Thursday, 17 October 2019

Leeds Light Night 2

On the way back to the rail station to get my train home, I watched an installation called 'The Vision', by Studio Ocubo from Portugal, which was projected onto the facade of the Queen's Hotel. It lasted about five minutes; these things must take weeks of work to put together in order to produce just those five minutes.

I must admit I found rather more joy, personally, in watching the children walking around with light lasers, lit balloons and umbrellas threaded with lights. The advent of the LED has really sparked off a revolution and there were many street sellers with carts full of sparkly wares.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Leeds Light Night 1

I happened to be in Leeds city centre one day last week and decided I'd stay into the evening to see some of the annual Light Night, a two day festival when key buildings in the city are illuminated and there are sound and light installations at various points.

I found that many of the events were like 'performances' so there turned out to be quite a lot of waiting around for things to start. With that, and the crowds and the rain, I soon realised I wasn't really in the mood for it all. (To be honest, these days I seldom am in the mood for cities with their bustle and noise.) There was a parade too but I decided not to stay for that.

I saw a performance by a flying violinist from Cirque Bijou, in the Trinity shopping centre. Quite spectacular, with fireworks too - but I had to wait ages for just five minutes of action!

There were some rather fun installations like illuminated musical see-saws and cycles that people could ride to light up the structure with their pedal power.

There was also a pretty display of lights hung from the trees in St John's churchyard, with (recorded) music by Opera North's orchestra, performing 'Swans Migrating' by Rautavaara and an actual piano recital in the church itself. I'm sure the music was wonderful but, as I'm so deaf, it sadly didn't mean much to me. In future years I will have to be more careful to choose which events to see. There were many on offer but so spread out around the city centre that you couldn't possibly see them all. There are, I notice, videos on YouTube now too, which is possibly an easier way to experience it all, in more comfort!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Saltaire monster

Is it a dragon? Or perhaps even an alpaca? Saltaire's ivy-covered street light monster amuses passers-by. I imagine it looks quite eerie at night when the light is on.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Floral Saltaire

They say Britons are a nation of gardeners and that may well be true. Certainly in Saltaire, despite the lack of actual gardens (most houses only have a tiny, paved, back yard) it's surprising how many enterprising floral displays you can spot. Here is a selection from a late summer walk around the streets.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Cats of Saltaire

Another in the occasional series: 'Cats I've met whilst wandering around Saltaire'. Well, who doesn't love relaxing with the Sunday papers and getting a tickle under the chin?

Or perhaps staking out a high vantage point on a wall, watching the world go by, is more your thing?

I spotted these two spotted ones on a wall too. Roar!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Weaving abstracts

I found the 'Weaving the Future' exhibition (see yesterday) absolutely fascinating in its content and very inspiring too. With the sun streaming through the roof lights onto the varied exhibits, there was lots of scope for abstract-type photos and I could have stayed forever, looking and experimenting. Here are a few of the shots I took that I liked.

The pink sheets are punched cards that drive textile looms and tell the machinery how to create the pattern. These are from a local carpet factory.

The storage boxes set into the walls are relics of the past, when the roof space was a weaving shed. The faded, peeling paint and the shadow patterns attracted me.

These are some of the innovative fabrics that were displayed: light but strong fibres that could be used for insulation or load bearing. The honeycomb construction in the bottom picture makes for a very strong fabric that could be used for strengthening in buildings or bridges. I liked the effect of them set against the faded paint on the mill's walls.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Weaving innovations

These may look like artistic pieces and in many ways they are, but they are displayed in the 'Weaving the Future' exhibition as serious demonstrations of advanced new techniques. 'Knit: Design: Research' is an experimental design studio based in the School of Design at Leeds University. These pieces, by Dr Elizabeth Gaston and Dr Jane Scott, explore how knitted materials can change colour and adapt in shape and form according to environmental conditions.  Read more about their work HERE.

This piece above is called 'Canopy' and explores 3D knitting: 2D freehand loop construction can be formed into 3D structures by the use of tension. This isn't 'new' in itself. It is inspired by nature and the inherent properties of knitting, but they are exploring how this can be used sustainably in interiors, architecture and fashion.

