Winchester Cathedral photography

Earlier this week I enjoyed an impromptu afternoon in Winchester. The sun was shining so I called a friend for lunch (well, a salad and a drink from trusty M&S) and we sat and soaked up the spring sunshine in the Cathedral grounds.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral in the spring sunshine

Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in the country and is steeped in history. I’m not about to launch into a historical review of the building, mainly because, I won’t lie, Cathedral history isn’t exactly my Mastermind subject of choice, and besides, the Cathedral’s own website has plenty of historical detail – and if that can’t help, then I stand no chance.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

I was there just because.

To enjoy the architecture, the quiet grandeur, the stillness, the celebration of all that is great about our country. Ok, so I know it’s a celebration of all that is great about God, but for me it’s more than that (sorry God).

Winchester Cathedral hymns

Winchester Cathedral hymns

It’s about the men who built the Cathedral, who painted the stained glass windows, William Walker the diver who saved the building from collapse from flooding, the lives of the people buried there, the lives of the men who fought in battle and are remembered there, and the lives of the people we love and light candles for.

We remember

We remember

We Remember

Remembrance memorial, Winchester Cathedral

I lit candles for family and friends and asked whoever, or whatever is out there to look after them. I hope someone was listening.

Remembrance Candles

Remembrance candles. I hope someone or something was listening.

And then I enjoyed the Antony Gormley Sound II sculpture.

Antony Gormley Sound II

Antony Gormley Sound II, water and reflections

Go during wet months whilst the Crypt is flooded for a special view of the lonely sculpture standing amongst the reflections of the arches.

Perfect for an afternoon of wandering and wondering with your camera in tow.

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Photography therapy in Greenwich, London

Cutty Sark from the visitor centre entrance

Cutty Sark from the visitor centre entrance

Any caring doctor concerned for the welfare of his photography geek patient should prescribe a day return to Greenwich.

With the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, the Planetarium and Greenwich Market, it’s like giving a high dose of photo opportunity overexposure therapy. Which is right up my street. And so it was that together with four of my photography course classmates and tutor we made our way to the big smoke for some photography geekery. I mean therapy.

National Maritime Museum for the Ansel Adams exhibition

Within minutes I was caught out. ‘No photography please madam’.

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

Expecting photography geeks (I hate the term ‘enthusiasts’ – it’s such a geeky word) at a photography exhibition not to take photos is just daft.

Especially when the exhibition is Ansel Adams, one of the most commercialised collections of landscape images in the world. Not only was he a pioneer in photography, but inadvertently led the way in terms of tourism guides and travel inspiration. If you want to sell a location, think Adams. The exhibition is the photographic equivalent of a blow-your-mind Wish You Were Here from the mountains, waterfalls and coastline of his native California.

What harm’s my grainy little lopsided snapshot on my phone going to do? I know, I know, it’s a slippery slope – and I should probably buy a print in the foyer – except I can’t email that to my husband to show him where our next holiday needs to be. Maybe I’ve just discovered another commercial opportunity – images to buy for your phone – ‘as if’ you’ve taken them yourself. Either way, I didn’t manage to sneak a shot, so we’ll just have to book a flight instead.

The exhibition itself was superb. Over 100 original prints on display, a mini-documentary and film interview with Ansel (people sat on the floor and squeezed into corners in the packed cinema room and actually stayed, engrossed, for the duration) and an interactive collection of public photos inspired by the work of Adams. Curated through Flickr and Twitter, Flickr users were invited to submit ‘photographs of ‘water in all its forms’, with exhibition visitors invited to live-vote for their favourite images using touch screens. From an experience point of view (and with my marketing hat on), this was an especially nice touch.

Needless to say, Adams’ images are stunning and timeless. Composition, lighting, exposure, focus, drama, scale, subject. Add to the fact that many were taken in the early twentieth century – and all were taken with film camera. All the things you appreciate when working with a digital camera with instant results and the capacity to throw images away and start again. I came away inspired, if somewhat daunted by how much I’ve got to learn.

The Cutty Sark

Heaven for playing with my new wide angle toy (a Canon 10-22mm), the Cutty Sark visitor centre is crammed full of photo opportunities.

