Leicester

Back in the garden

flayed stone ii.jpg

Well, Leicester’s Harold Martin Botanic Gardens anyway!

Today the sun came out and it was my first chance to pop down the road to see this year’s collection of sculptures. They’ve been putting on ‘Sculpture in the Garden’ for several years now, and as the place is just a stone’s throw from home it is often one of my favourite places to wander around with my camera - not only are there the sculptures, there’s all the trees, flowers and other features that are in the gardens anyway.

The photo above is a detail from a work by Peter Randall-Page entitled ‘Flayed Stone II’. He has used a boulder of glacial erratic granite to create the piece, carving concentric coils into the surface. I really enjoyed the way the ridges created these shadows.

I’ll be returning again and again over the summer to explore the shapes and textures in all kinds of different lighting conditions and to capture as many of the sculptures as I can (or at any rate as many of them as I find interesting).


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Photography
Leicester

Comments (1)

Permalink

The Wonders of Wigston

time creeps by

Having lived in Wigston all of my life it seems that I seldom feel like it’s worth taking any photographs there. Indeed the ‘town centre’ of Wigston is pretty unlovely. Just the usual array of modern facias on your average high street stores.

However, today I thought I’d head for a short walk around Wigston with my camera and see what I could find. I headed to one of the places where some of Old Wigston survives - All Saints Church. A wedding was underway at the time, so I couldn’t really wander inside, but I did spend quite a while in the churchyard. I was pretty pleased with the shot shown at the head of this posting. The ivy trailing all over the headstones was irresistible.

Alas, All Saint churchyard is one of those that was ‘re-landscaped’. Years ago all the headstones were moved off to the edge of the churchyard leaving just a wide green swathe of grass with some flower beds. I suppose it makes it easier to cut the grass, but I really can’t understand why this was done. It does spoil the character of the church. And All Saints is actually quite an interesting building from what I remember.

One thing that I ‘remembered’ was that local highwayman, George Davenport was buried here after his hanging. I’ll have to check up on that. I could have sworn that one of the headstones propped up by the wall was that of George Davenport, but to be honest I’ve probably not ventured into this church yard since I was about 13 or 14 years old. A lot can change in 25 years - memories not least! Whatever the circumstances, I spent quite a while scanning the headstones with no luck.

I’ve always been interested in history, and indeed probably more so in prehistory. Today, wandering around some of the older parts of my home town I felt a rekindling of interest in Local History. Is that a sure sign of having hit middle age?


Technorati Tags: , ,

Photography
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Thick as a Brick

Thick
I’m just back from a rare night out this evening. Jethro Tull were playing Leicester’s De-Montfort Hall for the first time in ooh, 35 years I think. I met up with friends there and enjoyed a great evening of music as the ‘Acoustic Tull’ line-up played to what must have been a full house.

The full line up :-

  • Ian Anderson
  • Martin Barre
  • John O’Hara (keyboards)
  • David Goodier (bass)
  • James Duncan (drums)
  • Anna Phoebe (violin)

Ian seems to be ‘doing good’ for what I guess his age must be now. He seemed just as active on stage as ever and those oh so distinctive vocals rang clear and true. I was very impressed with Anna Phoebe on violin which added a different dimension to many of the well known Tull numbers which had received reworks of varying degrees for the acoustic set up.

Songs such as ‘Living in the Past’, ‘Thick as Brick’, ‘Dun Ringill’ (see the actual Dun Ringill here), ‘Aqualung’, ‘Locomotive Breath’ were interspersed with a handful of Anna Phoebe’s material and the odd Anderson and Barre solo number. It all went together very nicely.

It had been years since I last saw Tull play live. Trying very hard to remember when it was, and I think it was on the J-Tull Dot Com tour, so maybe not as very long ago as I thought. Still several years. It was a real treat to have them play Leicester - previous encounters had involved trips to Nottingham or Manchester.

Time to go get some more Tull onto my iPod!


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Music
Personal
Leicester

Comments (4)

Permalink

Spring Has Sprung

frog 3

Went for my first visit of the year to Leicester Botanic Gardens today. I started to nab a few photos of the usual suspects, flowers, buds, that kind of thing. And then I got to a pond that was just heaving with frogs. I spent quite a while there with my long lens on, bracing myself against a tree in lieu of a tripod. I managed to get some reasonable results, but I need to head back with the tripod soon - while the frogs are still there.

I can’t remember the last time I saw so many frogs, or so much frog spawn in one place. Also great to see some newts swimming around in there.


