The best thing about Britain

Is that it’s so easy to leave. At least that’s the view of one recent forum post on another photography website. Somewhat cynical, even for a Brit.

Ice cream van on the coast near Lindisfarne

And plenty of us do, not least because our climate isn’t exactly reliable or generally all that good. Couple that with a desire to experience things that are a little more exotic and unfamiliar, drink cold beer and eat food with flavour and it’s easy to understand why many of us enjoy our foreign travels.

Berwick upon Tweed, notorious for moving between Scotland and England on 13 occasions.  Allegedly after the last change, the Mayor exclaimed “Thank goodness!  I won’t have to put up with any more lousy Scottish Winters”

However a recent all too brief road trip to The Lake District, Scotland, Northumberland and the Yorkshire Moors brought back home some of the joys of staying at home. I’m sure I’m not alone in probably spending as much vacation time travelling outside the UK as I do within it, and this trip left me wondering why – although escaping from our broken politics for a couple of weeks is certainly one strong motivator.

Coniston Water on a busy Bank Holiday weekend

You can see from the photographs that we were certainly lucky with the weather, erm thanks to global warming, and by keeping off motorways and planning routes along smaller roads we had a fabulous time. The scenery is both beautiful and varied (no USA-style driving spending hours going through landscapes that barely change) and it’s surprising how empty parts of our little overcrowded island actually are.

En route through the Trossachs, Scotland

A few more images…

The Lake District

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Heading away from Near Sawrey

Esthwaite Water
Looking towards the Langdales

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Scotland

Views from the Gourock Ferry as we left Dunoon

Loch Fyne
Lachlan Castle

Berwick and nearby

Norham Castle

Road to Lindisfarne – source of much amusement to locals when tourist idiots in SUVs think they can cross when they can’t

North Yorkshire/Goathland

The Mallyon Spout

A couple of panoramas….

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Whitby
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Views towards the Langdales

So all in all a lovely scenic trip. Not only that, but also – particularly for those who’ve heard different from foreign climes, some very good food too. I think I may need to do some more of this staycation malarkey.

Jon

Forgotten gem?

How things have moved in a decade in the camera-world.

It’s just over 10 years since Olympus launched the E-520; a camera which was pretty well specified for its time.  Relatively compact (smaller than many current mirrorless bodies) to take advantage of its Four Thirds sensor and yet including image stabilisation, live view (very clunky compared to what we expect now) a decent amount of control for those who wanted it, and plethora of scene modes for those who didn’t.  It’s 10MP sensor is no great performer by the latest standards but as is often the case for Olympus, it can certainly churn out beautiful colour.

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Regent’s Canal, behind King’s Cross station

So why mention it now?

Because old cameras like these can be picked up for a relative song these days.  In this case I was looking for a camera for my partner Elena’s 13 year old nephew who wants to study photography.  £100 bought the E520 complete with 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses, plus the Olympus FL36 flash.  All in superb condition – looks like it has taken around 4,000 images from new.  You’d struggle to buy a single lens for a modern camera for that kind of money.

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Always nice to take photos of boats in the sun!

Before handing the camera over, I thought I’d better check it out so these are just some quick images taken around London a couple of days ago – it was a breeze to use, small enough to barely notice when carrying around, and an awful lot of fun.

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Even the kit lens can give some bokeh in the right circumstances

I suspect there are rather a lot of mid level cameras gathering dust as their owners have moved on to better things, which is rather a shame really – time to get them out and see if someone else can put them to good use.  In modern throwaway society it’s a great pity that the lifespan of so many of our possessions is measured in such short time spans, especially when, if considered objectively, they still more than serve our needs.

Oh well, sermon over, at least for now. A few more images below which probably get bigger if you click on them – I’ve never used the E520 or 14-42 kit lens before, but they certainly didn’t hold me back on this occasion; I hope their soon to be new owner feels likewise!

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And I only washed it the other day!

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My mum learned to drive in one of these, well a bit like one of these…

And one final image to sign off – I rather like this typical quiet side-street view:

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Cheers,

Jon

Digitale dinosaurus rijdt weer (the Digital dinosaur rides again)

Brexit Day loomed, the French customs officials were working to rule, the gillets jaune were protesting every weekend; what could possibly go wrong?

In the event, nothing.

A quick trip on the Eurostar to Lille was marred only by the astonishingly noisy businessman booming at his companion on the table in front of us.  At least he didn’t spend the whole journey on his mobile phone.  And after a quick transfer we were soon headed through horribly British wet, windy and grey weather towards our destination, Brugge, the capital of Western Flanders.

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The Rozenhoedkaai and leaning Belfry in the background – a classic view of Brugge helped by glorious golden morning light

We were captivated by this lovely medieval city with its beautiful buildings, canals and cobbled walkways.  The locals were unfailingly friendly and good-humoured; I suppose you would be if you lived in a place as attractive as this.

