an art form and to ensure this traditional craft doesn't become extinct.  They are currently making rag rugs for the Ladies Waiting Room at Oakworth Station on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (see my other blog).

There are two different ways to make a rag rug - prodding and hooking.  With both methods, strips of fabric are pushed and looped from the back through a close woven hessian or sackcloth backing. They are made from remnants and recycled materials - old T shirts and sweatshirts, woollen fabrics and tweeds.  The skill is not so much in the loop-making itself but in blending colours and fabrics to make not simply a rug but a unique piece of folk art.  As with quilting, family memories in the shape of significant pieces of fabric can be woven into the piece.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Up, up and away


Otley Chevin's ridge is one of the highest points in the area and on a clear day you can see for miles.  It is said that you can see York Minster (cathedral) from here.  This view is looking west towards the city of Leeds, though it was a bit too hazy in the far distance to see clearly.  You can, though, make out the runway of Leeds Bradford Airport and a row of white planes lined up to the left of it.  The airport was at one time quite a minor affair but in recent years it has expanded considerably, serving the cities of Leeds and Bradford and the surrounding area.  You can now fly direct from here to most European countries, to the USA (New York) and to Pakistan, as well as to many other cities within the UK (though, strangely, not to London).  Other international destinations require a connecting flight from Amsterdam or Brussels.  Being so high up, the airport suffers quite badly from fog in the winter (as I know from experience, having been diverted to Manchester once when returning from Tenerife!)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Otley Chevin


Another view taken from Otley Chevin, looking east up the Wharfe valley towards Ilkley.

I am noticing that my new Nikon seems to capture much better skies than my smaller cameras, with less tendency to burnout. And the wider angle lens continues to excite me - at this rate I shall be saving up for a proper wide-angle to supplement the 18-55 mm kit lens I have now.  Sigh... it doesn't take long to start feeling lens envy... all those possibilities! Wide-angle, fish-eye, macro....  Must get a lens hood though, as it seems prone to flare, more so than the compacts.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dunnies


I guess it's the same the world over: wherever there are bikers (or cyclists) there are bikers' cafés.  Dunnies (Wharfe View Café) is one such, pleasantly situated just by the river bridge in Otley.  It's been there as long as I can remember and there are always bikers there, either just starting a ride, having a pit-stop in the middle of one or congregating at the end of a day out.  It's what's known as a 'greasy spoon' and 'full English breakfast' (eggs, bacon, fried bread, beans etc) served all day, bacon or chip butties and strong tea are the mainstays of the menu.  Let's hope such places never die out, as they do add colour and life to the local scene.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Black Bull


Otley is a contender for the title of 'English town with the most pubs per head of population'!  At one time I believe it had 17 pubs.  There are still a great many, perhaps because historically the town had several markets including two cattle markets, and was also on a major coaching route.  Many of the pubs still have archways where coaches and horses would have entered to get to the stables at the back.

The Black Bull is believed to be the oldest of them all and alterations revealed a 16th century fireplace and door.  It is said that in 1644, on the eve of the battle of Marston Moor, a decisive battle in the First English Civil War, Cromwell's Parliamentarian troops (the 'Roundheads') camped outside the town and drank this pub dry.  The next day they comprehensively routed the Royalist troops in one of the biggest battles of the war.  Sadly they wouldn't have enjoyed a pint of the excellent Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord' ale, as the brewery was not founded until 1858.  You could though!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Famous sons


Otley is famous as the birthplace in 1718 of Thomas Chippendale, the cabinet-maker and furniture designer whose Georgian designs are still popular.   His statue (well camouflaged!) stands next to the former Prince Henry's Grammar School, which he attended.  It's an attractive building, dating back to 1614 but extensively altered in 1790 in the Elizabethan style.  It is no longer a school. It was used as a courthouse and I think is now offices.


