Experiments in black and white

I would never want to see things in just black and white, but as far as photography goes, with the aid of Photoshop you can see your colour photos as monochrome images as well and it makes for an interesting experiment. You find yourself concentrating more on the shapes, textures and composition of a picture – it’s a bit like when you turn the volume on a television down – what you notice are the facial expressions of the people on the screen, their gestures and movements rather than just what they are saying.

Of course some people only ever shoot their pictures in monochrome and they often turn out more striking than if you desaturate an image you’ve taken in colour. Here are some of my black and white pictures: I think architectural features stand out, patterns and textures are accentuated, you notice the shadows, reflections and shapes in the windows of buildings, the markings on a butterfly’s wings or a bird’s plumage.

The beautiful veined pattern on a brunnera

Vibrant colour is what most people associate with this plant but its form is beautiful too.
In this formal arrangement of lilies the contrast of the stalks behind them makes this composition work even better in monochrome.

I love this picture – the snowy white plumage of the goose and the dark gravel behind it. Birds’ plumage and their beady eyes look great in black and white

Vaulted ceiling in Avila Cathedral
And this is Ludlow Castle on the Herefordshire- Shropshire border, with its imposing walls and textured stone.
A typical house in the village of Weobley, Herefordshire – part of the Black and White Trail.
and this is also in Weobley, known as a cruck house for its curved timber frame.
There are many interior and exterior architectural features, which stand out when they are illustrated in black and white, and smaller every day things, like pieces of furniture, which just catch the eye.

What do you see here? I see a snake, but this is the stone lip of a water trough covered in lichen.
Avila’s impressive city walls
A market canopy in Sevilla, Spain with its unusual geometric roof
Arab Baths in Granada, Spain – a double take with its reflected image

Reflections, mirrored in water or glass, create some interesting effects

Glass panels in a block of flats in Girona, Spain
or man made features. such as this pebble mosaic garden path in a park in Madrid.

A silhouette creates a stunning image. A dark shape or outline against a light background makes for a great photo.

Toddler enjoying the cooling spray of a fountain in a park in Barcelona.
Butterfly alighting on a plant to feed

Eliminatiing the colour is an excellent ploy for getting people to concentrate on the details, the forms, the action …….

All decked out for the equestrian extravaganza that is La Feria de Abril in Sevilla, southern Spain
Little girl posing for a photo on the balcony of her home during La Feria de Abril
Spectators following the action as competitors climb up the hill into Avila, central Spain in the annual Vuelta a España cycle race.
Muscle power! Competitors on their way through Avila during La Vuelta a España
The city walls of Avila – magnificent backdrop to an exciting sporting event – the annual Vuelta a España cycle race .

I’ll finish with some butterflies – one of the most colourful creatures I can think of – but with their extraordinary markings they still look beautiful in black and white !

2019 in pictures

A photographic roundup of 2019 – a year marked once again by adverse weather – floods especially but also remembered for some great trips to Essex, Cornwall and ……Rio!

Wonky wEst Country

We have just returned from four rainy days in Cornwall and Devon from St.Austell on the bottom coast to Lynmouth on the top coast. The Eden Project was our main objective. Of course, these days it has little to do with sustaining life on Mars – it’s a tourist attraction, albeit with a message but, that said, it was still interesting. Whoever thought of naming the car parks after fruit had a brainwave! – you’re not going to forget you parked in Lime Parking Zone, are you?

These pictures were taken in October – it was a fairly dank and dismal day but on the plus side there was not the crush of visitors that they must get at the height of summer. We went for a wander outside first while the rain was still only drizzle. The grounds are full of interest: mock ups of mines

Cornish tin mine

bee hives with glass panels so you can see them hard at work

wacky large scale sculptures

Eden Project sculpture

metallic commemorative leaves

and at this time of year a superb display of colourful gourds all ready for Hallowe’en celebrations.

And then you come to the biomes themselves, nestled into the landscape like giant hexagon sided bubbles. Up close you realise the challenge they would have posed for their creators: they must cope, on the outside, with the onslaught from wind and rain, and, inside, maintain the correct temperature and levels of humidity to sustain the incredible range of plants and vegetation and the bird and insect life within their strange translucent ‘domes’. To create the right curvature, there are a few pentagons in amongst the hexagons and each section has a double skin – all very technical!

The building in the foreground is the temporary ice rink which is set up every autumn

It was our intention to do a bit of cycling in Cornwall and Devon and my son did just that. I chickened out of most of it because, especially near the coast Cornwall and Devon are far too hilly for me!! My son cycled from St.Austell, where we stayed for the first two nights, to the Eden Project, and although the short distance between them would imply that it’s not an arduous ride, the hills tell a different story!! The west Country doesn’t appear to have any flat surfaces or straight walls or level roads! It is wonky!

Supper on our first night was delicious, but then you would expect a bowl of moules mariniere and a sea food platter to come up to scratch on the coast!

We travelled north on day three through Bodmin and Bude, where we stopped for a coffee (and a scone – although we ended up with an almond croissant!) We ventured out into the rain to stretch our legs and walked past a big Adventure centre situated down towards the sea. By this time we were being blown off our feet by the wind and were astounded to see a group of tiny children in crash helmets and wet weather gear, standing under dangling ropes and tyres and looking aghast at what they were being expected to do – yes! assault the assault course!!

En route to Lynmouth, our final stopover, we had lunch at the Pig on the Hill in Westward Ho! (drawn probably by the place names as much as anything!) This was our view out of the window!

But i was fortified by the soup

and we were both fortified by the skinny chips! I wasn’t. however, too keen on the sign they had chosen for the ladies’ toilets!

I know! I know! It was a pig-themed restaurant, but you can take things too far!!

We arrived in Lynton, the ‘upstairs’ part of Lynmouth – and it was all very picturesque. And even hillier than St.Austell. Despite this, we decided to go for a spin on the bikes as far as the beginning of the cliff path – just to blow the cobwebs away. And then we came to our senses, put the bikes away, unloaded the car, had a shower and went out on foot to explore instead.

The lane leading from Lynton onto the cliff walk
The funicular which runs from Lynmouth to Lynton
Beautiful sea views from the cliff path
Cliff path leading to the Valley of the Rocks

That white speck is a goat – we saw a number of them along the cliff path. Difficult to appreciate here but that is quite a vertiginous drop down!
River Lyn
Lane from Lynton to coastal path
‘ I see no ships ….!’
Even the trees aren’t straight here!
Valley of the Rocks
Interesting rock formations in the Valley of the Rocks

The vertical stone walls – a work of art in themselves
Trees, stone walls and moss – a combination to inspire fairy tales
Time to go in search of dinner

We went in search of dinner – which turned out to necessitate a walk down through about 4 ridiculously steep hairpin bends and across the bridge where the River Lyn crashes thunderously down towards the sea and into the little town of Lynmouth (well, more of a settlement). I could feel the tendons and ligaments in my legs stretching to snapping point and wondered when they were actually going to snap! We gathered momentum just from our body weight and were in danger of going headlong down this 1 in 4 hill like a couple of bowling balls. There were escape routes for cars at regular intervals on the way down in several different languages – so they have clearly had the odd mishap in the past!!

We definitely felt as if we’d earned our supper that night! Even so we got a taxi home!