Archives for category: Photography

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can. 

Councillor Sarah Ferriby being interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph & Argus at the raising of the dome

At 16 minutes past 11.00 on Thursday 9th February – an extremely chilly morning and a red-letter day in the calendar of the restoration project – the dome was raised into position on the top of the glasshouses. No fanfares, no brass band, no speeches – but a great sense of accomplishment and perhaps a little relief that the whole thing went off without the slightest hitch. The 9.5 ton dome was lifted by a crane so immense I couldn’t get even half of it onto the page of my sketchbook, and I watched with excitement as it sailed upwards and was guided smoothly and expertly into place.

As everyone assembled in hard hats and high-vis vests I sketched the crowd, including Councillor Sarah Ferriby from Bradford Council (Environment, Sport, and Culture) as she was interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph and Argus. I drew the contractors as they made preparations and at various times during the lift itself:

Guiding the dome into place; impossible to get the crane and the dome onto the page – things happening too fast

I wish I could have sketched the whole process from start to finish as it unfolded but the truth is I couldn’t decide whether I should try to do that, or take photos, or video the actual moment of lifting, and stupidly I should have spent more time paying attention and looking closely at what was going on. Besides, I knew I could rely on my friend Christina Helliwell who was there taking photos to get great shots – and of course she did.

Christina Helliwell taking shots of the crane as the dome is lifted

So with her permission, here are some of the highlights that I couldn’t draw, as captured expertly through her lens. 

Fitting the hoists. The dome has been nestled firmly into a square frame of steel girders to support it safely. Bright red hoisting straps are fitted to the frame (a nice touch, these red straps – probably brightly coloured to be clearly visible but they look very celebratory).

A tall order – the truly colossal crane with the dome prepared for lifting. There are two hydraulic lifts – one blue, one red – with platforms to raise workmen up to the top level so they can guide the dome onto the framework 

A delicate operation: the crane lifts and swings the dome forwards while guide ropes on two sides are held by men on the ground keep it from spinning

Airborne! The moment when guide ropes really come into play

Final adjustments, and it’s in position! 

So it’s up – and now clearly visible from many parts of the park, and even from the Skipton Road. A new part of the landscape, a milestone in the progress of the project and a hint of what’s yet to come. 

***This post was amended to correct a mistake I made wrongly attributing Councillor Ferriby’s areas of responsibility; it should have read Environment, Sport and Culture, not Sport, Education and Culture ***

SPECIAL OFFER! 
To celebrate the raising of the dome I’m making a selection of my sketches available to buy as prints, from Photobox.com. (You can see these collages here on my website.) If you’d like to know more, get in touch through my 
Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

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There are days when I want to draw and just can’t get started.
Just like writing – sometimes I need to play around and not think, but just get some stuff down on the paper. I came across a lovely idea the other day from Moose Allain, and it’s more than just fun – I never know quite where it’s going to take me.

You start by splodging some colour in blobs on the paper. (I didn’t photograph that, I was too busy wanting to get to the next stage.) Then you draw simple faces on some of the blobs. And then you see what happens next….

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Some background setting puts things in context (though doesn’t necessarily explain things, which is part of the fun). A few more details…

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……and a story starts to emerge. Then it’s just a question of trying to work out what’s going on, and listening to what’s being said.

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It’s a bit like slipping down a rabbit hole and finding yourself in another place, in a world where anything can happen.

Where to next?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/express-yourself

When I’m out and about, occasionally I catch sight of something that’s been made, or hung, or arranged or displayed by someone who had no conscious intention of making a work of art at the time – and yet the result is something strikingly different, something that is expressing an idea, or maybe just presenting itself to the world in a way that says, ‘Look, here I am, take notice of me’.

I don’t want to get into the whole complex business of what constitutes a work of art, or at least, not here and now – but there are times when I feel liberated by stumbling across something in the street that could have been self consciously show-cased in a gallery as an art installation, and I want to celebrate its glory and freshness and integrity. ‘Yes!’ I want to shout, ‘you’re wonderful!’ So I take pictures.

