Millau Viaduct

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Life has been pretty chaotic recently; a few weeks ago we returned from a brief tour through France and Spain and I’m still struggling to find the time to sort through my photographs😦 Apart from too many photographs (!) one of the downsides of touring is that you’re never in the right place, at the right time, with the right light – and our visit to the Millau Viaduct was a case in point.

From afar, the viaduct had the delicacy of a cobweb spanning the Gorges du Tarn and lost nothing, in spite of its enormity, as we approached. The piers soared effortlessly into a flawless blue sky carrying a thin ribbon of tarmac on fans of gossamer threads and, whether traffic or an unfelt breeze through the higher structure, I couldn’t tell but I realised that it hummed gently when I stopped to listen. With my photographic opportunities limited by time and light I struggled to capture its enigmatic beauty and have been left with a mass of unfulfilled ideas running through my mind ….

High contrast, fine art B&W photograph of the Millau Viaduct

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Behind the image …

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I was recently introduced to Light; founded in 2013, their raison d’être is the approach of camera technology from a new perspective, aiming for DSLR quality from a compact camera through the innovative use of 16 lenses and folded optics. I was asked if I would write about my favourite photo for inclusion in their Vantage Point project. Now that’s a challenge! How to choose your single favourite photograph …. it got me thinking and I came to the conclusion that our favourite photographs aren’t necessarily our best and often aren’t even necessarily the photographs themselves but the events surrounding their making and the memories they hold.

So – to the story behind the image ….
Stonehenge is arguably one of the most famous monuments in the world, seen by millions of people, either in ragged groups encircling the stones or as part of the interminable traffic crawling by. For many it probably doesn’t live up to the hype but I have a soft spot for the stones and, living close by, always have an eye open for new photographic opportunities. Such a chance came about six years ago when the UK had its coldest December since records began and heavy snow blanketed the country. Apart from an occasional abandoned car the snowbound A303 was empty and Stonehenge was deserted, closed until further notice. Without the belittling ring of day trippers the stones were magnificent; their presence dominated the landscape and beneath the shawl of snow draping their shoulders they revealed their true colours – shades of pink, purple, blue and green. I circumnavigated the site looking for alternative perspectives, pushing through drifts and stumbling into unseen hollows; the carpet of snow transforming the wider landscape, revealing subtle shapes and textures usually lost in a collage of green. With a little poetic licence I found myself lost in a simpler past, the sense of the unknown, the magic and mystery sending a thrill down my spine and the photos I took still rank high among my favourites; their quietness and graphic simplicity standing the test of time. Having to choose only one for this post I didn’t go for the obvious option of Stonehenge itself but rather the more quirky ‘Bird on a wire’ ….

Musical score written by birds on a wire in the snow
Joni Mitchell sang of the song outside her window where the traffic wrote the words; the A303 is less of a song, more a droning druid like incantation that drowns all other sounds but on this day it was silent, outdone by the crackling, guttural calls of these rooks, dotting the fence like a music score. Their fractured voices, carrying clearly across the snow, embodied the singularity of this day. This was an impulsive photograph of a chance encounter that I was lucky enough to capture and more so to experience, that lives with me still and instantly takes me back to that day.

And I guess that’s where Light is positioning themselves; a DSLR quality camera always to hand for those chance encounters that ultimately are so much more than an image.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

EXIF data: Nikon D700, ISO 200, 1/60s, f14 at 300mm, RAW

FAPA bronze award

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You may have noticed from my infrequent posts that I haven’t had much time for photography recently but this morning had the pleasant surprise of finding that my portfolio entry ‘Silent Voices’ was awarded 3rd place in the Fine Art (Amateur) category of the 2015/16 Fine Art Photography Awards.

According to the FAPA press release there were more than 3994 submissions from 83 countries around the world. Winners were selected by a panel of international judges, including: Qingjun Huang, Carolyn Guild, Klaus Kampert, Pini Hamou, Rupert Vandervell, Pongsatorn Sukhum, Kilian Schönberger, Peter Kool, Lara Zankoul and GMB Akash.

One of my more satisfying results and gratifying that the ‘silent voices’ of Avebury made themselves heard🙂

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Snail’s pace

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Well, it happened again; the arrival of summer and all that goes with it, has seen time for my photography disappear😦 A couple of days ago, I noticed this little snail, almost lost in the exuberant flower of a peony and unable to resist stole a few minutes to photograph it.

Macro photograph of a small snail on a red peony (Paeonia)

It’s quite surprising how quickly snails can move whilst you’re struggling to set up a tripod and macro!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Any old iron

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I’m beginning to think that I should turn this into a ‘sculpture appreciation’ blog as that’s what I seem to have been doing lately; my latest exhibition being that of ‘Invisible Reality‘ by Subodh Gupta, a New-Delhi based artist, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

Much of the promotional material is very ‘arty’ in it’s description but basically most of the pieces are made from, or inspired by, old cooking pots. I wasn’t particularly struck by any of the promotional photos but was interested enough in the ‘wackiness’ of cooking pot sculpture to go and see for myself. What can I say – I was enthralled and have now been twice; seeing them in the flesh, so to speak, has to be experienced to be believed.

