Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Winter garden detail


From magnificent and elegant winter tree 'skeletons' to tiny snowdrops, Harlow Carr Gardens is a feast of beauty in the detail as well as in the wider views. 


Different cultivars of Cornus (dogwood) have stems that really glow when the sun catches them.


I'm not sure what the grass (below) was. It looked fairly dull and uninteresting seen from the side that the sun was illuminating, but viewed against the light it took on a magical, shimmery, silvery, ethereal look; very pretty, trembling in the slight breeze.



Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Winter Walk


This is the 'Winter Walk' at Harlow Carr Gardens. At this time of year, even when much of the world looks dull and drab, these borders are absolutely full of colour. There are a few flowers: snowdrops, cyclamen, heathers and hellebores. Most of the colour comes from foliage and the bright stems of shrubs like dogwood. When the sun shines through them, their vibrant colour shimmers like fire and is a delight to behold. Not only that, but the placing of fragrant shrubs like witch-hazel and daphne means that you can explore it all with your nose as well as your eyes.  I walked up and down two or three times, just glorying in it all.



Monday, 29 January 2018

Harlow Carr Gardens


A rare sunny but very cold day had me leaping in the car and making for Harlow Carr Gardens near Harrogate.  I know it's a good place for a non-muddy walk (I'm so sick of cleaning mud off my boots!) and there is always something new to see. I only joined the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) last summer, and I'm not sure I've ever visited in January before. The gardens still look beautiful, even though much of the planting is dormant.


Sunday, 28 January 2018

Long shadows


One of those tricky 'against the light' shots that needed a bit of HDR treatment: Saltaire's Roberts Park from the top promenade. It was a cold, sunny day, with very few people about. The bright green netting on the right is the cricket pitch, fenced-off during the off-season in a vain attempt to repel people, dogs and geese from spoiling the turf.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Winter on the river


Hard to believe that this photo of the River Aire was taken just at the edge of Saltaire, behind the cricket pavilion in the park, looking upriver. It looks so tranquil and peaceful in its soft winter colours. This is the same stretch that hosts the Dragonboat Races in the summer, when it offers a totally different vibe.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Minimal mono


Just a wide-toothed comb on a piece of lined paper. It makes a good, strong image, I think.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Minimal but bright


Another 'Minimal' contender, this time much more colourful. This is a toy belonging to my grandchildren: a stack of plastic plates with holes, like a helter-skelter, through which you can roll a ball in quite an exciting way. (Exciting if you're only three, anyway).

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Minimal


The theme for my online photo group last November was 'Minimal'. I had quite a lot of fun with it, trying to think of the most minimal subjects that I could. I decided you can't get more minimal than this: one thin sliver of sunlight catching, just for a moment, the edge of the chimney breast in my bedroom. Converted to black and white, I think it looks quite interesting as a study of light and shadow.

I took the picture quickly, when I noticed the way the light was falling. Then I decided I could probably get a crisper image if I used a tripod and could thus use a lower ISO. But a few days later, the next time the sun shone, the trajectory of the light was just subtly different and I couldn't reproduce the shot. So... Minimal as a subject and minimal in that it can only be exactly repeated on the same day next year... I wonder if I'll remember?

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Winter promenade


Saturday was spent doing chores... Not my favourite occupation but at some point every week the business of 'just living' demands attention. A supermarket trip, some laundry, some cleaning, dusting and vacuuming... It was a dull and drizzly day so I didn't mind too much, but in the afternoon a weak sun broke through and I decided a little walk in the fresh air was necessary - also an important part of living.

I'm so glad I live within a ten minute walk of Roberts Park. On the way down, I bumped into some friends and had a brief but pleasant chat with them. Then I did a circuit of the park, at a brisk pace as it was quite chilly despite the sunshine. I often think of the generations of Saltaire residents who've probably done the very same perambulation. There were a few other people about, not many. I stopped only to take a few photos. Well, I can't go out without my camera, can I? The bandstand seems to be a favourite subject lately. It looks so smart with its new coat of paint and the light on it was very attractive.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Oakwell Hall



We've been suffering some horrible, damp, gloomy days since Christmas. I'm trying not to let the weather get me down or prevent me doing things. In that spirit, I and a couple of friends arranged to go for a walk. It was so dull and wet, however, that our planned route through woodland was inadvisable, so instead we visited Oakwell Hall Country Park, south of Bradford.