These drain covers are a case in point. They’ve all been carefully constructed so that when in place the design of the stone paving continues across them in an uninterrupted flow; all you are supposed to see when they’re in their right places are the edges of the metal frames. But as each one has been taken out from time to time and put back, they’ve been jumbled up and now they’re a far more interesting visual picture – and a framed one at that. I stood a long time looking at them and enjoying their different shapes and textures, their tonal values and their colour, and the composition as a whole. If this had been hanging on the wall of a gallery I would have stood just as long and looked as thoroughly, but I confess that finding it in the street I enjoyed it more.

Actually I often like to look at drain covers – and street furniture generally. They are things so often ignored and overlooked. I have no idea why this inspection cover has been painted red. Right in the middle of a cobbled street, and not six feet from a neighbouring one that’s a natural unpainted brownish grey, it’s saying something important, but I have no idea what it is. Street furniture has a language of its own.

I’m not sure if this last example really counts as unintentional art, but I found it so arresting when I saw it the other day that I can’t resist including it. What are we to infer from this washing line, with just one single sock? A whole multitude of possibilities ran through my mind – and more entertaining notions than the sort I usually have when looking at something calling itself Art. Long live the art of the everyday, the art of everyone, the art that’s unintentional. All we have to do is get out there and see it.

Whenever I look at something with all my attention – look so that I’m soaking it in and really seeing – everything else stops. It’s why for me going out for a walk is such a good way to unwind, because I can’t go far before I see something that I want to stop and gaze at.

We have a choice about the things we look at and concentrate on. In fact we have a choice about whether we really look at all. At times it would be easy to go through a day without stopping to look (and also to listen, touch, and smell) and sometimes it can even be hard to do it at all. This is what depression is about, when it feels as if you are locked in and don’t have a choice, and then it doesn’t matter what you look at, you can’t make the connection or escape from this imprisoned state of mind.

(A quick note, though, about the picture above – I couldn’t resist using it to illustrate that last sentence, but I didn’t take the photograph while feeling depressed! Far from it, in fact. I love the wonderful richness of the texture of the wall and the wood of the shutter, the pattern and contrast of the bars and the mesh, the subtlety of the colour and the mysteriousness of what might lie inside, behind the open window….)

If you’re depressed you tend to go about not seeing at all, or worse, noticing only things that reinforce feelings of bleakness and despair, so I’ve learnt that it’s important to maintain good habits all the time. I find that going out every day to take photographs but more importantly, to look, is much more than gathering source material and hoping that I’ll stumble upon something exciting. It’s more than taking some much needed exercise. More than anything else it’s about deliberately being aware, and paying attention.

In fact recently, I’ve learnt something astonishing – that simply by paying attention to the right things and making a habit of it, over time we can – and in fact, do – actually change the way our brains are wired.

This is from an e mail newsletter that I subscribe to called Just One Thing, by Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist from California:

“Moment to moment, the flows of thoughts and feelings, sensations and desires, and conscious and unconscious processes sculpt your nervous system like water gradually carving furrows and eventually gullies on a hillside. Your brain is continually changing its structure. The only question is: is it for better or worse?

In particular, because of what’s called ‘experience-dependent neuroplasticity,’ whatever you hold in attention has a special power to change your brain. Attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: it illuminates what it rests upon and then sucks it into your brain – and your self.

Therefore, controlling your attention – becoming more able to place it where you want it and keep it there is the foundation of changing your brain, and thus your life, for the better.”

I’m still not sure exactly why, but this idea got me really excited. Possibly it’s because I like the tangible fact that something I’ve always felt to be true is actually a scientific fact. More probably it’s because I am so preoccupied with landscape and the way water erodes and changes it that I find this such a powerful metaphor, and now I can feel myself creating new channels in the landscape of my mind. If my brain is continually changing its structure, I’m determined to try to make it for the better!

A few days ago I walked down to the river. I hadn’t meant to go, but once I was outside I realised that as it had rained the previous day and most of the morning, the river would probably be up, and the usual sluggish flow might be something rather more exciting.

