A scorching hot day to trek and hike, but if you're going to do it, Wakehurst Place is probably as good as any to do so. Through the various gardens and woodlands, Natalia and I managed to find the nature reserve and then marched a couple of miles to the kingfisher hide, where I photographed my first kingfisher. We were incredibly lucky to see it.The mansion itself wasn't laden with ornate rooms and furniture, but the walled garden to the side had some beautiful plants. We met Jena there and took a few more shots. After a while, the heat was too much and we called it a day. But with cooler weather, it's definitely a place worth exploring.
Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing my dear friend Zuzana graduate from University, a wonderful and much-deserved achievement after so much diligent study and late nights. After the ceremony, we ventured around London to fulfil her brother and niece's request to see London by night. A worthy endeavour, as London is far more resplendent by night than by day. As I had my camera with me, I took a few shots, which I have presented below. I did not take my tripod with me, so I managed the long exposures by resting the camera body on a surface and using the remote.An excellent way to round off a day that we had been looking forward to for ages! Well done Zuz! :)
I'm not much of a beach lounger, preferring to explore and shoot, but my friend's family were visiting the UK from a land-locked country in Eastern Europe and had never seen the sea before. So we ventured to the east coast to Clacton-on-sea, a seaside resort with the dubious distinction of hosting the world's largest off shore wind farm. I didn't take many photos, and all these below were shot with my phone.
And so after Clandon Park, we ventured down the road to Hatchlands Park, another estate managed by the National Trust. Again, the interiors of the house were not allowed to be photographed, owing to the private collection. But what a collection it was. Dozens of different pianos, large and small, old and recent, kept company by harps and organs and beautiful furniture, and watched over by some incredible paintings. Thus all the photos here are from the outside of the house, and mostly from the beautiful little garden to its side. Again, we thank the excellent guides for imparting their knowledge and making the visit so interesting.
Another sunny Sunday and another National Trust recce with Jena and Natalia, this time Clandon Park and Hatchlands Park, each within five minutes of each other. No photos were allowed inside the houses (except the hallway of Clandon Park), so most of photos here were taken outside. Clandon Park is a beautiful mansion with a stunning collection of furniture and porcelain, and was built for the Onslow family in the 1720s. Some of the rooms were so beautifully set out, and a hunting theme and motif was prevalent throughout the building, not least in the Onslow Museum room with the taxidermy collection. As ever, the guides were so helpful, friendly and informative, and made each visit very enjoyable. We thank them all, and implore you to make your own visit to this beautiful location.
Another photo challenge for Bizhan and myself, and yet this time the greatest challenge was finding somewhere to actually take photos! We have both shot London to death so we were not fond of the choices. We finally settled on Canary Wharf, somewhere I have shot before as a dusk location, but it wasn’t as interesting as the streets we frequented on our previous challenge. One saving grace of Canary Wharf was that we found a Relais D’Entrecote in which to eat. I have now eaten at their branches in Paris, New York and London. Pregnant with food, we set out to limit ourselves even more than last time. Only a maximum of 20 shots was allowed and only one focal length, in my case 35mm (using the Nikkor 35mm F/2). As before, I intended to convert to black and white, so this influenced my choice of subjects. The 14 shots I took and have presented below are not my best, but limiting oneself and forcing oneself to think only about exposure and the merits of the composition is the only way to improve one’s eye for the shot.
After our trip to Basildon Park, we ventured on to Grey's Court, a modest 16th Century mansion in a beautiful rural setting managed by the National Trust. Photography was not allowed inside the mansion, but the grounds were bright and blossoming with beautiful flowers and plants. Natalia and myself even climbed to the top of the 12th Century Tower for views over the grounds.After the tour of the house, we found a small building housing the magnificent donkey wheel, used to bring water up from a 200 foot well adjacent to it. I hope you enjoy the photos below.
Finally, some summery weather, and so Jena, Natalia and I visited two National Trust venues this weekend, first Basildon Park, then Grey’s Court. Basildon Park was an 18th Century mansion beautifully restored in the 1950s by Lord and Lady Iliffe. Their sense of décor and design was ahead of its time, evident by so many visitors enjoying it today. The interiors were lusciously ornate and furnished, with some fantastic artwork and porcelain. Each room had a theme, my favourite of which was the shell room with a collection of thousands of seashells. We must thank the excellent guides in the mansion for imparting so much fascinating information to us. I have presented below a small selection of the interiors and exteriors of the mansion, too small to do it full justice. Hopefully, they may entice you to make your own visit to this beautiful place.
Further to my previous post about Prague, I thought I would post some of the images I took at Prague Zoo. Apparently one of the best zoos in the world, I found parts of it very impressive and other parts looking like someone's backyard. I have posted a selection for the exhibits that I found most interesting, mainly the bigs cats and reptiles. The zoo is noted for its successful breeding of the endangered Prezwalski's horses and also its primate centre. I hope you enjoy the images, and if you ever go to Prague, the zoo is definitely worth a visit.