Otley was also the birthplace of Mike Tindall, the English rugby player who recently married Zara Phillips, daughter of the Princess Royal and granddaughter of the Queen - our second royal wedding of the year.  Reputedly the Queen asked him if he was going to get his (famously bent) nose straightened out before the wedding - but he said no! ("Off with his head!" she was then heard to mutter.... er, no, I'm only joking.)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Otley

 
Some of you may recall taking a trip with me to Ilkley in Wharfedale last year.  A few miles down the River Wharfe, the next small town is Otley.  The two couldn't be more different.  Ilkley is a gracious spa town, well-to-do and conscious of it, with wide boulevards and select shops.  Otley has a much more down-to-earth feel about it.  Its origins go back to Saxon times, when the Archbishops of York were the lords of the manor and had a palace here.  In the 13th century they laid out 'burgage plots' (houses on narrow plots of land) to attract merchants and traders. The town was granted a market in 1222 and grew as an agricultural centre.  There was a cottage woollen industry and then in the 19th century cotton and woollen mills grew up along the banks of the river.  Otley also became a centre for the printing industry.

It remains a solid little market town but it is not as popular with tourists and visitors as Ilkley.  Rather a pity in some ways, as it is full of history, but it doesn't somehow seem to make the most of its attractions.  I took this picture from the steep bank known as The Chevin, that overlooks the town.  Now preserved as an area of outstanding natural beauty, it was the route of a Roman road that connected Ilkley with York.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Where earth meets heaven


August up on Yorkshire's moors is one of my favourite months because that's when the heather blooms, layering soft colour on the hillsides as bluebells do in the woods in spring.  Add to that a luminous blue sky and a few fluffy clouds and I really do have that sense of earth meeting heaven in all its glory.
 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Grey beauty


Even when they're stabled, horses move!  But not necessarily when or how you want them to.  And they rarely grant you that all-important 'ears forward' position.  This study of a grey horse is pleasing though, I think, and it did oblige with the ears.  Horses, like humans, seem to possess varying degrees of attractiveness.  I thought this one looked rather appealing, with its long eyelashes.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Jump


Members of my camera club went to a local equestrian centre recently, for a photo shoot.  I've never really tried to photograph horses before - and, like so many things in life, it's not as easy as you might think. (Kudos to Fiona - Cattle, Kids & Chaos, another of the blogs I enjoy - who hails from a cattle station in Queensland, Australia and takes some superb animal shots).  I was fiddling a bit with my new camera too, not entirely sure which settings to choose.  I'm determined not to resort to the scene modes all the time but to learn to use aperture and shutter settings properly.  It was a joy, however, to have that fast response shutter without the time-lag that affects my smaller cameras. Although I enjoyed myself, most of my photos turned out nowhere near the standard I want.  I shall have to have another visit and learn from my mistakes.

I think I caught a good pose in this one but I've had to lighten it up a lot as the horse and rider were nearly silhouetted against the sky.  (It was actually quite a dull day, but even so the sky was relatively bright compared to everything else.)   This was a beautiful horse, glossy black.  The accomplished young woman riding is the daughter of one of our club members.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Victoria Hall deconstructed

 

A wet midweek evening, nothing much on TV, didn't feel like reading or doing chores..... playing in Photoshop was more fun.  This was the result.  Saltaire's Victoria Hall 'deconstructed' - a collage of different bits of different photos.  I'm not saying it's perfect by any means (the top right hand corner doesn't work, for a start) but I think there's scope to develop this idea, don't you?

For those not in the know about Saltaire, this building was formerly the Saltaire Club and Institute, commissioned in 1871 by Sir Titus Salt as an educational and leisure facility for the residents of Saltaire.  It still plays a central role in the village's community life.  For more photos and info, please click the Victoria Hall label below.

And talking of the village's community life, this year's Saltaire Festival takes place from 8th to 18th September with loads of special events happening.  Despite the Festival being 'unlinked' from the Arts Trail which took place in May this year, there will still be some of the village houses open, this year for musical interludes.  Have a look at the website for full details.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Duck... stuck?


