Occasionally I’ve tried my hand at the Black & White Challenge to see if I could craft my own black and white creations. This was quite a challenge for me, but also it was fun to learn more, especially about post-processing, which is how I create my black and white images. I’ve added one of my earlier B&W Challenge entries as my header image for this post.
Having recently returned to my blogging, I thought I might revisit black and white photos and create an entry for this week’s challenge. By chance, this week’s theme is an open theme, so that gave me a world of potential subject matter! I think of creating black and white images as ‘taking a different angle’ on photography so I’ve chosen that as the theme for my challenge entry.
This woodland mushroom will look familiar to some recent visitors to my blog – I featured my son’s original colour photo in my Fun Foto Challenge entry last week. Thinking about ‘A Different Angle’ brought me straight to this image, as I love the low-level angle of the shot. I decided to re-process it into a black and white image. This gave me the opportunity to re-hone my post-processing skills as I thought about how to best draw out the tones and textures under the mushroom.
Lighthouses always make me think of the power of the sea. They are simultaneously synonymous with danger and safety. The colour version of this image also appears in a previous Fun Foto Challenge post on the theme of Perspective (unusual angles), where you can also see the steepness of the steps inside that allow visitors to climb up to the top.
In this shot, I loved the dramatic zig-zag of light that cuts through the dark clouds, with the light shafts streaming earthwards at the distant end, like a comet’s tail. Clouds fascinate me. I can watch them for ages as they constantly shape-shift, changing from sea foam to floppy-eared dogs chasing the wind. We see some wonderful cloudscapes in our valley.
When I saw this week’s theme of ‘Wheels’ for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge, I remembered the fascinating wheels on the old railway trucks in our woods. I’ve posted about the wheels on the old coal trucks before, but for the challenge I decided to re-imagine these iron flanged wheels in black and white.
I think black and white captures the aged engineering of these old work horses quite well.
Textures appeal to our sense of touch as well as creating interest visually. I love natural materials and for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week I am sharing some of my favourite natural textures with you.
My header image shows the heavily textured bark of a Scots Pine tree. Tree bark is wonderful for touchable texture with different species providing us with everything from rough to smooth. This Scots Pine tree stands on one of our regular woodland paths so we can enjoy its textured bark as we pass by.
In our part of the country sandstone forms one of the geological layers and was used as a building material of choice for many centuries. The stone was normally quarried very locally to where it was needed, though often not much ‘quarrying’ would have been needed as there are many sandstone outcrops from where it would have been readily available. The sandstone in my photo has been hewn into large blocks and built into this fortified medieval manor house. Sandstone is another wonderfully touchable texture. For me, its rough surface speaks solidity and security.
Wood can have so many textures during its lifespan. In this decaying log the solid wood is gradually being broken down into soft and crumbly fibres. As it is decaying, the log provides us with lots of visual textures.
In Summer when we are out on a ramble and want a comfortable seat for our picnic lunch, we will often make bracken ‘cushions’ to sit on. As the year draws on into Autumn, the bracken turns brown and by Winter it lies on the ground like a cosy patterned blanket keeping the earth warm. In my image the light picks out the fronds of bracken that have been painted white with frost.
Seashore environments can exhibit a wonderful mixture of textures. Our North East coastline certainly provides a lot of interest through its flora and fauna and in its Magnesian Limestone rocks and geological features. The rocky coastline in itself has plenty of exciting visual texture but getting up close to some of those seashore rocks reveals more temptingly touchable textures … such as this smooth and leathery Knotted Wrack seaweed with its bumpy air bladders that clings to the rough limestone rock alongside the resting limpets hiding in their ridged shells and clamped firmly on the rocky surface waiting for the swish of the returning tide before they venture forth to feed.
To complete my texture tour I wanted to include a couple of my son’s images of fungi textures. He likes to be quite creative in his photography, so he often chooses unusual angles. I love the way he has managed to capture the texture in this worm’s eye view of the gills underneath the cap of this fungus.
Jelly Ear Fungus is a strange and fascinating fungus that we find growing on elder trees. When this fungus is freshly grown it is pliable with a slightly squishy texture and a soft downy covering. Its shape is often reminiscent of an ear with prominent veins … though perhaps an ear from some alien life form rather than a human!