Technorati Tags: , ,

Photography
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Tanky Smith

tanky smith 3

On Sunday I decided to go for a short walk through Leicester with my camera. There were a couple of things I’d been wanting to shoot, but I so rarely feel like heading in to town.

One building I walk by twice a day on my route in and out of work is ‘Top Hat Terrace’, near the corner of London Road and University Road. The building is remarkable for the 16 carved heads that look down upon passers by.

This short terrace of houses was built by Francis ‘Tanky’ Smith, Leicester’s first private detective, although I suspect not quite on the level of Sherlock Holmes!

The story goes that he received a reward of £1000 for solving the mystery of the missing High Sheriff of Leicester, James Winstanley in 1862. Tanky Smith travelled to the continent and located the drowned corpse of the unfortunate Mr Winstanley in Germany. Upon returning and claiming his reward he decided to spend it on building the houses on London Road. His son was an architect, which I’m sure helped a bit!

There are two theories regarding the 16 carved heads on the building. One is that they represent 16 of the most notorious criminals that Tanky apprehended. The other theory, and taking into account the similarity of all the faces behind the beards and mustaches, I think the most likely : the 16 heads represent Tanky himself in a variety of disguises.

I’d like to know a bit more about this colourful character from Leicester’s history. I keep envisaging a series of short stories, with Tanky based in his London Road apartments (numbers 113 to 117 alas, not 22b). However I would imagine that any such series would have draw more deeply on fantasy than history to make them a compelling read.

Technorati Tags: ,

Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Bryter Layter - Later…

steve parker 3 bw

I’ve processed a few more photos from the Bryter Layter gig on Wednesday night and uploaded them to my Flickr account. I was quite pleased with the way the one above of Steve turned out - grainy and moody (apart from that tinsel).


Technorati Tags:

Photography
Music
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Bryter Layter

steve parker 2

Last night (Wednesday 20th December 2006) saw me back at my favourite local music venue, The Musician on Clyde Street, to see Bryter Layter. My old friend Kate Easton plays viola and sings in the band and for some odd reason I’d never seen them play, despite them having performed their ‘farewell concert’ a couple of years ago.

Bryter Layter perform a selection of Nick Drake (and more info here and here - just for starters) covers and their own compositions. The band consists of Steve Parker (voice/guitar), Kate Easton (voice/viola), Skatz (voice/guitar), Neil Segrott (wicked bass guitar), Nikki Cartwright (violin) and Andy Fitzsimons (percussion).

It was a great night, particularly as I’ve come to love the music of Nick Drake and Bryter Layter do such a good job of their renditions. Parker’s vocals seem perfect for the job, the guitar work is mind boggling to somebody like me who if given a guitar wouldn’t be able to do much more with it than chop it up for firewood. The ’string section’ supplements the guitars without being overbearing, which I think is all important with music as intimate as this. The same goes for the bass and percussion.

I took my camera along and fired off a few shots. I’ve yet to spend any proper time in processing them, just a quick crop and sharpen so far. I do find the lighting conditions at The Musician to be tricky for photography. I’d joked to Kate before the gig, asking if they could turn the lights up a bit. I stress I was joking - obviously it’s more important for the lighting to convey the correct atmosphere to the audience than to make life easier for an amateur snapper like me. Very low light, I was into ISO 3200 for pretty much all of the gig, even at f1.8 with my lovely little Canon 50mm. I did put a longer lens on with a smaller maximum aperture and I think it was worth it. I had the shutter speed way too low for the focal length I was using, but managed to get some acceptable close-ups all the same.

steve parker 1

kate easton 2

I just hate ‘noise’ (well, actually ‘noise’ in the way of grain can enhance a photo, but I like to decide when to add it for myself) - and shooting at ISO 3200 (got away with 1600 for a few shots) generates a lot of sensor noise. I might try a few black and white conversions, this can help to disguise quite a lot of the noise in shots like this. I’ve also played around with ‘Neat Image‘, but I always find it hard to decide between the noise or the smoothing effect that noise reduction software introduces.

I really enjoyed the music, even if I felt my photography didn’t come up to the mark (hey, I just need a faster long lens). It was a shame I had to leave before their second set, but there was work in the morning and I have to get up a bit earlier now that I’m walking to and from the office. I can only hope that at some point Bryter Layter will get together for another ‘farewell concert’ and that I’ll be able sit and enjoy the whole show.


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Photography
Music
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

More Thoughts of a Walking Commuter

Finally I get a chance to update my blog! It has been a busy week or two on all fronts and right now I’m just really looking forward to getting a bit of a break over Christmas. It feels like ages since I’ve done anything with my camera and as I have two more days of annual leave to take before the end of the year I’m hoping to put that right soon.

