Lampione (Venezia 64)

They’ll probably crop up again because they appealed to me so much; there is a certain design of lamp-post found in many parts of the city which I just love.  They are ornate, they are colourful (you’ll have to take my work on that) and they work!

Having the opportunity to shoot a repeating pattern, not just of the posts but also their reflections was irresistible.  Shame about the people!

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As if there wasn’t enough water… (Venezia 52)

This wasn’t Acqua Alta, the combination of seasonal tides and sirocco winds that flood large sections of the city, but a lesser version.  The tide was high, the winds were strong, and so the quays were overrun in places.

Whilst not belittling the problem that flooding can cause, like any settlement that regularly faces extremes of weather they have learnt to cope and adapt in ways that countries like the UK can’t justify; which is one explanation for why we seem to get caught out by the weather so much!

Venice deploys a system of gangplanks along major walkways when the floods come, and so even when they aren’t so great, the hordes queuing to view St Mark’s can still do so.

Makes for a great reflection too!

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Class in a Glass

A long weekend.

So it rains.

Heavily.

J and I had planned a stroll along the seaside, maybe with a spot of kite-flying too to pander to our competitive instincts, and when we were ready to go it was still bright and dry.

When we parked our car it was still bright and dry.

But then we reached the coast, and the heavens opened.  Ever optimistic we stopped for a coffee to allow the clouds to pass, which they did… to make way for larger and even more generous clouds.  Just as well I’d forgotten the kite!

But what to do?  The National Glass Centre has undergone a bit of recycling since I last visited, and Jane has never been so a solution was at hand, and a dry one at that.

Of course we couldn’t take shelter immediately; the signs on the roof request that you “Please walk on the glass”, which means a stroll on the roof to test the mettle of anyone with vertigo, for amongst the more traditionally made panels are sections of reinforced glass that offer views of the restaurant below and reflections of the sky above.

The highest point affords some shelter so we stopped to take in the river view before exploring the interior.

A new gallery offered the chance to view the work of three artists working in glass, though it was Mexican brothers Jamex and Einar de la Torre who were the most memorable, though not in a good way!  That’s not a criticism of their craft, but their subject matter is curiously disturbing; the butterflies that we spotted on entering the building were revealed to be patterned with human eyes upon their wings and bodies formed from identical Crucifixions.  Nevertheless the degree of detail was inevitably absorbing.untitled-2

Of course there was light relief at hand too; the rippling backdrop to some of the displays provide a chance for a bit of Hall of Mirrors type distortion.

Down to the ground floor and you have the inevitable shop and restaurant offering, but also the chance to see some artists at work.  The work of glass blowing and large-scale sculpture might feature here later in the year, but a craftsman producing miniatures of the Angel of the North at fairly high-speed attracted several spectators.

 

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So a worthwhile afternoon after all, but that shiny roof still had possibilities.  Having seen the latest X-Men film only days before, J’s blue outfit and red hair were always going to be reminiscent of Mystique, so here is our take on the X-Men First Class poster!

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Restless in Reading

I’ve written before about my favourite album Hejira; Joni Mitchell‘s travelogue of flight from relationships. Perhaps with the amount of travelling that I’m doing at the moment there is more reason than ever for it to resonate.

The attraction of the road for me is limited; my life measured by a succession of cheap hotel rooms and less than perfectly ironed shirts. My week began with five and a half hours of heavy spray and speed restricted roads, though as I listened to Paul Buchanan‘s anguished climax to The Downtown Lights, I at least had an idea for a photograph. If I waited until evening the wet roads might provide a canvas for some neon light. Throw in a ripple or two from a gingerly placed foot? Might be too much to ask for.

Of course none of that came to pass because as the evening arrived, so the rain departed. Reading provided the lights and the location, but not the precipitation, so I returned to my hotel for a night of train and traffic noise punctuated occasionally by the subsonic rumble of a nearby snorer, but little sleep.  Plenty of time to ruminate on my relationships.

Refuge of the roads? Maybe not Joni.

I met a friend of spirit
He drank and womanized
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
“Heart and humour and humility”
He said “Will lighten up your heavy load”
I left him for the refuge of the roads

Joni Mitchell, Refuge of the Roads

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An Evening of Surprises

Unsure of what to photograph I dropped into Durham this evening, expecting to see the usual sights in the fading evening light, and in that respect, I wasn’t disappointed.  What’s more the river was so still it produced glassy reflections that demanded to be shot.

Nothing remarkable there then, but then the less usual sights began to manifest themselves.  The narrow streets were full of men in dinner suits and girls in cocktail dresses.  A little formal for normal sunday evening attire, but if I’d been thinking I would have realised that this is end of term, and therefore the various colleges of Durham University will be in full swing with Summer Balls and other post examination celebrations.  The third shot tells a great story of boy patiently giving his girlfriend support as, now that the venue is in sight, she changes into her party shoes at the last available moment.

