Misfits

Summer has failed to install

Tea in the garden

Anyone who knows me well also knows that I like my bed and am not in the habit of leaping out of it at anything other than a civilised time, and even then after at least an hour of leisurely reading with a cup of tea.  But this morning I made an exception, and was in my car and heading over to Alexandra’s garden in Faversham before 8.00am.  Alexandra* has a gorgeous garden that’s just begging to be photographed, and we’d been trying to arrange this date for quite a while.

There’s a photographic version of sod’s law that says the light is always at its best the day before you get there, and this was one of those times.  For most of the last week I’ve been waking up to beautiful sunshine and blue skies; the sun has usually disappeared by the time morning gets going in earnest, but has stayed around long enough for a potential photo session.  This morning – of course – I opened my eyes to dull, flat light and grey skies and realised it was going to be pretty tough to get any decent images at all.

The only thing you can do when the light is like this is to keep the sky out of things altogether and concentrate on small, intimate areas of garden where you at least have the advantage of there being no harsh shadows.  Even so, I’m not about to burst with excitement at the photos I’ve got. In a bid to add some extra interest to what would otherwise have been some very dull shots because of the light, I took quite a few of them using the Lensbaby – for the same reason, I’ve added the Orton effect to a couple of them.  Even so, you still can’t expect to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

(If you haven’t heard of the Orton technique, or you have but you don’t know how to do it, I wrote a tutorial on it a while ago for the Mortal Muses site.  I can’t get a unique url that will send you to the right place, but if you want to find it, go to www.mortalmuses.com, click on Muse University in the left-hand side panel, then scroll down several posts till you come to mine.)

Alexandra has two of these wonderful dog statues in the garden.  I had to do huge amounts of processing to get this image to look good at all.  It’s had curves, a solid colour adjustment layer, warming photo filter, and vignetting applied, to mention just a few of the things I did to it.  It still isn’t great, but probably the best I was ever going to get in the dull light.

Stone dog

She also has the real thing; isn’t he lovely? – unfortunately I can’t remember his name.  I’ve also managed to mess up with the focussing, which is centred on his collar rather than his eyes, as it should be.  It’s been a while since I’ve used my Lensbaby and my lack of practice is showing.

Saluki

The garden has loads of lovely little details like these:

Wrought iron chair

Red Crocosmia

Terracotta ball

Flower pot

There are some amazing and interesting flowers and plants, too.  My ignorance of plant names and species is extensive, but I can tell you this is some kind of hydrangea.  The flowers are fascinating – like little parasols with dainty flower heads dangling from them.  I think I could have done with a bit more depth of field here (it’s probably wise not to employ me to do photography early in the morning before my brain’s booted up), but the soft pinks are rather nice.

Pink hydrangea

But my favourite shots of the day were these wonderful leaves, which had the most amazing colours in them.  No, please don’t ask me what they are – I have no idea!  I processed the two shots a bit differently, with the first one kept very soft and the second with more sharpness and saturation.  I’m not sure which one I like best; I think they both work, in different ways.

Colourful leaves

Colourful leaves 2

We’re going to try again soon, in the hope of better light next time.  The reason for all these grey skies, according to an email I got the other day, is because Summer has failed to install….

INSTALLING SUMMER…..
Install delayed…please wait.  Installation failed.  Please try again.
404 error: Season not found.  Season “Summer” cannot be located.  The season you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed or is temporarily unavailable.  Please try again later……
Maybe we could install “Mediterranean Summer” instead…that would be nice.  Any techies out there?

*Alexandra is an author who writes under the name of Nina Bell.  She has four books in print, on the theme of family dramas, and you can find details of them on her website: www.ninabell.co.uk

And if you’ve ever wondered about getting to grips with Twitter, do read Alexandra’s blog post on it – it’s one of the best I’ve ever come across on telling you why you should join in and how it all works.  You can find her blog on the website link above.

Repeating patterns

Canterbury Cathedral, ceiling

Kat Sloma is blogging on repeating patterns this week.