The chair, below, is made by 'Solidwool', from coarse wool that was once considered worthless. Combined with a bio-resin, it can be shaped into chairs, tables and other items, creating attractive and functional products with a relatively low impact on our planet.

This is the surface of the seat, close up - it was really stylish.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Weaving the Future

There is currently a truly remarkable exhibition, 'Weaving the Future', in the roof space of Salts Mill, commissioned for Saltaire Festival. With absolutely stunning photos by Tim Smith (printed on woven textiles), it shows how our local textile industry - the driver for the first Industrial Revolution but having declined in the late 20th century - has now adapted. Local mills produce very high quality and distinctive fabrics, from wool, cotton and other fibres, for specialist markets around the world. Together with researchers at some of our leading universities, they are spearheading a new revolution, adapting traditional technologies to create innovative materials: weaving silk to make heart valves and knee cartilage; new fabrics for use in aerospace and construction; electro-spinning to produce dense membranes of extremely thin fibres which can be used, for example in wound dressing or to filter toxins from drinking water. It was fascinating to see some of these innovations.

The exhibition also makes the link between the binary systems that drove the old textile looms (illustrated by the pattern cards of punched holes that you can see on the left of my photo below) and the digital computer technology that now underlies almost every facet of modern life and industry. Many of the businesses that now occupy much of the floor space in Salts Mill are involved in innovative digital technology, like Radio Design who design, manufacture and export wireless communications systems used, for example, in mobile phone masts. Serendipitous...

Images in my two photos above were taken in local mills and show the processes of spinning and dying yarn. In the background of the top photo is a picture taken in a factory that makes cycle frames from woven carbon.

Below are some of the specialist fabrics produced locally: felt damper pads for pianos, green baize for snooker tables and biodegradeable wool coffins.

The photography on display is superb, as is the video installation that shows dancers performing movements inspired by textile workers, overlaid with footage of textile processes. It has a sound track of music made in response to the sounds and rhythms of mill machinery. It is so beautiful, graceful and evocative that it brought tears to my eyes.

All this feast for the senses is in one of my favourite spaces: the roof space at Salts Mill, originally the longest weaving shed in the world. The exhibition is on until 20 Oct, weekends only.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Slowing down

Ahead of my holiday, I decided to buy an ND filter (10 stop) for my camera. I wanted to be able to take some long exposure shots at the coast. I'm reasonably competent at long exposures in general, if the conditions are right. It has, however, to be very dull or shady to use a slow shutter speed without a filter, whereas with a filter (basically just a piece of dark glass over the lens) you can slow the shutter even in bright light. I'm not the most technically minded of photographers, so I decided I needed to practise the technique before my holiday. (And it was complicated enough to work it all out on a sunny day in Saltaire, so I don't rate my chances on a windswept Scottish beach in the drizzle!)

I quite liked this one, of the weir beside Salts Mill. The slow shutter speed has blurred the water quite attractively, I think, but the breeze meant the trees are also a bit blurred in parts. On some of the shots I took, that effect isn't really very attractive. This one is just about acceptable. And, oh... can you see the heron in the mid distance? Haha, after standing very still for ages it suddenly decided to move - very slowly - so that you can see at least three heron ghosts. If it had moved more quickly it would hardly have showed up at all.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

A circular ramble

One of the nicest things about my local area is that the river and the canal, in many places, run quite closely alongside each other, giving the option of several attractive and easy circular walks, out along the river bank and back along the canal or vice versa. My friend and I did one such ramble recently, between Apperley Bridge and Calverley Bridge. An added bonus was the tiny open-air tea shop at the halfway point, where we paused for tea and scones beside the swing bridge.

We were so busy chatting that I didn't stop to take many photos. I can't focus on two such significant things at once; I'm either in the chat zone (which for deaf old me means listening with my eyes as well as my ears) or the photography zone! We did notice a grey heron that promptly flew away when I raised my camera and, further along the canal, this little great white egret (thanks to John for identifying it). They are not common around here, as far as I know, though my daughter did tell me she saw an egret by the canal in Saltaire about six weeks ago. Possibly the same bird...? I don't know. The local ornithological reports suggest one was in the Shipley area in August.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Busy doing my thing...

