November mist

OK, OK, I know I am in the wrong month and should be looking forward to spring…but I’m indulging my autumnal senses again with an image of November mist rising in early morning sunlight.  Apart from the eerie quality of the light in this scene, I really love the way in which the webs of branches on the trees are picked out in delicate silhouette, rather as in the designs of Aubrey Beardsley.  So please indulge my November fantasies just this once…and I promise to get more spring-like in my choices from now on.

November mist rising in early morning sunlight, against a background of trees

November mist

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Stately homes

Today’s picture is of Wilton House, a very grand stately home which I had the pleasure of visiting a couple of years ago; some of you may remember earlier pictures of its splendid Laburnum walk.  One of the things I love about these grand old houses is how they so often exploit the relationship between house and landscape.  Perhaps the boldness of the edifice itself contrasts with the softness of the rolling lawns around it, or the ordered Georgian symmetry of a frontage is given a new emphasis when viewed from the comparative chaos of the wild garden below it.  Here, the plunging perspectives of two sides of the house are framed gently by the enfolding bough of a tree.

Wilton House

Wilton House

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Sundown by the Thames

Photographs rarely simply record a scene – the composition and focus selected by the photographer guide our eyes, and help to tell a story or ask a question about what we are looking at.

Today’s image in some ways subverts conventions – normally in a Thameside picture like this, we would be directed to look at the famous City skyline in the background.  Certainly it’s there, but on this occasion it’s in soft focus, directing our gaze instead to the riverside lamp in the foreground, and its writhing fish with the evening sun glinting off its scales (I believe it’s a sturgeon, but I am sure some of my followers who are London experts can correct or confirm that!).  Sometimes it’s good to notice the little details that are closest to us, and which are too often overlooked in favour of the splendid, but distant, cityscape.

Scultped riverside lamp with view of City of London beyond

Sundown by the Thames

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A distant barn

I tend not to do a huge amount of post-production editing on my images.  It’s not that I’m somehow opposed to such things, it’s just a choice.  But occasionally I throw caution to the wind and push the boundaries of the editing process to create something which is clearly not “real” but catches a particular mood within an image.

In today’s picture of a barn on a hilltop, the colours in some parts of the image appear almost washed out, while the sky is an unreal shade of blue-grey.  The heavy clouds lowering overhead, combined with the low angle of view, create what I feel is quite a sinister tone to the picture.

A distant barn

A distant barn

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House through trees

St Paul’s Walden Bury was the Queen Mother’s childhood home, and the gardens were also one of the first places I was privileged to shoot when I left the civil service to become a photographer.  I have always loved this view of the house: the slightly threatening looking sky above, the long stretch of bright green lawn, and the frame provided by the curling and blossom-laden branches.  And then, at the heart of it all, the house nestling quietly, a haven of calm and safety.

St Paul's Walden Bury

St Paul’s Walden Bury

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Paris Street

Incongruity was what struck me about today’s picture, taken on the streets of Paris in spring a couple of years back.  On the one hand, it is instantly recognisable as the French capital from the building style, the trees and the street signs.  On the other, there is a strange disjunction as the dining table obtrudes into the image – wating, perhaps, for the arrival of some al fresco dinner guests?

Paris street

Paris street

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Dusty bottles

I took this picture in a museum in upstate New York back in 2009, although to my shame I can’t remember exactly where I shot it.  The things which people discard, the detritus of day-to-day life, can be just as fascinating as the things they treasure.  And in some ways the dirt and dust, the patina of neglect, only add to the fascination of the objects.  I wonder what rubbish of ours people will inspect and document 100 years from now.

A few years ago, I took a gentleman on a photographic walk around London, and his particular area of interest was “rubbish”.  He travelled all over the world photographing the sort of things which most of us just think ought to be tidied up.  It was one of the more fascinating photo projects I’ve seen, and a reminder that inspiration can sometimes be found even in the most unlikely places.

Dusty bottles

Dusty bottles

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Flower head

Whilst out over the weekend leading a photography tour in London, I was struck as many others have been by just how many flowers are coming into bloom.  There’s blossom on some of the trees, and in places not only snowdrops but also daffodils were bursting into life.  Hopefully the impending cold weather will not savage them and leave us with a somewhat colourless spring.

Each year I am struck by the uprising of fecundity which the spring brings with it – even if it is normally a little later than this.  It’s not just the colours, though they themselves are eye-catching after months without them.  It’s also the shapes of the flowers, the delicacy of the petals, and the intense contrasts of tone and hue.

Flower head

Flower head

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Imperfect beauty

I learned a new term yesterday, thanks to my good friend Scott in New York, who commented on yesterday’s image and introduced me to the Japanese phrase wabi-sabi.  According to Wikipedia, this refers to an aesthetic of beauty which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.  I have a feeling it’s a term I’m going to find useful!

Perhaps today’s picture of a haystack is another example…those more expert in aesthetic theory than I am will be able to tell me!  I enjoy the contrasts of sky, bales, and slightly untidy scrub in the foreground; and also the way in which the seemingly perfect square of the stack is broken by the slight leaning of the bales, and a few stand proud of the main body.  Or maybe it’s just my obsession with details again…

Haystack

Haystack

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Reflecting windows

At first glance, today’s image looks very neat and symmetrical, but on careful examination it’s full of untidy disruptions to that sense of order.  One of the columns of windows sits slightly recessed from the others, carving a deeper line up the sheer marbled surface of the building.  That line is itself offset to the right of the image rather than bisecting it neatly.  And whilst some of the windows mirror back at us only the bright spring light, the lower ones reflect and distort the leaves and branches of nearby trees.  For me, it is these disruptions which give the picture its interest.

Reflecting windows

Reflecting windows

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