Monday, 19 August 2019

City dusk

In Leeds it proved hard to get a good composition at sunset. My best effort was a railway gantry, softened by a rogue buddleia bush along the track. I liked the juxtaposition of hard lines and the more delicate tracery of the branches.

One of the many cranes on the skyline also provided a focal point. Leeds is a big, metropolitan city and is still growing, with lots of new offices and urban residential properties being built,

I quite liked the hard edges of this block of apartments against the soft clouds too. It was not, anyway, a very spectacular sunset in the end, though the colours were pretty.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Around Leeds station

There were several of us photographers, with cameras on tripods, clustered around the escalator. I lost count of the number of passers-by who stopped to enquire if a celebrity was expected. We must have looked like paparazzi!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Urban abstracts

 All taken in Leeds. 

Friday, 16 August 2019

Bridgewater Place

Bridgewater Place, an office and residential block in the centre of Leeds, is - at 112m high - the tallest building in Yorkshire. A group of us from the camera club were in Leeds one evening (ages ago!) taking photos, so I set myself a mini-project to take a set of interesting and unusual photos of it.

The shot to the left is the 'standard' view, although it looks very different from different viewpoints.

It has had a lot of problems since it was built in 2007, not least that its shape and bulk channels and accelerates the wind in the area. Sadly, people have been injured as a result, and one man was tragically killed when a lorry was blown over onto him. Since then the adjacent roads are sometimes closed in high winds and some baffles have been erected across the road to try and mitigate the problem. You can see them in the photo.

The setting sun turned it a cheerful coral pink. At night the tower is lit up with coloured lights, though I didn't take a photo after dark. 

Thursday, 15 August 2019


At Skipton Horse Trials, I found it wasn't too difficult to get good shots of the cross-country event, though much harder to get a 'great' shot. (I think you need someone to fall off into the water, to make a really great shot!) Spectators were free to wander the course, though you had to listen for the whistle that indicated a rider coming and make sure you were well-out of the way. I found it tricky to get the exposure right; a lot of my photos were underexposed. Ideally, you need light on the competitor's face and the horse with its ears pointed forwards. I was taking 'burst shots' where the camera takes a few frames in quick succession. Those with the horse beginning its leap were, on the whole, more successful than those where it was landing. They often look very awkward coming down.

There were several pro photographers, employed at strategic sites to get a shot of each rider. I think it must be fairly boring to just keep taking the same shot over and over. At least we amateurs could move around. Sadly, pros can apparently be a little bit selfish. We'd been waiting by the water jump for ages for the afternoon class to start. A pro came along and plonked himself right in everyone's sightline and refused to move, despite being asked politely to do so!

The white poles had signs to indicate to the riders which jumps were to be used. They proved to be a bit of a photographic nuisance! I cloned out two on the photo below, as they looked as though they were penetrating the horse's abdomen and made it look like one of those prancing horses on a fairground carousel. Other than that, I quite like the angle I got on this one:

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Skipton Horse Trials

I've never attended a gymkhana or horse trials before, so, when my camera club fixed up an outing to Skipton Horse Trials, I decided to go. It turned out to be a most enjoyable day out. The format is a one-day event where competitors complete three phases: dressage, showjumping and cross-country, picking up penalty points for faults. The one with the least penalties by the end wins the class. There were classes for different skills-levels and I gather there are both amateur and professional riders competing. To be honest, I can't really tell a novice from a pro, as I don't know what to look for, beyond the obvious ability to stay on the horse's back!

Plenty to see, though nothing, apparently, as fascinating as their phones!

The cross-country event meandered through the farm's fields, uphill and downhill, over a series of jumps. For much of the time, we were watching near the water jump as that added some spice to the shots.

The expressions on some of the riders' faces were priceless. I'm not sure this lady (below) was enjoying herself!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Canine capers

A couple at my church have started hosting 'a leisurely stroll', once a month, up at the nearby St Ives estate. They have a dog to walk regularly, so they had the idea to invite other people along (with or without dogs) to stroll, chat and generally enjoy the scenery and company. I thought that was a lovely idea, so I joined them this month.

Most of the time, I personally quite like walking alone (though I'm careful where I go). Some people really enjoy an occasional walk but find walking alone daunting, and not everyone has the level of fitness needed to join a rambling group. This 'leisurely stroll' idea neatly fills the gap.

The only one that wasn't 'strolling' was Maisie the dog, a young Labrador/Spaniel cross, who simply bounced around in perpetual motion and must have done at least ten times the mileage that we did! She got particularly excited chasing butterflies among the heather, which is in full bloom now. (Note to self: must plan a walk over Haworth way to make the most of it. The intense purple only lasts a month or so.)

The St Ives estate was looking good in the summer sunshine. It's a huge area of grassland, woodland, lake and moor, with a golf course meandering through the middle. The circular perimeter walk is probably a good six miles in total, and the section we did was about three miles.

I had a slightly ulterior motive...
I have never had a dog. I didn't grow up with one and, though I don't actively dislike them, I am fairly neutral around them. I'm slightly put off by houses that have a distinctly 'doggy' smell - plus I can't bear the thought of having to carry a poo bag on every single walk! My daughter, however, has always harboured a wish for a dog and now she and her family have decided to take the plunge. They are getting a Cockapoo puppy (Spaniel/Poodle cross) in September - so I'm going to have to get used to having a granddog around. Taking the walk with Maisie at least allowed me to observe from a slight distance and get a little more accustomed to doggy company.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Ducks and bread

We had a super day out at East Riddlesden Hall, my local National Trust property (despite twice getting drenched in sudden heavy rain showers. The kids thought that was fun!)

They have some thoughtful activities to keep children amused over the summer holidays. Of course, the ducks are always there and they sell proper duck food in the shop, so you needn't worry about giving them unsuitable fare. My granddaughters were brave enough to hold seed on their hands and the ducks all came running to peck at it. Such a quacking and jostling going on! It was really very funny to watch.

The girls then had a happy time inside, hunting round the house for tiny wooden mice that were hidden in each room. When they had found and counted them all, they got a sticker. In the gardens, there were wooden bees hanging from the trees, each having an interesting fact about bees. The girls had to memorise at least one fact and, when they quoted them on the way out, they were given miniature pots of bee-friendly wild flower seeds to take home, adorned with a tiny bee. They were both rather thrilled with that.

Even better was the activity in the barn, where they were shown how to mix yeast, flour and water to make bread. Much kneading and shaping went on. When the dough was prepared, it went into a plastic bag to take home to bake. By the time we'd played in the adventure playground for a while, then had coffee and cake and were ready to go home, the dough (stored in the car boot) had already doubled in size. They later made pizza with the dough... and they had a great time making it.

All the staff/volunteers at the Hall were kindness itself and took pains to chat with the children and make them welcome. It was a truly delightful experience. Well done, National Trust East Riddlesden.

(And yes, my granddaughter does have pink hair! Temporarily anyway. A summer holiday treat.)

Sunday, 11 August 2019


The theme for my online photo group for July was, simply, 'boat '. That's not a difficult subject round here, with plenty of opportunity to photograph boats on the canal or river. I thought, however, I'd try something a wee bit different. I was walking along the river and this lone sculler passed me, hardly making a splash in the water - a picture of tranquillity and solitude. She was (handily) wearing a red top so she stood out nicely against all the summery greens. I thought I'd try to process the photo to give it a dreamy, soft quality, leaving her small in the frame to emphasise her aloneness. (Notwithstanding this mad photographer clicking away on the river bank - ha!)

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Baker Beds

The Baker Beds are another project by 'Veg on the Edge', our local community gardening project. The plot has been established for a couple of years, making the most of an odd piece of land near the children's playground and adjacent to the railway line, previously a scruffy, grassy patch that was really only used by local dog owners. The dedicated, 'spare-time' gardeners have planted several raised beds full of fruit, herbs and veg, the idea being that anyone can simply help themselves to the ripe, organic produce. They've also recently planted trees around the boundary.

The Baker Beds are an addition to the plots that have been established a little longer: the Sunday School Garden (Caroline Street car park, where the original Sunday School building used to be) and Platform 1, alongside the railway station. They also look after some land outside the Jonathan Silver college building and, I think, in the Wash House garden.

It's a lovely idea and they take care to grow plants that are both useful, decorative and in many cases have some kind of link to Saltaire's history - for instance, unusual plants from Peru, Turkey and Russia, countries that all supplied raw materials to Salts Mill in its heyday. When I was there, the plots were buzzing with bees and other insects too, all helping to keep our precious world healthy. At this site, they have also worked in partnership with the Princes Trust, Shipley College and Hirst Wood Regeneration group, so the initiative is actively building local links and community. Well done them!

Friday, 9 August 2019

Dam acrobatics

Another camera club outing took us to Adel Dam Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Leeds. I seem to have been making a habit, this summer, of going to places where I really need more zoom on my zoom lens! I would find it hard to carry a large lens around, so I'll just have to make do with the one I've got. I don't usually do a lot of nature photography - and indeed, the first impressions of Adel Dam didn't reveal a lot to photograph anyway, apart from the very peaceful waterside scene. It was a warm, muggy day with not a hint of a breeze so the reflections were near perfect.

Patient observation from the hides, as so often, started to unpack a little more activity. There are several bird feeding stations around the reserve and families of blue and great tits were active. At this time of year, the juveniles still look like pale watercolour impressions compared to their more definitely marked and coloured parents. We saw lots of grey squirrels too, playfully leaping about and shamelessly helping themselves to the peanuts from the feeders, despite measures that had been taken to try to keep them off.

There were a few ducks, mostly mallard, all looking rather dull and 'female', since the males all lose their coloured plumage in the summer. I think I spotted some female mandarin ducks too - much less showy than the flamboyant males but with a distinctive white eyestripe. Then (below) we saw a little grebe (sometimes called a dabchick, which name rather suits it).

Notable 'spots' at the feeding stations included some great spotted woodpeckers, by far the most common of the three species of woodpecker found in the UK.

The acrobat above, enjoying pecking at a fatball, is a juvenile, which has a much larger patch of red on its crown than the adult male. It wasn't put off by the great tit pecking away at the top of the same piece of fat.

On the left, the absence of red on the bird at the top suggests this is the adult female, whereas the one at the bottom is, I think, the juvenile again.

The acrobatics were contagious... A jay appeared (below) and seemed quite content to feed completely upside down at the feeder! You wonder how they cling on at that angle!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Brontë Country

I love the drive over to my daughter's home in the summer, across the moors between the Aire valley and the Calder valley. I had to stop the other day just to drink in the wonderful view. This is truly 'Brontë country', as the tourist brochures would have it. The village of Haworth, where the famous writers, the Brontë sisters, lived in the parsonage in the early 1800s, is in the dip in the middle right of the picture below. Some of the village is visible from this viewpoint but the oldest part is hidden by the trees right in the centre of the photo. In the picture above, the water on the left is Leeshaw Reservoir, one of a series built in the late 1800s/early 1900s to provide fresh water for the town of Keighley and its environs. It wasn't there when the Brontë sisters roamed the moors, and the rough moorland made famous in their novels may well have extended further than it does today. In the picture above, you can see a dark patch on the left beyond the reservoir, which is just the edge of the heather moorland that is Haworth Moor, leading up to the ruined farmhouse at Top Withens, reputed to have inspired Emily Brontë's novel 'Wuthering Heights'. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

An artist's palette

Here are just a few of the wonderful colours, textures and shapes that the gardeners at Harlow Carr so skilfully put together. At this time of year, it's like seeing artists' palettes all over the garden.