STILL LIFE 223 – THREE FLOWERS

 

 


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Three flowers. 

One up close and personal: solid, real, in our world, in our face too maybe but, in any case, in the way we see things. 

The other two are hazy, more remote; vague, they are imperfect impressions of reality, such as might appear in our dreams, or under the influence of myopia or intoxication.  And yet these vague impressions reflect the human condition if not visual reality – one is damaged, wounded; the other marginalised and only partly seen.  

And all are pallid, desaturated; they are pale representations of how the world ought to be.

Technique: this effect has been produced in Lightroom, by setting Vibrance to -100 and reducing Contrast.  Today there’s mostly a trend towards either bright, attention-grabbing, vivacious colours or no colour at all – black and white.  But between the two lie many possibilities – possibilities that I for one frequently forget to consider.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Stanton Drew, south of Bristol; 4 May 2018.
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STILL LIFE 222 – BROWN CHAIR WITH ORCHIDS AND POTTERY

 

 


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This is a totally ad lib shot that I took while sitting at the breakfast table (which sounds distinctly grand, doesn’t it, until you find out that it is in fact our only table …) to see if a camera was working properly.  Just how honest and up front can I get???  I looked through the large and rather wonderful electronic viewfinder, liked what I saw, and snapped it.

This rather cluttered still life is lit by that most wonderful (and gratis) of light sources, window light, and it also benefits from the fact that this light is filtered through net curtains.

It is a totally natural (i.e. unarranged) still life, which has three main subjects.  On the right is a lovely old chair, bought second hand at least 25 years ago, and probably originating in the generation before mine, if not earlier.  Then there are two examples from my wife’s orchid collection, one in flower and the other looking rather ravaged and destitute, though with abundant aerial roots.

And finally, at the back, two pieces of pottery, the one at the front having been made by John Leach, the grandson of Bernard Leach, at his pottery in Muchelney, on the Somerset Levels.

I like this picture.  Well, it is a part of my home, so I’m probably biassed.  But what do I like most?  Well, without a doubt, the light spilling over the warm colours of that old chair.  The objects on the left of the picture are well lit and, in their way, visually interesting.  But the chair is more snugly in the shadows, the light and shadow are washing over its surfaces, amplifying its wonderful old creases and textures >>> a metaphor for myself perhaps …..

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Chez Moi!; 3 May 2018.
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STILL LIFE 196 – LOOKING AT CHAIRS 12 (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Table and chair, with daffodils, in the William Bray, a restaurant and bar in the village of Shere, Surrey; 24 Mar 2012.

This restaurant is on different levels, and I was able to get up onto one floor and look down on the one below.  The wonderful lines and forms made the by the chairs, tables and floorboards – and the colourful flowers –  caught my eye, and I took several photos, none of which were “THE ONE!”, to work on later.  With all these lines and textures, I knew that there was something there – and that it was screaming out for mono conversion, with the plant’s colours restored.

It took quite a time to find this crop, but it has what I searched for – the lines and textures, the great contrast between the wooden and metallic structures, and the great contrast between the daffodil’s leaves and flowers and everything else.

The first post in this series on chairs, which contains context and an image, can be found hereSubsequent posts are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  9  10  11 .  Each will open in a new window.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it.

Technique: D700 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 6400 ISO; converted to mono and manipulated (including selective restoration of colour) in Silver Efex Pro 2, and then manipulated further in Nikon’s Capture NX2.

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ARCHIVE 319 – MEADOW WITH WILDFLOWERS (MONO)

 

 


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Meadow with wildflowers beside North Chine Drove, southeast of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 27 Jul 2011.

The uncut grass with its abundance of tall yellow wildflowers first caught my eye and, and I was looking at how it might best be photographed when the sun broke through the clouds, producing this beautiful (and very lucky) shaft of light across the scene.

The photo is in three layers.  In the foreground there are more of the yellow flowers, but in the shade and unfocused.  Above this, the shaft of sunlight cuts across the shot, illuminating both the tall grasses and another grove of the wildflowers.  Finally, the third and upper layer contains the trees and bushes behind the field which (luckily again) are partly caught by the sun’s rays, so that this background is not wholly dark.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; converted to monochrome, and slightly tinted very pale yellow, with Silver Efex Pro.

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STILL LIFE 120 – WINDOW BOX

 

 


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Window box in Christmas Steps, a narrow and ancient alleyway in the city centre.

May sunshine was flooding across Bristol, but one side of the deep cleft of Christmas Steps was still in deep shadow.  I’m not usually someone who waits around for photos to happen, I’m usually on the move, if only slowly.  But the sunlight was inching its way around towards the Steps’ northeastern side – you could almost see the light creeping across the masonry – and I decided, this once, to be patient, because I wanted to see the light flooding across the textures of the buildings’ facades.

It seemed like an eternity, but a cat came over to see me and that passed some of the time.  And then the blazing light hit a window box, with the wall behind it still in deep shadow, and I took this picture.  The slightly open window frame is glowing in light reflected from a shop sign just out of shot on the left.

What does this picture do for me?  Well, it talks to me about peace – something not in limitless supply in the UK on this particular Sunday morning – and quiet; it talks about warm air, warm breezes and warm shadows to relax in, and some release from the pace, stresses and lowered quality of modern life.  It reminds me of pictures from more southerly climes, there’s something Mediterranean here perhaps, something not experienced over large parts of the year by us relative northerners.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 195mm (equiv); 200 ISO; spotmetering for highlights; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Christmas Steps, central Bristol; 26 May 2017.
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ARCHIVE 283 – EARLY MORNING GARDEN: BUDDLEIA (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Buddleia blooms at the bottom of our garden; 10 July 2014.

I’ve waddled down the garden a few times early on these soft and wonderful summer mornings, and enjoyed the stillness and lushness immensely.  Yesterday, in addition to the Swifts screaming overhead, there was an unknown song from the jungle on the other side of the back fence.  I gently hissed and pished at it a bit, and in due course a male Blackcap popped into view to see who I was. 

Pished?  Its a birding technique most effective in North America, where hissing and making “pish” noises drives warblers crazy, such that, otherwise obscure in dense vegetation, they at once spring into view.  And it works here in the UK a bit too, and in Africa.  This Blackcap’s provenance is uncertain.  He may be one of the increasing number that remain in the UK throughout the winter, or he may have made the journey up from sub-Saharan Africa just to breed in the thickets behind our back fence.

And I’m really not a gardener, but I did hear that severely pruning Buddleias in the spring brings of floods of blooms later on and so, having made a note an age ago in my diary, I got out there and hacked it to blazes awhile back, and we’re now reaping the rewards.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D800 with 50mm Nikkor lens used in DX format at 75mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset and selectively restoring colour.

UPDATE: this image is an example on my Mono + Colour work, where I read a colour image into Silver Efex’s black and white, and then use Silver Efex to restore one or more of the image’s original colours.  SEP2 doesn’t always get the colour restoration 100% accurate, but this can give the image a slightly strange look – which I value!  Two effects are used here.  First, I simply wanted the flowers’ colour in the shot, with no other colours – and restoring this single colour in an otherwise black and white image was the perfect solution.  Second, there is a compositional device here.  My eye is drawn immediately to the bloom on the right, which is both in focus and the largest area of colour in the frame – it is close in to us, it’s tiny flowers are peering out of the frame at us.  Then my eye goes left to the second bloom, which is out of focus and smaller, and then it is taken on left again to the very diffuse areas of colour on the left.  In this way, my gaze is drawn into and back through the picture.  Does this have the same effect on your gaze???

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ARCHIVE 258 – THE MADDING CROWD (MONO)

 

 

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Dandilions near the The Castle of Comfort Inn, northeast of Priddy, on the Mendip Hills; 24 Apr 2011.

When I see this I think of a tide of people – or perhaps they are just faces –  emerging from the far darkness and tottering forwards, unsteadily but also unstoppably, out into the light.

Canon PowerShot G11; 200 ISO; conversion to mono in Silver Efex Pro.

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STILL LIFE 36 – CEMETERY 2: WINDBLOWN

 

 

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Flowers in the wind; Shaw Cemetery, Newbury, Berkshire; 4 May 2016.

A simple memorial, only this on the sun-dappled lawns.  But, as always, its what’s in our hearts that matters; and in any case, can’t simple often be beautiful, and profound too?

Click onto the image to see a larger version open in a separate window.

The first image in this series is here.

D700 with 24-120 Nikkor at 24mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

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STILL LIFE 33 – CEMETERY 1: ROSES (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

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Shaw Cemetery, Newbury, Berkshire; 4 May 2016.

A distant memory: flowers, certainly past their best, against a stone that is at once weathered, mute and totally uncompromising.

Click onto the image to see a larger version open in a separate window.

D700 with 24-120 Nikkor at 120mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Yellowed 1 preset and selectively restoring colour.
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PEOPLE 215 – DEATH, AND SOMETHING STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

 

 

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We’ve had a death in the family, we have been low.  And, in due course,  we attended the crematorium and, because I’m me, with an almost unbreakable (some would say, unbearable) compulsion to be early, we were early, very early.  Those attending earlier services ebbed and flowed, grieving, around us and, it being a nice day, a cold but beautifully sunny day,  I decided to take myself off for a stroll around the site’s gardens and memorials.

Most of the latter were fairly conventional stuff, sincerely meant no doubt, but with formal words, names, dates and so on – which made me reflect that I certainly don’t want this sort of treatment when I die – and no, I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t be seen dead in a place like this …  its just that I want my ashes scattered anonymously out at a favourite spot on the Somerset Levels – the Magic Carpark –  where the cattle, tractors, farmers and walkers will trample, grumble and rumble unknowingly over me, gradually grinding me down ever further into a place that I have a vast affinity for.  I shall be below sea level and I can’t swim, but then again perhaps that won’t matter by then.

But, anyway >>> anyway!!! >>>  away towards the back of the little enclosure that I was in, and approached by a curving gravel path, stood a garden bench, with bunches of bright daffodils and other flowers tied to it.  And looking at that bench, I just felt that there was something about it that made me want to get closer to it.  I suppose you might say that I could feel it drawing me towards it.  In short, I was intrigued, totally curious, such that not getting any closer was unthinkable.

And walking on up to that seat, alone and with no sound but that of the gravel crunching under my feet, I found the plaque pictured below, mounted on its backrest – and, quite simply, it was one of those moments that you know, instantly, are special.  Life-enhancing might be overdoing it, but spiritually uplifting certainly isn’t.

For here were two things.  One of which of course was the record of a loving relationship, which is in itself uplifting, a cause for warm thoughts and happiness.  But what really got to me – and what still very much really gets to me – is that, this relationship having been struck by the death of the man,  the woman decided to say exactly what was in her heart, and to have it displayed on this bench for all to see.  Having been but moments before wading through a sea of conventional tributes and endearments – phrases that I too have had engraved onto loved ones’ tombstones –  I just loved the freshness and loving vibrance of this.

Its all simple, wonderful and straight from the heart, but MY BIG STRONG NORTHERNER really gets inside me and stirs me up – wow!  And the kisses too, simply so downright, so fundamentally, human.

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Normally I wouldn’t picture words like this from a cemetery, but they do strongly affect me, and having them placed so prominently on this seat, Jac wants others to see them too.  Now they will have a wider than anticipated audience.

And I may have almost got to meet Jac – for between the time when our service started, and the time after our service when I took these photos, someone had come and changed the flowers on the bench, replacing those going over with fresh blooms.  I should have loved to have had that encounter – and, without the slightest doubt, would have made my feelings about her words clear.  It would have been wonderful to meet her.

 

 

 

 

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