Posts Tagged ‘ photography ’

Season of Mists

It’s been a while since I posted here – over a year, in fact. Family matters seem to have taken up much of my time, but fortunately they have no place here. I’ve been stirred into action by the traditional sounds of gloomy whining about the weather, specifically last week’s fogs, presented by our media as either the imminent apocalypse or emblematic of our grey and miserabilist national character.

In fact this duvet covering the country was nowhere more than a couple of hundred feet thick, and a quick trip up the nearest hill revealed daily views of astonishing beauty from sunrise to sunset. And all this on top of weeks of superb weather throughout September and October – how lucky we are in our climate.

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OS

Tigress (2013)

Tigress (2013)

OS opened here a couple of days ago, and seems to have aroused some interest. It’s the start of a collaborative exercise with the poet Liz Lefroy and covers several themes, though the pictures are all still-lives. Despite a number of requests I shall not be putting them online, apart from the title image above. They are intended to be seen as tangible objects, printed to a specific size, mounted in a particular way and viewed, thoughtfully, in the context of a gallery. What’s the digital alternative? – a flow of electrons to screens of unknown size and uncalibrated colour in some distant country, where the pictures might just possibly be given a passing glance, should they even surface among the great deluge of images washing around the Web. So my apologies to those who are prevented by distance from visiting the show – but wherever you live there are makers and artists whose work can and should be seen in glorious three-dimensional reality.

The exhibition is at The Workhouse Gallery, Presteigne and runs until the end of this month, open most days including this Sunday. It’s also open on Bank Holiday Monday, when at 11am Liz Lefroy will be reading from her new work as part of the Presteigne Festival. Tickets available here or on the door – further information to be found here. UPDATE – the talk sold out and the gallery was packed, with many interesting points raised during the morning – thanks to all who came! (and apologies to those who couldn’t get in)

The Workhouse Gallery

The Workhouse Gallery (and photographer)

And finally a little late summer colour to relieve the sombre tones of this post

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Going, going . . .

It’s not every day you see the equivalent of a cathedral being flattened, so when I found myself an hour’s drive from Didcot last Saturday evening, I was immediately on my way. Three of the famous cooling towers were due to go the following morning. Like many people I’ve always considered them beautiful structures – that lovely sexy curve at their waists! – which enhance the landscapes in which they are set. They can quite legitimately be compared with cathedrals; their architect, Frederick Gibberd, was also responsible for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (Paddy’s Wigwam to the irreverent).

I reached Didcot after sunset, and eventually found a position on a railway bridge with a fine view, about a quarter of a mile away. The towers could still be seen in the last of the light.

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The bridge dates to the earliest days of the Great Western Railway, and is itself soon to be demolished and rebuilt. This place had seen the birth of a new technology, and here we were to witness the passing of an outmoded one.

The demolition company had taken the unpopular decision to destroy the towers during the hours of darkness, hoping to discourage spectators. However Didcot was not to be deprived of its fun, and within an hour my railway bridge was packed. So was every other viewpoint in the town, as well as the Ridgeway where at least a thousand people held vigil – or rather an all-night party.

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About midnight the towers were illuminated – for safety rather than for our benefit.

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It was to be a long night. All anyone knew was that demolition was scheduled some time between 3am and 5.30am. We chatted, shared coffee and chocolate, read and gazed at the towers. I thought of the crowds who must similarly have gathered during the dissolution of the monasteries, watching as another set of old certainties were buried under the falling masonry. Four o’clock – a possible time for the blast – came and went. We watched the railway workers preparing to clear up debris. For once First Great Western might have a reasonable excuse for delay – ‘cooling towers all over the line’.

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Five o’clock, and a grey dawn. Suddenly the middle tower appeared to slip quietly sideways, and an instant later we heard and felt three huge blasts. As each tower collapsed in on itself it blew a series of colossal smoke rings in its own shape, which hung for a moment in the air.

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The middle tower lit red by an explosion

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The view vanished into what looked like a sandstorm. Those of us with (expensive) cameras ran for the shelter of their cars, and in a couple of minutes little could be seen except streetlights glowing through the dust cloud.