This is a mere fleeting snapshot of Prague, which for me was a city of contrasts. On the one hand, it is truly resplendent in stunning and ornate architecture, with many fascinating quarters that make up the city as a whole. There is a wealth of history, even from recent times, as the Czech Republic became a parliamentary democracy once again in the late eighties after its ‘Velvet Revolution.’ On the other hand, however, of all the places on Earth I have visited thus far, I found Prague to be the most hostile and unfriendly. Let me just say that whenever I visit another country, I am extremely aware that I am a foreign visitor, not least because people seem very wary of brown people on mainland Europe, and am therefore very deliberately humble and deferential. I go out of my way to be friendly and courteous in order to break down preconceptions and invite a friendly reception back. On the whole, this has always worked in every place I have visited. I am willing to believe that the experience I had in Prague is not indicative of the Czech population as a whole, of course, but alas people in the city were hostile and rude to me, despite all my pleasantries. I wish I knew why. That said, while it is highly unlikely that I would return there, I would still recommend it for a visit. In the few days I spent there I did take a huge number of photographs, simply because there were so many beautiful buildings, churches and cathedrals. The Prague Castle complex in particular is a dominant landmark, and St Vitus Cathedral is worth the agonising climb of its 1000 steps to take in the views. Karlovy Vary is a spa town that I visited for a day, and while interesting, the overcast weather made the photographic opportunities rather meagre.
I am fortunate enough to live near a city in which the largest Royal Park is teeming with free roaming wild deer, both red and fallow. They were introduced to the park by King Charles I, originally for hunting, but have roamed freely since 1634. I have photographed them in all seasons, and below is a selection of my humble efforts. There are many stunning photos taken of these majestic beasts, and while I have not made the effort to capture them in the ethereal dawn light, my patience has found them illuminated by the broken sunlight through the canopy of trees and foliage. Deer are a wonderful subject to practice wildlife photography, displaying a wide range of behaviour and regal poses. The males are aggressive during the rutting season, and the females are tender and attentive to their beautiful young. In this huge park, they are so used to human presence that one can get quite close, although they are still naturally cautious and I would always advise keeping a very respectful distance. I have photographed them with a variety of lenses; most of these were taken with a since sold 120-400mm, but there are also shots from a 35mm and 50mm lens, and even a 150mm macro. I hope you enjoy the photos.
After enjoying the Jurassic coastline and Durdle Door, Natalia, Jena and myself ventured on to Lulworth Castle, an early 17th century mock castle.The inside of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1929, and in the absence of floors and ceilings above the ground level, the appearance of doors and fireplaces halfway up the walls was strange and intriguing. The interior of the main castle is mostly hollow, but some nice views can be had from one of the towers, and there were some neat exhibits in the basement, with treasures and trinkets, and mock-up of the kitchen. Nearby, the Chapel of St Mary was very ornate inside (although no photography was allowed). We finished our exploration in the adjacent Church of St Andrew, a modest church with fairly humble interiors.The Castle is now managed by English Heritage, and is an interesting place to stop by if you happen to venture towards Durdle Door.
This weekend past, Natalia, Jena and myself ventured down to the south of the UK to the Jurassic Coast, famous for the mighty Durdle Door. I must thank Jena for driving us the 124 miles there and back.The coastline is a fabulous place, and worth visiting if only for the turquoise blue water, unusual for waters around the UK. I had been here before, and the selection below includes a few photos from that trip. The three of us hiked up onto the cliffs and then down again, and then spent a couple of hours at Lulworth Castle, which I shall present in a separate post.When the weather is good, I would heartily recommend a trip down to this part of the UK's coast. I hope the photos do it some justice.
A smattering of blue sky enticed us outdoors again, this time to Chartwell, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill.Photography was not allowed inside the house or the studio, but this only allowed one to absorb just how enchanting everything was. The history of his life is really a window into the history of the world during that time, and amongst the many treasures inside were gifts from foreign leaders such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. One of the guides in the uniform room was a 90 year old veteran who was truly fascinating to talk to.With no photography allowed indoors, I had to get creative outdoors, but in all honesty we were just enjoying the grounds and ponds so much that I was probably a little lazy.Hope you enjoy the small selection of photos below and make your own visit to this grand house.
The last excursion in our weekend trifecta was a tour of the magnificent Westminster Palace, otherwise known as the Houses Of Parliament, the seat of government for the oldest functional democracy on Earth. It was a horridly wet and rainy day outside, but our spirits were enlivened by the truly stunning interiors of the Parliament buildings. I must thank Natalia and her English teacher for the invitation, as it was an outing for their class. I had been on the tour before, but it never loses its wonder.Government in the United Kingdom has been through a tumultuous history, with raging conflicts between politicians and monarchs. Today, however, those kind of troubles are a memory, and the UK has a truly evolved democracy where the average citizen like myself can stand at the Prime Minister's box in the Commons, from where Britain once governed an Empire that covered a third of the world. Alas, but quite understandably, no photos were allowed inside, except in the Great Hall, which has been standing for over 900 years. I only had my phone with me so all the photos below (except for one) where taken with that.After the tour of Parliament, we ventured over to the Jewel Tower to see where politicians kept their treasures hidden. Despite the weather, it was a fascinating and excellent tour, and one I would highly recommend!