Roads form the physical connections between our human settlements – towns, cities, villages or even single houses. Most of us use roads every day as a vital means of communication.
In our area, many of our modern roads can trace their history to a web of tracks that took our ancestors from A to B for all their various purposes, from collecting food and fuel to marching to war. I find old maps are a fascinating source of detail on the places visited by people in the past and the roads that took them there. We can often see how busier routes developed and others fell into disuse as settlements changed according to the needs of their inhabitants or sometimes due to other external factors.
The road in my header image climbs to the top of the hill from our village as it connects our valley to the Tyne valley to the north. In Summer we like to walk up here to admire the view from the hilltop. On a clear day we can see as far north as the Scottish border and a good few miles south too, across the North Pennines. As quite a busy route, this road has gradually been resurfaced and widened over the years. Originally, around 400 years ago, this section of the road would have been a track leading from the village squire’s grand hall up to an adjoining hilltop road that linked to other significant properties nearby.
It may be snowy but the old road through our woods is always a very popular route. This single track road used to be the main road that linked our village to other villages nearby and it is still well-used for this purpose though it is no longer the main road traffic route. Its route travels over the Victorian railway bridge that I’ve written about previously. In 2002 the road was closed to road traffic and adopted by the Forestry Commision. To preserve the old stone bridge, use of the road is now restricted to walkers, cyclists and horse riders, with vehicles being restricted to essential access only.
The main road into our village drops down from the north east, twisting and turning as it goes. Here is one of those turns as the road suddenly lurches rightwards along the valley side. Driving towards our village along this road, it is at this point the whole vista of the valley comes suddenly into view. Impressive cloudscapes, Winter sunsets or just many layers of grey in a classic demonstration of aerial perspective draw the eye south westwards through the river valley. This photograph is taken from the ‘end’ of the old road through the woods that I showed you above. The route heading right in this image links the two adjacent villages and developed into a main route sometime in the late 19th century – the same time as coal mining became a prominent industry in the area which created increased transport needs in itself as well as via an increased population.
This river ford is part of another interesting old road in our valley. The old road that crosses the River Derwent here is known as Clockburn Lonnen – lonnen is a local dialect word for ‘lane’. In the past this lane formed part of the main route from the cathedral city of Durham to Scotland and I believe it probably originally dates back into pre-Roman times. From the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 through to the English Civil Wars in the mid-1600s, war and conflict between England and Scotland feature regularly in our local history here in North East England. As a main thoroughfare in those days, Oliver Cromwell’s baggage train, complete with heavy guns drawn by teams of oxen, travelled via Clockburn Lonnen and the Derwent ford on the way to the Battle of Dunbar in the September of 1650. This old road must have been rather wider then than we see it now in the foreground of this photograph.
In my final photograph the scene changes from countryside to coast. We often visit this part of the North East coast during the Summer months and enjoy the picturesque walk along the clifftops overlooking the sea. The National Trust now take care of this section of coastline with its fascinating limestone rock formations and the Souter Lighthouse. When our walk is done we make out way out onto the coast road here, halfway between South Shields and Sunderland, and wait for the bus to take us back into the town centre.
We certainly experience lots of weather up here on our hillside overlooking the valley. Fascinating cloudscapes are a regular feature of our landscape. I love cloud-watching – I could watch them for hours. Big fluffy cumulus clouds often fill our Summer skies. I loved the light and shadow patterns falling on this cloudscape from the evening sun as the clouds sailed off over the woods. We sometimes spot dragons or dogs or mice chasing through the cumulus as it coasts across the sky. One day last Summer, an elderly neighbour pointed out a peacock with its tail feathers streaming out behind. It’s amazing what we can find in the clouds.
The low Winter sun is behind me in this photo, shining across the snow-covered meadow and up to the houses on the hill. I love the way the sun catches the undulations in the soft foreground snow – it reminds me of warmer days on sunny beaches.
We often complain about rain here in England, but a rainy day Springtime walk through the woods to the river is an absolute joy to the senses. The delicious earthy smell of wet woods combines with the sweet scents of rising sap and trees in flower. The rain awakens the river from its sleepy state and stirs it into urgent action. I love to watch the patterns in the swirling water and here the falling raindrops add their own perfect circles on the surface of the river.
