Category Archives: Photography

Winterwood Lessons

brown spaniel

Me: We need to take Brown Spaniel out somewhere – he’s bored.
Spouse: Ok.
Me: Where shall we go?
Spouse: Dunno. Let’s just get in the car and see what happens.
Me: Well… wouldn’t it be better to have a plan…? I’d like to go somewhere interesting…
Spouse: No. Too much kerfuffle. Let’s just go.

[after  15 minutes driving]

Me: Oh. We’re not going to Tehidy woods are we?
Spouse: Yeah…
Me: Oh… we ALWAYS go there… that’s boring… can’t we go to a beach instead? Somewhere we’ve never been before?
Spouse: I like trees best.
Me: Yeah, but woods equals puddles equals filthy brown spaniel, and it’ll be me that has to bath him when we get back.
Spouse: It’ll be fine. We’ll go in the North Cliffs way so it’s a bit different.
Me: Hmph. Boring. There’s nothing to photograph in woods. Just trees and mud.
Spouse: Well, it’s too late. We’re here now.

[out of car and trudging through trees]

Me: I suppose that fern is quite pretty.

fern smAnd those trees are acceptable. But I like photographing things with a bit of visible human input.

Oh! Someone’s tied ribbons in that tree. I suppose that’s something.

ribbon sm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLD on… what’s that in that clearing? I’m SURE I saw a ticket booth! Right in the middle of nowhere! Hang on… come with me through these trees a minute.  THERE! Look! A ticket booth!

tickets tiny smI’m going to look at it.
tickets med cp smIt’s brilliant! Just look at it! Sitting there all on its own in the mud!
tickets close cp smSpouse: You should see what’s through here as well…

…and come and see this!
Me: What’s that ringing noise?
Spouse: Come and see.

Me: Christ. Don’t ring it in case something weird happens.
Spouse: There’s more down here… come on.
Me: Do you think it’s supposed to represent a snowy bit?

white sm
Spouse: Maybe. Look, you’re supposed to follow where the bunting goes.

Me: There are keys everywhere…

key 2 smSpouse: Look, they’ve made mushrooms…

glass mushrooms 2 smMe: Yes! Out of gran ornaments!

glass mushrooms smAnd there are things hanging everywhere…

Spouse: Even better things round the corner…
Me: Ha! Gran lampshades!
Spouse: I bet the charity shops couldn’t believe their luck getting rid of those all in one go.

lampshades 5 sm
… And look over here. Your mum would like this…

hearts smMe: Bloody hell. That is amazing. This is the best trip to the woods EVER. It’s made my week. Or month.

Spouse: And you didn’t want to come here.

Me: Yes, well I’m very glad we did.

Spouse: So the moral of the story is that even the ordinary can be brilliant if you look at it from a new perspective.

Me: No it’s not. The moral of the story is that going to the same old place is only fun if someone goes there before you and hangs up a load of hearts.

spaniel sm

Conjugal Footwear

I had the very good fortune to attend a wedding this weekend. It was my favourite kind of wedding – the kind where it’s palpably evident that the bride and groom are best friends and spend more time than is decent having a damn good laugh together. My marrying friends demonstrated this happy kind of love amply when they only just controlled their giggles at the word “sustain” in the vows. “It’s a funny word,” said the English-teacher bride later, “it makes you think of cows being milked.”

They spent part of the evening before their big day making giant dinosaur Top Trump cards for the wedding tables and they had a cake made of cheese with Lego people and knitted mice on. It was that kind of wedding. Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Brachiosaurus all made an appearance, but there was no sign whatsoever of Bridezilla.

Usually, of course, I love a wedding not only for the reminder of the bond humans can share, but also for the photo opportunities. This time I spectacularly failed in the human-snapping department for some reason, but consoled myself instead with accosting people for photographs of their feet. You get excellent shoes at weddings, and through feet I met some very pleasing people indeed. I recommend this method if you ever find it difficult to mingle at parties – all you need is a pocket-sized point and shoot and you need never feel socially awkward again.

Learning to listen

miner and moustacheI haven’t been writing lately. I’ve been reading the Internet too much again and I’m not sure why, but for the last few months my brain has not been processing the data I’ve been inputting effectively enough to produce any writeable trains of thought. I think I may be suffering from Toffler’s ‘infoxication’, or information overload. Someone may need to invent a new idiom to cover this state of affairs because I bet I’m not the only one experiencing it. How about: Too many opinions spoil your convictions…?

