What can I say? Me and a bottle of Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock on a blustery day on Burton Bradstock beach. It’s very ‘me’ indeed.
Thursday 27 February 2014
Monday 10 February 2014
This isn’t a new photo, I’m afraid, but finding something that is worthy of the title of wilderness is almost impossible down here. The countryside here is tame and contained, is flat and owned and fenced-in. It is not the wild places I have known growing up, nor the wild places I have loved. When I think of wilderness, how can I fail to think of the glorious wild places of Northumberland? Somewhere wild has to inspire awe, it has to be full of grandeur and splendour and all of those other nouns that go part of the way to expressing the size and the feelings that such a place can evoke. I remember the stormy day that Mr VP and I climbed to the top of this huge – much more than a hill, but not a mountain – ridge. The wind was blowing and the rain occasionally catching us out. Neither of us was wearing quite the right gear for hill-walking. We went there on a whim; we didn’t even think we’d make it to the top, but we did. I had my heavy 35mm camera, full of film. And we had a picnic at the top to celebrate our victory and the view and dreamt that one day, those mighty Cheviots in the distance would be the next place we would scale. There is time, we said. Somehow now I am eager to not waste time. I want to do it now. So this little photo is a love-letter to the place that I love most, with all of its foibles and its beauty and its wildernesses.
Monday 16 September 2013
These photos are all shot on a roll of Rollei Superpan 200. I had tried to develop another roll of this notoriously difficult film, only for it to come out massively under-developed and thus unuseable. I sent this one off to the lovely folks at AG Photolab, who know what they’re doing when it comes to film processing (even the difficult varieties!) and so I got back a set of beautifully clean negatives. I have noticed that the film seems to present a very soft, ‘thick’ grey compared to Kentmere 400 / Tri-X, and reminds me very much of original emulsions and the sort of colours you would see in photos from the 1930s-1940s. According to my research, this film is a re-badge of Agfa’s Aviphot Pan 200, which was used to take high-resolution aerial photos, hence the greater sensitivity of the film to infra-red and its very sensitive tonal ranges (full data PDF here).
The photo above is one of my favourites. You see, I am a Gerard Manley Hopkins gal at heart, because I am able to find the distinct joy in the qualities of dappled light. I think this photo has caught it very well indeed; it looks just like a waterfall of sunlight.
I get so excited about the tones and hues of grey. In this case, I am sure that there are far more than fifty in this photo! Gosh, is it silly to love a photo so much? I don’t think so.
Gosh, there have been many moments of walking through green corridors this summer. I was very lucky that my recuperation included green spaces both before and after my operation. Being able to relate to my surroundings has given me a sense of perspective and appreciation.
This is what I have come to call my ‘Cathedral of Trees’. Its grandeur justifies the moniker and whenever I walk through it, I am awe-inspired; whatever the season or the time of day. The ‘ride’ (or aisle, if we’re going to talk cathedrals) is perfectly straight and it meets at one end with a Roman road. Unlike a cathedral-proper, there is no altar, just the great vaulted ceilings of branch and leaf, and the soft floor of leafmould. This is my favourite photo of all, I think.
As I look at these, I find myself thinking that this photo could have come from any time. This is what I mean by timeless moments: black and white film is ageless. This could have been taken yesterday or a hundred years ago.
In this photo, you can definitely tell that it is a modern photo. In the far distance, the wind-farm’s turbines spin; definitely not something that one would have seen a century ago!
On a different walk, I couldn’t help but revel in picking up a full, ripe dandelion head and releasing a deep puff of breath, scatting all of its seeds in a hundred different directions, all to be carried upon the breeze to their new residences. The whole idea of going through autumn and winter before waking up in spring seems like such a hardship for a tiny little dandelion.
A very pretty view, indeed.
Saturday 24 August 2013
This place is the literal embodiment of a hive of activity. The bright, warm sun provides the energy to keep the butterflies and bees buzzing merrily along. Little solar batteries they are, absorbing and using in a constant cycle. I think I might have been humming this along to the rhythm.
The thing I miss most about the end of summer is the lack of colour. Autumn is full of colour, but it slowly turns to mud-brown and dull green and everything is very monotonous and quiet. I long for purple and blue and pink and bright, vivid colours.
I will also miss the butterflies, which this year were late but were so prolific once they got going. Yet I know that soon their flitting bodies and gentle fluttering will be replaced by yellow, gold and red leaves flickering on the wind and then even later still will be replaced by the first plump snowflakes of the winter season. And I am reminded that time is moving on and, like a butterfly whose life is over in the blink of an eye, I too have so much to do and so many miles more to go before I too am done.
Monday 19 August 2013
There are a few reasons which make me believe, without a shadow of doubt, that my DNA comes from far Northern climes. Firstly, I can’t do hot weather. I can’t just not do it, as in not liking it, but I actually really begin to feel off kilter and unwell when the sun is high and relentless in the sky. It reminds me of days as a child when I would be useless for months in the summer and only feeling better when the cooler weather came, which unfortunately also meant the end of the holiday. Secondly, I am amazingly good at pronouncing Swedish words. Like really good (I could be the next P4RL on Stockholm’s Tunnelbana). Thirdly, I love the trees of the north. Larches, pines and birches are pretty much the only trees you see for miles as you fly over Scandinavia’s islands and islets. The trees are one of Scandinavia’s richest natural resources and they are at the very heart of the nations which comprise it. I find them deeply symbolic trees and trees that are full of magic.
