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Thursday, 31 October 2019

An unimportant object

The project for my online group in October was a bit of a challenge. The theme was 'an unimportant object, something that a burglar would probably leave behind but that to you is actually significant'. That in itself wasn't too hard. I chose a tiny snail shell, no bigger than my pinky fingernail. I find I am drawn to natural objects, so around the house I have a few small collections of water-smoothed pebbles gathered from various beaches, feathers I've picked up on my walks and some little shells like this one. Nothing of use to a burglar! I enjoyed the challenge of capturing the exquisite shell with my macro lens.

The second part of the brief was to render it in a manner inspired by a photographer called Ray Spence, whose work is definitely 'edgy'. (See HERE).  (I can't say I really like much of it, but that's just a personal view and I do like that he is doing something different and thoughtful.) He often uses the wet plate collodion technique, an early photographic methodology. Thankfully we weren't expected to do that! But we were invited to use a square format, monochrome and to capture something of the spirit of that technique in our photos.

I don't know if I succeeded... I did have fun playing, using a texture layer and a border to try to achieve the right feel to the image.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Macro practice

I haven't found much time to practice with my 50mm macro lens yet, so I decided to take only that one to RHS Harlow Carr this time. It is interesting trying to take scenic shots like those I showed on Sunday. It works quite well but it's a challenge remembering that I've got to walk backwards and forwards rather than zoom the lens to get the framing I'm after. 

Close-ups are nice, with a lovely blur to the background, though I'm still not that good at getting the focus point exactly where I want it. It's all trial and error. I managed to find some wonderful colours though - and that is welcome as the nights draw in and the colour leaches out of the world. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A mindful moment

An autumn leaf floating on the surface of the lily pond at Harlow Carr seemed to me rather beautiful; a moment of mindfulness, enjoying the shapes, colours and arrangement of forms in this little tableau.  (It's probably, as they say round here, 'a bit of a Marmite picture'. Marmite is that salty, yeasty spread which you either love, as I do, or hate!)

Monday, 28 October 2019

Seventy days of Sculpture

RHS Harlow Carr has a sculpture exhibition to celebrate the Garden's 70th birthday. Most of them left me cold, I have to say. I think I'm getting very picky in my old age! There were some rather heavy-handed chainsaw carvings, some resin things that looked like twisted veins and a few smaller pieces that, whilst not unpleasant, didn't seem very exciting. The one I liked best was the hen (above) standing on a garden fork handle, made by Mark Irwin from twisted wire. It had some character and would fit quite nicely into a domestic garden, I think. There were some representations, by David Watkinson, of leaves and seeds that were kinetic, gyrating in the breeze. They seemed quite fun and attractive, though I would imagine those bright metal 'leaves' might soon dull and spoil.

There was also a variety of leaves and plants, like foxgloves and ferns, made from metal by James Wilkinson, an artist blacksmith. They were cleverly done, though I would really rather have the plants themselves in my garden. Despite the fact I wasn't personally that keen on some of the exhibits, nevertheless I think it's a great idea for the RHS to showcase the work of artists and they do that very faithfully at Harlow Carr. There is always some kind of exhibition going on and they have a small art and craft gallery shop in the Old Bath House too.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Up the reds

I paid another visit to the RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr, to see what they look like as autumn gathers pace. Disappointingly, the sun never really broke through the cloud cover whilst I was there. The views were, however, enlivened by some bright red shrubs dotted about. It's surprising how much the colour red adds impact to photos. I read somewhere that a high percentage of photos that win competitions have a pop of red in them. I don't think these are competition winning standard but we can enjoy them anyway.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Three little pigs and other stories

Every now and again I realise I've amassed a few photos that, for one reason or another, I quite like but that don't really 'fit in' anywhere. Like the three sleepy pigs that I spotted in Wales....

and the other one with a hat on...

Or the litter shouting out from the side of the footpath...

And this is somewhere I've always wanted to visit, ever since I came to live in Bradford.... Idle is a district in the city and lends its name to many things that end up being mildly amusing. I was invited by some friends to a function in the church, followed by a reception at the Working Men's Club. I did notice that the list of past vicars at the church was entitled 'Vicars of Idle' rather than 'Idle Vicars'!

It puts me in mind of one of my favourite quotes:

'How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards.'

Have a good day! 