Ok, that’s embarrassingly lame, but it’s a start.

Anyway, while I have been unable to settle on any firm opinion about anything, and have also been wondering what the hell I want to do with my last 30 odd years on the planet, I have been working relentlessly on my other blog. This blog involves me walking around Cornwall with a camera permanently glued to my hand and a notebook and pen in my back pocket, accosting innocent passers-by and forcing them to talk to me.  As I’ve relaxed into the process of approaching a stranger, explaining what I’m doing and then asking their permission to photograph them, I have become more and more addicted to the whole thing. Only a few people say no, and these people usually have a very good reason to want to remain private, although the occasional older Cornish person still has a fear of the Internet based on not quite understanding how it works. One man today explained carefully to his wife, that if he had his photo on the blog, it would be seen by millions of people all over the world. If only that were so.

A serious and elegant lady I met in Falmouth this week

But what is so compelling about the whole thing is learning firsthand how almost everyone has something interesting to say if I can relax them enough to talk to me, and how moving even the most seemingly ordinary lives actually are. Although I tend to approach people who stand out to me in some way, often those who are more discreet in their appearance are just as interesting as the more noticeable ones, and on more than one occasion they have been much more interesting. I have always been someone who has faith in people, but doing this project confirms every single day that human beings are fascinating, funny and innovative. I met a man who is building a replica in his garden of one of the first planes to ever fly successfully, a homeless man who writes jokes on William Hill betting slips and keeps them in his rucksack, a woman whose husband accidentally asphyxiated himself on the back of a door and a man whose job it was to clean up drowned animals from Cornwall’s beaches. To name a few.

The home-made Penny Whistle of a busker in Penzance
The home-made Penny Whistle of a busker in Penzance

But I realised today that although I have been listening to the stories people have been telling me, I maybe haven’t been really listening. I mean listening in the sense of actually drawing things from these stories that could teach me, or remind me of, things of importance. I’m not the sort of person to start getting all I-Ching or anything, but it struck me today that I could draw things from what people are telling me. Last night, for example, I couldn’t sleep until very late because my brain was exploding with thoughts about what I want to do with my life. I have some business ideas that seem very difficult and out of reach, and I haven’t really focused my brain on making them into something real. So I (like everyone else probably) am feeling trapped and frustrated creatively which is making me lethargic. I woke this morning, tired and confused and went out to do some food shopping for the family. As usual, I had my blogging kit with me and ended up talking to two people. The first was a lady who told me about how her grandmother brought up four children all on her own while running her own small business and ended up owning three houses through sheer determination and hard work. The second was a man who talked about the ways he had come to terms with life in a Czech prison.

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Now, if I WAS a New Age type or spiritual person, I could start thinking some sort of higher power is trying to tell me to get off my arse and grab life by its testicles. Or at least its handlebars. I’m not one of those, though – but what I do think is that if we listen – really listen – to things people are saying to us, our brains can focus in on bits and pieces that we need to hear.

So I’m off out tomorrow with my camera and notebook. I wonder what the people of Cornwall have to teach me next.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Retired Cornish Miner
In Cornwall, this is an iconic image which never fails to move me. Unfortunately I don’t know who took it, but I found it on http://mysaffronbun.com/2011/11/17/a-bleak-day-at-south-crofty/

I suppose it’s grimly appropriate that, in the week of Margaret Thatcher’s death, I have been out photographing evidence of the decline of tin mining in Cornwall. But if I’m honest, I have no idea whether or not Thatcher had anything to do with the post-industrial landscape of my native county. I should really ask my dad, a former mining engineer, about it all before I go around having opinions on things I know nothing about. So, I’ll refrain from comment, apart from to observe that this area in which I live was once one of the richest places in the land due to the tin that shot through its substratum. You can see for yourself how it has changed in the following images; from thriving industry to dereliction to heritage theme park.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense & A Predictable Metaphor.

A butterfly emerging from a chrysalis is an embarrassingly obvious metaphor for a human undergoing a transition phase into a new future.

I am a human undergoing a transition phase into a new future.

