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A month has gone already this year, so it’s time to mean business!

I allowed myself a lazy Saturday, pottering around the garden being attacked by pyracantha thorns – these have now been dealt with.  I went out for coffee and cake with a friend and we talked about our plans for this year and the future, we came to the conclusion that exciting times (and maybe a little daunting ones) are ahead.

My Sunday was kick-started by actually getting up and seizing the day!

Embracing the weather

Sunlight was pouring in but I knew it was going to be cold.  I dressed accordingly, thick fleece lined trousers and the minimum of four layers plus buff.  8.10 and I was out of the door and onto the fields.  I thought this would be the best plan as the field paths would still be solid.  Previous times I have come back a few inches taller with very heavy boots!  The frosty ground and the early morning light was wonderful.  The newly emerging shoots were sparkling and the winter trees silhouetted as I hid in their shadows.

This path leads across several fields, mainly with recently sown crops appearing, but the last field contained some rather bemused sheep.  They thought at first I was bringing them some food and came towards me, then realised I wasn’t so continued to just stare instead.  On reaching the Oxford Canal it was now the waters turn to sparkle with sunlight.  The towpath along this stretch is angled at about 60º trying to tip you into the canal.  This along with the icy path made it quite ‘interesting’, I decided I’d rather get caught in the hedge than end up in the cut!  I have to be careful as I’m easily distracted by reflections and light.

Oxford Canal on a February Morning

Getting Close To The Water But Not That Close!

Going from the Oxford Canal onto the Grand Union Canal the towpath gets a lot easier to negotiate, and I was no longer walking into the sunlight.  The canal junction is home to a lot of narrow boat marinas but I don’t think too many have been moving recently judging by the state of the ice on the canal.  The patterns the ice formed were incredible, some looked like aerial shots from a drone of a river meandering and others like an oil slick.  The most intact of these were between two sets of locks and I decided to make abstract images of some close-ups.  I did not end up in the water!!!

Abstract Ice

I finally started to meet people, apparently not everyone gets up at this time on a Sunday morning.  A few dog walkers, a couple of fisherman fishing through holes in the ice! and a fellow lone walker without a dog!!!

I have had the boost I needed, to get fresh air, not have to drive to get it and captured some shots I love.  So glad I can find this on my doorstep, as much I like travelling, some days I need a break.

Ice on the Grand Union

 

It was that time between Christmas and New Year when you are in limbo.  I remembered there was an art exhibition on at Yorkshire Sculpture Park I had been meaning to see and it wasn’t weather dependant.  The M1 behaved itself so I reached West Bretton before lunchtime.  Leaflets were collected and I went to the cafe to plan my day whilst I could get a seat and food.  Fuelled for the day I went and admired the Norman Ackroyd exhibition, it was inspiring and I will start creating again!

Inside Outside

Wall Dale Cubed

The sun had broken through the Yorkshire cloud and I was desperate for fresh air.  I had picked the Sean Scully leaflet before brunch and was intrigued.  It wasn’t someone I had never heard but apparently he’s been nominated for the Turner Prize.  I therefore had no preconceptions.  His first work I came across was Wall Dale Cubed, a huge piece constructed of Yorkshire stone (of course).

The early afternoon sun was showing off the beauty of the stone.  This was the first of four outside sculptures, two more were on the way to his exhibition in Longside Gallery.

Dale Stone Stack

Dale Stone Stack was a great deal smaller but still tall.  As I do I got muddy knees to get a photo to show its towering nature.  In some ways it’s a more personable piece.

Outside Longside Gallery was Moor Shadow Stack, this time a metal tower that reflected in the gallery window.  The metal showed all the variations the stone did.

Moor Shadow Stack

 

The structures made more sense when I saw the inside exhibition with its paintings, stacks and ‘inspiration’ area.

 

Inside Longside Gallery

Sean Scully’s paintings are stripes of colour often of hues you find in the surrounding landscape in layers which translates into the 3D work.  The ‘coins’ reminds him of his own childhood of money being stacked on the kitchen table.  I love the different materials he uses and their textures,  it’s made me look at my own photos and the layers of sky, land and water within them.

Layers in coins and paintings

 

Inside tower’s detail

Inspiration for sculpture and art

In the side area was a display of other artwork and photographs.  I’m reassured that other people find fascination in the pattern and workmanship of dry stone walls.  Friends and family know I point out the strangest things but they go along with me.  I also had to smile at a model made by a visitor with wooden blocks.  Inspiration areas do work for both children and adults!!

Create your own stacks

 

The many dry stone walls

To finish off my wanderings for the day I went to see the final outside piece.  By now it was twilight, the sun had set over the lake and a peaceful air was over the park.  This is one of the advantages of an early sunset, you get to spend time in the park at twilight before it shuts.  The last sculpture was Crate of Air, a Corten Steel structure which framed another feature of the park – sheep.  All the sculptures were fitting and inspiring in their environment and I had a most enjoyable day discovering another artist.  The larger two sculptures are going to remain for a while after the exhibition.  Yorkshire Sculpture Park always has something to enjoy, its variety is its key.

 

Crate of Air – with sheep

 

I’ve just had an unusual weekend.  I live in Warwickshire and went to East London to do a bookbinding course on Saturday.  This was the last in the series of ‘Introduction to Bookbinding’ at London Centre of Book Arts – more of this another time.

Saturday was a long day, so obviously I should drive for 6 hours on Sunday!  I wanted some coast therapy and all UK coasts are a long way from home.  I looked at the weather forecast and chose North Norfolk.  Why not?!

