Surely sun mistake?

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Manchester’s famous library, recently restored

Lovely sunshiny day last weekend in…Manchester.

It looks like this blog gets more hits from the USA than it does from my home in the UK, so for those of you who don’t know, Manchester is the Seattle of England.  Mind you, Manchester got there first I suppose so really Seattle is the Manchester of the United States.  With better coffee.  And Frasier.

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Manchester has a proud heritage and became well-known across the world during its heyday as a centre of the textile trade.  Numerous ornate Victorian edifices are to be seen, which can look quite gloomy when the light and weather is doing its usual thing.  They say it’s grim up North….

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The Town Hall – big building to accommodate all the hot air

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A few photos of details on the various nearby buildings

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Even drainpipes can look good

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I was in town to see a gig at the fabulous Royal Northern College of Music – brilliant venue.  Brilliant gig too, but that’s another story.  The following morning I had a quick photo-wander before heading back to London.  The sun doesn’t half make places more photogenic.

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All of these are JPEGs from a Fuji X100F – this series of cameras continues to be a travel and street photographer’s dream, and in its latest incarnation so many of the early irritations have been ironed out that there’s precious little to ask for.  Other than weather-sealing – which means that it’s not necessarily the best camera to use in Manchester.  Or Seattle.

Cheers,

Jon

 

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Is anybody there?

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Not a lot going on with this blog currently – I’ll see what I can do if whoever is in charge of the weather actually ever remembers that we are now in British Summer Time.  Lovely false start a little while ago when the plants thought it was time to do something, and I thought it would be fun to use an old-fashioned manual everything lens (Samyang 50/1.2).

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Also nice weather for a recent walk in the woods, after a particularly long day stuck indoors while the outside temperatures had soared into ‘cor wot a scorcher’ territory.  This image, taken with the fixed lens X100(F) is probably my favourite of these three:

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For people who still drop by – thank you!  I have plans for some future fun things to post here, so keep looking; hopefully it might even be worth it soon.

Cheers,

Jon

Spring, unsprung

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You wouldn’t believe this was taken in London, ever, or that it was taken at what the meteorological calendar considers to be the start of Spring.  Still, here’s a view from one of the stairwells of Great Ormond Street Hospital – so proof that yes we do get snow sometimes, and that yes I do take the stairs instead of the lift!  It also happens to be the first time I’ve posted an image to this blog made with my ‘phone (OnePlus 3T) – I really don’t like using mobiles as cameras but with a bit of help from Snapseed, this one came out quite nicely.  I still don’t want to admit it though – I take comfort from using something more like a camera even if on the inside it’s probably mostly a computer (more like a ‘phone).

Cheers,

Jon

Is reality all it’s cracked up to be?

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Most of the time, I tend to be very conservative with what I do with photographs on the computer – I’m not a great fan of spending hours tweaking every pixel and mostly don’t like images which look as if they’ve obviously been ‘processed’.  So, no HDR for me and I don’t love those super saturated and samurai-sharp landscape images either.  Every now and again, though, I find my resulting untweaked images a little unfinished – or to be a bit more blunt, boring.

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I finally looked through some images from a quick trip to Norfolk in the Summer over the past weekend, and somehow the standard adjustments in Lightroom just weren’t cutting it for me.  Maybe it’s the fact that this area of the country is a landscape painter’s dream (Constable being perhaps the most famous of the East Anglian artists) but on this occasion I decided to fiddle rather more than usual.

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These photographs were all taken in and around Brancaster (not so far from the Sandringham Estate) and processed using Scott Davenport’s Landscape Pack as part of OnOne 2017 as a starting point – in essence adding some clarity, vignetting, saturation and various textures.  It was a good deal of fun and I think has made some of the more interesting images that I’ve taken recently.

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One final image from Brancaster – this wooden bridge was just begging to be given some monochrome treatment; I’m sure I’m not the first person, or the last person, to do it – but here’s my attempt.  Oddly, sometimes I think black and white can make things look more real.  Hmmmm:

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Thanks for looking if you’ve stayed the course to the bottom of this post!  It’s been a while, but I’m still here!