Friday, 25 October 2019

Autumn woods

Here are a few more photos from my walk in Skipton Castle Woods, just because it was so beautiful.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Skipton Castle Woods

My camera club had our last outing of the season, meeting up in Skipton to explore the woods behind Skipton Castle. As I've mentioned before in other posts, the Springs Branch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal passes behind the castle (see left) for about half a mile. It was built for the Earl of Thanet in 1773 to transport limestone from his quarry, which was brought by tram through the woods and dropped down chutes into canal barges. The busy industrial history of this area is long gone and it's now a peaceful oasis behind the town of Skipton. The waterfall is nothing more exciting than a large drainage ditch that pours into Eller Beck, alongside the canal. After all the rain we've had, there was a lot of water.                                     
Up until recently, the Springs Branch canal was still navigable and a small boat conducted tours up here from the marina in central Skipton. A huge rockfall from underneath the castle has now blocked the canal, and it doesn't look as though it could be reopened without a lot of expense. Rather worrying too, is that the fall was below the foundations of Skipton Castle on the crag above. Nasty! 

The 9' high willow sculpture The Huntress looks even better against the autumn leaves than it did in March when I last walked here. A little further along, Eller Beck falls away in a ravine and the ground was covered in fallen leaves. Autumn seems to be hastening on.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


In Saltaire, a lot stays the same and a lot changes... The property on the corner of Victoria Road was, for a long time, a shop and then became a café, which has been through numerous incarnations. For the past couple of years it has been run by a couple of young entrepreneurs, Beth and Sam, as Nordish, a Scandi-influenced restaurant. They started small and gently, as a pop-up and now open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They serve Fika (coffee with small Swedish-style cakes and buns) and Smørrebrød (elaborate open sandwiches) and have recently expanded into early evening opening, serving 'small plates'. They make a point of using local suppliers and make all their produce on the premises, including the sourdough bread and pastries. They even, I understand, cure their own fish. (I walked past the other day and wondered why the area smelled a little like the shellfish stalls in Whitby - a whiff of vinegar and fish. Not unpleasant.) They have recently decorated the windows with bundles of dried herbs and sculptural plants, which I couldn't resist taking a photo of. They also use the upper room for classes and workshops. I've seen life-drawing and calligraphy advertised.  Their vision seems precise and ambitious, though also, by being organic in their menus and approach to growth and minimising waste, they are very much, it seems to me, in tune with the zeitgeist and with Saltaire. They seem to work hard, often to be seen in there even when it's closed, and they seem a very pleasant young couple. I've only personally been in for coffee, as they don't (yet?) serve gluten-free cakes.  

Read a review HERE, which describes it all much better than I can. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2019


Fungus isn't something I've taken a lot of notice of in the past, unless I saw those traditional 'fairy' toadstools, the white-spotted red fly agarics. I've been reading recently how the ecosystem of a wood works, and how trees are linked by microscopic fungal networks, dubbed the 'wood wide web'. It's rather magical, so I decided to be more observant as I walked through Hirst Woods, to see how many fungi I could spot. At first I couldn't see any, but I gradually became more attuned and started to notice them, on dead wood and on living trees too. I didn't see any of the red ones, but there were quite a few different types. It's even harder for a novice to identify them than spot them though... I've tried googling different things but it's hard to be sure whether they are the same. I don't place any degree of trust in my ID-ing! There's one called 'hairy curtain crust' which looks similar to the one in the top photo. Don't they have wonderful names?

Those above are similar but not, I think, the same as those below. The top ones were tiny, the colour of shiny little bread buns and I'm not sure what they were - possibly sulphur tufts? The ones below, slightly bigger, are possibly Glistening inkcaps, as they appear to have a bit of a powdery coating.

Those below, similar shape, different colour... Might be angel's bonnet?

I thought immediately that the fungus below looked like a horse's hoof - and that, I think, is what it is called. A funny-looking thing...

The last one is another bracket fungus, possibly turkey tail.

It seems, in order to make a more positive identification, I would have to be much more careful to note the type of wood the fungus is growing on, the underside, the stem... all sorts of characteristics. I didn't touch any of them! I would not be sure which are poisonous and I certainly don't want to die from a walk in the woods. It did make me think I might join an organised 'fungus foray' though. There is a lot of secret life in those woods...

Monday, 21 October 2019

Suddenly autumn

Back home after my holiday and it seems to be taking me a while to 'get going' again. In the meantime, autumn has suddenly arrived. So far, the tones are subdued but we had a colder night last night and a few frosts might just boost the colours. I thought I'd better have a walk, just to see how things looked. It was peaceful as always along the canal, with a lone fisherman and a few dog walkers. I caught up with those ladies and their dogs as they stopped beside the lock. I was amused, as one of them - indicating the rather large and heavy looking black bags they were carrying - assured me they were bags of conkers and not dog poo! I'd not even thought about it.

The colour in Hirst Wood was muted, apart from a few sprays of beech leaves that often seem especially vibrant.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Another steam train!