If you stop to think about it, life is made up of repeating patterns. Anything that becomes a routine or a habit is also a recurring pattern, and it’s these patterns that make up the bulk of our lives.  We need them – just imagine a life where no pattern is ever repeated and think how chaotic that would be.  So rhythms and patterns feel reassuring and secure and maybe that’s why we’re drawn to spotting them and photographing them.

Having said that, I realise that patterns are not something I tend to photograph much; if I do, it’s usually because of something else that goes along with them, like colours, or shadows, or a subject that has the pattern as a background.  Where there’s a very regular pattern, to me it works best as a backdrop that makes the other features of the photo more interesting.  And sometimes when I’ve photographed patterns it’s more of an echo effect than a neatly repeating one.  In the image below, the pattern can be found in all the arch shapes, but they repeat at different angles and sizes and so it’s not as obvious to spot at first glance.

Cathedral arches

Where there’s a more obvious and regular pattern to be found, it’s usually the small (or sometimes large) interruptions and variations in a pattern that make it worth looking at.  That’s probably why we prefer handmade things to machine-made ones: there’s a deadly, clone-like perfection to the patterns that a machine produces, but something handmade has little irregularities and variations in its patterns that keep it interesting while still retaining the satisfying feeling of the ongoing basic pattern.

In the photo below, the shadows are all slightly different and the building facade has little differences in it that stop it becoming boring – some blinds are up and some are down, some of the plaster is smooth, some is stained or damaged.

Shadows, Sant'Agata

Sometimes what makes the patterns more interesting, too, is where you have several repeating patterns together, as in the Cathedral ceiling image at the top.  Patterns combined hold more interest than one on its own but still give that satisfying, repetitive effect.

If we think about it in terms of life, we need a foundation of repeating patterns to form a structure to how we live.  The routines and habits that we have form a secure base for the rest of our lives to rest on.  So sleeping at night, waking during the day, brushing your teeth and washing your face in the morning, doing the laundry at the weekends, and so on is a good foundation that makes life run smoothly.  If we have that, then now and again we can interrupt the pattern without repercussions – it doesn’t matter if the laundry doesn’t get done this week because you’re off to Paris for the weekend.  It would matter if it didn’t get done for several weeks in a row.

So interrupting and varying the pattern makes life more interesting, but not having patterns at all would make it unliveable.  Patterns hold things together and make life cohesive, but it’s the irregularities that make it interesting.  The trick in life, as in photography, is to find the balance between the two.

Smithfield Market, arches.

Despite the fabulous colours in the image above, it just doesn’t hold my interest.

This has got me wondering if the kind of patterns we’re drawn to and the way we photograph them are reflected in our attitudes to routine?  I know I need a certain amount of routine, but more than a little and I find it gets stifling very quickly.  I also try to create variations within the routines I follow as much as I can; for example, taking a different route to a regular destination.  I think most of my ‘pattern’ images reflect this: I don’t have many that form straightforward, clearly-repeating patterns and, where I’ve taken photos like this, I don’t really like them.  We can’t help but show our selves in our photography, so I wonder – if you looked, would you find the same thing?

 

 

London abstract

 

While in London last weekend, I took this shot of a reflection in the Gherkin – or Swiss Re building as it should be called.  I tried it in black and white as well; I don’t like it quite so much, but then I’ll nearly always go for colour first.

 

Bikers

 

I was in the City of London at the weekend teaching a beginner’s photography workshop.  Just as we got to the main road, a posse of bikers turned up, parked their large shiny motorbikes, got off, and mounted a row of Boris’s bicycles.  (For non-UK readers, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, set up a scheme that enables anyone to pick up and borrow a bicycle for a small fee from the many banks of them distributed all over London)

We were on the other side of the road and a central railing prevented us from crossing for some way each side, so I climbed up onto a large block of stone and managed to get this photo.

I have no idea what they were doing – they were in high good spirits, waving at traffic going by, cars were honking their horns at them, and passing photographers were risking their lives in the road taking pictures. It looked like a publicity stunt, but there didn’t seem to be any publicity going on.  Whatever it was, it added a bit of fun to our day.