Here's something I can do with my new Nikon that I can't do with my smaller cameras - blur the movement of water.  The slow shutter speed necessary meant that overexposure was a huge problem with my Panasonics (and you can't get grad filters to fit either of them).  But I'm pleased with this, my first DSLR attempt at a nice soft waterfall.  I haven't any filters yet but it worked OK without.  I was amazed at the duck, which stood calmly preening its feathers in all that rushing water and never seemed to get swept off balance.  Perhaps it was stuck!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Walking the line

(Photo taken with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18)
 
This is an installation called (bemusingly) '29 Palms' (2007) by Jaume Plensa, in one of the galleries at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP).  It is a 50 metre long curtain of hanging letters, which are apparently poems.  (At first I though it was 29 Psalms - but no).  Whatever its merits as art, it made an interesting study in light, shadow and perspective.   Please applaud my patience in standing here for what felt like hours, camera poised, waiting for the people to be in the right places.  All along the right-hand wall are smaller rooms that had pieces on display, so folk kept coming in and out of the doorways at random intervals and unexpectedly.  I found out long ago that patience is not my prime virtue and I am rather pleased I managed this!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Boy sitting

 (Photo taken with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18)

I spent ages waiting, trying to isolate one of these seven figures - part of a Jaume Plensa installation 'Heart of Trees' (2007) at YSP - from the many visitors milling around.  Just as I was about to press the shutter, a couple of young boys ran into shot.  Isn't it frustrating when that happens?  But then when one of them suddenly sat down beside the figure, I had the picture I had been waiting for all along without knowing it!

I have posted more photos of the Jaume Plensa installations on my other blog.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Jaume Plensa at YSP


My main reason for visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) was to see the Jaume Plensa exhibition.  I first saw this artist's work on another blog (JM's Oeiras Daily Photo as far as I remember) - though I've looked again there to compare and I can't find it now!  Plensa is a Spanish artist who works on a large scale using steel, glass and neon lights.  My art guide is extremely sniffy about him ... "an example of the new academic modern orthodoxy heavily promoted by the official art establishment... [he is] only the designer, the physical creation is done anonymously, presumably in a factory..... objects made to look significant, portentous and profound by being displayed in isolation or attached to big white walls in official spaces.... what do they amount to? Profundity or banality?"

Personally, I found the pieces quite attractive and interesting (but then I'm not an art snob!)  They are accessible, not simply for looking at but for touching and exploring; I watched lots of people climbing in and out of the huge figures and the children seemed fascinated by them.  Comments on the YSP website are overwhelmingly positive too.  These photos show the massive figure called "House of Knowledge" (2008).  The one below puts it in its context in the YSP gardens and the people inside it give it scale. I like the way the willow tree echoes the shape.


(Photos taken with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18)

Friday, 12 August 2011

Pierced


"And a sword will pierce your own soul too."  Luke 2:35

For some reason that I can never quite fathom, this is my favourite of all the art works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  It is Héros de Lumière, 1986 by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj.  Carved from a block of white carrara marble, as favoured by Renaissance sculptors like Michelangelo, it has the feel of a classical piece and yet nods to Surrealism (it has a face on its shoulder, the lips just visible here).  It always makes me think of the passage in the Bible where Simeon prophesies over the infant Jesus and warns Mary, his mother, of the heartbreak to come.  Michelangelo believed he was carving to release figures trapped in the stone - and this piece has that kind of sense for me.

(Photo taken with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

(Taken with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18)

I had a magical day out recently at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield, about a 3/4 hour drive from here.  It's vast area (500 acres) of parkland, meadow, gardens and lake, surrounding the 18th century Bretton Hall, which was once the home of Sir William Wentworth.  The house became a teacher training college for many years but that has now closed.  The Sculpture Park was started some 33 years ago and has grown and developed to become 'a centre of international, national and regional importance for the production, exhibition and appreciation of modern and contemporary sculptures'.  The 18th century deerpark, now full of contented sheep and geese, is home to a range of sculptures, some by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (both born locally).  My photo shows a Henry Moore bronze "Upright Motive No 9" (1979).  There are visiting exhibitions and indoor gallery spaces too and they have recently restored some of the gardens and parkland, so that even more of the estate is open to the public.