Mist lends an air of mystery to our everyday landscapes. Our regular walk through the beechwood looks so different when the woods are cloaked in mist. I also find, with our view being shortened, it makes us focus more on those things close at hand that we can still see clearly, so sometimes we spot things we might otherwise have missed. We gaze into the murky distance and our imaginations create all kinds of imaginary shapes that vanish into the mist when we walk nearer. Misty day walks can be creatively inspiring, stirring ideas that lurk shrouded in mist in our mind’s eye.
We were delighted to be chosen by Cee as featured bloggers for our black and white challenge entry last week and when I saw Cee’s theme for her Black and White Photo Challenge this week was ‘glass’, I immediately remembered this very interesting visit we made to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.
The city of Sunderland in north east England has a proud heritage of glassmaking. The National Glass Centre stands on the banks of the River Wear at Monkwearmouth. On our visit to the National Glass Centre we were able to watch a demonstration of glass blowing.
The molten glass is held on the end of a metal rod and then skilfully the glass blower blows through the metal rod to inflate the glass globe. The glass globe is reheated and gradually shaped into its final form – in this case a vase. The glass vase being blown has a swirling pattern within it.
Lines and angles abound in the our built urban environments. The above urban ‘still life’ was captured by my son – he loves to spot quirky geometrics. This shot is packed full of lines and angles – from the intersecting lines of the paving stones and the edging angle of the grass, to the strong parallels of the bench and the deep toned angled shadows.
This is a fairly typical street scene in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre. The street and its lines of perspective lead your eye to Grey’s Monument in the distance. The buildings lining the street incorporate many lines and angles in their designs. The road itself offers its own take on lines, with the painted ‘No Parking’ and bus lane lines. The shadows add their individual angles to the scene.
The Stephenson Works here in South Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, are the preserved part of George and Robert Stephenson’s historic engineering workshops. It was in these Victorian workshops that their famous locomotives, “Locomotion” and “Rocket”, were built. The careful brickwork of the building and the uniform windows with their many small panes create a pattern of lines and angles. The steel chimney provides a focal point as it climbs the wall, developing its own angles as it goes. The fencing, ventilation grating and signage add further lines and angles to the scene.
The iconic arches of the Tyne Bridge span the river, linking Newcastle and Gateshead. This detail shot shows the lower stretch of the arch on Newcastle’s Quayside, as the steel structure dips below the road level. The Tyne Bridge design incorporates many lines and angles.
The natural world is so rich with patterns, from tiny patterns on leaves or insects to patterns in the landscape or even skyscapes. I have chosen a few of my favourite kinds of pattern for Cee’s Black and White Challenge this week.
The header image to my post is something I love to look out for on snowy winter walks. I love the way soft snow settles on every branch and twig and creates a snow image of the tree. This hazel has many slender branches creating a classic outline to this coppiced shrub. The criss-crossing twigs coated in snow are like sugar strands decorating a giant cake.
Ferns are fascinating in Spring. I love the way they gradually unfurl and stretch their out fronds. I can imagine them as circles of delicate ballet dancers dancing on the Springtime woodland floor, creating graceful patterns against the darker trees.
Shadows are another favourite of mine. I love the way light and shade create their own shapes and patterns. The angle of the sun here in early Autumn creates longer shadows and draws exaggerated patterns of the trees upon the path as we walk through the woods.
Sometimes we spot very striking patterns that have been built into our landscape. This wrought ironwork forms the fencing along either side of a narrow Victorian railway viaduct. I love the simple classical elegance of this pattern as it recedes into the distance. I think the Victorians were good at creating designs that were very practical yet aesthetically pleasing too.
“What is beautiful to you?” is the theme of Cee’s Black and White Challenge this week. There were probably so many things I could have chosen, but I decided to choose two of the landscapes that provide us with endless pleasure through the year’s seasonal cycle. The first photo is our beautiful, everyday view to the North Pennine moors, and the second is a regular rambling haunt that we love so much, down by the river. Whether we walk uphill or down – we are always certain of a beautiful view.