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Just below the bridge they were on was my second surprise.  A handful of fly fisherman were casting about in search of trout presumably, a very different approach to the anglers who have regularly featured on this blog when I lived by the coast.  This is a more active pastime, the line constantly flicked out and then drawn back in, as opposed to the cast and wait approach of their maritime brethren.

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Up on Palace Green there was more evidence of party season, but more surprisingly the doors to the great cathedral were firmly shut.  APW_3963_4_5

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This seemed wrong for a Sunday Evening.  Where were the sounds of evensong or the thronging of worshippers leaving to return home?  A glance at the notice board alongside revealed that evensong took place at 3.30.  Seems a strange way to define “even”.

There were other minor suprises to enjoy – a stack of restaurant furniture ostracised upon a bridge was one,APW_3996-Edit

a strangely ominous cloud formation including the number 3 another,APW_4108

but there was a more unusual encounter to come.

Descending to the Market Square I did hear the sort of singing I expected at the Cathedral.  The tune seemed familiar…  How Great Thou Art is a well-known hymn set to the tune of a Swedish Folk Song.  But which version was being performed?  I can’t be certain for the performance came from a solitary Asian man who, unused lyrics in hand, was projecting his voice across the deserted space,  presumably in his native tongue.  It was certainly a courageous performance.

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…suddenly Arthur had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like.*

*Douglas AdamsHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

As I’ve been working in Stockton on Tees this week I’ve been musing on what I might photograph there on my way to or from work.  This isn’t easy since I’m delivering training in a featureless room, in a featureless call centre, on a featureless business park.  The one hope that I had was that as this uninspiring location is based right on the banks of the Tees that I was bound to find something there, for after all the Tyne and the Wear have rarely let me down, but looking upstream, downstream and across the river I found nothing more than an expanse of brown water, bounded by unremarkable buildings.

Disappointed I began my journey home, but as I crossed the river I happened to glimpse something worthwhile.  Further downstream, and invisible from my starting point there was a bridge, and a bridge with real possibilities at that.  This is the Infinity Bridge.APW_2473

The bridge is so-called because when reflected in the murky Tees it forms the symbol for infinity, or a sideways figure of 8.  There was no chance of such a shot on this occasion because the waters were windblown, and I lacked the filters that it would have taken to create a long exposure.  Nevertheless with a bit of post processing you can get the idea of what that might look like…  APW_2526-Edit-2

That shot is more easily achieved at night, when longer exposures are more easily created in the darkness, and here it has the added advantage that it would take advantage of the LED lighting installed on the bridge.

English: The Infinity Bridge is a public pedes...

Not an option for me today, and these shots have been taken so many times the difficulty would be in avoiding creating clichés.  Personally I quite like a different take on reflection that I created when processing the shots.APW_2526-Edit

I grabbed a few images, but really needed to be further still downstream and with a different lens to get the best side view, so I looked for more abstract images which were plentiful amongst the bridge’s architecture.

It’s an impressive piece of architecture with many interesting lines, but for me it’s all summed up in a couple of curves.  There’s something very feminine about this shot; the small of a back, or the swell of a hip maybe.

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Pier to Peer

 

 

Though I’ve walked the length of Roker Pier at the mouth of the Wear many times, in all my visits to South Shields I’d never walked the pier there. Until today.

I’ve set foot (and tyre) upon it many times as I emerged from the road behind the amusements, but always to turn left and continue my way upstream.

As I’ve been saying in training workshops all week, without change we stagnate, so it was time to embrace that new direction.

Part of the reason that I’ve never ventured to the east, is that the lighthouse seems insignificant from the shore, and there are several reasons for this.  The Groyne light at Shields is more accessible, and being bright red is far more photographed, and compared to the lighthouses at Roker and Souter this is smaller, and bar it’s jaunty red and white cap, less noticeable.

Roker has an advantage here.  It is taller, and at the end of a beautiful sweeping curve that leads the eye to the edifice that holds the light, but at 2800 feet in length the pier is shorter than its Tyneside neighbour which extends into the sea for over a mile.  The Shields light is bound to look smaller, it’s further away and at the end of a pier which lacks the grace of Roker.  For much of the walk along its length the light is hidden by the sea wall.

Yet there were other rewards in store. The entrance of a yacht briefly excited me as I anticipated shooting it against the backdrop of the Tynemouth Priory ruins.  As luck would have it the vessel approached the target, then performed a 360 loop whilst dropping its sails before reaching the spot.

Then there was the lady who told me about the seal that was bobbing about.  A seal that through a telephoto proved to be a small marker buoy.  I needn’t have worried though.  There was plenty to aim my lens at.

The greater length of the structure meant more anglers, increasing my chances of finding a striking portrait.  They don’t come more fisherman-like than Alan.