Tag Archives: Winter

Dog walking with Rufus…

Rufus has been with us almost a year. Difficult to imagine the home without him now. He’s been the best in what has been a tough year…

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He is either a very intelligent dog, who decides to ignore the pathetic goings-on of the humans around him, or else he is very thick and simply doesn’t understand our commands. Either way, he is clearly very happy.

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Early morning walks are good – for me as well as the dog! And we’ve been treated to some superb sunrises over the past few days. Here’s my local Caspar David Friedrich tree, just next to the Lizzie Bennet lane…

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Rufus is very bound-y, just like Tigger, and chasing a ball is absolutely what Rufus does best. Or licking the dishes in the dishwasher – perhaps that is what he does best; or maybe the challenge of a big stick on an early morning walk? No…, I have it, best of all is the chance to go for a swim in water, the smellier the better.

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(I do like that tree – very CDF for sure.)

So long may our dog-master, master-dog morning walks continue. Great fun for us both, and a chance to go hunting for sticks…

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Mooserwirt Madness!!!

Normally, I dedicate this blog to the pure aesthetics of fine art photography… But I must admit I have slipped from such lofty heights and succumbed to snip snappy shots on this one occasion. The reason? Ah, well that would be the annual half term skiing trip, where cameras do not mix so well with snow, skis, adrenaline, and on this occasion…., booze.

Aerobics at the Mooserwirt

Aerobics at the Mooserwirt

The place: St Anton, the time: apres-ski, the venue: the Mooserwirt, where DJ Gerhard (70+ and still a spring chicken) hits the beat with the most fantastic KrautRock you’ll ever hear. No-one can resist, as Clem so ably demonstrates above.

Fun for all the family

Fun for all the family

Charles struts his stuff

Charles struts his stuff

Rose struts her stuff too...

Rose admires her nude stirrer…

This is the place where everyone knows the words and the actions to Schwimm, Schwimm and Wir wollen die Eisbaeren sehen, yes indeed, German seems to come easily, especially when lubricated with much beer. (Should have dragged the boys here last time – they could do with some German!)

Brother & sister boogie

Brother & sister boogie

Like mother like daughter

Like mother like daughter

Happiness reigns

Happiness reigns

I’m blaming the booze for the poor quality of the photos, but they do seem to capture the spirit of the place. Speaking of alcohol – my daughter (13 going on 25) knows what she likes…

before, and...

before, and…

after!

after!

Inevitably the fine Reinheitsgebot beer has its effect and the dancing gets wilder. We should quit before it all goes too far.

Ooops, too late

Ooops, too late

Wein, Weib und Gesang...

Wein, Weib und Gesang…

 

I wonder if next year’s skiing will be as raucous? Hope so!

(Adam - pissed as a fart...) Prost!

(Adam – pissed as a fart…) Prost!

 

 

 


Hunting the Aurora in the cold…

So there I am, in Iceland, in January, in the freezing cold, darkest winter gloom, wearing 18 layers and still feeling the blast of the wind. It’s -10. Add wind chill factor it’s somewhere near -20. There’s only one reason why you do this… to see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. It’s up there on my top 10 to do before I die. And you know what, Iceland mocks us by being cloudy. It delights in cloud…, and rain…. none of which is conducive to watching the Valkyrie ride the sky!

Bitingly cold!

Bitingly cold!

Only crazies do this, but then I do have my moments… And I’ve teamed up with a group of like-minded photo nuts. We are a mixed bunch. A Spanish guide (in Iceland…) plus a Scot, a South African, an Aussie and a Brit. Sod the night sky – we’re up at dawn to take photos of the windswept view. Bracing!

Sunrise

Sunrise

I should qualify what dawn means here. The sun rises at 10am, gains perhaps 10 degrees of height above the horizon, and sinks at 3.45pm. But the dawn and dusk penumbra last for hours – we’re that far north. And it’s beautiful. Blue turning to pink, slowly. Exquisite.

the 'main' road

the ‘main’ road at dawn

This is the road that runs around Iceland. It’s pretty basic. Once Reykjavik is left behind the traffic vanishes. We count – roughly one other car per hour. This is true wilderness. There’s simply no-one here. Except us crazies, searching, hoping for the Aurora. If the mornings are clear, the evenings are sure to be cloud covered. But we don’t give up hope. In the meantime we go to…. waterfalls!

Skogafoss falls

Skogafoss

 

Awesome

Awesome

 

and cold,...

and cold,…

 

Iceland has very sophisticated weather forecasting systems, including a scale which predicts Aurora activity. The scale goes from 0 (nothing happening) to 9 (New Year’s + Bonfire night + Independence day all rolled into one). As the cloudy week progresses we get a forecast of 7 for Thursday night! Jose (he’s the Spaniard, obviously) is ecstatic – this is virtually unheard of! what a show!! Complete awesomeness in the sky!!! We camp out – till 2 in the morning – freezing our nuts off – only for cloud cover to obscure the show. Foiled again. The Gods are against us.