On a hot summer day in August, listen carefully and you will hear the snap, crackle and pops of the pine cones opening and you will feel the great magic that one tiny seed is imbued with as it begins its journey. Run your fingers over the Scots pine bark and read with your fingers the rivulets and undulations; know the ochre tessellations as if it was a book you have read a hundred times before. In Spring, in the middle of hundreds standing shoulder to shoulder, tall and elegant, listen to the sap rising (with a stethoscope!) and know that each tree drinks, breathes, grows and gets old as you do.
Do not fear a pine forest, however dark and impervious it may seem. It is a rich home; a source of security and safety for its inhabitants. The wind sings through the needles like a mistral through an Aeolian harp and beneath is a dense, spongy carpet of soft, strawberry-blonde needles. Never fear the darkness or their depths because they are warm and gentle places. They are the gentle giants of the woodlands; relatives of the gate-keepers and the hardwood heart of many a forest. Truly one of the world’s most glorious places.
Saturday 17 August 2013
I seem to be lucky when it comes to capturing leaves caught in spiders’ webs. This tiny little leaflet caught my attention as the breeze shook it. How lucky I was to see this and be there at the right time. Serendipitous magic at work.
Longhorn beetles (Leptura quadrifascia) aren’t really the only little creatures I’ve been photographing (honest!), but this is the first time I’ve ever seen them and they are such striking little things that it seems such a pity to not capture their bright yellow, don’t-eat-me-I’m-dangerous glory.
My logpile looks so different in colour. How rich the tones of ochre and umbre.
Straight tall and proud the trees stand, in rows. They stand so straight because for many years, this was a woodland that had fallen into disrepair. It is one of Lincolnshire’s oldest Lime woods, dating back to the Doomesday book, but over the years it has had different species planted in amongst the limes. This was mostly an C18th-C19th decision to increase productivity of the wood, but it also occured due to natural seeding of different varieties. Now that it is a Forestry Commission site, they are reverting the woods back to their original form by removing most of the pines, oaks and birches that were planted, are bringing back the ‘rides’ that were part of the original wood and are opening up the woods so that they can breathe.
Part of the Forestry Commission’s plan is to make sure that all sorts of wildlife can make the most of the space. This is why they have made sure there are lots of marginal plants around; natural species
This is the same logpile as before. A home for so many woodland species.
Thursday 15 August 2013
On the last day I was in Lincolnshire visiting my mother, before the operation, I said that I really wanted to go for a walk (if you’ve noticed, this seems to be a recurring desire of mine). The sun was shining, the day was warm but not hot and it was one of my last days of normality before the uncertainty that followed. It was the right time to go out and my body was telling me to enjoy it.
So we scooped the dog up – who also had an operation on the same day as mine – and went to one of my favourite places. I took two rolls of film with me; the last I had left after a busy weekend of photography. One roll of Ilford XP2 Super (the colour-process black and white) and a cheap Kodak ColourPlus 200, which had been knocking around my bag for far too long. I was pleasantly surprised how well the XP2 Super managed to render contrast, given the brightness of the day as it is a 400 ISO film.
The woods were dark and cool, providing relief from the rays. Tree leaves gently swayed in the breeze and there was a lightness and joviality to the day. There was a song on the breeze; it could have been this.
We saw so many butterflies that day. In fact, we both said that we couldn’t remember a time when we had seen so many. Contrary to David Attenborough’s lamentations about how this year the British Isles has the fewest butterflies the since he was born, I couldn’t see it at all. There were so many, they were almost tripping over us to get to flowerheads and nectar sources. It was uncanny and it was good. Brimstone butterflies trilled over Peacocks (of which we must have seen a few hundred, so numerous were they), which lolled around the fiery and delicate Comma.
The plants are in that state of transformation; some still flowering, some bare of flower and others holding ripening seeds. Little starbursts held out on the arm of a plant. So pretty and nature-perfect.
Sometimes all of those transitions could be seen on one plant. Flowers, developing seeds and ripe seed-heads, full of next years’ children.
Some plants were, oddly enough, only just emerging. Late to the party. Hogweed was only just unfurling as if giving out a raised arm and a yawn to the day. Me, late? Mais non! Nature is never late, madame.
This little fellow is a Ringlet, taking a break – and having a snack – on an umbel. It was one of those seldom-seen glorious British summer days and, though I don’t like the heat of summer, I would gladly have more days like this; when the wind is blowing gently, the temperature is just-so and the mercury is rising.
This tree called out to me. I liked its shape and the fact that it was the largest tree around by quite some way.
Dark and soft and warm. Not uninviting. Shaded and dense. Swirls of light and dark.
This is one of the many woodpiles I frequent at this place. It’s become my go-to thing to photograph. These are new logs, though; for there is no permanency of such things in a managed woodland. It is always hustling with rangers tidying up and weeding out. This is, for the time being at least, providing a much-needed home for many hundreds of insects, creatures and fungi. And it provides the avid amateur photographer with a place to stop – to pause – and line oneself up, before moving on, lens ever following the photographer’s beady eye.
Remember I mentioned Longhorn beetles? These are they. Two of them, no less. Thankfully merely hungry and not quite as addicted to fulfilling their other appetites as the cardinal beetles on our last walk!
This was an unexpected sight on the walk back to the car: hazelnuts. A row of maybe four or five trees, dotted amongst beech and hawthorn. Most passers-by probably completely unaware of their presence. Like many things on our walk, and in life, only people who really look will ever see.