Friday 18 December 2009

The Challenge of Snow

Snow wrapped Milton in the morning meant cancelling meetings (negative) and using the opportunity for some quick photography (positive!).
I reined in my desire to photograph absolutely everything white and sought a different perspective to the impact of the weather on our village of Milton.
Fortunately, this turned out to be people I met on my walk; the friendly neighbour who was clearing the path to the house of an elderly resident; Two women delivering bales of hay to feed their horses; The father and the delighted children he was towing on a sleigh and the fellow photographers met going to and from the river and country park.
The novel weather seemed to bring out the best in people, taking time to do unusual tasks and enjoy the change, and this is reflected in the photos.
Technically, snow is challenging, because of the extreme brightness, the automatic settings on the camera tend to underexpose.Thus with a digital camera, set to overexpose by one or two stops. I found some useful advice at The Luminous Landscape and Theschoolofphotography.
Different photographers also see different things. I met Philip Mynott, a commercial photographer, on my walk and he had a different set of perspectives of the same morning - see his blog. I also look forward to seeing the pictures from the other members of the Milton Photographic Club as they are posted.
So,if its still snowy where you are - take up your camera and have a play - then let me know what your perspective was.

Friday 11 December 2009

A walk through London with Christmas Markets and a bit of culture

I enjoyed an early morning meeting with Christian Berner and colleagues from Revacom in London. Not only was it an informative and enjoyable event, it also gave me an opportunity to go on a meandering perambulation through the capital afterwards. Part more business - looking at Christmas Markets for another client - and part pleasure by visiting the Anish Kapoor exhibition and the Rosetta Stone.
The route started by exiting the tube at Mansion House as Blackfriars Station by our meeting place in the Crown Plaza was closed. The walk down Victoria Street afforded glimpses of St Pauls in the rush hour sunlight. After the meeting, it was across Blackfriars Bridge to the South Bank, walking towards the London Eye.
The Cologne Christmas Market spread in a ribbon on either side of Hungerford Bridge. The little chalets were frequented by a smattering of visitors at around midday, with the Eye rotating majestically in the background.
I took the Jubilee Footbridge to cross over the Thames again and via Northumberland Avenue, found myself negotiating a Climate protestors village in Trafalgar Square before reaching Picadilly Circus in the throes of being a building site.
I found the Royal Academy, and the queue, off Picadilly. A half hour wait and I was in the Anish Kapoor exhibition that was ending this week. “Shooting in the Corner” was of brief interest but “Yellow” was surprising for the vertigo it induced when standing very close. Leaving the exhibition, I ate an excellent salad lunch in the Burlington house restaurant, before setting off again.
A long walk down Picadilly brought me to Hyde Park where the “Winter Wonderland” gateway incongruously stood. This Christmas market was large, and by 3pm, getting very busy. At one end were the many stalls, some constructs very large, whilst at the far end, the brash funfair lured in the thrill seekers.
The winter light was fading as walked to a deserted Speakers Corner and Marble Arch to enter the bright lights of the shopping parade that is Oxford Street. A portion of prime construction land had been fenced off and enclosed a smaller Christmas Market adorned by a German Christmas Pyramid that sold Bratwurst – at £3 a go, I gave the sausages a miss.
The pre rush hour crush had started as I walked the 2km along the illuminated Oxford Street to reach the British Museum off Great Russell Street. At 5pm, there was just time to pop in to see the Rosetta Stone, which gave the breakthrough in the translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Another kilometer and I gratefully boarded the Piccadilly line at Holborn to start my way home again after a good 10km tour!

Monday 7 December 2009

Lincoln Christmas Market

Professional and personal interest led to a visit to the 2009 Lincoln Christmas Market, one of the largest in the UK and Europe with over 130000 visitors expected over the four days it ws open.

Timing and certain masochism meant we went by car on one of the busiest days, Saturday. Fortunately, arriving by 10am at the P&R made getting into lincoln relatively painless.

Three things really stood out about the market:
  1. The mass of visitors was so great as to warrant a one way circuit around the stalls and the crush almost hindered stopping for a purchase at peak times.
  2. Whilst a significant proportion of stalls went with the festive theme in terms of content and dressing up, many did not. The uniformity of the canvas stalls also diminished the expectations of a Christmas market people may have gained, for example in Germany.
  3. Go a few hundred yards from the market route and the masses dropped off considerably - making it worth taking refreshments some distance from the market. We enjoyed an afternoon tea with carol singing in St Peter in Eastgate Church.
The location made the venue, with the Cathedral and the castle providing very scenic backdrop - shame the castle walls were not open for access as they would have provided a fantastic view!

Probably the most enjoyable part of the visit to Lincoln for me was actually the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, who were following a Victorian Christmas theme and had lots of interesting exhibits manned by actors in Victorian garb. The Victorian Sweet shop was doing a roaring trade in sugared mice and I spent an informative time with the printer talking about the wonderful man-powered printing machine he was operating.

Trying to return to the P&R stop in town around 5pm, we hit an enourmous queue, at one point 5000 people long, I was told by an official. We delayed our departure till 9pm by having a meal in town - by then the queues were gone.

Photographically, it was a difficult event as you were carried along and buffeted by a sea of people. I used a small portable camera, rather than the SLR. However, the positive Christmas spirit meant that many of the people in costume were happy to be photographed and provided a festive view.