Jon

London – keeping on

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After the senseless events earlier this week, it seems like time to post a few more images of my adopted home-city.

I’ve lived in London for nearly 30 years now and don’t think there’s a single photograph here that could have been taken in the 1980s because the city is constantly evolving. Indeed, from the first photo above, the majority is new over that time period (aside from Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast).  To the right of the Belfast is the relatively recent Greater London Assembly (the circular building), in the distance behind the bridge is the sprawl around Canary Wharf – considered to be an expensive white elephant that would never attract tenants when it was initially built – and framing the photo is a recent spiral staircase heading down to The Thames Path, which I don’t think was really ‘a thing’ when I first moved here.

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Definitely not ‘a thing’ when I arrived was The Shard, which now dominates what was the largest building in the London Bridge vicinity until a few years ago – the Guy’s Hospital tower to the right.  I don’t often have reason to wander around the north bank of the river but this time I saw some stairs down to the riverbank and found a view which I think I could make more of in future if I had the right skies (more interesting) and right kit (tripod).

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Also new in recent years is the ‘walkie talkie’ skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street.  Very controversial (a long word for ‘ugly’), it is wider at the top than the bottom, in order to fit in more people for the same ground rent, and is a building which frankly looks better when you’re right up close – because then you can’t really see it all.  I’d hoped to get to the free sky gardens at the top of the building, but they were full and apparently you need to book weeks in advance to be sure of getting up there.

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Even the views of St Paul’s have changed over the years – here it’s poking out from the staircase and suspension wires of the Millennium (aka ‘wobbly’) Bridge.

It strikes me that all of the newer structures in the photographs above were planned and built in a period of mostly relative peace in the city – when I first moved here, bomb threats from the IRA were part of the routine so the juxtaposition of Martin McGuinness’ death with this week’s events in Westminster is another reminder that so much has moved on, and yet so much is depressingly unchanged.

London-10Talking of things that have moved on, another major development in London over the past 20 years has been the opening of the Tate Modern – the sheer scale of which is astonishing, especially the main Turbine Hall (part of which pictured above).  It was reassuring to see that, just two days after the Westminster attack, the museum was busy as ever, and nearby south bank teeming with people.  The new viewing platform on the recently-opened Switch House extension is very popular too:

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This was a repeat visit to the platform for me – I’d been a couple of weeks ago when it was grey and windy, and wanted to come back on a nice bright day.  Same camera for both trips (X100S) but the images from the cloudy day (with a bit of help on the computer) were much more interesting, especially when converted to black and white.  The views from here are well worth the astonishingly annoying – stop-at-every-floor – lift ride and I plan to come back – but next time I think I’ll aim for twilight; I bet the views would be great with a deep blue sky and city lights shining.

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So, the city – to borrow a phrase from Alan Bennett – seems to be rather good at keeping on keeping on.  And after the events this week, that’s something worth celebrating.

Jon

Sevilla remembered….

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I mentioned in my recent post of photographs from Seville that trying one of the oranges had been rather a mistake, but I was hoping to reacquaint myself with them at a future breakfast-time.  Mission accomplished.

A couple of weeks after we returned (and saw the oranges being harvested on our way to the airport), I saw a box of organic Seville oranges in the supermarket.  That was only the start of a mini shopping-spree and, several Kilner jars and muslin bags later (plus half a ton of sugar), I was ready to feel comfortable with my age and make my first ever batch of marmalade.

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Quite an involved process it is too.  First of all, everything has to be properly sterilised, after which you can get down to serious marmalade-business.  So, a first for this blog: a recipe!

To make 6 jars of marmalade:

Add 2 litres of cold water to a large saucepan.

Wash 1 kilo of Seville oranges, then half and juice.  Retain all the pips, pith and pulp – cleaning all of this out of the peels – and place in a muslin bag (make sure this is securely tied).

Shred all of the orange peels to the desired thickness.  Discard the lemon peel unless you are a serious masochist – those oranges are sour enough already.

Add the orange juice and peel, plus the juice of one lemon and the muslin bag full of gungely-goodness to the cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer away until the volume has halved (approx 2 hours).  Remove the muslin and squeeze as much of the pulp as you can into the remaining liquid, then discard the bag.