Yes, I’m keeping up with the walking commute. Heaven knows if I really am losing any weight because I still can’t face the idea of stepping onto the scales. There’s also the thought that it seems pointless now, something I should have done before I started all this.

I was wondering whether I would have the fortitude to keep it going on cold, wet, dark days - but they don’t seem to be deterring me. Sure, I’ve had a couple of mornings when I’ve just not wanted to get out of bed - but they used to happen when I was driving to work too.

Blisters are no longer a problem, and haven’t been since I invested in the new shoes and the wonderful Thousand Mile Socks which I would heartily recommend to anyone. I’m getting faster (record time now 1 hour 2 minutes) sweating a bit less and not taking as long to recover - all signs of getting fitter I guess. And yes, I have recently had to move my belt to a previously unexplored notch!

A few reflections on the state of transport, with a particular emphasis on my walking experiences follow. I doubt that this will ever come to the attention of anyone at Leicester City Council - and if it does then I’m sure nothing will come of it other than maybe a sarcastic comment. I have such faith in government!

  • Pedestrian Crossings. These are pretty well useless. They have a button that I think is only there for the pedestrian to take out his / her frustration upon. I generally find that I press the button and then the light doesn’t change until after all the traffic has gone by anyway. Also they just seem to wait for a whole cycle of the traffic lights before they do anything. The amount of time they give you to cross the road is fine for me, but I would imagine that it’s nowhere near enough time for those who are little slower, have small children with them etc. Useful thing seen during my trip to Colorado earlier this year - pedestrian crossings that count down how much time you have left to cross the road in seconds. Good idea - why can’t we have those? Oh and make the lights give a bit more favour to the pedestrians please. Give us a chance to cross the road more often. Worst junction to cross : University Road and Regent Road. I have to wait for ages every time I cross this. Streams of cars and busses pass in all directions, great herds of pedestrians build up and wait for minute, after minute, after minute until a mad scramble to cross the road in the incredibly short time given to us. Leicester City Council, hint : this is University Road. There are a lot of students and students walk a lot.
  • Fumes. Humm, Leicester was declared Britain’s ‘First Environment City’ more years ago than I can remember (I’ve only just discovered this web site - I will be off to read it shortly). If this is the case then how come we have such an abysmal public transport system? How come that all the buses are puthering out such choking clouds of diesel? Why is it that I feel a need for a face mask to keep the pollution out of my lungs? (not wearing one yet - but it seems a sensible idea). It’s disgusting. We need more public transport and we need cleaner public transport. Where are the electric buses? Where are the trams? The Leicester Mercury has featured proposal after proposal for ‘new transport systems’ over the years (yes, I remember the diagrams showing just how the monorail would look when it was installed - that must be 20 years ago now). How come not one of them has ever actually happened?
  • Buses. When I first started this whole walking to work initiative I discovered that I could walk all the way into work in the same time it took to get the bus from door to door. That is frankly a terrible service. And for this service the bus company charges £1.50 each way. £3 a day when I can walk it in the same time? It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.
  • Motorists. And yes, I am still one of these, though not as often as previously. Motorists please remember to use your indicators - they’re those little orange flashing lights that tell people you’re intending to make a turn. I know it’s a lot of effort, I mean you have to move your fingers all of an inch or two to activate them - but your sacrifice really will be appreciated not only by other vehicles, but by people trying to cross side roads. Pedestrian crossings - these are those areas where people (children, your grandma and yes, even fat middle aged IT professionals) are trying to move to the other side of the road. They tend to be designated by traffic lights, stripes on the road - that kind of thing. People are both soft on the outside and crunchy on the inside and yes, they are real people with lives of their own and families and people who love them even though they are walking. Please do not move your car onto a pedestrian crossing if there is no space to move fully over it. Believe me, doing this does not make you look smart, it does not make you look clever - it makes you look a total tosser who doesn’t know how to drive. If you can’t see the pedestrian crossing then you really shouldn’t get into a car again until you’ve had your eyes checked. Same goes for if you can’t see to the other side of the pedestrian crossing for detection of enough free space for your car. Ok? I recently saw a news article on the BBC web site about some bollards that had been installed in Manchester that sink into the road to let busses pass and then rise up again after they’ve gone by (really, really well worth watching the video, so much so I’m going to repeat the link here though I had to change the link to YouTube as I couldn’t get the Beeb webby to play for some reason). We could do with those installing at pedestrian crossings. Maybe that would get the message over to drivers? We have those little square metal stud things in the road either side of the crossings (what do they actually do by the way?) - how about swapping those for some of these bollards? Please?


Technorati Tags: , ,

Personal
Walking Commute
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Remembrance Sunday

Okay, I’m a day late posting this!

Yesterday morning I decided to head down to Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery with my camera. Now, I know some of you may think that’s an odd thing to do, but this isn’t just any old cemetery you see. Welford Road Cemetery was only the third of the great municipal cemeteries to open in the country. It has been described as ‘The Highgate of the Midlands’. There are lots of wonderful Victorian ‘gothicesque’ monuments and like most places of this kind, it’s a little green haven of peace and quiet in the middle of the city.

The main reason for my visit was to try and shoot some of those wonderful Victorian monuments. I’d walked around the place several times before although I hadn’t visited for quite a few years. I guess my memory was jogged as I now walk by here twice a day (I used to drive by, not quite the same) and I enjoy the little stretch of road with relatively fresh air and the smell of forestry.

Over recent years quite a bit of restoration work has been performed at the cemetery. The old wooden fence has been replaced by metal railings, all of the memorials have been checked for safety and many have been worked on, or are being worked on to restore the ravages of vandalism and time.

The site where the chapels used to stand (demolished in 1958) has been marked out with a series of 100 plaques which will in time be used to give details of 100 of the most interesting burials located within the cemetery.

In all, around one million pounds has been spent on the renovation work so far.

So, I started walking around and firing off shots like the one below of some of the wonderful Victorian masonry. I know some people will find this a little macabre, or just plain not to their taste. Others might question my motives in taking photographs of graves. I have to say that what went through my mind as I fired off shot after shot was what would the Victorians who commissioned these grandiose memorials think about images of these being visible to millions of people all over the world?

And as I wondered around the avenues I noticed a couple of things. Firstly, the rich and powerful still dominate even after death. Many of the ‘prime locations’ were taken up with enormous edifices that must have cost a small fortune to install. Secondly I started seeing small crosses bearing poppies on the graves of war dead.

Now I was aware that it was Remembrance Sunday, but I’d never seen this before. I found it quite touching to see these crosses with names, dates and details all meticulously and neatly hand written on them. It also drew my attention to just how many burials there were in this cemetery from the World Wars of the 20th century.

This seemed a little odd to me at first. After all, here I was in Leicester - far away from the battle fields of continental Europe. And yet here were soldiers who had fallen at the Battle of the Somme, and there were some who had died well after hostilities had ended. Then I remembered that Leicester had been home to a military hospital, indeed it had stood very close to the cemetery where the buildings of Leicester University now are. I’m sure that is the explanation for many of the graves I saw - these were the wounded who were returned home and sadly did not make it.

I visited the World War One Memorial within the cemetery. I shot a few photos of all the poppies (see image at start of this posting) and just stood and reflected in silence on the ages I was seeing on all these little crosses. 18 years of age, 22 years old, 37, 19… All of them younger than me when they were killed, some of them half my age or less. Sobering to say the least.

Near the end of my visit I dropped into the new ‘visitor centre’ and chatted with the warden there. He told me that this year they had put out over 500 of these little crosses all over the cemetery, a task that must have taken a considerable effort. And not only in the physical distribution of them all, but also in the research of all of the details for each casualty. Now, after Remembrance Sunday they will all be collected in again and the research will continue for more details of the war dead buried here. It seems like an enormous task.


Technorati Tags: , ,

Photography
Personal
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink

Botanic Gardens

Today was very likely the last chance I’ll have to visit Leicester Botanic Gardens this year. The gardens are about a mile from home and over the years have become a favourite place to walk, think, and take some photos!

For the last several years Leicester University (who own and maintain the gardens) have put on a display of sculptures in the gardens. These have proved to be great subjects for my photography.

I can lose myself in wandering between the sculptures, looking for interesting angles to take photos from. The light today was very harsh, it was an uncommonly nice day for September.

I really enjoyed taking this shot of a sculpture of a shark fisherman. I love taking wide angle shots, and I enjoy trying out odd perspectives. With this shot my camera was right on the ground, no way I could look through the viewfinder. So I just released the shutter and hoped. It didn’t come out too badly.

I’ll try to get back down there again next weekend, and then my next chance probably won’t be until next year. The gardens are only open during hours I’m at work during the winter.

Technorati Tags:
,


Technorati Tags: ,

Photography
Personal
Leicester

Comments (0)

Permalink