Digger and City Hall

I love finding reflective surfaces to photograph things in – this is an image of some kind of digger in front of London’s City Hall, both reflected in a giant metallic solid bubble sculpture with an uneven, undulating surface 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Bubble

Experimenting with Movement

So Fandango’s One Word Challenge today is ‘Movement’, and I decided to go out for a walk with my camera to see if I could capture any movement – it still feels odd having spent years teaching myself how not to have camera shake or fuzzy movement, to then deliberately create it in a shot. I was initially thinking people, or cars, or buses zooming along the road. But it’s hot and sunny and bright and not really long exposure weather, and anyway as I’ve never really got the hang of sucessfully using my ND filter I gave up on that idea.

Instead I went for a walk in the local woods, where there’s always a bit of shade to be had, lots of dark and light, and played about for a bit experimenting in taking oddly moving pictures of trees – obviously the trees don’t move, but with the right settings a bit of camera trickery can provide the motion! Aperture priority, aperture closed down ( experimenting with different levels), ISO fixed at 160 (lowest my camera can do), and plenty of deliberate camera movement on my part.

To start with I tried my usual zoom bursts, holding the camera steady and zooming the lens from wide to tele, but they looked quite boring; then I tried holding the lens steady and moving the camera instead; then moving the entire camera and lens in a circle; then up and down; then back and forth; and finally in any odd shape I fancied. Overall I tried minimal abstraction (so the grass and trees are still reasonably recognisable), maximum abstraction (where it’s all just random green fuzz) and an in between, neither-one-nor-the-other kind of melting-forest dream-state effect.

I took loads, so here are some of my favourites in all three categories:

Slight movement…

Melting Forest…

Completely abstract…

So altogether I’ve ended up with some very different views of my usual walk through the woods, and perhaps cheekily have also created a rather different take on Nancy’s Photo A Week Challenge prompt of ‘View’ – what fun I’ve had with this today! 🙂

A Dearth of Inspiration

Sometimes my creative juices flow urgently like a river in spate, powerful and passionate, full of interesting objects beneath the roaring swell just waiting to be released to the surface. But at other times my creative urges dry to a dusty croak dying of thirst along a desert track, dehydrated and dessicated, leaving me with a complete dearth of inspiration…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Dearth

Art Class in School

Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt word of ‘silkscreen’ today immediately takes me straight back to high school art class, nearly 40 years ago. As well as focusing on understanding (and practising) the basics of drawing and painting we also experimented with lots of other techniques for creating art, some of which I haven’t thought about for years.

I remember early on we were introduced to lino block printing, where we each carved out (with various-sized special little tools) our favoured design on our little rectangle of lino block – carved in reverse, of course. I chose a capital letter ‘R’, decorated with patterns all around like the grand initial letters in old manuscripts. Once all our carving was done we carefully rolled coloured ink onto the surface of the block before up-ending it onto paper and printing countless versions of our chosen design.

Then once we’d taken the block printing as far as we could (with one block there are only so many options to experiment with) we used plasticine to build a little sealed wall around the edge of our lino blocks, and filled them with plaster of paris and left them to set to create an image in relief, which we then painted to keep along with our many prints. Such a lot from one little rectangle of lino block though… 🙂

And then of course later on there was the screen-printing and memories of the taut silkscreen frame used – I can still hear the strident sound of the squeegee pulling the ink purposefully across the surface of the screen, a bit like a muffled zip-wire sound cut short – vvvvt. There was a knack to getting it just right – not too fast, not too slow, not too much pressure, not too little – and then the moment of anticipation as you lift the screen off and remove whatever ink-blocking template used undereath to reveal the final result.

And for me, the result was always a little bit disappointing. I mean, effectively it did exactly what it was supposed to do – sharp lines, strong colour, vibrant solid shapes – but personally I found it all too formulaic. I do appreciate we were schoolkids so our designs were inevitably simple, and that more complex designs could be created by using multiple templates and different colours of ink to build up clearly differentiated layers.

But still… for such a laborious process where the purpose was to create easily replicated sharp-edged identical images, I found that promise a little lacklustre. We screen-printed both onto paper and onto cloth, so I could definitely see how using this process for printing multiple T shirts with exactly the same design would make sense, or multiple identical paper posters, but somehow it just didn’t catch my creative imagination at the time…

But batik – now that lit a creative spark in me! Batik basically uses hot wax painted free-hand onto cotton fabric with a tjanting tool and being left to set hard before dying the cloth in a cold water dye bath. Once this is done, the wax is removed and the cloth is boil-washed to remove all remaining traces of wax. It’s a little like tie-dying but using wax instead of string to create areas of dyed and undyed cloth. You can then repeat the process as many times as you like, building up layers of colour and shape.

Each individual piece of batik is unique, and because the chosen design is painted on free-hand you can change your mind creatively in the middle of applying the wax so there’s always an element of uncertainty in outcome of the process, which is probably the thing that really appeals to me – I like not knowing exactly what I’m going to end up with. Aaahhh… the memories… what fun I had… 🙂

Scotch Mist

I’ve never understood the phrase ‘Whaddya think this is – Scotch mist?’ often said with more than a heavy hint of sarcasm when someone simply can’t see something that’s right in front of them, as if it’s suddenly become transparent, invisible. To me it’s always seemed such an odd use of both words?

For a start, ‘Scotch’ is whisky – it’s the word ‘Scottish’ that means something from Scotland. So in my younger days I used to have imaginative visions of people getting such a surprise at something while drinking a wee dram that they would spray a mouthful of whisky all over the place – now that to me would be Scotch mist!

And anyway, the kind of mist you get in Scotland is anything but invisible or insubstantial, it’s more like having a fine filmy gossamer rain spritzing your skin as you wander damply through a low-lying cloud. Although perhaps there is an other-worldly ephemeral nature to the experience rather than the reality of it, it does sometimes feel ghostly to be in and it certainly chills you to your bones?

Mind you, although the mist itself creates a cold wet blanket of grey, it does also mean a vapour cloak of invisibility descends silently over eveything else, causing it to disappear from view? Hmmm… So if anyone out there can possibly shed light on the etymology of this very odd phrase, I’d be more than happy to be enlightened – even trustly old Google hasn’t helped me find any clarity this time… sigh!

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Mist