Cutty Sark from the visitor centre entrance

Cutty Sark from the visitor centre entrance

The ship sits moored inside a glass roofed visitor centre. Look up and you can see the ship’s mast. Look down and you can see her copper hull. The glass lets through lots of natural light, whilst the metal framework of the centre creates lots of lovely lines.

Symmetry in the Cutty Sark Visitor Centre

Symmetry in the Cutty Sark Visitor Centre

I got the impression there’s lots to learn too. To be honest I didn’t really take much in – I was like a kid in a sweet shop with my new toy and I wasn’t about to get bogged down learning about the history of tea. As fascinating as I’m sure it is.

It was a wet and dull day and so not brilliant for outdoor shots. Nor did we get the chance to visit the observatory or a mooch around Greenwich Market – which looks perfect for colourful street photography. All of which gives me the perfect excuse (if ever one were needed) to go back on a clear sunny day for a further dose of photo therapy. Care to join me?

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Dubai

It’s big, it’s brash and, in parts at least, it’s beautiful.

Dubai is a dazzling metropolis in the middle of the desert. The realisation of a monarch’s dream to make the city a world-leading wealth generator, it is famous for its sky-high towers and its addiction to world firsts, biggests and tallests.

In the heart of the Arab middle east, a Westerner might think that a trip to Dubai would be an educational voyage of discovery into the culture and habits of the Arab world, but in reality, this commercial congregation of businesses and tourists from across the world makes this city very much Middle-East lite.

One of seven Emirates (collectively, the United Arab Emirates – UAE), Dubai gained independence from the UK on 2 December 1971. Since then, businesses from across the globe have flocked to the region, seeking a ride on the wealth-propelling (if a little bumpy) rocket that is this ambitious and forward-thinking city.

For all its seven star hotels, shopping malls (one with an aquarium, one with a ski centre), majestic buildings and crazy developments (man-made islands The Globe and The Palm spring to mind), Dubai, for me at least, lacks a sense of sincere culture and soul. Perhaps all the money spinning mirrored glass has diluted the culture of 50 years ago.

That’s not to say it’s not worth a visit. It absolutely is. It’s one of those destinations you mark as an ‘experience’ and from a photography point of view, there’s plenty to keep you happy. Just a note of caution. If you’re going to go, do so armed with a pre-set budget and don’t be afraid to use it. There’s no such thing as a beach-front Travelodge. It’s pretty much 5 star or no star.

We visited in March. The weather was beautiful – the skies were blue (other than the days of the sandstorm!), the beaches white and the sun bounced off the steel and glass.

Dubai buildings in the early evening sunlight

My brother in law, a Dubai resident, had bought us tickets to the Dubai World Cup  – an experience like no other. A fashion show for Western expats, whose principal aim is to quaff champagne whilst getting papped for the local glossies and websites, the horse racing is a purely incidental affair for the majority of race-goers (Westerners may be influenced by the no-betting policy [do it before you leave home via the internet if you must]). At a mile long, with a capacity of 60,000, and lit seats reminiscent of an 80’s dance-floor, the grandstand is extreme, whilst the no-expense-spared, statement-making fireworks were as dramatic as you’d expect. There were lots of them. They were loud. They were pretty. There was an aerobatic display from a spitfire. Yes, it was impressive.

Meydan Racecourse, Dubai

Meydan Racecourse, Dubai – champagne and glittering lights

Burj Khalifa, Dubai - tallest building in the world

Burj Khalifa, Dubai – tallest building in the world

Elsewhere, the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, situated just outside the largest shopping mall in the world (The Dubai Mall, complete with must-have aquarium) is a must-see.

We went for Afternoon Tea – and with treats like these, why wouldn’t you?

Burj Khalifa, Dubai Afternoon Tea

The highest tea in the world – Burj Khalifa, Dubai afternoon tea

The best view, so we were reliably informed, is from the ladies toilet. And yes, it’s pretty good. This is the vertigo-inducing view from the restaurant. Not bad?

View of Dubai from Burj Khalifa

View of Dubai from Burj Khalifa

Then there’s the fountains. “You must see the fountains” friends had implored before our trip. If I’m honest I can take or leave fountains. Not these fountains. You absolutely HAVE to see these fountains.

