Enter Family, Stage Left

On our way to Greenwich last week to see the Turner exhibition (click here for images), we made a detour to have lunch with our son just off Gray’s Inn Road in Holborn. Gray’s Inn Road, like so many others in London, is lined with Plane Trees. The ones on this road appear old, they tower above some of the buildings and on our most recent visit they were just coming into leaf. The sun was out, the sky was blue, an opportunity for an image or two.

My first image (which I’m not showing you) was far from good. I used a wide-angle lens (24mm) to get the height, shooting diagonally towards the sun to show the translucency of the fresh foliage. The image was over-exposed, but more importantly what I thought I had seen with my eye hadn’t translated into an image through the lens. It looked like one destined for the bin. I changed the metering to deal with the over-exposure and looked at the scene again, seeking inspiration.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a mother with a pram and child, plus balloon, were coming into view. Instinctively I shot, widening the angle of view to 21mm. At the time I had no clear idea of quite why or what I was shooting. It was a subconscious decision. When I got home I uploaded the day’s shoot and looked at the image I’d shot. It was one of those eureka moments – I suddenly realized the significance of what my mind’s eye (my subconscious eye) had spotted. I cropped off a third from the top and from the left side and here’s the result. Honestly, I don’t recall noticing the colours of the child’s jumper or the balloon when I shot this. But it is the colours that create this image.

_DS78831_wpThe family had come onto my ‘stage’, as if on cue, from the left (hence the rather obvious title). Pure serendipity. But I really do dislike having to create a title, an image like this doesn’t require one. Hopefully it speaks for itself.

Posted in The Human touch | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Keep the Fire Burning

I don’t know why we bother making Easter a Bank Holiday weekend – effectively creating a four-day break. The weather never plays ball! We had a nice few days last week: warm sun, blue skies. We were all getting quite excited. The blossom came out and cheered us up. We had a nice day in Greenwich, other days spent outdoors with a paint brush or a mower. I knew it couldn’t last!

Two days of the ‘holiday’ gone with pleasant weather, and now as I write this on Easter Sunday afternoon, the rain is pouring down, it’s cold and the fire is already lit to warm us up. Brrr! It feels like we’ve gone back to the edge of winter.

IMG_2784_vertSo, to match the cold, here’s a photo of a wood store. Not from this last winter, but about two winters ago in Morzine in the Portes du Soleil ski area. I was waiting for the bus to take me to the lifts and spotted this.

Processed as per usual through Photoshop with Poster Edge added to give it a little extra edginess.

Posted in Winter | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Spring Time

A funny thing has happened to me this Spring. Funny meaning ‘odd’ or ‘strange’. I’ve struggled to get engaged with the season – in general and photographically.

Daffoddils on the kitchen windowcill on a wet day

Daffodils on the kitchen window cill on a wet day

Damson Plum blossom in our garden

Damson Plum blossom in our garden

It’s a mixture of ‘I’ve seen it all before’, and a distinct failure to feel inspired. I could make all sorts of excuses. For a start, I could blame the weather: we had a spell of severe pollution, and there have been days of grey leaden skies. But blaming the weather is such a weak excuse. Slightly more valid is the fact that we’ve been de-cluttering the house, starting to decorate, working in the garden. I’ve felt pressured to get things done and when we are pressured in any way, creativity gets squeezed out.

I wrote about this over on my other blog –iSighting – in ‘An Untroubled Mind’. If you haven’t discovered iSighting yet, do take a look. I won’t gone on with further excuses – we make time for the things we really want to do. And the bottom line really has been that I’ve run out of ideas, locally.

The garden is the same garden we’ve lived in for over thirty years, the neighbourhood is the same neighbourhood, the local walks are the same local walks. I know the trees, the bushes. I could tell you exactly which ones I’ve photographed. Locally, I’m bored.

IMG_5941_wpFinally yesterday we got out for the day: down to London and out to Greenwich to see a fantastic exhibition of the Seascapes of J M W Turner. What an amazing privilege to see so many famous images all in one vast space.

Afterwards we walked up to the Greenwich Observatory and a little beyond. A place full of memories because a week ago the long avenue just south of the Observatory was packed with competitors lining up to start the London Marathon. And that took me back to the six occasions some years back when I lined up there to start one of the greatest of sporting events: my brain swirling with excitement and natural anxiety at the challenge ahead.

The view north over the Greenwich Naval College to Canary Wharf

The view north over the Greenwich Naval College to Canary Wharf

I’d forgotten how extraordinary the view northwards from the Observatory over the Canary Wharf area of London really is. The camera started clicking.

And we found some trees. Not the boring local trees, but new ones. Cherry in full bloom.

_DS78848_wpAnd other trees bursting with new growth, and whose names escape me.

