Japan – People

I am always nervous of photographing people, it seems so intrusive. I do sometimes ask and I’m happy to not take their photo if they say no – of course. But actually asking can be awkward, embarrassing and often just too late, the moment has gone.

This little girl was part of a wedding – she wanted to be in the bridal procession but was not allowed to be. Her mother and grandmother spent quite a few minutes trying to restrain her, but she eventually escaped. There was a big crowd watching!
Here she is – running for freedom!
Here’s the bride and groom with their families.
Its a huge thing to get married at the main Shinto shrine in Tokyo, not everyone gets to do this. They have a ceremony and then parade in a set path around the shrine grounds before the photo shoot in the glade of trees.
She looked so sad but such an enigmatic face and expression, i daren’t ask, I knew she would say no. I tried to look as though I was photographing the shrine buildings but I think she saw me, I feel sorry for that.
What a distinguished looking gentleman, i think he might have wanted to be photographed, he wandered around in the temple grounds, adopting rather posed stances. i was too slow for tis one, its slightly out of focus.
Peaceful moments in the grounds of Odawara fort in the late afternoon sun.
These two spent quite a long time trying out different poses with their stuffed rabbit, trying to get just the right selfie. I deliberately caught them between poses.
A school group were practising and then performing a song with actions, to make a video at Odawarra fort, – they were accompanied by 4 volunteers dressed in traditional costume. The teachers welcomed us to take photos. The children were thrilled and wanted to see the images we took.
In the street where people go to parade in costumes (Cosplay)I saw her and I asked if i could take her picture, she was terribly shy but her friends encouraged her, then she broke into this gorgeous smile, and performed the ubiquitous hand gesture.
This lady seemed reluctant to believe she was no longer 20 but kudos for the style!
The Beatles got everywhere didn’t they?! Loving the matched colours though.
Shibuya station, one of the busiest in Tokyo, there’s a bus station right outside where guys in uniform with LED lighting tracks in their jackets and red sabres, orchestrate the passengers into queues and then usher them onto the buses, finishing with a bow to the bus driver!

 

I came across this man in a side street in Yanaka, Tokyo, he seemed to be making a plan of street services, he spoke no English but I managed to ask Shashin? which is Japanese for photo! He happily agreed, whilst fighting the wind from whipping away his drawing.
This girl was absorbed by her mum’s phone, she had just a minute before, been taking a selfie, big grin on her face. Sadly I was too slow and also a bit reticent to photograph a child.

 

I asked her just as she moved the poster from in front of her face, held up my camera and pointed, she nodded, I clicked!
I took this in Odawara at the fort. He had dip-died his dogs ears! One pink one orange, he turned away and took up the exact same pose as the dog – irresistible.
On holidays and weekends lots of young people wear full kimono clothes and visit their local temple.

Our group waiting for the tutors to arrive with the hire cars. Shades of the “Usual Suspects” A bit of attitude going on as well though.

Architecture of Toulouse and Castres

Toulouse Blagnac airport, new terminal. Ingenious wood slats behind the glazing panels filters the sun but lets in plenty of

 

light.

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The approach from the plane into the terminal, none of that grey bland utilitarian style here, it is perfectly functional and the yellow is joyous.
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From the outside you see the slatted wood but not the coloured glass dots that are placed at crossing points.
Architecture, France, Airport
Simple glass barriers along the walkways are half-painted in a delightful maritime blue, a sort of abstract beach scene perhaps!
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None of those hideous hard plastic chairs here, just soft red comfort.
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Even on the sunniest of days the light inside is soft with no glare – a calm space, just right when waiting to board a plane.
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Vertical tube lights hanging over the stairwell
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Wooden slats punctuated by circles of coloured glass at the crossing points. A subtle reference to stained glass windows maybe?
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An unusual gateway to a school, water-jet cut out lettering in Corten steel.

Castres

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The weir in the river, looking like an abstract oil painting
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River-side living – cantilevered balconies at every level

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Classical references in this old chapel.
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Some more Corten steel cut-out lettering, this time the letters have been fixed on supports in front of their corresponding gaps.
gardens
Ripe for an abstract linocut print maybe? The formal gardens at the Bishop’s Palace by the river

 

Pembrokeshire

Recently I spent a week in South Wales, St David’s Cathedral is a very special place, I last visited more than 30 years ago in the pouring rain, it looks gorgeous in sunlight, though the deep purple of the stone stands out so much better in rain.

St David's Cathedral


St David's CathedralSt David’s Cathedral

St David's Cathedral
Tombstones leaning against the perimeter wall
St David's Cathedral
Stained glass window

 

 

The Sun at last

Our boat trip lasted about 12 hours and during that time the sky was pretty much clouded over but during our trip back to Longyearbyen harbour the sun finally appeared. The sky turned blue and so of course did the water. The ocean was calm and smooth as silk, I’ve heard that expression before but this time it really moved like silk and was very reflective. I tried to focus on the birds following above us but it seemed impossible, as an amateur, to get the focus right as the birds flew unexpectedly close.