Place a small saucer or plate into your freezer (yes, really).

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Add two kilos of preserving (or granulated) sugar and bring back to the boil.  Keep boiling until it reaches 104.5 degrees, then simmer away for approx 15-20 minutes.  Take a small dollop of marmalade from the pan and place on to the cold plate from the freezer – if a skin forms after a few seconds, it’s done; if not, wait a few minutes and try again.

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Leave things to cool down a little for 20 minutes or so.  Then take your sterilised jars (I left mine in the dishwasher until ready to use) and fill, leaving approx 1cm from the rim.  It’s worth placing the jars in something like a roasting tin when you do this – however careful you are, there will be some minor spillages.

Seal tightly, lick the spoon and pan, and admire your handiwork!

It’s an involved process but the kind of thing that can just happen in the background while you get on with other stuff in the house – and the results are, even if I say so myself, well worth it!  Certainly better than eating the oranges straight off the tree.

Cheers,

Jon

Sevilla

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After a lifetime of living in England, I’ve become a convert to winter breaks to somewhere sunny; even if it’s only for a long weekend, it’s nice to remember that the sky isn’t always grey, or full of little holes to let all that water in.  Mind you, on the day we arrived in Seville for a short break earlier in February, I think we saw as much rain as we get in an average month in London!  I apologise for bringing it with us.  And, thankfully, over the next couple of days the weather got warmer and brighter.

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The cathedral tower, originally the Minaret of the mosque previously in this place, dominates the old city

I found Sevilla to be quite a surprise.  In particular, it’s larger than I’d anticipated – one of those cities where you realise that even after spending a few days, you’d left rather a lot unseen and undone – I could certainly imagine going back sometime to fill a few of those gaps.  The old city is also very well preserved and it was an absolute delight to wander through the narrow cobbled streets of the old city.

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We were lucky to be here before the famous oranges had been harvested.  Hopefully I may reacquaint myself with some of them at breakfast sometime in the future!  We tried one to see whether they really were as sour as their reputation.  Bad move; the fact that they are all left on the trees through the city is a pretty big clue….

Sevilla is very photogenic, with its combination of attractive buildings, warm colours and lovely light.  Evidence of its history is everywhere, with a combination of Moorish and Catholic architecture, often in the same buildings that have been repurposed over the centuries.  The Alcazar Real is a perfect example:

And as mentioned above, even the cathedral was formed from a re-used and extended mosque.  Interesting, though, that given the city at one point housed a large Jewish population (dating from many centuries BC), and there is still an old Jewish quarter (Juderia, now known as Santa Cruz), evidence of their part in Sevilla’s history has almost entirely been eradicated following the inquisition in the 15th Century.  Synagogues became churches and the one remaining mikvah (ritual bath) is now used as a storage space in the basement of a bar.  Astonishing and sad how evidence of a population that was once one of the great centres of the Jewish world has been almost completely eradicated.  I wonder whether future generations will be saying something similar about other populations who are having to flee in horrible circumstances in the modern era?… It doesn’t feel as if we tend to learn terribly much from all the mistakes made in the past.

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Part of the old Juderia district – the church to the right was originally a synagogue.

An unforgettable evening was spent in a tiny theatre (28 person capacity) in an indoor market originally used for the Inquisition, watching a flamenco performance.  In such a contained and tiny space, the power of the performance was almost overwhelming – not necessarily a particularly easy or enjoyable experience (the raw emotion made for hard listening), but certainly memorable.

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As this is mostly a photography-themed blog, I suppose a word about equipment is in order…. all the photos on this trip were taken with a Fuji X100S, which was a perfect travel camera for a city trip.  The images were all JPEGs too, with minor post processing when I got home, but the files straight out of the camera already looked lovely.  The colours in particular are a delight.  On occasion I went up to ISO3200 (eg the image above, and one or two others) and still got usable shots in difficult circumstances.  It’s taken me some time with the X100 but I think I’m finally starting to connect with it.  A few more final images in the mosaic below (if you click on it you should be able to bring up larger photos) – if they encourage you to consider a trip to Sevilla, well, job done.

Cheers,

Jon