It's a fantastic, unusual, exciting place.  You can take a long, exhilarating walk in the fresh air whilst at the same time admiring some of the most important sculptures of the last century.  Kids love it and, even if you can't walk so far, there are lovely gardens and galleries close to the entrance. When you're done, there's a couple of good tea shops and a gift shop.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Magazine not included...


A bit of light relief - sorely needed more or less everywhere at the moment, I think!  This is not the kind of image I usually post on my blog - but I thought it so silly that it's amusing and I thought you might like it too.  It's the little carton (measuring 14x10x6 cms) that contains eight sachets of my secret vice - Nescafé's creamy, frothy Vanilla Latte drink.  I allow myself one at work when I'm feeling stressed, as it's so comforting.  So it makes me laugh when it says "Shopping can be exhausting..."  Try working for the government, love, that's all I can say!  And as for "Serving suggestion. Magazine not included"... huh?  Well, I'm not that bothered about the magazine... but what about the man?  Hey?  My box doesn't contain a man!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Rosebay view


This is the glorious view from in front of Dick Hudson's pub (see yesterday).  As you can imagine, it can get pretty windy up here, but the evening I went it was beautiful: warm, sunny, calm and clear.  Just the place for clearing one's head!  You can't pick it out on the photo but I could see the Emley Moor TV mast, which must be 20 miles away.  (Mind you, that is the tallest freestanding structure in the UK and will still be so when the Shard in London is finished next year, though that will be the tallest building.)  Funny how it almost looks like flat scenery.  In fact beyond the line of trees the land dips steeply down into the Aire valley and then eventually rises again to the hills in the far distance.

The purple flowers in the foreground are rosebay willowherb  or fireweed (epilobium augustifolium - don't you just love those Latin names?), which I think is rather a cheerful plant, though its parachute seeds spread easily and it's considered an invasive pest by gardeners.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Dick Hudson's


Friday evening and I needed to get some space after a heavy week at work so I decided to drive up to the edge of Bingley Moor, to a pub known as Dick Hudson's.  I didn't go in (sorry Alan!) so I can't tell you what it's like inside or what the food is like, though it was busy.  It underwent a major refurbishment earlier this year, but it seems to be getting mixed reviews.  It sits in a lovely spot though, with panoramic views over Bingley and the Aire valley, right over to the city of Bradford on the skyline.  On a pleasant evening it would be good to sit in the garden and enjoy a glass of real ale and the scenery.  I had a bit of a walk and appreciated the 'wide' end of my new lens, great for capturing the view and all that sky.

There has been a tavern up here since the 17th century, a traveller's rest on the old pack horse trail from Ilkley to Bingley.  The pub moved to its present site, Highgate Farm, when a road down to Eldwick was built.  In 1850 the farm and pub, then known as The Fleece, were taken over by landlord Dick Hudson and it has been known as Dick Hudson's ever since, though for a long time the sign still said The Fleece.  In Victorian and Edwardian times, the pub became very popular with working class families escaping the nearby textile towns at weekends and Bank Holidays to enjoy a bracing walk over the moors to Ilkley.  The pub made a good halfway house for dinner and tea and apparently did a roaring trade in roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and ploughman's lunches.  (Not much changes then..)  For an interesting write-up of its history, see here.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Tourists


Here's Saltaire as I have never quite shown it before on this blog - full of tourists and in wide-angle too.  Last weekend's weather was gratifyingly pleasant so I was able to have a walk with my new camera and try it out.  Inevitably, most of the rest of the world was out having a walk round Saltaire too but the village has a good feel when it's full of people enjoying themselves.  As my house is not on one of the main tourist streets, I don't get people peeking in through my windows (just lots of cars parked outside) so I really don't mind living in a tourist hot-spot - and anyway there are plenty of times when it's quiet and still beautiful.

My new Nikon has an 18-55mm lens.  18mm is a wider angle than my other cameras and it makes quite a difference when shooting landscapes.  Here, it puts the church in its context quite effectively. (My book says: 'using wide-angle lenses causes things that are closer to the lens to look disproportionately larger than things that are further away'.  Yes, I would agree with that.)  Victoria Road is a fairly steep hill up from the river and the lampost on the left is genuinely a bit drunken, though possibly not quite as much as it appears in my photo.  (I did try a bit of Photoshop straightening but it affected the rest of the image too much so I left it alone.)