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You wait ages for a blog (part 2)

A lightning trip to Italy recently to shoot a couple of features – first, an unchanged 18th-century kitchen in a villa near Venice, still in use within living memory

Alex Ramsay

Then a three-hour drive to the mountains around Lake Como to stay in the sort of splendidly eccentric family-run hotel that is getting harder to find these days, followed by a day working in a lovely sixteenth-century villa, frescoed from top to bottom. Wonders behind every door – here a cupboard containing some of the family archives, going back to the early fifteenth century

Alex Ramsay

And back to catch the last of the sun and a little reward for two hardworking people . . .

Alex Ramsay

And finally, my latest book has just been published, The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto. Lots of pics, of course, and a luminously beautiful and perceptive text by Jenny Condie. As a reward for those of you who’ve scrolled down this far, I’m offering one free copy via Goodreads – see below to enter

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto by Jenny Condie

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto

by Jenny Condie

Giveaway ends November 05, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

You wait ages for a blog . . .

. . . and then two come along at once. It’s been such a long time since my last post, back in May, that I think I’ll have to publish in instalments. That amazing summer is now just a memory of lazy evenings after work spent by and in the river, and meals in the garden.

Alex Ramsay

summer evening by the Lugg

Wonderful working weather, too. But before starting on that, the significant (to us) news is that we are not moving. Our house sale fell through at the very last instant, which gave us the chance to look at where we stand in a new light – and behold, it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact we’ve had all the fun of moving somewhere new without actually going anywhere. Now back to some pictures. A good spread of stories this summer, stretching from Marc Swan’s extraordinary ‘showman’s ship’ (seen here proudly floating among the Herefordshire hills)

Alex Ramsay

Sir Joseph Swan

to, among others, Dorian Bowen’s intimate reconstruction of a Welsh ‘Ty Unnos’ or one-night house

Alex Ramsay

Ty Unnos

What else? It seems to have been relentless, in a good way. Some wonderful shows, notably Salgado’s Genesis, perhaps the best exhibition I’ve ever seen. (Not to be missed either is Tony Ray-Jones at the Science Museum – Only in England). Parties, weddings, work – no holiday, but then who needs one of those in this glorious climate? A trip to the fantastic NoFitState Circus was followed the next day by a team of tree surgeons in the garden doing much the same sort of thing, but with added chainsaws

Alex Ramsay

Enough for the time being, before I ramble further. More next week.

A Grand Day Out . . .

Ever wondered how this photographer makes his living? A sample day earlier this week:

0515 Alarm goes.

0530 Car lock frozen solid – a hunt for matches follows. After repeated attempts in the icy darkness I manage to heat the key enough to thaw the lock.

0545 Freezing fog.

0550 Car hits an icy patch on a hairpin bend and I end up on top of a hedge, luckily the right way up.

0630 A truly wonderful passerby with a huge 4WD offers to tow me back onto the road and does so. He will accept no reward, saying cheerfully ‘it might be me next time’.

0645 The significant bits of the car appear to be working, so on I go through the fog.

0700 Fog even thicker.

0800 Road closed because of somebody else’s accident – many miles of diversion ensue.

0900 Rush hour traffic.

1000 Finally arrive at destination (Wallasey) several hours late – but the sun is shining, so straight to work shooting pictures of a spectacular church under threat of redundancy.

SS Peter, Paul & Philomena

SS Peter, Paul & Philomena

1400 Breakfast at last. I go down to the sea front – this is New Brighton, brought to the attention of the outside world by Martin Parr’s extraordinary photographs (The Last Resort). I keep thinking I’ve been here before, but of course it’s the locations of Parr’s pictures I recognise – this bus shelter, that cafe.

1600 Leave for home, having walked many streets looking for vantage points from which the church’s dome (known to sailors as the Dome of Home) could be seen. Eventually a convenient fire escape does the trick.

The Dome of Home

The Dome of Home

1900 Home – and the realisation that we are due out to supper about three quarters of an hour distant. I don’t offer to drive.

That Time of Year Again

Autumn, and a primeval urge of overwhelming force drives the salmon up mighty rivers to spawn in the remote headwaters that witnessed their own conception. Likewise, in another of nature’s spectacular seasonal rituals, vast herds of photographers feel compelled to visit the nearest wood and take snaps of fallen leaves. Not to be left out, here are a couple I spawned recently.

oak apples

Oak apples

spangle galls on an oak leaf

Spangle galls

Off to Kyoto tomorrow morning, so a restful silence will ensue until I return with far too many pictures of crimson maple leaves strewn across elegantly raked gravel. Sayonara to all.

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