I seem, inadvertently, to be turning into a bit of a steam loco anorak! I just seem to be bumping into them all over the place. There I was, on Keighley station, minding my own business and waiting for a train, when I noticed one or two chaps hanging around who looked vaguely train-spotter-ish. Since the main line there is adjacent to the Keighley and Worth Valley heritage line, that is not in itself unusual but nothing much was happening over at the KWVR side. Then I heard one of them say something to another about 'It's just left Hellifield' (a station further up the line).  Hmm, thought I, I wonder if a steam train is due? Then... chuff, chuff... could that be a steam loco I hear? Yes, it was! I just managed to get a quick photo - and I had to be quick as it was moving at quite a lick.

I've googled it since (as you do) and discovered it was No 60009 Union of South Africa, which was being moved from the Bury East Lancs railway all the way over to Grosmont and the North York Moors railway. (I'm not sure what the Flying Scotsman sign was about, as it isn't the famous Flying Scotsman engine.) For those that like to know these things, it is an LNER class A4 locomotive, built in Doncaster in 1937 specifically for the East Coast main line. Designed by Nigel Gresley, these streamlined locos were capable of high speeds. In fact, the world speed record for a steam train (126 mph) is held by the Mallard, a similar A4 locomotive. Union Of South Africa was withdrawn from regular service in 1966, having hauled the last booked steam train service from Kings Cross to Edinburgh in 1964.  It's not an especially beautiful train (to me anyway). I prefer more conventional shapes, like the one I saw on Leeds station HERE. Still a real thrill to see steam locos pass through... yes, I might be turning into a proper anorak.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Top and bottom

There's a glorious view from the top of Malham Cove, down to Malham village and way beyond. You can perhaps just see the distinctive whale-back of Pendle Hill on the horizon to the right. That's in Lancashire! The wiggly white line in the photo is the footpath that leads from the cove to the village, surfaced with limestone chippings to prevent erosion from the feet of the thousands of visitors who come to see this magnificent landscape.

There is a limestone pavement at the top of the cove, great blocks of limestone clints dissected by deep fissures known as grikes. There are some unusual plants that grow in the clefts. My young friend hopped nimbly over the treacherous rocky surface. Me... I went the long way round across the fields at the back! But I still had to brave the long, steep staircase cut into the rock down from the top to the base of the cove. It makes my thigh muscles tremble! Worth it though, for the view you get back up to the curved limestone cliff, 300m wide and 80m high, formed by glacial meltwater in the last Ice Age. It always reminds me of a theatre auditorium. These days the water seeps out from the base of the rock. On very, very rare occasions (like the floods of winter 2015), a waterfall does still cascade over the lip. See HERE for spectacular footage of that event.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Janet's Foss and Gordale Scar

I'm blessed with really good neighbours on both sides at the moment, a young couple on the one hand and a young man on the other. The generational divide isn't a problem and they are all friendly and extremely helpful. The young man is about to start a new job and was having a couple of weeks off so he asked me if I'd like to take a walk with him one day. He is from down south, has no car and doesn't know the Dales all that well, so it's rather enjoyable to introduce him to new places. We decided to go to Malham. It was mid-week so I knew it would only be busy and not as super-crowded as it tends to be at weekends and bank holidays. It was a reasonable day too, dry and warmish, if rather dull. We did the classic walk: up the gorge past the waterfall known as Janet's Foss, further up to have a look at Gordale Scar and then back and over to Malham Cove.

There was a fair bit of water coming over the falls, though I'm sure there is more now, as we've had a lot of recent rain. It's a charming spot in a wooded valley. You can quite believe the legend that the Queen of the Fairies lives in a cave behind the waterfall.

Beyond the falls it's another half mile or so walk up to Gordale Scar, a deep ravine that was probably formed by glacial meltwater or an underground cavern collapsing. It's hard to convey its scale in a photograph. The limestone cliffs are over 100m high and a stream comes crashing over the rocks in a series of waterfalls. The couple in the foreground of my photo were about to climb the cliffs. We watched the girl climb nimbly and fast, right up to the steepest overhang. I did take a picture of her up there but unfortunately she was wearing clothing that camouflaged her against the rock face, so you really can't see her. (All climbers should, by law, have to wear red!!)

The stream bed is notable for its deposits of tufa, an unusual rock formed by the water depositing calcium carbonate.

It is possible to climb up alongside the waterfalls and continue on up the gorge to Malham Tarn, the lake that lies above, though it is a steep and nerve-wracking scramble. (I have done it once - never again!) Instead, we retraced our steps down the ravine and then took the footpath that climbs steeply over the fields towards Malham Cove.

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!