For those not yet familiar with my home village of Saltaire, the church is Saltaire United Reformed Church, a Victorian masterpiece commissioned by the founder of Saltaire, Sir Titus Salt and opened in 1859.  Click the label 'Saltaire URC' below, for more photos and information.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Whatever floats your boat

(Click photo to enlarge)

I just added another thing to my bucket list... a cruise on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal on this 5-star rated hotel boat, The Lady Teal.   It was moored in Saltaire the other day when I passed by, and it looks so smart and elegant.  It's a wide-bodied barge, not a narrowboat, and must benefit from the extra space.  It has two double bedrooms and a single, all with en-suite facilities.  At the bow it has a large lounge that can be sealed in poor weather or opened up in the sunshine.  Imagine sitting there and watching the world slowly glide by, whilst sipping your favourite tipple.  Or relaxing in the deck garden as the sun goes down.  I sound like an advert, don't I?  And I'm not getting paid for this! But I can't think of a more relaxing holiday (given some half-way decent weather anyway).  60th birthday treat for me next year, maybe?  I didn't get any Olympic tickets, which was going to be my treat.  :-(  There was a time when I would have been happier crewing a boat like this, but maybe not now!

Just realised all those trees and clouds in the canal would qualify this for Weekend Reflections - which has changed its blog address so none of my past links work anymore!  Find it now here and marvel at the many interpretations of the theme.  James's own photo this week is a stunner.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Mesostic poems


Three from a selection of mesostic poems, part of an artwork called 'Propogator' (2003) by the artist Alec Finlay, in the permanent exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

      SpinaChy                                                      Thread                                Milky
           disH                                          And                                   spInes
             wIth                                                buttoNs                                    yelLowy
          lunCh                                                         Sewn                             pricKs
          bacK                                     neatlY
          When                                                                                                  The
             thE                                                                            Hillside
earthmothEr                                                                                                        Is
          ruleD                                                                                                        Scattered
                                                                                                                         wiTh
                                                                                                                       purpLe
                                                                                                                          defEnces

                                                                                                                        
I didn't know what a mesostic poem was until I saw these.  Wikipedia tells me they are where a vertical phrase intersects lines of horizontal text.  Similar to an acrostic but the vertical phrase intersects through the middle not at the beginning of the line.  (Hard to line them up in Blogger though!)   I thought Betsy might like these...she's good at acrostic poems.  They look deceptively simple... but see how the words capture the essence of each plant.

I shall bring you more photos from my lovely day out at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park soon.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

School's out

(Photo taken with my compact)

Aha... yes, you were right, scaffolding planks (who knew they could be so colourful?).... part of a spider's web of metalwork engulfing the local primary school.  It's summer: school's out, repairs are IN!

There are several local elementary schools.  There's one at the top end of the village called Saltaire Primary School, and this one at the bottom end is Wycliffe CE (Church of England) Primary School.   This school was until relatively recently a 'middle school' taking pupils from 9 years old to 13.  Now it takes children from the the age of 4 through until they go to secondary school at 11.  But it was first opened in the 1890s (I think) as a Board School, at a time when education in Britain was going through major changes.

A hotch-potch of governesses, private schools, church (National) schools and factory schools like Salt's schools in Saltaire became a much more organised system of education for all children.  This was thanks to various Education Acts passed by reforming Victorian politicians - notably the 1870 Education Act introduced by the Bradford MP W E Forster, which set up School Boards to establish and administer primary schools.  As you can see, many of these original Victorian buildings have given good service, and in most cases have happily adapted to the ongoing changes in style and emphasis in our children's education.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Stopped in my tracks...