My thing, as everyone knows, is wandering around with a camera, snapping anything that takes my eye. Other people have different 'things'.

How about: paddle-boarding along the canal with the kid (and yes, he did have a lifejacket on, under his hoodie).

Or going over the white lines again before the weekend football starts. I wonder what his music of choice to accompany the activity is?  'A Whiter Shade of Pale', maybe?

For many people, it is messing about in a boat, in this case accompanied by a faithful pooch. Nice hat, mister.  (But you should open both lock gates, tch tch!)

So, what's your thing?

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Crepusculars before sunset

Being so high in an otherwise fairly flat area, Almscliffe Crag is a good spot from which to enjoy a sunrise or sunset. The day I was there, a heavy bank of cloud drifted in to obscure the sun. It produced some dramatic crepuscular rays, though the sunset itself was largely hidden and rather underwhelming as a result. Pink skies are pretty though, aren't they?

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Almscliffe Crag

Almscliffe Crag lies some 14 miles from Saltaire, between Leeds and Harrogate, overlooking the Wharfe valley. It is a prominent outcrop of millstone grit, visible for miles around. I've often seen it, and never ventured up there until recently. Once you get to the top of the hill, the views are stunning - across the Vale of York in one direction and over to Otley Chevin in the other. It's a popular spot for rock climbers and film makers. There were several of the former there when I visited, but the only film makers were me and my friends.

The evening light was beautiful, picking out landmarks like the railway viaduct that carries the Harrogate line over the River Wharfe at Arthington.  You may also be able to see, in the picture below, the communication masts at Leeds-Bradford Airport, on the horizon.

(I stand corrected... the masts are TV masts, at Holt Park and the one in the very background is Emley Moor, which is about 30 miles away! Very deceptive. Thanks to my friend for clarifying this.)

Friday, 4 October 2019


Out for a walk recently, my route took me alongside the playing fields around a local public (ie: private!) school. Tucked away right round the back, on quite a secluded pitch, I noticed a football practice session underway - and then I realised it was our local league team, Bradford City, in action. I surreptitiously took a couple of photos, not wanting to get shouted at, though with hindsight I wish I'd been a little bolder and made more effort. They were a long way away so I would probably have been able to get a little closer. As it is, this was with my lens on its longest setting and the photo is heavily cropped so it's a bit fuzzy. I'll never make it as a paparazzo!

I don't think Bradford City will make it either this season. They've slid down to League Two and so far (as I write this) have won five out of eleven matches this season. So they look as though they need the practice, though it all looked a bit desultory.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Parcevall's gardens in late summer

Come with me through the arched doorway and explore the beautiful gardens at Parcevall Hall.

There are a series of terraces at the front of the house, with a focal point of a round pond and a statue of a seated lady. Here too there are many seats and stone shelters, ideal places to settle down out of the wind and enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding fells. 

Behind the house there are walled gardens, and a rock garden that extends up the hillside around a stream that cascades down into a pool. Below and to the side of the house is a large area of mixed woodland, containing a lake, and to the other side are orchards and a camellia walk. There's something of interest to see in most seasons, though when I went the herbaceous planting was a little past its best.

I wasn't sure what the tree above was. It had pretty cup-shaped white flowers. The guide book tells me it is an evergreen Eucryphia x nymansensis 'Nymansay' - but honestly I'm none the wiser! The garden has, I think, some unusual plants. I don't know the red one below, with maroon leaves, but it may be a Lobelia Cardinalis, which appears to be a N American plant.

Those below are easier: red nasturtiums, though I don't know the blue one.

The purple ones are a kind of autumn crocus.

The red-hot pokers looked good against the purple leaves (?) and on a south-facing wall I even spotted a grape vine, which is certainly not what I'd expect to find in this kind of upland area.

Lovely silver birch bark in the woodland, so metallic shiny that it might actually have been crafted from silver: