Monday, 27 April 2015

Approval from master landscape photographer, Charlie Waite

I entered a landscape photography competition on Photocrowd in the hope of winning a place in Light and Land's exhibition at The Mall this summer.

I didn't quite make it.

But to be give 4th place out of over 950 images by Charlie Waite was a prize in itself.

He says

"It is important for the viewer of any abstract photograph not to try and unravel what it is or where it was but to accept it as a whole. The moment one starts to try and decipher how it was done the relationship between viewer and image is broken. To me this image is full of light, packed full of emotional triggers, very calming and at the same time dramatic. The feeling of light is very well conveyed and the relationship between the deep blue and the dark brown of the reeds and the hill-like shape in the middle of the photograph works really well. The ‘apparent sky’ is completely acceptable even if it isn’t a sky at all and the vertical streaks in the top of the picture do not spoil the pleasure of the image"

Thanks Charlie.

You have made my day.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

An owl displaced

A familiar venue.


An owl.

Some concrete


Someone else's sculpture

A bit of fun.

Beside the sea.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A trip to Somerset House for some proper art - on portraits and paintings

Cezanne's farmer

I met a very good friend in London today. We don't catch up often, and it was very special to have time to spend together.

GF has not been so well recently, so we didn't want to walk too far or bite off more than we could chew.

I felt that Somerset House was the perfect venue for a meet-up.

Lovely courtyard. Lovely loos. Beautiful paintwork and polished wooden floors. An oval staircase that beats most staircases that I have ever seen.

Courtauld Gallery, Staircase

Dancing fountains. I could spend all day watching them.......

Who can resist them? Not me...or the lady trying to balance a bowler hat on the top of one of the jets of water.

Stunning architecture. Several friendly cafes, and the Courtauld Gallery, which I am ashamed to say I have never visited before.

A perfect venue for conversation with a little dose of art.

They even allow photography. Not many galleries do.

Manet -  A bar at the Folies Bergere

We spent most of our time looking at portraits.

And the blurb beside them.

The blurb was sometimes informative, sometimes a little surprising.

I had not realised that the figure on the right in Manet's famous painting is the displaced reflection of the waitress who poses, with a melancholy face, for the artist. Her posture is different in the reflection. She leans towards the gentleman at the bar.

Manet has altered the truth. Just a little.

More questions than answers.

I had never before seen the trapeze artist in the top left of this painting, helpfully pointed out in the blurb.

We found the Modigliani restful.

Modigliani's nude. I am not showing her pubic hair, which apparently caused Paris police to close the exhibition when it first opened, as it was considered obscene. 

We did not find it obscene.

We were less enamoured of the Heckel.

Erich Heckel Seated nude' 1909

Heckel apparently created this nude 'in response to moral and artistic taboos of the time; an act of provocation'.

We were provoked. It got me thinking about the motivation of artists for the ways that male and female form is portrayed.

We also felt that he had started at the bottom ( literally and otherwise) and run out of space on the canvas for the head.

Soutine -'young woman in a white blouse' 1923

We found this young woman by Soutine slightly disturbing.

The blurb informed us that  her white blouse might provoke associations with purity and innocence.

I felt that a little Aerial or Daz would have made this more convincing.

Then there was Dolly.

Even back then, over a hundred years ago,  a young girl portrayed in a sexualised way. Nothing new there.

Kees van Dongen 'Portrait of Dolly; 1912

And we worry about Barbie dolls......

It took us a while to work out this portrait by Leon Kossof.

Leon Kossof "Head of Seedo' 1964

Kossof is quoted as saying ' I'm always working to make it more like the sitter; to make the structure more real, more intense'.

Intensity is in abundance, and took many months to achieve.

All of which made me long for a simple, sensitive portrait in the manner of Cezanne's farmer, the painting that we started with.

Cezanne's farmer

We found only one portrait of a woman painted by a woman.

No sexual connotations here. No attacks on society or provocations.

Just a serene and gentle face.

Paula Becker 'Portrait of a girl' 1906

Sadly the artist died in childbirth a year after painting this.

We marvelled at the Rubens and the 500 year old medieval paintings. The light. The detail. The biblical scenes. Astonishingly real after all these years.

We tried to remember why Van Gogh lost his ear. (Possibly in a fight with his friend, Gauguin).

We saw a vase of flowers painted by Picasso. Very conventional. One of his early works.

And all of that between coffee in one cafe and lunch in another.

It was a good day. It stirred up lots of questions and led to light hearted irreverence.

And not a photograph in sight ( unless you look at the ceiling where there are some crafty reproductions adorning the very ornate plasterwork).


I could equally well have focussed on the picture frames.

But that is another story.

Seurat with shadow

Seurat with shadow

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Never work with children or crows - on the wildlife of southern India

Indian house crow
I am recently returned from southern India, where my senses were battered and bruised.