I’m pretty sure the generous shots of whisky provided by our delightful guide Stein only helped my technique. He was kind enough to say that our trip was the most convivial he had guided this year.

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Stein from the MS Langǿysund, watching out for Polar bears, sadly we didn’t get to see one.
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A bright blue line appeared along the coast, I caught it on camera so it can’t have just been an affect of the whisky.

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A Minke whale flashed its white back at us a we sailed past

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Pyramiden

Pyramiden is one of several abandoned Russian coal-mining towns, there is also Barentsburg which seems to have been larger and more complex. We chose to go to Pyramiden because the boat sails past the Nordensköld glacier.
A busy and fully equipped mining town, it was abruptly abandoned at the demise of USSR in 1998. Here is an excellent site giving full details of its history but these photos demonstrate how it looks right now.
Some of these images were taken with a phone camera but most were taken with a borrowed camera. The charming and kind Lisa lent me her camera to use, with my SD card, because my lovely camera had a hissy fit and decided it couldn’t bear the cold wind, the shutter refused to shut or open unless I removed the lens and kept the body of the camera warm for 10 minutes.

Lisa and Severin are half way through a 6 month tour of Scandinavian countries driving and living in an adapted Mercedes van. What a fabulous trip, I would love to do that. Such interesting people doing such a great thing, and so generous with their camera. (thanks )

 

Longyearbyen to the Nordensköld Glacier

Taking a boat trip was the probably the best thing we did during our visit to Svalbard.
We sailed on MS Langøysund with our guide Stein (pronounced more like Stain) from Henningsen Transport.

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Leaving Longyearbyen harbour

Steaming off around the western tip of the mountain range to the north of the harbour, we saw a few Minke whales as well as lots of different seabirds, even Puffins. The land around seems almost barren with no trees but plenty of grass and moss and in a few weeks there will be colourful shows of wild flowers.

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As we passed Bird Rock on the southern side of Sassenfjorden,  thousands of birds were swarming, swirling in the skies and screaming into the wind. A sharp-eyed young man shouted out “there’s a fox” we could just make it out as it ran with a white bird in its mouth, seeking his foxhole for some privacy.

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Bird Rock, guano not ice
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Nordensköld glacier

 

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These huts are available for researchers to stay in for a few days.
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These two people had been photographing sea birds and staying in one of the huts. Our boat will collect them and take them back to Longyearbyen

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Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

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The town from the South

Longyearbyen is the largest permanent settlement of Svalbard, with a population of just over 2000. It is fully dark for 4 months during the winter, the sun never rising above the horizon. In summer the sun stays well above the horizon 24 hours.  So dusk and dawn only happen in Spring and Autumn. Northern Lights are happening all the time but they can only be seen when the sky is dark.

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The area outlined in pink is the “safe” area, where polar bears rarely roam.One can only go outside of that whilst accompanied by a trained rifle shooter carrying their rifle.

We spent 4 days here, beginning with a bus tour lasting a couple of hours, slowly driving around the outskirts and through the town being shown various points of interest, whilst being served traditional dishes from the area. Lamb that had been dried for 6 months,  dried fish and two kinds of smoked or dried pork. All of which were quite chewy but surprisingly tasty, though the fish is definitely an acquired taste.

Later we were served with a large plate of delicacies, including reindeer heart, very tender and savoury, three kinds of smoked fish, mashed swede, and cubed beetroot and pickled berries. All delicious – though I didn’t eat the swede, bad memories from school days. Several cheeses were served last of all along with a small pot of cheesecake made with Norwegian “fudge” cheese.  Artic Tapas Tour

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On the road below the last remaining working mine (number 7) in the area, directly East of the town in the Adventalen valley. A shaft of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy few days.

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The remains of one of the first coal mines, unusually the strata is horizontal and each coal seam is around 2 metres in height. The town-scape is dominated by abandoned and decaying signs of its earlier coal industry.

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Low hanging cloud with the coal seam just visible below.
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The university brings a constant flow of geologists and researchers, plenty of fascinating conversations going on in the bars and restaurants.
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The church to the west of the centre seen between apartment blocks. All the housing is built to modern standards of insulation.
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Geodesic Greenhouse

Ben is an enterprising young man exploring solutions for growing fresh green foods in challenging conditions. He is building an enormous greenhouse to supplement the local diet. The structure is based on Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome. It will be covered with one of three types polythene . Whatever the angle of the sun there will be a panel perpendicular to it  maximising the intake of heat and light. The local temperature rarely exceeds 7C even in summer. The structure available in various sizes from Arctic Dome Greenhouses also has extremely high wind resistance.