Graveyard of a Glacier

A busy few weeks has meant a slowdown in images appearing on this blog. I’m still working my way through last summer’s collection of new images from the Alps, among other things.

There have been two previous posts about the glaciers I photographed above Saas Fee – Terminal Decline, and The Forms of Ice. Click the links to read the posts and see the images.

The is the first post of the Fee Glacier in monochrome, and I remain in two minds about the conversion to B&W. On the positive side it has mood, atmosphere and bite. The contrast, intrinsic to monochrome, accentuates the white ice that intrudes into the grey rocky landscape. Also, in the context of climate change, with glacial retreat very evident, and the distinct possibility that some glaciers will  cease to exist in another century, monochrome feels appropriate. And yet…

When you look at a glacier – and this is why those two previous posts are relevant – you realize that glaciers are not pure white, except in the depths of winter after new snow. At all other times there are subtle colours that are very evident in the walls of crevasses and particularly in a glacier’s terminal zone as it starts to disintegrate and fall apart.

Each fall of snow is compressed and forms a thin band within the glacial ice like the annular rings of a tree. It’s colour is influenced by many factors including the regular presence of sand particles carried by the wind from north African deserts and deposited during snow fall.

It is those colours that give glaciers their character and makes us appreciate that within the chaos, intrinsic danger, and savage lines of a glacier there is true beauty. Glaciers are Leviathans creeping down hill millimetre by millimetre. By comparison snails look like they are  turbocharged. Glaciers appear alive, but they are a dying breed.

In celebrating their existence, we need to glory in their colour, as well as be reminded of the savage beauty which, occasionally, is manifest best in monochrome.

Their skin my be grey in their death throes, covered in grit, resembling elephant hide; but when the forces of nature slice break them apart, they show their true colour as in this second image, below, of the Gorner Glacier above Zermatt, also shot last Summer.



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One from the archive today, that I came across as I was sorting through images for use in up-coming Camera Club talks.

This is Arlington House, an eighteen-storey residential tower block built in the early 1960s in Margate, Kent. It’s an example of the architectural style known as Brutalism. It’s a style that some regard as ugly and this tower has attracted quite a lot of negative comment over the years.

Thanet District Council’s Conservation Officer writing in 2011 thought differently: “The tower block is a building of considerable merit; arguably ‘listable’ with extremely well considered crisp detailed elevations which add positively to the architectural character of the town.” He went on to say: “The undulating east and west facades of the building imitate the waves breaking on the beach.”

There was an era in the last ’50s and early ’60s when a lot of towns erected tower blocks like this for residential occupation. In most instances they stood out like sore thumbs and looking back now from more enlightened times, one wonders what on earth convinced Town Planners that they were a sensible, or appropriate, addition to the sky line.

Arlington House is certainly an intrusive feature – the tallest building for miles around. It’s only saving grace is the undulating facade.

Last week I saw an inspirational major exhibition by the German Photographer Andreas Gursky (at the Hayward Gallery until 22 April ). Gursky’s work is heroic and monumental in scale, particularly his architectural work. A typical example is Paris, Montparnasse 1993 (see below) – a work that involved merging multiple images in post-processing to create a single image. When I viewed this work it reminded me of the Margate tower block – simply because of the repetitive nature of the content, and for no other reason.Seeing the work of other artists is important. Every exhibition provokes thought, suggests ideas, and facilitates our growth as photographers.

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walking around the perimeter_2

A second image from my recent walk around the exterior of the Shopping Mall. Click here to see the earlier Post. This image was taken primarily to capture the fractured reflections of the facade above the shops. If I had been carrying an SLR with a long lens then that is what I would have focused on, but all I had was the Lumix LX100, hence the wider view.

It was a grab shot without any real thought. Taking images in a busy street when you need to frame with some degree of care means you focus and frame and grab the shot. I don’t like the idea of standing there with raised camera waiting for the precise moment to shoot. People seeing a camera raised either stand to one side and wait for the image to be shot, or start to stare at the camera as if their privacy is being invaded.

So, what you come away with can be a bit hit and miss. On this occasion I would say that I was fortunate. On the left I have a woman, and on the right I have a man. Neither is aware of the camera, both look natural, and they book-end the image rather well. I’m happy with that!


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Walking around the perimeter_1

Life is about finding solutions and compromises to day-to-day issues. Shopping for example. Men aren’t much good at patiently waiting while their wives shop, and wives certainly don’t like their husbands fidgeting around while they shop.

When we go to the shopping centre in the town about 20 mins drive away, we have a routine. We part company. My wife says: ‘off you go, amuse yourself for an hour and meet me by the Lifts back up to the car park’. And off I go, camera in hand to see what images I can find. It works.

Last week, the weather being mild, I decided to walk round the outside of the shopping centre. Something I hadn’t done before. I came across today’s image just as the sun went behind a cloud. The image disappeared – shadows and highlights lost. I hung around for about ten minutes patiently waiting, trying not to look too much like a man with nowhere to go, and then the sun re-appeared.  And the image returned.

It’s the lines and shapes and form that attracts me to this. It looks OK in colour but in Black and White the tonal range can be tweaked a little more. A little extra contrast makes such a difference sometimes.


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I’m not sure whether the elements of this beautiful weave are from Willow trees (genus Salix) or perhaps, more likely, of Dogwood (genus Cornus). This was taken at Wakehurst Place an estate not too far from us which also is the repository of Kew’s Seed Bank

On the day we visited, elsewhere on the estate, Dogwoods were being cut back. The genus is well-known  for the variety of vibrant stem colours that range from purple through reds and on to lime greens and yellows in winter. As the stems were pruned I noted how they were being graded and stacked by colour and thickness, which suggested that they were being saved for use – for weaving perhaps. (I should have thought to ask).

The image is a small part of one of a number of woven arches over the paths  that I think have appeared in the last few months, because I don’t recall noticing them on previous visits. The arches feature a range of tones from pale grey through browns to charcoal black.

Beautiful work and a very pleasing addition to the landscape.


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The snow of last February is almost forgotten although for me down here in West Sussex there was never much of it – barely an inch at a time. I would have liked a little more.

It melted rapidly, all gone in a short morning, but there was just time to do the obvious – create footprints. It’s one of those things we do, clichéd of course, but there’s almost a compulsion to do it. A throwback to childhood perhaps.

The snow was too wet and thin to create footprints from a ridged shoe like a trainer or walking boot so bare outlines in all their starkness had to suffice.  Just a bit of fun, photography can be light-hearted as well as serious.


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A Motif

Regular readers of this blog will know I was skiing recently in Whistler. I was not blessed with good weather and spent more time than expected exploring Whistler village.

Whistler is a modern ski resort less than 60 years old and as you walk round the resort you become aware that although there is considerable variety in the individual design of  buildings, there are also architectural features that all buildings have in common, and there are motifs that have been employed that provide a sense of cohesion.

One of those motifs is rock-faced columns or stacks.  They are a feature of the facade and portico of the hotel  where we stayed, where I first noticed them; and then I realized that they were also to be found throughout Whistler village. The majority, and the most photogenic, of the columns were of a warm-toned rock. I particularly liked their seemingly random appearance. No attempt to ‘layer’ individual rocks as you would with bricks, and no attempt at  a uniformity of colour, shape or size. The result is an abstract design that I found pleasing on the eye. And the more I looked, the more I was aware of the subtle differences. At a glance each column conformed, and yet on closer inspection each column was unique.

I photographed forty-eight of them (and there were more). And today you see just five of them. It seemed to me that there was only one way to display them – in a panel. Side by side you see the motif – the same but different.


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