As soon as I got there I scrambled down the bank to get as close to the water as I could. You get a completely different feeling about a river if you can get right down almost to the same level as the water; suddenly you begin to realise the power of the movement, the strength of the surge, and as I crouched down to take pictures I understood how easy if would be to get swept away if you slipped and fell in.

I love rivers. There’s something about watching moving water that is so compelling; it holds your attention like nothing else and allows you to stop thinking, to let go. A couple of years ago I spent a  day at the Strid in the Yorkshire Dales, a really dramatic stretch of the river Wharfe where the stream is forced between a narrow channel in the rock and churns and boils as it thunders through, and standing there you’re even more aware of the power of water, and what it can do.

It was this day at the Strid that led me to develop the designs for jewellery that I later called the River Collection, and from that moment on I kept coming back to the idea of the river as a point of visual reference. But the idea of the river goes beyond this as a source of inspiration. As Rumi wrote:

“When you do something from your soul, you feel a river flowing in you, a joy.”

I’m not the only one around here that spends time looking closely at things. After several grey days the sun broke through this morning and all of a sudden it felt like spring. I was glad to see these two figures in the distance, one of them with a camera, peering intently at the crocuses that every year cover this bank like a snowdrift.

I love the way the season, the weather and the time of day can alter everything so dramatically. I can go for the same walk on a different day or at a different time, and suddenly be stopped in my tracks by the sight of something astonishing.

I take photographs almost every day, and in winter when the colours in the landscape are subtle and subdued, the most exciting thing is often the sky. Even from indoors I can see plenty of sky from the windows and recently the weather has provided an amazing show of special effects, particularly in the mornings and evenings. This is one of the things that I like about winter, that the days are so short it’s quite usual to see both sunrise and sunset, and sometimes the skies are breathtakingly beautiful.

A few days ago I watched the sun rise over the moor and then from the other side of the house watched it set again in the afternoon behind the bare branches of trees. As the sun went down the sky turned from very pale gold to a colours so subtle they haven’t got names, though there was a certain amount of amber, and many different greys; there was a cloud of Paynes Grey that gently elongated itself and drifted sideways. All together I watched for about three minutes and in that time I could see that the changes in colour and light were happening so fast that every second was measurably different. It made me think that this is how things are, in nature and for us too, we just don’t think of it that way – we’re always thinking that the moment we’re looking at something, that’s the way that it is, and it’s not- in fact everything changes continually, and so do we.

This morning it rained steadily for hours under a sky that was a solid unbroken grey, but by lunchtime the rain cleared, and all afternoon we had patches of blue sky with a parade of clouds of all shapes and sizes and colours, some of them great piled up creamy white constructions with just the softest shadowing of pale grey; some big dramatic blue-grey monsters hurrying sideways, some long thin streaks of grey moving equally fast, and some hazy, nebulous stuff drifting and disappearing….

I went for a walk and on my way back found myself looking up through the branches of the beech trees at a cloud right overhead that was completely monochrome, a dark, totally neutral grey that had absolutely no colour of any kind, but at its edges the sky was a brilliant blue occupied at the horizon by a range of pink and white clouds that were so solid they looked like mountains.

The contrast between the colour in the distance and the gloom of colourless grey overhead was so extraordinary I thought something dramatic must be about to happen, and sure enough the wind picked up and hailstones started to bounce on the pavement around me, though not for long; within a minute the sky above me was clear and the sun was shining straight in my eyes as I tried to take pictures of another cloud that appeared behind the trees, grey with brilliantly glowing white edges. The wind kept catching me in gusts so strong that made it hard to hold the camera still and I couldn’t be sure I was shooting straight.

I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching clouds. I really need to be outside if only for a short while every day, whatever the weather, whenever I possibly can – not just to get air in my lungs and get my legs moving, but to get my mind and my heart still and to wake up my soul. Today I was tired when I went out, but despite the cold it was so exhilarating I could have stayed and watched until the light was completely gone.