Fen Landscape

River Cam, Horningsea, Cambs. February 2024

River Cam Fen edge landscape at Horningsea under a February sky.

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Girton Golden Goose Railings

The Golden Goose Railings were commissioned by the Girton Town Charity, created by local artist Matthew Lane Sanderson and installed in 2018.  The railings celebrate four things.

Girton geese and quills:  The village has a long relationship with geese as they were an important source of feathers for quills used by scholars and scribes at Cambridge University.  A brook known as the ‘wash pit’ was home to flocks of geese, which supplied the writing instruments.

Girton Golden Goose Railings, Girton, February 2024

Legend of the Golden Goose: The ‘Golden Ratio’, a mathematical term, defines human proportions, musical rhythm, plant growth and the brightness and dimming of the stars.  The goose is one of the few birds to lay eggs with the ‘Golden Ratio’ of 1.0 length to 0.618 width.

The Barnacle Goose: The name barnacle came from the myth that they were hatched from barnacles, which meant that as crustaceans they could be eaten during Lent when all other flesh is forbidden.

The Tree of Life: A tree is a common image to illustrate the cycle of life in religious culture and historical legend.  The sculpture shows a tree on an island surrounded by water, as in the isles of Ely and Sutton.

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U3AC Photo Forum 2023-24 – Week 16 Travel Photography

Graham Wickens, Cologne

Graham Wickens titled his talk Travelling Photography.

  1. Travel photography embraces many other genres, landscape, street, portraiture, food etc.
  2. Deciding on what equipment to take: less is best. One camera body with medium wide angle/telephoto lenses.  Tripod optional.
  3. Think about security (carry equipment unobtrusively) and back-up pictures.
  4. Take pictures while travelling on trains, boats, planes, cable cars, horse and carts and hot air balloons etc.
  5. Avoid a night (or more) in jail by not photographing sensitive military and other infrastructure.
  6. When photographing people show respect – reactions will quickly show whether it’s acceptable.
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Alexy Navalny

Alexy Navalny, King’s Parade, Cambridge, 19th February 2024
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Girton Hand

Hand, Grace Smith Memorial (1903), Girton churchyard, February 2024
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Crouching Venus

The Crouching Venus, John Nost the Elder, 1702, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013

The Crouching Venus, John Nost the Elder, 1702, Victoria and Albert Museum.  Flemish sculptor Nost the Elder came to Britain in the 1680s.  This work was inspired by an original Roman sculpture in the Royal Collection.  It is one of the earliest interpretations of this classical figure, predating the time when the Grand Tour became fashionable.

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St Ives

Mining the Diaries 89: England

Sharendo, Silvershell View, Port Isaac, Cornwall, 12th July 2014

A 60 mile drive down to St Ives via Wadebridge and Camborne.  We parked on the edge of town and took the train in from Lelant Saltings.  The town was very busy and with its winding streets and changes of elevation it felt very three dimensional after the flat townscapes of Cambridgeshire.  It seemed to have a confusing array of beaches to a first time visitor.

There also seemed to be too many galleries offering a tyrannical choice of generic pictures.  We stuck to the Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. 

The Tate, a stylish building in a great location looking out over Porthmear Beach, opened in 1993.  Lacking a permanent collection, it’s a matter of catching what happens to be on show when you are there.  We were lucky enough to see International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915–1965, which explored the national and international contexts that shaped art in St Ives in the 1940s through to the 1960s. It showed how the art of post-war St Ives drew upon two movements of modern art: one the utopian ideals of Constructivism from Moscow in the 1910s through Berlin and Paris between the wars; and the other a tradition of craft and  handmade work that links the carvings of Brancusi and the ceramics of Bernard Leach and others.

Barbara Hepworth’s Studio, St Ives July 2014

Barbara Hepworth first came to live in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. She lived and worked in Trewyn studios from 1949 until her death in 1975.  The Hepworth Museum and Garden felt more intimate and restful and allowed for a more sensual, less cerebral, experience of the works in the lush garden with the contrasts between wood, stone and foliage.   The studio was a calm oasis of whiteness.

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Only Colour: Kayak Red

Granta PLace, Cambridge, February 2024
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Kardamyli

Mining the Diaries 88: Greece

Liakoto Apartments, Kardamyli, Greece, 15th May 2014

Part of the enduring legacy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s life is his house at Kalamitsi, just south of Kardamili, widely considered to be one of the great writers’ houses.

It awaits an assured future in the stewardship of the Benaki Museum, but in the meantime is now literally on the tourist map in the form of the ‘Explore Kardamili Map’ published by the Anniska & Liakoto Hotels.  It is produced by proprietors Ilia and Geraldine Paliatseas: note that Paddy identifies ‘eas’ as a typical, possibly unique in Greece, Maniot name ending, so there is a nice sense of completing a circle here.

I followed the route shown to the house.  A rough, narrow road wound down from the main regional road to an overgrown area that serves as an occasional car park. Two broken pillars marked a track to the right, leading up past a low stone building and curling steeply along a shaded path round the perimeter wall, above it an upper storey with broken shutters appeared.  ‘190’ was painted on the stone jamb of a peeling blue-grey door.

An iron grill gave a glimpse through a porch into the garden of olive trees, mellow walls, weathered shutters and pebble paths laid in intricate fan shaped patterns.  Following the wall round to the right there were glimpses into what lay beyond. Further on a scramble across a ditch and through a hedge led to the garden.   There was no sign of life; some shutters were open and one was broken; only occasional birdsong punctuated the quietness of abandonment.