The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and survived both World Wars remarkably intact.  A claim to fame is that the first book in english was printed in Brugge by William Caxton.  Now, it is probably better known for its lace.  And chocolate, of course – although most of the Belgian chocolates on offer here are made elsewhere.

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Brugge is famous for its swans and there are numerous legends about why they are here – brew a coffee and fire up Dr Google (other search engines are available) if you want to find out more…

The city is very photogenic, and it was fun to take out the ancient Olympus E-1 for a spin on this trip.  It performed flawlessly and, as ever, produced colours from its old Kodak sensor that are rarely equalled even with the latest and greatest cameras.

A random collection from my wanders around the city – click to see larger:

A visit to Flanders, especially not long after the centenary of WW1, was incomplete without making a trip to nearby Ypres and Passchendaele.  The recent history of Ypres is an interesting one; the place was flattened in the war and apparently not a single building survived unscathed.  You could see an uninterrupted view from one end of the town to the other.

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Ypres

Winston Churchill suggested the town should be left as a memorial but the locals had a different idea, – they rebuilt it, replicating the buildings that had been obliterated and rebuilding another beautiful medieval city.  A new addition, though, is the Menin Gate – a memorial to the missing Commonwealth soldiers who have no grave.

“Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?”

Siegfried Sassoon

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55,000 names.  What a senseless war.  And nearby Passchendaele saw in the region of half a million casualties.  Many of these are now buried at the Tyne Cot cemetery – the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world.

I haven’t got the words.

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I suppose all of this now seems rather a long time ago, and yet casualties on a grand scale are still happening in other parts of the world – but when they’re not happening in the West, somehow they don’t feature so much in our conscience.

A few final images to round off this post; reminders of a memorable trip – one I’d urge others to go on if they have the opportunity.

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Cheers,

Jon

Artistic inspiration

So yet again I’ve taken some photographs that will be almost identical to the millions of other images taken by others who’ve visited the same place.  But it’s a pretty place.  And one that inspired many artists including some of the famous French impressionists (Honfleur in Normandy).  Besides, trying to get a nice photo to print and frame at home is a lot cheaper than paying the prices the local art shops were asking for mostly fairly mediocre paintings for the passing tourist trade.

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I’m waiting for a couple of prints to come back from an online order service but I’ve had fun trying to give them a bit of a stylised old-master look – and getting them printed on to some really nice Hahnemuhle German Etch paper should give much nicer results than standard photo-paper.

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For those who haven’t been, Honfleur is a lovely medieval town with a picturesque harbour surrounded by cobbled streets, art shops and restaurants.  Calvados and seafood are in abundance.  Car parking spaces aren’t!

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It was a lovely place to wander around, and I enjoyed slowing down photography wise too by using a manual focus (Samyang) lens for many of my photographs – generally I find that if I slow down and use less capable auto-everything gear, I get results that I’m happier with.

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The weather was well-behaved too.  No featureless cloudless skies (I don’t think theses are a feature of Normandy), but not too much rain and enough golden sunlight peering through on occasion to show the town at its best.

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I could post many more photographs and that’s before moving on to other nearby attractions like Giverny (Monet’s garden) and Rouen.  Suffice to say, however, that it was a very enjoyable short break made all the better by travelling to the continent without going anywhere near an airport – slow travel, slow photography, what’s not to like?

Flying visit

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Really not the usual kind of thing I’d take photographs of, but last week was the hundredth anniversary of the formation of the RAF – making it the oldest independent (of other military departments eg army or navy) air force in the world.

It was also one of the cloudiest days we’ve had in weeks.  Of course.

The event was marked by a big flypast over central London, involving 100 aircraft of various types, from the WWII vintage flyers (Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane) in the first photograph to the latest and greatest Lightning.  I think the latter was referred to as the Eurofighter for quite some time, but perhaps that name doesn’t work so well in Brexit Britain…. Not sure what the aircraft below are, but I got a sharp photo of them so they’re here for all to admire!

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I didn’t get photos of everything, but I did get some good views from the roof of the hospital where I work – as long as I avoided the heads of all the other people crowded up there to watch too!

Naturally the event ended with a flypast by the Red Arrows – a team who support a lot of charities, including Great Ormond Street – they made some of our young patients very happy when they came to visit just before last Christmas.

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And that’s about that – back to ground level next time, I suspect.

Cheers, Jon

 

Looking up

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Literally….

This is the art deco stairwell of a lovely nearby building where some of our hospital staff are based.  Sadly not me, but I get special dispensation to visit every now and again!  I think this counts as one of the most pleasing (to me) photos I’ve taken in a while – there’s something about the light and the simplicity that really appeals to me.  I’m still irked that I used my ‘phone to take it though, rather than a ‘proper’ camera.  Still, I had it with me and this shot had to be taken.

Hopefully more photo opportunities to come given how glorious our weather is right now.

Cheers,

Jon