The Hall itself is a lovely Elizabethan manor house, built in the late 1500s. It was known to the novelist Charlotte Brontë and is the model for 'Fieldhead' in her novel "Shirley". During its history, it has been a home and a boarding school, and is now owned by Kirklees Council, furnished inside much as it would have been in the late 17th century. It is open as a museum, and is used for weddings and as a film location. The TV series 'Gunpowder' (which I saw being filmed on the Bolton Abbey estate, HERE) also used Oakwell Hall as a location.

We had a short walk around the grounds, where there are nature trails, ponds and woods, but it was all extremely muddy - and the dull roar of traffic from the nearby motorway was a bit intrusive. Perhaps I'll go back later in the year and take some photos when it's a bit brighter.




Sunday, 21 January 2018

Curves


One of the things I most appreciate about tramping the same familiar, local paths over and over is that scenes never look the same two days running. I'm always seeing new things. Sometimes they are literally new additions or subtractions but often it's just a trick of the light that reveals some fresh magic. I have walked along the carriage drive up towards Milner Field many times and never noticed the way the land beyond it curves and the trees nestle into the contours. On this day, the light and shadows really made this stand out, with the sinuous branches of a nearby tree echoing and emphasising the sweep of the land.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Mist and trees


A dull and misty day and an attractive stand of young trees. It seemed to want to be photographed and I think a black and white conversion with a fairly light touch suits it quite well. I'd have been happier without the encroaching branches top right but I couldn't easily find a viewpoint that excluded them. Walking with a non-photographer friend, there was a limit to how long I could 'faff about' choosing my spot!

Friday, 19 January 2018

Battlefield Cavern


The White Scar Caves visitor trail ends in a vast underground cavern called Battlefield Cavern, so called because the pile of boulders at the entrance looks like the aftermath of a battle between giants. It is over 330 feet long and 100 feet high in places. It was discovered as recently as 1971, by a teenage girl called Hilda Guthrie, a member of the Happy Wanderers caving club. She entered the cave by coming up through a tunnel in the base, holding her breath and swimming through a water-filled 'sump', to then surface and discover the massive cave. Just imagine how exciting that must have been! Visitor access to the cavern was achieved in 1991, when tin miners from Cornwall blasted a 65 metre sloping tunnel to connect the cavern with the existing stream tunnel lower down. It is pretty phenomenal! It's rather attractive in parts too, with the delicate stalactites illuminated by coloured lights. 






Thursday, 18 January 2018

Under Ingleborough


Cave systems like White Scar Caves are formed by groundwater and underground streams dissolving the limestone rock, sculpting out tunnels and caverns. It's an amazing subterranean landscape, with streams, waterfalls, huge caverns and strange formations of stalactites and stalagmites, pillars and flowstones, formed when the calcium carbonate dissolved in the dripping water builds up over thousands of years.


It's quite difficult to photograph. It's much darker inside than the photos suggest, with key features picked out by lights. You aren't allowed to use flash or tripods so I had to use the highest ISO my camera allows, with a slow shutter speed and wide aperture. A lot of my pictures came out really too blurred to use. The metal walkways are rather bouncy too with a group of about 20 tramping along them! But I think you can get an idea of what it was like from these pictures.


Some of the formations have been given names, like the one above. There was 'the judge's head' (a small stalagmite that looked like a head wearing a wig), 'the witch's fingers' and 'the devil's tongue'.


Wherever you are, underground, you can hear flowing water, and sometimes the waterfalls and streams are visible.


Deeper into the system there were some huge caverns, quite awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Going caving


I met up with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters at White Scar Caves recently, to do a spot of caving! White Scar is up near Ingleton, on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, deep underneath Ingleborough, one of the famous Yorkshire 'Three Peaks'. It is the longest 'show cave' (ie: those that the general public can enter) in Britain, as visitors can walk about half a mile inside the system, though experienced cavers have, of course, explored much further into the whole system of tunnels.

The system was first discovered in the 1920s but some of the guided walk we took was opened up much more recently. There is a trail of natural tunnels that have had concrete paths laid, metal walkways with streams flowing beneath and some long staircases; some sections require you to double over and creep under low overhangs. The hard hats were mandatory and very necessary. I'm not a great fan of being underground in enclosed spaces... You'd never get me actually potholing, even when I was younger. But the visitor trail is safe inside, even for little children to walk through, and the caves are very interesting. It does sometimes flood, but they have a careful monitoring system and would not allow you inside if there was any danger. The children had to wear woolly hats under their safety helmets. Even then, the littlest one managed to knock hers off (there was no chin strap) and lose it in the abyss!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Hole in the heart


I seek, wherever possible, to notice and photograph the beauty in the world... both where that is obvious and sometimes where it might be hidden. I suppose I try, in my own small way, to magnify and share beauty. There seems to me to be enough that is ugly and tough in this world, without adding to it. 

