Sunset

I promised landscape after the last few days of abstract meanderings, so here we go.  Sunset pictures are often considered to be principally about the colours, but I think that’s only part of the story – the shape of the silhouetted landscape against the sky is for me an important element as well.

I took this image on a journey through Essex; as we were driving along the colours were intensifying, and it was clearly going to be a special sunset.  When we pulled over by the roadside, the yellows and oranges were certainly striking, but so too was the pattern of the trees against the skyline, and the gentle slope of the land.

Sunset

Sunset

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Square and triangle

I think I must be in an abstract mood at the moment, judging from the last couple of pictures I’ve chosen.  Apologies – we’ll go back to landscapes soon, I promise…

Today I’ve chosen a sight which has since disappeared – some steps down to the riverwalk near to where I live, which have fallen prey to the plethora of new building development taking place in the area.  I used to walk down them fairly frequently, but never turned back to look at them…until one day, when I saw that some creative individual had made their own little art installation there.

I love the way the shapes clash against each other, and the shiny whiteness of the tape marking out the square contrasts with the dull roughness of the concrete.  Curiously – and this probably says more about me than anything else – if I saw this in an art gallery I’d probably walk right by, but in the street it had an intrigue which really appealed to me.

Square shape marked out in tape on concrete ballustrade

Square and Triangle

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Almost like footsteps

A few years ago I undertook a short photography project which involved taking images in the streets near where I live – in the course of the shoot, I can’t have ventured much more than a mile from my own front door.  This made selecting and carrying kit pretty simple, but it was a challenge creatively as it required me to think about “my own back yard” in quite a different way.

I started out thinking I knew my neighbourhood really well, but how wrong I was.  Very quickly I was discovering streets I’d never even realised were there, and I was noticing features and details which I’d probably walked past every day for months without giving them a second glance.

Today’s image was one from that shoot – just a pair of drain covers which I’d probably trodden on a hundred times before without knowing it.   Something about their layout makes me think they look like the footprints of some strange creature left behind in the stone…

Pair of drain covers

Footsteps

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Dream

“Dream”.  That seems to be the simple message of today’s image, which I took a couple of years ago while researching a new photo walk in Bloomsbury…and it seems fairly good advice to me.  Rather prosaically, the word featured on an advertising hoarding, but it stood out from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding street.  The bold golden lettering and the strong black background fade into the soft diffuse light of the street behind, and the uncertain, maybe even dreamlike figures of the passers-by.

Advertising hoarding reads "dream" as pedestrians walk past

Dream…

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A pot of gold

The faint trace of a rainbow through an overcast sky is what initially prompted me to take today’s picture.  The frequency with which rainbows crop up in legends and stories is testament to their power to tantalise us – so beautiful and so transient.  But having taken the image, I was struck by the fact that what lies at the end of this rainbow also has its own beauty – the gentle undulations of the hills, and the varied tones of the autumn leaves in the soft sunshine, have hues which are perhaps not as bold, but still have a depth and a richness which draw you in.

Rainbow over autumn trees

Rainbow and autumn trees

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Too dark?

I’m sometimes criticised for making certain of my images too dark – and I mean in light levels as well as subject matter.  I’ve tried to change, but I’ve come to the conclusion I just like dark images.  There’s something about the contrast and energy, when areas of light leap out of the gloom, which I find really appealing.

Even by my standards, I’d accept that today’s image is low-lit!  Taken at dusk in a temporary covered walkway with little natural light coming in, it was almost bound to appeal to me.  I like the way that the shaft of evening sunlight picks out the pathway, and is faintly echoed by the line of artificial lighting above.  To me, the dark shapes coming and going add to the intrigue and drama of the image.  Or maybe it’s just too dark…?

Silhouettes at night

Silhouettes at night

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Withdrawal symptoms

For those of you suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms, today’s picture should cheer you up.  It was taken a couple of years ago when I visited Highclere Castle, the location for much of the series’ filming.  It’s a stately home with a fascinating history in its own right, quite apart from any association with the TV drama.

I was trying to find different views of the house, apart from the classic approach from the front.  The fact that the hill cuts through the house appealed to me – it makes the place look familiar and yet somehow different to what we expect, and begs the question of what is just beyond the rise.  In essence, we have to use our imagination to complete the image.  And the gorgeous blue sky and puffs of soft white cloud help frame the picture too.

Highclere Castle viewed over a ridge of ground

Highclere Castle

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An avenue of trees

When I’m teaching photography, one of the themes we usually look at quite early on is how to get a sense of depth into an image.  Leading lines, strong foreground and background, or inventive framing are all potentially powerful ways of achieving this.  In today’s image, nature helped me a lot (or at least the Duchess of Lauderdale, who oversaw the garden design at Ham House, provided a strong helping hand!)  The plunging line of trees and hedging carves a path right through the image, to the gate in the distance, and the tantalising question of what lies beyond…

Tree-lined pathway, Ham House

Tree-lined pathway, Ham House

 

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A different space

I’ve had an early start this morning for a research trip to Cambridge. I don’t particularly mind getting up early as it happens, not least as it gives me the chance to see London before it gets really busy. 

This experience always reminds me how much our impressions of a place are affected by what’s happening in it! I normally find Liverpool Street station a frenetic and bustling hive of activity, but today at 630am it was comparatively deserted and, dare I say, tranquil. Today’s picture is not my finest, snapped on my phone while trying to balance a latte in my other hand…but those of you who have experienced Liverpool Street in the rush hour will probably spot the contrast!

A quiet station

A quiet station

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November landscape

Having been so contrary with yesterday’s springtime post, I thought I’d better get back with the programme and focus on autumn today, so I’m sharing a picture that was indeed taken in November, albeit a few years ago, in Yorkshire.

One of the reasons I love landscape photography is that it encourages you to step out of yourself for a while, and to consider yourself in the vastness of the world you live in.  You might think that would have a tendency to make you feel insignificant, and I guess sometimes it does, but far more often the feeling is one of wonder: an amazement at being even a small part of something so vast and powerful.

For me, today’s image is all about that scale and power.  I love the drama of the rocks in the foreground, giving way to the open landscape beyond, and then the fog rolling in across the flat lands in the distance like some violent outpouring of a dragon’s breath.  It reminds me of some of those old fantasy films where sailors reach the edge of the world, shrouded in mist, and are confronted by the infinity which lies beyond.

View from a rocky hill looking over a foggy valley

November landscape

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