(Photo taken with my compact)

Out of the front door (remember to lock it!), turn right up the street, cross the road, left at the junction and straight on for a good long way.... that's my daily walk to work each morning.....but... uh?....what's this?... this wasn't here yesterday morning....very colourful... but what is it?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Double first


This will no doubt leave some of you highly amused (tomato grower extraordinaire Vicki; macro queen Anita)  but this photo represents a double first for me.  These are the first tomatoes I have ever grown... and no-one is more surprised than me that they have actually filled out and turned red!  I have only a small paved yard with a tiny border, and am not at all a keen gardener.  So when a work colleague gave me a few tomato plants a while back, I was not hopeful of success.  Since I have done nothing more than water them (and that only when I remembered!) I consider the appearance of fruit to be a minor miracle.

They seemed like a good subject for me to begin to explore my new camera.  Spent ages reading the manual.  I read about focus modes, AF-area modes and metering systems.  These things sound so sensible and straightforward when I read about them but then all the stuff seems to fall out of my brain as soon as I pick a camera up.  Anyway, I managed to figure out that for tomatoes I needed AF-S, single point autofocus and matrix metering... With the lens at 55mm, Aperture priority (whoo, I nearly always used scene modes on my other cameras) and ISO 400 I found f 5.6 (the widest it would go) gave me a shutter speed of 1/320.  No flash - that's the sun you can see shining. Anyway, that seemed to work quite well.  My first DSLR close-up. It made the background satisfyingly blurry.  It also shows up all the little hairy, dusty bits that maybe I should have tidied up first!

I hope some of it becomes second-nature before too long.  There seems so much to think about!  Am having to remind myself that the skills development model I used to teach moves from unconscious incompetence (you don't know what you don't know) to conscious incompetence (you are painfully aware of all that you don't know).  Persevere and one day you achieve conscious competence (you can do it but you still have to think about it) and in time even unconscious competence (it's so much part of what you do that you don't even think about it anymore).  My aim is that one day my camera will be like an extension of me.  (Preferably long enough before I die that I can enjoy it!)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Done it!


So... I've finally done it! Bought myself a DSLR that is.  I've been wrestling with whether to or not for absolutely ages.  The scales were always finely balanced: investment v indulgence; lightness and versatility v better performance and so on.  But just lately I've been kicking against the limitations of my other two cameras - a Panasonic TZ5 compact and a Panasonic DMC-FZ18 'bridge' camera.  They're both great cameras in their own ways and have served me well for several years - and there will be many occasions when I will continue to use them.  But neither of them allow for full control over depth of field and neither of them take filters, and several times lately I have really felt I wanted those facilities.  Plus I really couldn't enlarge my photos to a commercial size and there have been a couple of occasions when that has meant I missed a chance to sell a print - not the end of the world for me, but it would have been nice.

I have no intention of being anything but a photographic hobbyist (and blogger of course) but there comes a time when your horizons need to be pushed just a bit further.  So I'm joining the ranks and starting on a new learning curve.  It might mean the quality of my photos takes a dive!  But I hope I'll soon get the hang of the basics.  (I aim to be reasonably competent by the time my granddaughter is born in early December!)

As you can see from the photo, I've bought a Nikon D3100.  I chose that for several reasons - crucially, that I could afford it!  It's had a good write-up in all the mags and it was recommended to me by John Gravett, who is an inspirational photographer and superb teacher. (He led the LPH photography holiday/workshop I went on in May.)  The final 'push' was that I got chatting to a girl at the Bingley Show who was using one and she said she really loved it.  My first impressions are good.  It has auto-functions that mean even a non-techy can use it straight out of the box but plenty of scope to take control too.  It feels good in my hands and is much more satisfyingly clunky than my other cameras.  But it's not too heavy with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Despite the fact that I should be well 'grown-up' by now and therefore quite well-balanced about major purchases - and I don't have to justify it to anyone -  I'm a curious mixture of delighted, scared (in case I find out I can't adapt to it) and horrified that I can think of spending all that money (when there are people starving in Africa...)  Is that just me or do other people have those kind of mixed feelings when they buy new gear?  Anyway, like it or not (!) I will be sharing my progress on my blogs.  I enjoy watching other people's experiments with new cameras and lenses and blogland is a good place to be inspired - so here goes....