The Handsel trees

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On the edge of Grim’s Ditch in Grovely Wood (Wiltshire) and surrounded by conifers, four ancient beech trees mark the final resting places of the Dutch Handsel sisters. Soon after their arrival in the area in 1737, an outbreak of smallpox claimed over 130 lives and, accused of witchcraft, the four sisters were taken into the woods, bludgeoned to death and buried in separate graves to prevent them conspiring any further. It is claimed that the trees grew on the unmarked graves to serve as a reminder to the locals of their terrible deed and to this day the sisters are still said to haunt the area; offerings adorn the largest tree and a shrine lies in the hollow in its base …..

…. and woe betide those who dare remove any of the offerings!

Part of an ongoing project – please see my website for more.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

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FAPA Nominee

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My two entries for the 2018 Fine Art Photography Awards, Quiet Pastures and In Tension, were nominated for awards in the Amateur categories of Wildlife/Animals and Architecture respectively.

As far as I managed last year – oh well, at least I’m consistent!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Old Sarum snow

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At last, we finally had some snow in my little part of the world – it only lasted a couple of days but not having had any to speak of for about five years I wasn’t grumbling! I’d had in mind a trip to Old Sarum, an ancient hill fort and settlement predating Salisbury; it looks incredible from the air but at eye level it’s something of a photographic challenge.

The main site was closed (we grind to a halt with a bit of snow!) and as the weather worsened I trod a solitary path, following the earthworks in decreasing circles.

Earthworks at Old Sarum in the snow

With each circuit the wind strengthened, the snow deepened and the ‘here and now’ slipped further away; a world of whispers that disappeared into a whiteout.

The Bishop's Palace at Old Sarum in the snow

The rounded remains of the Bishop’s Palace struggled against a rising tide but ultimately it was only the steep defences of the ramparts that held their own.

Old Sarum ring ditch embankment in the snow

Finally, as the light fell I reluctantly turned away, dug my car out of its drift and abruptly returned to the ‘here and now’, engulfed in traffic chaos in the gridlocked streets of Salisbury.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

A new dawn

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So, almost seven months since my last post …. I’d like to think that this was the start of a new era, a new blogging me perhaps?! Not much chance of that – and just as well I didn’t make any New Year resolutions! Truth be told, what with one thing and another, I’ve barely even touched my camera. Finally, with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and a morning fog forecast I promised myself a ‘photographic fix’ in the nearby woods.

As usual, I’d readied everything the night before so I could grab my kit and head off before sun up – except that in my rusted state I’d forgotten a torch.  With all senses on full alert I felt my way along the muddy track that wound into the woods; it was a silent world full of the smell of damp earth and rotting leaves, shadowy trunks sliding past and an occasional falling twig crashing through the canopy when suddenly a deer barked …. its eerie cry subsiding way before my heart rate! It was answered by another across the woods and gradually, as darkness faded and birds were roused, the dawn chorus began.

Prehistoric dawn of sun rays in coniferous woodland

Very little fog but a fabulous start to the day nonetheless!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Bright lights, big city

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Posting photographs from my April trip to London has been somewhat interrupted – I guess the obvious answer would be to post them more quickly!

Juggling a tripod with troops of tourists on a bridge at rush hour in central London is not my preferred method of working – but needs must as I wanted detail in the sky and there’s just no moving the sunset! At the time I was peeved that the hurrying boat had ‘ruined’ my photograph and took another as soon as the bow wave had settled. On reflection (no pun intended!) I prefer this one; it has life and seems to sit better with the hustle and bustle of the moment.

Panoramic night photo of the River Thames and London skyline

The following day was my first visit to the Shard …. and the views were incredible; I had timed it to catch the last of the daylight before watching the city gradually light up – well worth doing if you can. With so much to see it was easy to be overwhelmed but this cluster of tower blocks repeatedly caught my eye; Strata SE1, otherwise known as the “Razor” (with the sloping black top to the left) was completed in 2010 with the remaining towers sprouting up since – interestingly, still little more than a building site on Google Earth.

Tower blocks in London, Island in the stream

Finally the last traces of daylight had gone, the city was fully lit and the dark artery of the Thames wound its way smoothly out to sea as aeroplanes, dots of light in the sky, followed each other in to City Airport.

Night time photo of Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf

So much to see and so little time …. if you’d like to see a few more images from my visit, including a selection of mono, please go to my Instagram feed.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Exhibition!

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I finally plucked up the courage and participated in my first exhibition!
Representing fine art photography I was part of a group of artists of varied disciplines brought together to launch a new gallery and arts venue, the Hive Artspace in Warminster, taking part in the Wylye Valley Art Trail 2017, a biennial event held in South and West Wiltshire. My brief, in order to sit comfortably with the other exhibits at the venue, was to select images that were local whilst reflecting the natural world – easy to say but fraught with difficulties! After much deliberation I made a selection based on a standard size and format, all mono, similarly toned and linked by the prevailing weather conditions at the time of their capture – i.e. fog!

Pictures in a gallery at the Hive Artspace, Warminster

The response from visitors to seeing well known places through my eyes was incredibly rewarding and came with the added bonus of sharing fond memories and stories of places that had touched their lives. The exhibition was more involved and more successful than ever crossed my mind and, so far, the run down seems to be as busy as the run up!

Other exhibitors were:
Cath Bloomfield – printmaker and mixed media
Freya Brammble-Carter – ceramist
Susan Burrows – textiles
Fiona Campbell – mixed media sculptor
Diana Charnley – painter and printmaker
Dilana Nikolova – illustrator and cartoonist
Anna Shuttlewood – muralist, painter and illustrator
…. and my thanks to them all and The Hive Artspace for a great experience at a well received exhibition!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Lots Road Power Station

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Lots Road Power Station began operations in 1905, claiming to be the largest power station ever built, it soon powered most of the London Underground as well as serving several other works and facilities. It was remodelled in the 1920s to cope with increased demand, survived the bombing raids of the Second World War, revamped again in the 1970s for environmental reasons and finally in 2002, after more than 90 years of operation,  the longest serving power station in the world was decommissioned.

Long exposure fine art photograph of Lots Road Power Station

Retired, but not yet finished ….. it is once again being remodelled; this time forming the centrepiece of the £1 billion Chelsea Waterfront regeneration project. At 275ft the chimneys were at one time the tallest in Europe but they will soon be dwarfed by the two residential skyscrapers currently under construction.

I wanted to try and capture something of it’s architectural elegance and pay tribute to its longevity.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

FAPA Nominee

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About this time last year I was pleased to be awarded with Bronze in the Fine Art Photography Awards; I didn’t do quite so well this year but am still pleased to have got most of the way through the competition and for my two entries, Elemental and Another Place, to be nominated for awards in the Amateur categories of Fine Art and Seascape respectively.

According to the FAPA press release there were more than 6335 submissions from 89 countries around the world. Winners were selected by a panel of international judges, including: Tim Franco, Nadia Dias, Liza Van der Stock, Matilde Gattoni, Amélie Labourdette, Valery Klamm and Pierre Abensur.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Contemplating irony

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For a long time I’ve wanted to photograph something of London – nothing in particular just a need to redress the mountain of mental images collected over time. A lucky opportunity came my way recently and whilst there we walked into town along the south bank of the Thames – it proved a truly fascinating way to see the city unfold.

From the relatively rural setting of the London Wetland Centre we soon found ourselves in Wandsworth where developments crowd the river bank and skeletal cranes pierce the sky. I’m not sure exactly what caught my eye here …. something to do with the shapes on the skyline, the steely blue colours and ruffled expanse of icy water. It seemed an almost two dimensional scene, a painting – and I had to stop.

Painterly image of Wandsworth riverside

Walking on towards the houseboats I found myself contemplating the irony of the place; these days, particularly so in the UK, river barges summon thoughts of rural leisure and on first impressions they looked a little out of place moored up in such an urban environment.

Barges moored at Wandsworth in London

Ironic considering that they were once the very epitome of industry and the lifeblood of the city. Where the fancy bars and restaurants now are, their river terraces bustling with gin sipping city slickers, the waterfront would have been thick with labourers, black with coal and ripe with the lingering odours of graft and poverty – once a place to be avoided it is now the place to be!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

The end of winter

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Unless a freak weather front rolls in it seems that winter has come and gone for us in southern England 😦 My favourite photographic season passed in a sequence of ordinary days with barely any frost let alone snow – and not even much rain to speak of! Thankfully we had a few days of hit and miss fog which had me scurrying around my local patch, camera in hand to make the most of limited opportunities.

This tree stands alone in the middle of a field opposite a sewage treatment centre – a rather unprepossessing spot! I’ve wanted to photograph it for years but a jacket of thick ivy obscured its limbs and the resulting dark blob didn’t make for a picture. Trimmed a year or so back, the ivy is thinning and the old oak is finally coming into its own.

Lord of the dance (South Newton, England, 2017)

The same field held hidden treasure in the form of these tracks not visible from the road – an unintentional artwork!

Lines

Another magical morning with not a soul around; when the world is hushed and the moments distilled and concentrated. There’s nothing quite like the luxury of immersing yourself in the simple things in life ….

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)