Cley

I could spend many days on this coastline but only had a few hours of daylight to enjoy it.  Cley would offer a variety of opportunities with its windmill and beach.  I used my film cameras and phone to take shots of the windmill area – the film hasn’t been developed yet but hopefully I got something reasonable.

Cley windmill and reeds

You can see there wasn’t going to be much sunlight left.  I quickly grabbed a sandwich and made my way to the beach.  I hoped there was going to be a lovely sunset over the small cottage on Blakeney Point – with the sun shimmering in the water around the reeds.  Best laid plans!

The waves were making an amazing noise crashing onto the shingle and the sun was setting over the land.  Which way should I look?  Priorities were sorted because the sun was about to disappear and the waves would still be there after sunset.

Cley at dusk over the reed beds

The sun was still catching the reed beds and creating a hazy orange glow over the land.  I’m glad I took some shots then as the sun disappeared very quickly and wasn’t going to give me my hoped for sunset.

Explosive waves crashing

I turned my attention to the sea.  It was hard to ignore!  My ‘zoomiest’ lens is my Fujinon 60mm macro but it is far more than a macro.  It was also the only lens I had the filter adapter ring for because the other was sitting at home in my coat pocket, which I found out later.  I set my camera up on my tripod because I was going to try some long exposures.  Before I started that I took some non-handheld shots of the waves, I certainly can’t take 1/8 second shots handheld.  In burst mode I captured this one which shows how manic the sea was.

I am fairly inexperienced at long exposures but I thought I’d give it a go.  After a few non-starters I settled on Lee’s Big Stopper for 8 minutes.  I have no idea how the decreasing light levels effect the timings at all so it was very much ‘have a go!’  I quite like the effect I got and the wind turbines can be seen too.

Long exposure at dusk at Cley

The longer exposure time with both Big and Little Stoppers failed miserably and I was getting cold.  I know for next time to put more layers on and have a torch.  I may not have got the sunset image I wanted but I got 3 totally different images in a short distance of space and time.

 

When you are taking a short break up to Scotland you can’t let the weather get the better of you!  It seems like the theme of this short break was definitely water in its many geographical features. As it doesn’t say in the song – I’ll start at the end!

Grey Mare’s Tail and Loch Skeen

I’ve always liked waterfalls and found that I was staying very close to Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall near Moffat.  So I had to visit. As it was raining and the tops of the hills were in clouds, I wasn’t sure how far I’d wanted to go on my own.  I chose my Fuji XT1 with 18-55mm lens for its flexibility and packed it into a small Lowepro bag. (I seem to have a lot of different size bags depending on the number of cameras I take out and the lenses I want to use.)  This day simplicity was key.

Grey Mare

I first went to the viewing place, then thought I’d just go up the hill to get a better view.  On the way up the slope I met a man on his way down.  He asked if I was going all the way to the loch at the top, I replied I wasn’t sure because of the time and weather!  He told me that it would only be a couple of hours there and back and that it was definitely worth the walk.  I wasn’t going to get much wetter due to the rain and I had enough layers on, I thought what the heck let’s go and see the loch.  Cheerily said bye and headed off.

After him I met only 2 other people on the way up, strangely enough they were coming down.  The views down the valley came and went with the clouds, but the heather and water were spectacular.  By the time I got to the top I was glad of all my layers, hat and buff.  My walking shoes may be waterproof but not if the water runs in from the outside of my trousers.  Gaiters maybe a good idea or waterproof trousers but I hate wearing a ‘bin bag’ coat let alone ‘bin bag’ trousers.  I knew I would dry off later and I have a hot bath!!

Turning round the corner at the top took my breath away!

Cloud over Loch Skeen

Loch Skeen was stunning, not as in the pictures on the information board but beautiful in its own way.  I couldn’t see the hills surrounding it due to the clouds but that gave it the atmosphere.  I stayed there a while getting blown and wetter, it didn’t matter, it was a brilliant place just to be.  Reluctantly I knew I was going to have to go back down, but I hope to go back another time and enjoy that place again.  Next time I’ll stay up there longer or perhaps go further up White Coomb and get to experience the promised breathtaking views.

On reaching the car park I saw there were a few people enjoying the view of the waterfall from the bottom.  I was so glad I was convinced by the other walker to brave the weather and go to the top.

Loch Skeen in wet weather

It seems that my choice of bag I take out each day is dependant on which camera I’m taking out not what I’m wearing!
Waddesdon frontToday I set off to Bucks Open Studios to see a group of artists and their wares.  As I was walking out of the door I thought I’ll put my Fuji X100T camera in my bag just in case I went somewhere else or spotted a poppy field.  After seeing the beautiful craft and artwork and parted with some money I realised how close I was to Waddesdon Manor.  A place I’ve visit throughout the year and knew it would be relaxing there for the hour I had.

Waddesdon Manor

What I forgot that there was an event on tomorrow.  They were setting up for it on the front lawn, so the best shot I could get of the front of the house was the one above.  I hadn’t brought the convertor lenses out with me so I was using the fixed 23mm lens today and working within its limits.  It’s always good to get different angles of a familiar building and gardens, the building shots here are the jpegs straight out of the camera.  I liked the different gothic effect the black and white setting on the X100 gave to the honey coloured bath stone of the chateau.

I am finding that this camera is coming out with me more than any other.  My phone-camera is staying in my pocket and the pleasure of using the X100 is brilliant, a very usable camera.

camera X100T