My friend J has been a great support to me over recent months and so yesterday I took her to Alnwick Castle and Gardens as she had never been before.  Each of these in its own right is a feast for the eyes, the grand designs of the Duchess of Northumberland‘s great project always impress, as do the great stone walls and the artworks within them of her family’s home.  Plenty to photograph?  Undoubtedly.  Yet I barely flexed my trigger finger in the gardens, and not at all when we reached the castle.

Why not?

APW_8196Well partly because it might have tested even J’s patience when we were here to enjoy a picnic, but also because the two sites are the stuff of photographic cliché.  They are so beautiful that they have been shot many times before, and unless you find some new angle, or are blessed with fantastic weather and lighting opportunities, you’re going to produce images that have been seen so many times before.  In the case of the castle, it is not only frequently photographed, but is also something of a film star, having appeared not only in the Harry Potter series, but also in an attempted reworking of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court starring Jim Dale which Disney are probably still trying to forget.  I know I am. 

Consequently the few shots I did take, could have been shot anywhere, but at least they weren’t going to be seen on picture postcards any time soon.  The star of the show was this dove, or rather the double act between it and Jane (henceforth “The Dove Whisperer”) for as she began her dove impression one occupant of the dovecote began to respond in kind, and as the Indian Love Call proceeded the bird’s eyes began to close, so I you have need of an avian hypnotist I know just the woman.

The horticultural theme must have made an impression on me though, for when I thought about where to shoot today I was drawn to Durham‘s Botanic Garden, not the carefully manicured and landscaped site that I’d experienced the day before; this is predominantly woodland and meadow, though with a very pleasant formal garden in one corner.  This is not the place to shoot beautiful vistas, it’s about the individual beauty of each specimen and photographically there is much on offer here; contrasts of colour and texture, interesting shapes, intriguing variations of light.  Even the fountains seem more unruly than their Northumbrian counterparts.  The trouble was that I shot so many images that I had difficulty knowing which to include here.  Hard to see the wood for the trees you might say.

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