(Select a picture to open the gallery)

As it was with me, I doubt these photos have done much for you but if you have the chance to see Subodh Gupta’s work – go!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Another Place

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With my day not going according to plan I picked up the ongoing task of importing old photos into Lightroom. It can be a laborious process but every now and then the effort is rewarded, both in terms of reliving the moments but also by coming across something that, with the benefit of a growing idea of what I’m doing and a little rework, finally emerges as I’d originally hoped for.

Mono fine art panoramic photo of Anthony Gormley's Another Place on Crosby Beach

My only visit to Crosby Beach (about four years ago) was late autumn, on a bitterly cold and windy day. The wide open sands, pounded by an icy sea beneath an insipid sky, looked bleak and uninviting; wind whipped tears from my eyes and stung sand at my face and hands and the loosely scattered figures of Antony Gormley’sAnother Place‘, with their stares frozen to the far horizon, compound the sense of desolation.

There’s something strangely enjoyable about ‘bad’ conditions and, with this image finally coming into it’s own, with hindsight it wasn’t such a bad day after all :)

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Quietude

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After my recent experiments with off camera flash I felt the need to get back to more ‘instinctive’ photography where everything seems to happen without effort and I am lost in the moment.

As if to order, I was blessed with a perfect morning and headed down to the lakes. Mist floated lightly in a muted world and the only signs of life were a distant pair of courteous grebes and a nearby warbler flitting low among the reeds. All was quiet – even the lone Canada Goose that glided into view barely rippled the lake surface …

Mono photograph of a Canada Goose and jetty on a misty pond

… and for a few moments, time stood still.

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Dancing Ladies

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Sophie Ryder’s sculptures aren’t to everyone’s taste; many finding the human form with an animal head to be unsettling – as I did at first. However, having spent some time with them I’ve changed my view.

Her claim is that a human head makes the piece takes on a specific personality whereas an animal head allows the viewer to see what the work is about, to see beyond the simple portrayal of a person. She’s absolutely right; these dancing hares would look very ‘ordinary’ as dancing ladies but as Hares they are transformed into something magical.

Off camera flash photograph of Sophie Ryder's Dancing Ladies at Salisbury Cathedral

With the growing dark and the warm glow of the Cathedral lights the Ladies’ dance seemed to change from one of simple joy to one of celebration …

… and I felt I should join them as my experiments with off camera flash finally resulted in a photograph I was happy with!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Light manoeuvres

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Another installation from Sophie Ryder’s ‘Relationships’ exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral; the straightforward title of ‘Minotaur & Lady Hare Torsos’ plays down the emotion in the relationship between these two – I had the distinct impression they’d had a blazing row and each was waiting expectantly for the other to apologise!

Dramatic photo of Sophie Ryder's Minotaur & Lady Hare Torso at Salisbury Cathedral

My preferred low viewpoint resulted in the usual problems of shooting against the sky –  and led to my first experimental foray into off camera flash. Having eventually worked out how to get the bits of kit to talk to each other and listen to me (this is all about relationships!) I realised that my flash, although very good, just wasn’t powerful enough.  My shoot rapidly descended into a Benny Hill type farce as I scuttled between Torsos and camera brandishing a flashgun – You’ve Been Framed, here I come😀
It was an interesting experiment and a new technique to play with – but I think I should have invested as much effort in the composition as I did with the technical shenanigans.

A rethink and change of perspective resulted in a far better photograph – more flattering to the subjects and more interest in the detail; no flash this time, just a simple HDR …. and aren’t  those ears fantastic?!

Forgive and forget?

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

Rising

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Another monumental sculpture from Sophie Ryder at Salisbury Cathedral; a 20’ tall crouching Lady Hare entitled ‘Rising’.

Despite its size, there was something in the transparent wire construction, location and pose that gave the sculpture an air of fragility and vulnerability – and I experienced the slightly disconcerting sensation of feeling protective towards it. I wanted to fend off the clambering kids and casual kickers; to tell the groups of cheesy snappers and selfie grabbers to show a little respect, to slow down, to see, to think, to feel ….

Sophie Ryder sculpture Rising at Salisbury Cathedral

Sophie Ryder sculpture Rising at Salisbury Cathedral

I thought mono would work best to capture these feelings but I’m not sure – I like the colours of the … err … colour version🙂 Any thoughts …. ?

Closer consideration of this introspective sculpture reveals a smaller, kneeling hare hiding within.

Hiding hare in Sp[hie Ryder sculpture Rising at Salisbury Cathedral

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)