Patrick Leigh Fremor’s garden, Kardamili, May 2024

A low growth of weeds had taken over parts of the garden; and the water in the fountains was green and stagnant.  Happily the pebble mosaics on the terraces were still strikingly legible and had not yet succumbed to moss, lichen and weeds. The seats with their views across to Meropi Island awaited only a broom, a tray of glasses and people.  I strained in the silence to hear the echoes of Paddy, Joan, Bruce Chatwin, Xan Fielding, David Mason and so many others, a silence that called for the animation of new voices.

That evening I dined at Lela’s where the eponymous founder, Paddy’s former house keeper, still watched over proceedings from a chair in the corner. That live link called up a sense of optimism for the future of the house. And both made me reflect on Paddy’s prediction that Kardamili ‘…is too inaccessible and there is too little to do there, fortunately, for it ever to be seriously endangered by tourism’.  Ironically, a form of benevolent tourism is likely to be the salvation for Paddy’s house.

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U3AC Photo Forum 2023-24 – Week 15 Street Photography

I gave an introductory talk about street photography on Monday (12th February).  I structured this under three headings: 1. Why street photography?  2. The development of the genre (early years; the 20th Century; and contemporary work).  3. Tips on technique.

Cambridge Leisure Park, July 2012

The ‘why’ section defined street photography as pictures of people and everyday life in streets and public places and spaces. It is related to, but not the same as, social documentary photography.  I argued that, in so far as street photography can be an intrusion into peoples’ privacy, it is important to have a rationale for it in a way that is not necessary for landscape photography, say.  Its purposes include: recording and bearing witness to street life; the creation of an historical archive; and providing revelation and understanding by holding up a mirror to the kind of complex and ambiguous society we are making.

Trent Parke, Sydney, 1998

The early years, where the practice was constrained by technical limitations, e.g. the need for long exposures, were illustrated by work ranging from Louis Daguerre (1838)* through John Thompson (1873-74) to Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1911).  The 20th Century saw street photography liberated by technical advances and the growing creative use of the medium in communicating ideas, as seen in the work of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson (1959), Tony Ray-Jones, (1967) and Martin Parr (1983-85).  Work by photographers such as Trent Parke (1998), Polly Braden (2007) and Harry Gruyaert (2012) represented contemporary approaches. (* Dates refer to the date of specific work shown in the presentation.)

Oxford Circus, London, May 2012

The section on technique included a few technical suggestions: use a small camera; choose wide angle lens, say 35mm (avoid telephotos); set a high ISO rating – 400 plus; use fast shutter speeds – 1/100sec or shorter – and small aperture – say f8.  Ideally this enables the photographer to work fast, including shooting from the hip.  Finding subjects and getting the picture can depend on patience, luck, serendipity and having the confidence to get in close.  Ways of increasing the chance of success include: walking the streets and looking out for subjects; choosing a busy location where the evolving drama of street life presents a changing set of characters; looking for locations where fixed subjects, like adverts and shop windows, provide backdrops for changing juxtapositions; and visiting fairs and events where people relax their guards and are focussed on what’s going on around them.  Two words of advice: avoid children; and if challenged explain what you are doing and don’t get into an argument.

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Only Colour: Red Head

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Cromer

Mining the Diaries 87: England

Beach Haus, Cromer, 13th May 2013

The house was silent.  Outside the picture window a blackbird sang for the new day from the roof, wood pigeons perched warily on the patio tables and dunnock, bluetits and sparrows skittered in and out of the shrubs and hedges.  Swallows and starlings zipped by, herring gulls dipped and soared on angled wings and in the distance the ragged black rag of a cormorant flapped low over the sea.

After breakfast we walked to Sheringham through the caravan and mobile home land of the Runtons.  Along the cliff top path skylarks rose up from the tufted grass, swifts skimmed by on scimitar wings and sand martins swirled around their holes in the friable cliffs.  Lunch at the Life Boats before returning to Cromer on the Coast Hopper.

Cromer Pier, May 2013

Later, the picture window framed the sun setting beyond the pier and the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, violet and indigo clouds drifting across a sky of yellows and oranges (it’s always a surprise and a delight see the sun set on the east coast).  I hurried down to the beach and take photographs, trying to get the balance right in an impossibly contrasty scene of shadows and highlights.  (I remember the rule of thumb for silhouettes – highlight exposure plus two stops – but that’s not really what I want.)  A young woman trotted up and joined me standing against the sea-smoothed groyne.  She is Gita Dickinson and is showing her crab and lobster paintings at the Garden House Gallery in Cromer; she says she will use her photographs as the basis for new work.

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Only Colour: Gate Yellow

Fen Causeway, Cambridge, February 2024
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Psyche

Psyche, Francis Derwent Wood, 1908-19, V and A, 2023

Psyche by Francis Derwent Wood, 1908-19, in the V and A Museum.  Wood first displayed the figure as a plaster work at the royal Academy in 1908.  Its style is indebted to Italian Renaissance and contemporary French sculpture.  Psyche was the goddess of the soul in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Born a mortal woman, her beauty rivalled that of Aphrodite (Venus) and inspired the love of Aphrodite’s son, Eros, god of desire.  She is often depicted with butterfly wings.

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TEN: Neon 1

Elizabeth II by Illuminati Neon

A possible candidate for Shutter Hub’s TEN project: 10 in the atomic number of neon.

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