A great venue for a wedding, especially in summer
For the first time I braved the challenge of walking down Snowdon, I had taken the train up but walked down via the Pyg track. It was a scorching day in late July, I was with four friends, all probably fitter than I. It started off well enough, the views were spectacular, I had plenty of water and the route was well known to our leader, I was enjoying it immensely. But after a long tiring struggle – downwards walking is so hard on the knees – I was enjoying it a lot less. Using the last of my energy I pushed on a bit faster, to end the seemingly interminable descent a little quicker. I lost sight of the others but sensibly stopped and waited. The sun was behind Snowdon and the light was falling across the ridge, I hoped I might just be able to take a good photograph as one or other of them appeared over the intermediate horizon.
I was pleased when the first one to appear was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, silhouetted against the light. Just seconds later the composition might have been spoiled by the appearance of two other walkers following behind, in fact the tops of their heads are just visible, catching the sunlight to the right.
The rest of the descent took another hour, nearly five in all but well worth it for the exhilaration, the views and that one photograph.
On the upper level of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul you can look out through windows, guarded by a fine mesh to keep out the birds, towards a gilded spire. It is pretty dark inside with inky shadows set against the intensely blue sky outside. Photographically it was a challenge to get the balance of light right so that one can see into the shadows without losing sight of the spire.
I took many photos on different settings trying to replicate what I could actually see by just looking at the scene. Whilst peering through the tiny viewfinder, I was not fully aware of the figure who had stopped in front of me, I didn’t see her properly until I reviewed the photos later on a computer. She appears to be a serene figure in contemplation of this great spiritual place, head bowed as though in prayer, the sun lighting up the top of her red scarf and her right hand. The scene has something of the Caravaggio Chiaroscuro style of painting about it.
I liked the image so much I began to adjust it slightly for exposure and began to see a very different scenario developing from the shadows. The atmosphere and mood changes utterly once the shadows are lightened, only then you can see the Smurf toy attached to the woman’s backpack. It changes from a study of spiritual contemplation into just another one of the thousands of mildly curious tourists who pass through the Hagia Sophia every day, perhaps just stepping back off a bench and looking down for her foothold, after trying to peer out of the window. Nothing is as it first seemed.
Frank’s pop-up bar in Peckham, enterprisingly located on the roof of a multi-storey car park is an excellent place to watch the sun go down on a balmy night, it exists only during the summer months. The panoramic view of the London skyline is spectacular and St Paul’s cathedral is still a distinctive landmark amongst the 20th Century buildings.
On a cold night there is a certain pleasure in stepping out of a warm bed in bare feet onto polished oak floor-boards, feeling the contrast against my skin as I reach for the chamber pot in the darkness. The floor is uneven, sloping back from the window towards the centre of the house, a soft glow of the light below filtering through the gaps. It is an old house, built in 1530 they say, it has settled slowly onto its rocky outcrop at the top of a hill, a gentle slope on one side, a precipitous drop into the ravine on the other. The house creaks and moves, I am not alone here, there are rare bats who flit silently through the shadows leaving only the tiniest traces of their visits. There are other diminutive creatures sharing my little blue bedroom and its red framed window. Moths fly up when I disturb the covers, spiders extrude their sticky webs across my brushes left unused on the window sill. Now and then I think I hear scamperings, perhaps my brother’s dog or a mouse searching for spilled biscuit crumbs.
The fine white sheets feel smooth as satin, the crumbling blue plaster reminds me of half forgotten dusty corners from my childhood, I feel at peace, protected from the outside by the warnings of the quartet of geese. At last the sun edges in through the un-curtained window, filling the eaves with warmth and the raking light revealing the layers of distemper and plaster stretching back in time.
At the other end of the day as the sun is setting, the last rays snatch the chance to seep through the play of leaves and leading in the window to charm me with a display of dappled fire on the rough plaster of the living room wall. The spiders have been here too but have scurried away into the dark alcove where Puss escapes for some peace.
A visit to the sculpture park at Chateau Chaumont brought about an unexpected delight, part installation, part sculpture, by a Japanese artist, sending misty vapour into the landscape and providing a mystical medium for visitors to explore. The carefully arranged square of water/mist jets, set high up in the trees, emits a continuous cloud of vapour for around 5 minutes at 5 minute intervals. Meanwhile the mist responds to whatever windy eddies may prevail and wanders off over the adjacent lake or hangs about making the unwary visitor damp and soggy but inspired by the soft light filtered by the mist.
We visited another much smaller chateau at St Aignan, where the sweeping steps leading from the church below to the chateau courtyard above provided a delightful opportunity to play with shadows and light. The balustrade of sandstone, or is it limestone, worn away by rain, catches and disperses the early evening light.
Later in the evening during a stroll through the village, we spied on people’s windows, shrouded in gaudy lace or masked by dimpled glass. We couldn’t make out whether this was a perfectly ordinary desk with its own desk-lamp in silhouette, or a more sinister creature biding its time before taking over the world.