The Dubai fountains

The Dubai fountains

Every evening, a display of synchronised water dancing takes place in the 30-acre lake at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. 275m of fountains, shooting up to 150ft tall, the creators of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas masterminded this installation. It’s free, but my recommendation would be to book an outside table and eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the fountain ‘arena’. We ate at Mango Tree. The food was amazing and the view pretty crazy. The best part was seeing the fountains moonwalk to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which you can see here via the wonder of YouTube.

And finally, the Burj Al Arab, the iconic hotel on the Jumeriah Beach. Beautiful at night and well worth a photo. A good spot is from the bridge outside the Souk Madinat Jumeriah.

Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Of course, there’s plenty more to see than all of this. There’s the creek, the gold souks, the golf courses, the sandy beaches and the ski centre. Naturally.

Go, go, go!

New York

I’d happily wager that New York is the most photographed city in the world and it’s easy to see why.

Almost everywhere you look there’s a scene or building made famous by film makers or photographers over the years. Central Park, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, the Manhatten skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square. The list goes on. Famous landmarks which are even more impressive in real life. Yes, it’s been photographed a billion times over, yet it doesn’t take away any of the fun of trying to get your very own New York photo memory.

We went in November, just before the famous Marcy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  A good time of year to go, not least as it wasn’t too hot to lug camera gear around!  If it’s your first time in The City That Never Sleeps, I’d recommend spending the first day or two on a city tour bus – great for getting to know where everything is – as well as the history lesson and local knowledge you’ll get from your guide.

As the list of photo opportunities really is endless, I’ve selected just a few of my shots here. For more of my New York images, see my Flickr pages.

Grand Central Terminal.  A beautiful building crammed full of character and plenty of photo opportunities.  Perhaps the most tried and tested of all is in the main concourse. Go with a friend for a fun slow release shot. Get them to stand dead still just in front of the main desk and clock in the centre, whilst you take the shot from the facing stairway.

Grand Central Station slow shutter

Calm in the Chaos at Grand Central Station

This image was taken on a 4 second shutter release, iso 800. If you have a wide angle lens, make sure you take it along. This was shot at 18mm which was as wide as I could go. A wider angle would capture the beautiful turquoise and golden ceiling. A good reason to return I think! 

Pershing Square. Just outside of Grand Central Terminal is this busy and colourful cafe / restaurant made famous by films such as Friends With Benefits. Take a tripod, focus on the cafe, set up a slow (ish) shutter speed and wait for the inevitable yellow cab to swarm past for a perfect New York memory.  See www.pershingsquare.com.

Pershing Square Yellow Cabs

Pershing Square Yellow Cabs

The Empire State Building.  Whether you’re after views from, or views of this iconic 1930’s art deco building, it’s a must-do for any tourist in New York – photographer or not. If you’re after a view from the outside you’ll do well to have a wide angle lens at hand.  In tightly packed streets, it’s hard to take a step back, and with only an 18mm at hand I wasn’t really able to cram the full scale of the tower into shot.

For views from the top, I’d recommend heading up an hour or so before sunset, to guarantee some daylight, twilight, sunset and night time shots. You can buy sunrise and sunset passes, which allow you up twice in one day, but with so much else to see in this vast city, we really wanted to cram as much in as possible in one hit and so the late afternoon option worked best for us.  See www.esbnyc.com.

New York from the top of the Empire State Building

Matchbox City – New York from the top of the Empire State Building

Remember to take a sturdy tripod if you have one. Yes, it can be a pain to lug around, but it’ll be worth it at the top, especially when the light starts to fade and you need as much support as you can get to keep your images clear and crisp. If you don’t have a tripod you should be able to find a small ledge to rest your camera on – provided you’re happy to wait your turn and wriggle your way in amongst the crowds.

Of course, the one thing you can’t see from the Empire State Building – is the Empire State Building. As you can’t go to New York and not get photos of this most famous of all landmarks, you’ll need to head to (and up!) the Rockefeller Centre.

Rockefeller Centre. We went up at night, which was great for seeing the city defined by twinkling lights from the buildings and matchbox cars.  In one direction there’s a rectangular black hole, which in daylight would be the leafy green expanse of Central Park, whilst in the other direction there’s the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.

The Empire State Building from the Rockefeller Centre

The Empire State Building from the Rockefeller Centre

Yes, it’s perhaps the most photgraphed cityscape in the world, but there’s nothing more satisfying than having your own memory of this incredible city.