A recent visit to Bradford city centre, however, has me breaking that self-imposed guideline, simply because what I saw breaks my heart. The ugliness I show above is Darley Street, once the heart of Bradford's retail centre. 

There's a story behind it. I've lived in and around this area for many years, since I was a student at Bradford University in the very early 1970s. In those days (the 1960s and 70s) the city was full of imposing, some might say forbidding, Victorian architecture but it was also a time of great change, with many of the old buildings being demolished and modernist concrete blocks being erected in their place. The bottom of the city centre was where the main civic buildings were (still are) - plus a wonderful and rather classy department store called Brown, Muff & Co and a concrete development that had replaced the Victorian Swan Arcade. A little higher up there were the chain stores: Boots, Marks and Spencer and such like, in and around a concrete mall called the Kirkgate Centre (where once had been a lovely Victorian indoor market). At the top of town there were other markets and stores. 

There was a gradual decline in the traditional retail trade. A large department store on the northern edge of the city (Busby's) was an early casualty and then its building burnt down, replaced by a retail park. Brown, Muff and Co (taken over by House of Fraser in the late 70s) closed down in 1995. New shopping parks, more accessible by car, were built on the edge of town. Chain stores in the middle of town continued to get by, with smaller shops opening and closing all the time. The top end of town just about survives, thanks to the markets and an influx of new independents, many of them bars. 

In the early 'noughties' (2000+), some of the concrete office buildings and shops in the lower end of town were demolished to make way for a new shopping mall. Unfortunately, the recession hit and work was halted, leaving a huge and literal hole in the lower part of the city centre. (See HERE).  It is only very recently that The Broadway development has been completed, opened in 2015. 

Many of the stores (like Marks and Spencer) simply relocated to The Broadway and closed their original shops. The predictable result is that now there is another 'hole', a figurative one in the middle of town, at the heart of the city centre. On the street where M&S used to be, there are literally now only two shops open, one of those being Specsavers. All the other premises are either empty or being temporarily used for community arts ventures.  Last time I walked up that way I was shocked to see the decay and litter. This time, I was heartbroken; it is all so seedy and run-down. I really cannot see what can be done to rescue it. Pity poor Bradford... 

Meanwhile, cosmopolitan Leeds gets bigger and better, as fashionable high-end shops (like John Lewis) continue to open there. I, like most of my contemporaries, much prefer to take the short train ride to Leeds to shop there. I feel like a traitor...

Monday, 15 January 2018

The United Reformed Church


I've taken so many photos of Saltaire's magnificent Grade 1 listed church, I've enough to fill a calendar and more. (One day I might make one!) There are only really two good view points: head-on down the drive, as here, or from the north side as seen from the canal towpath. (See HERE). I have to complain that Sir Titus Salt and his Victorian architects did not consider the building from a photographic viewpoint (!) as the sun only illuminates the building satisfactorily in the early morning. Later in the day it moves round to be an annoying backlight. In fairness, I suppose the trees that surround the church weren't so big in the early days so the church would have stood out more. If you can work within the limitations, however, it is a really wonderful building to photograph, and the overall scene looks so different depending on the seasons.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Crossover


This is the point where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal crosses the River Aire on an aqueduct (to the right of my photo). It's just a mile or so out from Saltaire. It's the furthest point of my favourite walk, the point where I leave the canal towpath, slip through a stile in the wall (which you can just see, where walkers have worn a groove in the earth) and clamber down to the riverbank to return home.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Two trees, two days


I had a quick and restorative walk on Boxing Day, taking my favourite route out along the canal towpath and back along the river bank. It's only about three miles but it's enough to wake me up! The furthest point takes me as far as my favourite trees and I like to check on them every now and again. It was a beautiful day, with sunshine and blue skies.

A few days later, I did a different walking route which took me past the trees again. They looked a bit different under a lowering sky. Within a few minutes of me taking the photo, the rain started. Luckily I was already heading for home.

Friday, 12 January 2018

It's that cormorant again


The juvenile cormorant that I spotted early in December seems to have taken up residence on the stretch of the River Aire between Hirst Weir and the aqueduct. One day when I passed, it was perched on a tree stump grounded on the weir. Perhaps fish are easier to catch as they tumble over the weir? From a distance I thought it was the heron, which often frequents this spot, but as I got closer I could see it wasn't. Handsome birds, aren't they?

