HAPPY SEASONAL GREETINGS TO EVERYONE, AND WARM WISHES FOR ALL GOOD THINGS TO COME TO YOU IN 2016
Well it had to be a Christmas tree this week, didn’t it! Unfortunately I haven’t had time to get out and take something new, so this one dates from last Christmas. Every year the Town Hall, which is housed in the Georgian Buttermarket building in Newark’s market square, places a huge tree on the balcony and floodlights it in different colours. The market square itself has an enormous canopy erected over it, made up of strings of twinkling white lights. It’s quite magical at night and I hope to get some shots of it once I get some time to go out there.
I’m going to take a break over Christmas week, and hopefully play around with a new blog design that will allow me to post much larger images. So if you turn up here and it’s all gone a bit haywire, don’t worry, I’m working on it. I’ll be back again on 6th January.
Something about this group of trees intrigues me -the way they’re grouped and the various angles at which they lean. You might well be seeing more of these, especially if it snows this winter (I’d love to see these with a covering of white on them). This time, though, it was the perfect reflections that made me press the shutter.
Here’s an example of breaking all the rules and still getting something that (I think) works. The sunlight was blindingly bright – far too bright, when shooting straight into it, to get a fast enough shutter speed to prevent over-exposure. The resulting image was interesting in some ways but too washed out to be usable as it was. I duplicated the original layer, blended the two together using Multiply, et voila! I like the way the sky has blown out, making this look more like a wet-into-wet watercolour than a photograph.
I always feel it’s a bit of a cheat to photograph other people’s artwork – like all the hard work’s been done for you. The only time it becomes satisfying is when you can add something more to the original. I loved the subtle colours in this Henry Moore sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, particularly the warm bronzy red patch in the bottom curve, and then I noticed how the autumn trees in the distance picked up and reflected the sculpture’s colours. Moore’s beautiful stone curves, and his trademark ‘window’, became a wonderful frame for the trees.
Not much to say about this one. I was walking to the park on a grey, damp day, looked down and loved the unusual combination of bright yellow and burgundy red leaves underfoot. Add in the vivid mossy green of the fence behind and you have an autumnal symphony of colour.
A night of thick mist and fog, a dull morning, and then as afternoon approached, a mellow autumn sun cutting through the mist. It was one of those perfect autumn days that don’t happen very often and must be relished when they do. Autumn as it should be, and a photographer’s gift.
I’ve added a touch of Orton technique, just to bring out the glow. And only a touch – it’s easy to overdo. If you’re not familiar with the Orton technique, or you are but don’t know how to do it, you can find a downloadable pdf (plus other how-to articles) right here. If the link doesn’t work, click on the Articles tab above the post.
In the interests of photography, fitness, and de-stressing, I’ve been taking a daily walk through the cemetery and round the lake. In the dull grey weather we had for a while this wasn’t offering a great deal in terms of the photography, but the weather this last few days has been the best that autumn has to offer. Where lake reflections were muddy and indistinct, now they’re clear and – often – full of colour. However, this series of trees reflected in the lake was more rewarding in black and white, emphasising the wiggly lines caused by the ripples on the water. It looks better the bigger you see it – unfortunately this is the maximum size my blog theme allows, but you can get a bigger version by clicking on the image.
When I started this project my intention was to aim for shots that went a bit beyond the representational. I haven’t been very successful with this so far, but I think I’m beginning to move in that direction. I wanted to see how many different ways I could depict trees, or perhaps more accurately, ‘tree-ness’. The kind of shots I had in mind have been slow in presenting themselves, and general busy-ness and a nasty virus have kept me from doing much exploring.
It’s made it clear to me how much in photography depends on giving yourself the space, both mental and physical, to allow the shots to come to you, in their own time. The pressure of ‘yikes, what am I going to post on Wednesday?’ works against this, but it’s countered by the fact that it makes me go out with my camera when the temptation is to stay put in warmth and comfort. Enjoying my walk for what it is also helps, because then it doesn’t matter if I get any shots or not, I’m still benefiting. And I decided when I started this that, rather than post an image I’m not happy with, I’d use something from my archives – and I wouldn’t beat myself up about it, either. The trick to keeping a project going is to work with your own limitations and motivations – it’s taken me a long time to learn that, but I think I’ve got it now.
It’s been a busy week and it took quite a while to shift the worst of my cold, but I did manage to get out for a short time with my camera. I didn’t feel like going far, so it was the cemetery that called to me again, and most particularly, this little tree arrayed in its party dress of bright colours. I liked the contrast between the sobriety of the old and twisted tree in the background, and the flirty youthfulness of this little sapling.
For those of you who might be wondering if I’ve given up writing posts on anything but trees, the answer is no, but I am finding it difficult to create the mental space to ponder on things at the moment. I hope that’ll change soon, and I can get back to writing in more depth, but in the meantime let’s talk about trees.
And since we are, I thought I’d include a few tree-related links. First off, in Improvised Life’s article, Jane Goodall: Trees as Shaman and Guide, you can read the moving story of the very special tree that survived 9/11. The story is touching in itself, but what really brought the tears to my eyes was the last paragraph:
In the aftermath of the horrifying tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, a TV crew went to document the situation. They interviewed a man who had just lost everything, not only his house and all his belongings, but his family also. The reporter asked him if he had any hope. He turned and pointed to a cherry tree beginning to bloom. “Look there,” he said, pointing toward the new blossoms. “That’s what gives me hope.”
One photo a week, of a tree – how hard can that be, I thought, when I started this. Unfortunately it’s coincided with me catching the worst cold I’ve had for a long while, leaving me with a brain that feels like cotton wool and no desire to do anything but lounge on the sofa with a hot water bottle, catching up on back episodes of Downton Abbey. I did force myself out for an hour, but my heart wasn’t in it, and the resulting shots showed it. So I’m settling for something taken very recently, even if not actually this week, and at least something that I haven’t posted anywhere before.
Newark Cemetery is long and relatively narrow and a wide path, lined with Lime trees, runs dead centre down the full length of it. (I think they’re Lime trees – I’m not very good at identifying trees, but the road parallel to it is called Lime Walk and I’m taking that as a clue.) In the middle is an old stone chapel with an archway through the centre of it and the whole thing just cried out to be framed perfectly symmetrically.
It’s a beautiful walk, down this path. I’ve realised lately that I’ve spent too long wishing for what doesn’t exist in this area and not fully appreciating what’s actually here. I’ve taken a walk every day this week – the same walk – that takes me down this avenue of trees, then around a small, tree-lined lake full of waterbirds, and back again. And yes, the lake has houses built close to it all the way round, but it’s no less lovely for that, and the cemetery is often full of people, but it’s no less peaceful. Time, I think, to give thanks for what’s on my own doorstep.