Iceland's M25

Iceland’s M25

We decide that as we’re in Iceland, land of sagas, we should tell each other stories to keep our hopes up whilst we wait for the elusive Aurora. The Viking spirit – tall tales and moving memories. We should be telling them around a campfire, but we huddle around a thermos flask of hot coffee under cloudy drizzling skies. Where are those blasted Lights!?

Here are our sagas. I leave you to guess which one is mine…. : the youngster amongst us turns out to be a fully qualified pilot (ok, that rules me out, I’m not young, and not a pilot…), one has cycled across South America communing with shepherds and dogs, one retells a real Viking saga of true love between Tristram and Isolt including ordeals by fire, one has just finished caring for handicapped kids on the ski slopes of Austria, and one lost a scarf only for it to be returned to feet by the sheepdog from the next farm the following day… The Aurora are not impressed and still hide behind clouds. We are cold and desperate.

The view from Skogafoss

The view from Skogafoss

the road, the light

the road, the light

Our last night and we are almost defeated. But our indefatigable Spanish guide says we must have one last go. So we drive out into the dark countryside late in the night. The forecast is a 1 (…) but the cloud cover is light. Suddenly the sky glimmers and shimmers… the Valkyrie are riding! A green whiplash slicing the sky. Fumble the tripod, focus in the dark, 30 second exposure and hope for the best. Whiplash slice turns to curtains of green. Valkyrie and Valhalla, the Northern Lights streak the sky! The last night, the last chance, at last, we are blessed by the Norse Goddesses. Now, at last, the cold is forgotten and we stand in awe of the Icelandic sky…

Curtain Aurora

Curtain Aurora

Riding Valkyrie!

Riding Valkyrie!

If you liked this post, don’t forget to read: Icelife in Iceland


Icelife in Iceland

Modern life vanishes. Two and half hours flying north from London, and the city seems a million miles away. All that ‘stuff’, it’s gone. I’m spending a week living in the land of ice, literally…. Iceland.

Mighty glacier, all powerful

Mighty glacier, all powerful

Take a closer look to spot the photographer front right on the spit of land – that’s how awesomely massive this landscape view is – there are two of them:

Dwarfed

Dwarfed

Ice, glaciers. mountains, rocks, everything is solid & permanent. Time moves at a different pace – glacially you might say… The slowness of time is echoed by sound – at first it seems there isn’t any. But as ears tune in to the tempo, you hear the cracks of the shifting ice. There may be very little sign of human or animal life, but the ice itself is alive. It’s moving, shifting, living and dying.

Crevasse - highly photogenic, highly dangerous

Crevasse – highly photogenic, highly dangerous

Ice life starts high up in the mountains. The snow falls again and again, compacts and becomes ice. The weight is so heavy the air is forced out and it turns blue. The mighty glacier moves imperceptibly, sometimes is covered in ash, dirt, rocks. Changes colour. Now the ice is brown, red. Crevasses open up. This is not a place for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Fall in, you’re gone.

Boulder trapped in the black ice

Boulder trapped in the black ice

The ice is imperious. Nothing can stand in its way. Rocks! Pah! Picked up to be dumped miles away on the plain. At the face of glacier are ice caves. The ice here is striated and contorted, run through with absorbed dirt. It has become multicoloured.

The cave's maw

The cave’s maw

Our guide allows us in. And here, in this most awesome of caves, we see the first signs of ice vulnerability. This cave is not permanent. It will not last the year. The stream hints at the ice’s fate.

That stream began to trickle whilst we stood there...

That stream began to trickle whilst we stood there…

The life of ice is speeding up. Suddenly, imperceptible movement accelerates. Ice carves into the glacial lagoons.

Icebergs in the lake

Icebergs in the lake

Ice transforms from awesome majesty into vulnerable beauty. The colours are more transparent and ephemeral.

The glacier is still defiant here

The glacier is still defiant here

But it is disintegrating

But it is disintegrating

The more it dies, the more beautiful it becomes

The more it dies, the more beautiful it becomes

Ice being consumed by snow

Ice being consumed by snow

Pushed out of the lagoon into the ocean, the ice is now pitilessly attacked by the Atlantic waves. Time is short. Once it swept all before it, now it is small and vulnerable, tossed up on the beach, broken and discarded.

Ice washed ashore

Ice washed ashore

How ironic that ice is at its most beautiful now. It becomes exquisite, jewel-like, Swarowski-esque crystals. One last glisten and sparkle on a black beach before it dies and vanishes for good.