Noise, poverty, heat and dirt.

Difficult to reconcile with my life back at home. So many mixed emotions about what I have, that others have not.

A challenge to photograph for one who normally escapes to quiet, remote places where the only sounds are lapping water, wind in the trees and birds in the sky.

I have many images to sort, and plan a book. But for now I'll start with some birds and animals, for they were one of the most striking things about the streets of Chennai, Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram.

Here in suburbia I don't bump into cows and goats in the street.

cows graze on the streets in town

Cows wander at random. They cause many accidents on the roads as people strive to avoid hitting them.

Goats also roam freely

Cows also enjoy the beach

Dogs are everywhere.

Dogs are everywhere
and they mostly all look very similar

best not to mention the rats in the canal at Pondicherry

Better to focus on the crows, for they were everywhere. The Indian equivalent of the seagull.

crows in Pondicherry

Down at the beach they were having a ball.

They particularly enjoyed the infinity pool.

crows enjoy the pool

my attempts to make them look graceful in flight spectacularly unsuccessful

almost graceful. 

I am never going to make a wild life photographer.

never work with children or crows

I find zebras much more co-operative

Zebra, Pondicherry

Owls too.

owl, Pondicherry

I need more patience.

nature, time and patience are three great physicians

I need more time.

And I definitely need a regular dose of nature.

Birds and trees will do it.

Crows or otherwise.

I wouldn't be without them.

Birds and trees are all I need.

Except maybe this crow, who doesn't know when enough is enough. I think I was invading his territory.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Thoughts of a tourist on the massage table in India


I am in an Indian hotel. 

OH has been here on business, and I have been persuaded to join him for a few days. He likes it hot. I like it cold. Currently it is 34 degrees. 

On arrival we got one voucher for a free beauty therapy at the spa.

OH ( my other half) insisted that I use my free voucher. 

15 minutes of beauty therapy. 

Designed to get me into the spa and wanting for more. I was reluctant, but he insisted...

As we have been up since 5.30 am to see the local sights before the heat of the day, I succumbed to his pressure after breakfast. We have a long day ahead, and the weather is very, very hot.

A young man at the spa reception desk looked in his diary. As far as I could see, the day had no bookings whatsoever . 

'When would you like to come' he asked

'Now please'.

No time like the present.

He pencilled me in with care. No discussion of what treatment was being offered. OH left me in his hands and I was ushered into a room. 

Door closed, curtains drawn. I expected a young lady to appear. But no. I was in the hands of the male receptionist, behind closed doors.

The young man instructed me to lie down. I lay on my back. He told me to turn over. I lay on my front, and through the head hole gazed down onto a bowl of beautiful red flowers floating in water, carefully placed on the floor below. How very relaxing , thought I. 

I still had no idea what to expect, and felt somewhat apprehensive alone in the room with this silent man. No one else around. As always, I expected the worst……..

I'd rather be at the beach.

the beach, Mahabalipuram

And then it began. Fifteen minutes of therapy in which my mind wandered……..

Ah ha!

It is a leg massage

He oiled my left leg and started massaging my calf. 

Ow. I cried 

Sorry, said he.

Up and down the calf and then down to the ankle

This is meant to be relaxing. Relax. Try to enjoy this. At least I have all my clothes on....
I wonder where the other staff are?

Why is massage always so painful?
At least there isn't any whale or dolphin music.

Now the toes. Each one individually crushed between his fingers.

That hurts too. I'll try to keep quiet and pretend it is nice. 
Does he expect a tip? Oh dear. I have no money on me. What will he think? And I haven,t shaved my legs properly. All this running around in long trousers in the heat in order to be respectful to local custom has allowed my standards to slip. 

Are my legs a lot fatter than local ladies' legs? Does he think they are disgusting?

At least I had a shower before breakfast, so my feet are clean.

Back to the calf. 

Don't laugh. It is not supposed to be funny. Pinching and flicking. And now bending my leg and ankle . I hope I am as flexible as I should be. I am so 'relaxed ...

Second leg.

I know what is coming now. A facial would have been so much more relaxing. Slick, pummel, pinch, stretch, press toes, press heel,stretch ankle, flick  vigorously and slide hands over tender muscles from ankle to knee.

7 minutes each side.

All over in a jiffy. 

Would I like the oil wiped off?

No thanks, I think I'll keep it as a souvenir .


I am not sure I'll be back. Not for a bridal body massage or a Serena mud rub. Certainly not for the deep body massage, and not in a million years for the Serena Dhara synchronised body massage with two 'therapists' simultaneously, which will have a  balancing effect on the deepest recesses of my brain. 

Not a good idea. You never know what might be hidden in there.

Time to relax by the pool.

It's free, much safer, and I can listen to the sound of a hundred crows cawing under the shade of a coconut tree. 

crows and a coconut tree