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Old Bingley


From the vantage point of Ireland Bridge, Bingley's parish church and the cluster of old houses around it looks quite pretty. It would be a lovely place to live, if only the river didn't regularly flood these properties.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Unremarkable scenes


I've been inspired in the past year by a photographer called Lizzie Shepherd, who is based in Yorkshire. She exhibited at 'Art in the Pen' in Skipton last summer and I've been to a couple of talks and presentations she has given, including one at the camera club I belong to. I find her work intriguing. She is technically superb and compositionally precise but, along with the detail, there is often a soft, almost ephemeral, quality to her images that I really like. I find the mixture of precision and gentleness to be very beguiling. She often photographs the kinds of scenes that I find myself intuitively drawn to. Some of her work is very subtle, what she herself calls 'unremarkable scenes' - but the more I look at them, the more I see. My own work is nowhere near her league (nor is my equipment!) but nevertheless she inspires me.

The photo above is what I'd call an unremarkable scene. It was taken on a walk round Bingley St Ives estate on a really dull, dreary and misty day. (Not the kind of mist that enlivens a scene!) I'd passed this way many times before but never really noticed the spiral sculpture. Something about the light that day drew attention to it. For some reason that I am struggling to grasp, I really like this photo: the subtle colours, the way the spiral is counterbalanced by the little fir tree on the left, the tilt of the sculpture echoed by the tilt of that birch trunk, the horizontal branches that bring your eye round... Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but I like it.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Green building


Here's an interesting house on the outskirts of Bingley... It was built a few years ago, with a very innovative and energy-saving design. It is part buried in the ground and has a turfed roof. From the roadside, it looks as though it could be an industrial building or even some kind of water storage tank, but the elevation that overlooks the valley is fully glazed, which must provide a magnificent panoramic view from the main living areas.


Monday, 8 January 2018

Flood gauge


Well, that snow barely lasted a day until it melted (I made the most of the photos I took!) and since then it has rained a lot. Crossing the footbridge into Saltaire's Roberts Park, I always take note of the level of the river. It's easy to gauge. When the water is 'low to normal', the shallow meander holds a muddy beach where ducks and geese gather. (See HERE) As the river level rises the beach gets smaller, until the water laps up against the little wall that defines the edge of the park. That's what it was like the other day, and the cricket pavilion was rather attractively reflected in the unusually calm water. In flood conditions the water will pour over into the park, flooding the footpath (along which the folks in my photo are walking) and lapping up against the second little wall that bounds the cricket pitch. (See HERE) I've only ever seen it rise higher than that on the notorious day of 'the great flood' in December 2015. (See HERE) That day, it inundated the park all across the grassed area and right over the path at the other side, flooding the Half Moon Café at the far side to a depth of several feet.  I shall be monitoring the situation...

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Winter wonderland


All these photos were taken within a mile of so of Saltaire, exploring the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and then crossing the river on to the carriage drive that served the great house at Milner Field, where Titus Salt Junior lived. The house is long since demolished but everywhere there is evidence of the grand estate that surrounded it.







Saturday, 6 January 2018

Down in the park


Roberts Park looked really beautiful in the snow. There were a few little children sledging on the gentle slope behind the bandstand, though there was barely enough snow to facilitate it. The newly repainted bandstand made a wonderful splash of red, set off beautifully by the snowy ground.

Sir Titus himself was shivering a little. Oddly enough, at the moment I took this photo, it was almost exactly 141 years since the great man breathed his last. He is recorded to have died at 12.40 on the afternoon of 29 December 1876, aged 73. He had been in poor health for some time and a trip to the sea air in Scarborough, in the hope of aiding his recovery, saw no improvement. He returned to his home in Halifax. By 17 December he was declining rapidly; telegraphs were sent to his children advising them to come at once but he lingered over Christmas. His death was widely mourned and at his funeral an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects as the procession passed.  His body is interred in the family mausoleum attached to Saltaire's church.


Friday, 5 January 2018

Snowy Saltaire


More snow photos... but no apologies. It's not every year that we get so much down here in the bottom of the valley, though it didn't last more than half a day before it melted in the rain. So pretty though, and it completely transforms the familiar views around the village. Above is Albert Terrace, the cobbled street, brightened and lightened by the snow.


The corner of Amelia Street, where it joins Albert Terrace, has an even more timeless air in this weather. Amelia was Sir Titus Salt's eldest daughter, who acted as his personal secretary until she married in 1873.  


The lion statues all had a little covering of snow, making them stand out against the backdrop. The building above is the old school, now part of Shipley College.