Transient jewelry

Transient jewelry

And then death

And then death

But of course, the ice hasn’t died, it has simply mutated. In the fullness of time it will return as snow, and the cycle will begin again, refreshed.

ice to water to ....

ice to water to ….


Snow, at last!

Pond at Baldwin's Hill

At last, the snow has arrived! And with a blast. Now I know that for other parts of the world a 10 inch dump of snow is not particularly interesting, but around here, 15 miles outside of London, that’s awesome.  Epping Forest is immediately transformed into a winter wonderland, hushed and still.

The still forest

Tomorrow we will all complain about not being able to get around. The traffic will be awful and the tube won’t run. But today, we can enjoy the beauty and the transformation.

The trees are shivering

The snow seems to strip the world of colour. None of these pix have been changed into black and white – these are the straight colour shots.

tracks in the snow

And I guess that’s where the transformation really comes from. The overloading effect of colour is blanketed by the white. Just for a day or two. Magical!

Duotone tree


The trouble with skiing…, part 1

We’ve just got back from a week’s skiing in France. Thank God we went high (Tignes), because lower down the mountain the snow is gone. But 2100+ ms, it’s still good, at least in the morning before it gets slushy…

View from L'Aiguille Percee, 2750 ms

Once I’ve got my planks on, I absolutely love it. The thrill of zooming around, carving turns, the Schuss, the odd jump with obligatory acrobatic twist, and the snow-shower-slide-to-a-halt. (OK, if that makes me sound good then I should recalibrate: basically I’m very average, one week a year – if lucky – intermediate. But I love to dream!!!)

But there is a problem with skiing – you need so much gear: the skis (of course…), poles, gloves, ski suit, boots (aaaargh!!!), helmet, goggles, sunglasses, lip sun protection, sun cream, money, ski pass, the list goes on for ever. So that was one of the themes of our holiday: Who had forgotten what, and who was going back to the chalet to pick it up?

View from bubble lift over Tignes lac (2100m) towards La Grande Motte

It all started before we left. Our skiing companions phoned from the airport (we were still at home). “Could you pop round to our house, we’ve forgotten Hannah’s ski jacket…” (How do you forget that when you’re going on a SKIING holiday?). So we did, only to find the TV still on as well (?!?). Later on we discovered they’d forgotten babysitting cover for their hamster too (??!!??). A week without food! A goldfish might just survive. Lucky Granny lives close by…

Once at the resort we had a 10 min bus ride to the ski slopes. So no-one was impressed when the kids forgot gloves at the chalet. (Sod it, just buy new ones.)

Charles conquers the mountain

I have to admit I was not immune to cocking up myself. Lipstick sun protection: I dropped it on the ski lift. So that was another replacement purchase necessary (5 Euros a stick in Tignes!). The next day I managed to get to the bus pick up stop without remembering to put in my contact lenses. So everyone buggered off up the mountain whilst I trudged back (the boots, the boots) to sort my eyes out. But it’s all worth it you see, because then you get to go up the mountain, and have incredibly expensive hot chocolate to recover.

Me and chocolate

And when we got back to Blighty I managed to leave a boot bag at the taxi rank on the drive home. Honestly, someone’s should think this through – how to cut down on the skiing clutter. And invest boots that don’t kill your feet!!!

'Eye of the Needle' close up

(If you click on the photos they should take you to see more on Flickr)

So that’s part 1. Part 2 will investigate the dramatic story of who did the most, and the most dramatic, wipeouts. Come back and have a read soon!


Photography in the Freezing Forest! Epping, Essex.

The year both began and ended with a huge dump of snow! Well, I say huge – it was about 4-6 inches around here, which, as many of my friends from overseas tell me, is pathetic. But in true English fashion everything comes to a halt as soon as the first few flakes begin to fall. I was telling a Russian colleague that the kids had got a few days off school and he commented (drily) that in Moscow they only shut the scholls when the temperature gets to -30 degrees centigrade. Mmmm, that puts it into perspective…

Fresh Snow Fall

OK, so -30 is real weather. But even so, a few inches of snow makes Epping Forest look magical! So these are some of the pics I took back in Jan 2010 just a mile from the house at the nearest lake in the Forest. I love the way the snow seems to make everything quite abstract, and I think the black and white helps emphasise that.

Reeds with their feet in the ice

In an odd way the snow seems to make it easier to photograph the Forest. In the full riot of Spring and Summer it gets difficult to see what to focus on, too much going on, the Forest all crowding in upon itself. In Winter, especially with the snow, the sightlines seem reduced, the views become foreshortened, and its easier to pick out a point of focus. Like the tufts of snow collecting at the base of the reeds.

Here’s the overview of the lake. Very hidden and secretive, although it’s only 20 yards from the main road, it’s a lovely spot. ‘Foresty’. And in the depths of winter, it feels isolated and unchanged for ever. A good place to focus the camera lens.

The Wintry Lake