In a visual sense, I’m transforming from a beautiful butterfly slowly into a wrinkled old maggot/caterpillar thing. But that’s only a surface change. In another sense, I’m metamorphosing from a maggot-brained child-human into the magnificent, mature, awesome-brained old person I’m working on.

I like to think so, anyway. It compensates for the maggoty appearance.

Here are the photos. I took them in a butterfly house near Totnes after my lens stopped steaming up.

Macsalvors: For all your wheelchair, fishing buoy and plastic groin needs.

I wasn’t notably enthusiastic when spouse suggested I accompany him to Macsalvors this morning.

Macsalvors is a shop that is famous in Cornwall for selling… well… all the sorts of things that practical people like. It started as a marine salvage outlet, and has evolved into a place where spouse wants to spend a million quid every time he passes through its automatic portal.

I have nothing against the place at all. In fact I quite like it, but it’s not enough on its own to make me leave the house on a seriously rainy day. Spouse, however, pointed out the error of my slatternly ways as I lolled on the sofa frustratedly reading other people being wrong on the Internet, and thereby persuaded me it would be healthier to look at rope with him. So Macsalvors it was.

I’m glad I went. I hadn’t noticed all the slightly morose shop dummies before.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My neighbourhood.

Anyone who has heard of Redruth knows that it, and its neighbouring town Camborne, are considered among the roughest and dodgiest parts of Cornwall.  Once, when I told a man at a car boot sale that I taught in the area, he quipped, “do you have to wear a flak jacket?” I forgave him though, because he had a nice beard.

Jokes about the general seediness of the population abound:

Q. How can you tell if a Redruth girl is having an orgasm?

A. She drops her chips.

Seems that Redruth’s status has been pretty poor for a long time. Daniel Defoe dismissed it in an offhand way in the 1700s in  A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies, suggesting that there was nothing worth mentioning between St.Ives and Padstow:

From this town and port of St. Ives, we have no town of any note on the coast; no, not a market town, except Redruth, which is of no consideration, ’till we come to Padstow-Haven, which is near thirty miles…

Shortly after Defoe’s cheeky comment Redruth was to experience a massive turn-around in its fortunes thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the age of steam and tin mining, but now, like many post-industrial areas of Britain, it has slumped back into poverty which is why there are so many jokes about it.

Not that the stories about Redruth’s ills are all lies. I live right in the heart of the town and within a few weeks of moving here my son had to encourage an intruder out of our house with a hockey stick, and we regularly enjoy the lilting sounds of drunk people yelling abuse at each other within inches of our front door.

Having said that, though, the town itself is quite visually pleasing if you mostly look upwards and ignore the boarded up shops, the drunks and the pale, spotty teenagers with their arses displayed over the tops of their sagging tracksuit bottoms. And despite the downsides, the first thing we all noticed was the chattiness of the people in the town. We experienced more street banter and friendly faces in our first few months here than we ever did in the more middle class town we moved from. Plus there are sofas in the cinema.

Here are some of the visual reasons why I love this town despite everything:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Detail

I went to Perranporth Beach yesterday to scour the cliffs for something inspiring to photograph in response to this challenge. I was a bit confounded by the word, ‘lost’ – there’s plenty of detail everywhere, but I couldn’t pin down anything that could be called ‘lost’ in it. Probably overthinking, as usual. I found some graffiti scratched into the cliff in 1965, and a tiny tunnel with bars over the entrance, but neither were exactly lost:

So I decided that this week’s challenge had stumped me. I went home, dropped the dog off and wandered into Reduth where it was St.Piran’s Day. A friend had suggested I take some photos of the event so they could potentially be used for promotional purposes, so I went off with the intention of taking images of the Cornish bunting, stalls, dignitaries and the miner statue bedecked in its lamb and flag costume.

When I got there, though, I was distracted by a team of drummers (I do hope the real collective noun for drummers is more exciting than that. A throb maybe?) in the centre of town making the most spectacular, hypnotic, entrancing noise. I sat on one of the plinths in the square and watched the drummers and the audience. As ever, my photography finger responds to people more than to anything else and I ended up taking a set of images pretty much entirely focused on the humans of Redruth rather than St. Piran’s Day in general. After I edited them I realised that what I’d done was to get lost in the detail. Duh.