_DS78851_wpCreativity had come back. All it needed was a change of scene. A day when the brain was cleared of other concerns because it couldn’t sort through papers, wield a paint brush or lay paving in the garden. The mind for a day was untroubled, and I felt good.

Remember to click on any image in today’s post to see a higher quality enlargement.

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At the Departure Gate

Flying involves a series of steps and waits. Some lengthy. You’ve made it the airport in good time. You’ve checked in, and said goodbye to the hold luggage. Then you head for security; a process that requires the removal of belts, shoes and all metal items. Liquids (no more than 100mls) are placed in transparent bags, and laptops extracted from carry-on bags: and still the scanner Beeps. And so you stand arms outstretched, legs apart, while you get felt all over by a man wearing blue latex gloves (why blue?), just hoping that your belt-less trousers won’t choose that moment to move south to decorate your ankles. Then you collect all your belongings and re-pack.

And then you find a seat and wait for the departure gate to be shown on the monitors. If you flight is on time, you’re lucky. Time drags as you wait.

Out comes the camera and I go for a walk. An empty departure gate (not mine) caught my attention.

IMG_5922_finalFinally as dusk approached we moved to our own gate. I watched the light change. Light levels outside dropped and slowly the reflective capability of glass outshone the failing light outside and the building came to life.

IMG_5936At such times I would have happily waited another half an hour to see the final transformation. To see more of the same from travels to/from Geneva Airport take a look in  the En Route category in the Rt sidebar.

Posted in En Route | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Geneva Airport Re-Visited

Geneva Airport is a photo opportunity. If you arrive here by train on your way to catch a flight, you ride up the escalator from the platform, walk through the shopping mall, across an access road and into the airport terminal to the check-in desks. Photo Opportunity? How is that possible?

All images in this post will enlarge. click an image to see a higher quality enlargement.

IMG_5676Take your time. As you ride the escalator, look up. Above you, the ceiling of the shopping mall is reflective and you will see the first opportunity for an image. Upstairs in the shopping mall, the reflective ceiling stretches before you.

Most people are in too much of a hurry, either late for a train, or hurrying to the check-in desks, to bother to look up. And for most people the words ‘Airport’ and ‘Enjoyment’ really don’t belong in the same sentence.

Photographic opportunities provide the enjoyment; they lighten the boredom of waiting, waiting and more waiting.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we have returned to Geneva Airport by train for the flight back home to the UK at the end of a holiday. Travel to/from a resort is always associated with anxiety of one sort or another. Will the train be on-time, will we make the connection, will the flight be delayed? We always allow extra time these days.

Bar-coded seating

Bar-coded seating

And that extra time allows a few minutes for me to park my wife at the top of the escalator or at the Pret A Manger cafe and walk down the mall and see what I can find to shoot.

IMG_5905_wpI’ve made that five-minute walk numerous times and each time I find something new.

IMG_5906_wpIt lightens my mood and that makes the waiting that follows easier to bear.

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Boarded Up

I spotted this boarded up window in a back alley in Zermatt. What a fantastic pattern.



Posted in Eclectica | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Old Zermatt

Until the mid 19th century Zermatt was a poor rural village whose inhabitants earned a scarce living working the land. Visitors were rare. Then the Alps were discovered by intrepid explorers and the upper classes, and one by one the mountains were climbed. In response to the influx of the first tourists, Dr Lauber, Zermatt’s village doctor, opened a small hotel in 1838. In 1865 the Matterhorn – believed unclimbable by many – was finally climbed. It was a triumph that turned to tragedy as four of the seven who reached the summit fell to their deaths on the descent. Only Edward Whymper and the two Zermatt guides: Peter Taugwalder, father and son, survived. It was the Matterhorn that made Zermatt famous and continues to drive its popularity and fame. Click here to read my post about Whymper, the Monte Rosa Hotel and the Matterhorn

IMG_5867_wpSkiing tends to be a full-time occupation, if the weather is good. Resorts become dormitories from which people depart as soon as possible in the morning and return to in the late afternoon. Perhaps pausing, on the way down, for an après-ski drink before returning to their hotel or chalet for a relaxing bath, shower or swim in the hotel’s pool before dinner.

_DS78623_wpHard-core skiers will see little of their resort, other than where they are staying, and a few bars along the way. All resorts have modernised and developed massively over the years, but they all have history, which is still evident if you take the time to wander down the back streets and narrow alleys: and Zermatt is no exception. It will be time well spent.

IMG_5859_wpDown those back alleys you will find some of the original buildings – dwellings and hay barns (Stadels). Click here to see a previous post of a hay loft.

IMG_5870_wpThe timbers are weathered, the buildings lean, there’s hardly a straight line in sight. This is how it once was. This is the true Zermatt – a village that was hewn from the trees of the forest, whose inhabitants eked out a meagre existence in the shadows of the great mountains.

Posted in Architecture & Buildings, Skiing - Zermatt | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments