Saturday, August 23, 2008

On Holiday, Day 9 - Sit Still Please

Anyone who has ever had a pet will understand how difficult it is to get a good photo. It's not for lack of them posing. Animals just seem to KNOW how to look oh so cute. However, the challenge is getting them to sit still. The cat could have been motionless for hours but the moment you quietly get your camera to capture the moment of serene adorableness they start squirming.

Case in point, Tom.

Every morning so far after I've fed him I then go into the kitchen to make my own breakfast. He follows me in and curls up at my feet and just sits there looking cute. So silly me thought it was a good opportunity to get a shot of him. There is some lovely light that comes in the window in the morning and his tabby coat looks lovely on the golden wood floors.

Here are the results:

Success, well... sort of.

After tiring of my attempt at animal portraiture I decided to find the Portobello Road Market. As this is mid week it's not the full on market but it was large enough for an afternoon's wander and now that I know where it is will be able to come back on another day on another trip to investigate further.

I attempted one more try at being the Great Animal Photographer:

I highly recommend working with Snails.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On Holiday, Day 8 - All Things Brighton and Beautiful

Yes I've been back home in Glasgow for over a week now but I'm still not done boring you all with my holiday down south. So let us continue with the day trip to Brighton.

It's very easy to get to Brighton from London. There are direct trains that leave from Victoria Station and it takes a little over an hour and 15 minutes to get there. Normally that would be a dull uneventful trip. But not today. No today it just so happens that it is the Pride in Brighton Festival.

The train was jam packed with many happy partying people. By 10:30 someone had cracked open the champagne and I've seen far too many men in thongs before having any caffeine in my blood stream. Then when I got to the station there was a flood of pink, feather boas, a man attempting to put on a wedding dress... I was in awe.

I sat down for a bit just to take it all in. While in my seat I struck up a conversation with a little old lady sitting next to me who had commented on what a nice job I had done braiding my hair. She was a local, and it just so happens had a daughter living on Vancouver Island (small world). She too was enjoying the spectacle and said the festival just gets bigger and bigger each year. She was all for it as it brought in the tourists, and money for the local businesses "and everyone is just so happy" she says. That just cracked me right up.

So at this point you're probably wondering, well where are the photos of all these happy people. I admit knowing I was going to be in the middle of all this I thought I was going to be my photography focus. But once there, I kinda thought that was too easy. So instead I attempted to capture Brighton without all the glitz and glam.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Holiday, Day 7 - They call it 'Modern' Art

My friend M was up at the crack of dawn to get to the rail station. Being the horrible friend I am I just kinda dragged myself out of bed, mumbled something along the lines of 'have a good trip, don't get lost' gave her a hug and stumbled back to bed.

Today I'm meeting another friend and visit the Tate Modern. I'm really excited about going here to see the exhibit: Street & Studio, An Urban History of Photography.

But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. I'm not meeting my friend until 5:00 I've still got a whole day (ok, half day by the time I get out of the house). I take the leisurely route into the city compliments of the Number 3 bus. With the hot weather it's just too muggy to be on the underground if you don't need too. The Number 3 takes me right into Trafalgar Square so I can make a stop at the National Gallery. I've spend many an hour at this monstrosity of a place. It's just so huge that it can be very overwhelming to a first timer (as it was for me). But as I've done the main collection already on previous trips I just do a quick visit to see what new exhibits they have this time round that don't have an admission charge.

The first one is called Take One Picture: an exhibition of work by primary schools. This years painting was Rubens's A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning A print is given to a selection of schools and the teachers in those schools work lesson plans around aspects of the painting. Here is a link to the Take One Picture annual program. I think it's a fabulous idea and think that exposing young children to art early can only be a good idea. The exhibit itself was great seeing what types of programs the teachers came up with, and it wasn't just about art. All subjects were able to find some aspect of the painting to build a lesson plan around. I just felt all warm and fuzzy and that good things can come out of the education system.

The second exhibit I went to is called Love and it's a small collection of paintings, sculpture, etc surrounding the theme. A nice and varied selection with something for everyone. There's even a piece in process compliments of Yoko Ono asking for your participation.

Those two things are enough to gallery me out for now so as it's nice outside (i.e. not raining and not 29+ degrees) I make my way down to the north bank of the Thames and decide to walk to the Tate Modern. You can never have too much fresh air and exercise.

The city has done a good job of revitalizing both the north and south bank of the Thames by constructing the Thames Path. It's part of the National Trails program.

And walking along the river there is always something to look at.

Now I'm at the Tate Modern as first mentioned at the beginning of this post. The Photography exhibit did not disappoint at all. My feet were still up for a bit more so I wandered in around the Poetry and Dreams Collection Theme to get my surrealism fix for the day. Found this piece:

The tile is Thirty Pieces of Silver by Cornelia Parker. She's also done this piece that hangs in the Victoria & Albert Museum as well.

Breathless, Cornelia Parker

Dinner was at a great little Peruvian Restaurant called Titos. Good prices and very yummy food. I had the Papa a la Huancaina starter and Escabeche de Pescado for my main. We shared a bottle of Castillero del Diablo which is a nice red wine from Chile. No room for dessert This place is one to check out if you're in the London Bridge area.

Not too late of a night out, home on the bus still had some energy left for a little Modern Art of my own.

Friday, August 08, 2008

On Holiday, Day 6 - Out of Town Guest

Being on holiday is great. No schedule, do what you want (as much or as little). But every now and then it is nice to have someone to share it with. So it was a nice change of pace to have some company for a day.

My friend 'M' is heading up to France for her own holiday and since she had to change trains in London anyway worked it that she'd overnight here so we could spend a day together.

I met her at the train station just down the hill from where I'm staying and we grabbed a cup of coffee on the patio of a cafe next to the station before heading back to the house so she could drop off her back pack and freshen up a bit.

We headed into the city to the little hole in the wall place I found last December called Raffles Cafe, home of the 2.99 Big Ben Breakfast. And people say it's expensive to eat in London, pshaw!

Next was a nice walk through Hyde Park then starting to head toward the Victoria & Albert museum. As we walked by the Royal Geographical Society I noticed some breath taking photographs on display through the window. I stopped to read the sign advertising the exhibit and saw the two magic words "Admission Free". The exhibition was called Portraits of Adventure and you can see a few of the photos here There were some pretty amazing shots.

A pit stop at the V&A Cafe for a coffee and then we walked to the Science Museum to take a look around. It's one of those places I've never been and it was wall to wall children so very noisy an a bit on the chaotic side. We went through an exhibit called Plasticity that was basically everything you wanted to know about Plastic but were afraid to ask.

The other exhibit we checked out was a multimedia exhibit called the Listening Post Really found this interesting, both the concept and the finished product.

After viewing those two things I'd about had my quota of screaming children so it was off to Victoria Station. We picked up some cheap theatre tickets to go and see the musical Wicked so we spent the rest of what was left of the afternoon in a pub enjoying a cold draft and some dinner.

The musical was great and I must say the character of Glinda the Good Witch stole the show! Once the show got out it then hit me that the Victoria Line underground shut down early at 10PM do to ongoing upgrades (DOH!) but no worries as it just meant we took the train instead (phew!).

Back to the house and a little tipple of some lovely dessert wine and a few cookies - I now know what a Jaffa Cake is, I don't like them and I don't care what the package says they are a cookie, not a cake!

It was a good day.

Monday, August 04, 2008

On Holiday, Day 5, Lunch, Tanks and James Bond

With being here for 15 nights I can do the tourist thing at a very leisurely pace. None of this getting up at the crack of dawn and having to get 'dressed' for breakfast. I usually spend the first half of my day lazily lounging in my pajamas, enjoying my coffee, catching up on emails, uploading and organizing my photos from the previous day. You know, what a real holiday should be. The idea is to return home rested and relaxed. Not stressed and in need of a holiday from your holiday. So what this means is I usually just plan on seeing one thing a day.

Today I am meeting a friend for lunch. The restaurant is just around the corner from tower bridge and I had this amazing cod battered with chili and coriander seasoning and Asian vegetables. YUMMY! I didn't take my usual meal photo as this place looked a little on the posh side. But you'll just have to take my word for it that it was aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

After the nice long lunch catching up with my friend I decided to check out the Imperial War Museum. It's one of those places that I've heard about and when taking the bus back I pass on a regular basis. I had noticed that they had some banners advertising the new exhibit on Ian Flemming, author of the James Bond book series (and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as I discovered) so that intrigued me enough to check it out.

The museum itself is free, but the Flemming exhibit had an admission charge. When you walk in the first thing you are greeted to in the large open atrium are the tanks. Every little boys dream to see these monstrous vehicles up close and personal.

I take a wee wander around but eventually pick up my ticket and go into the exhibit. I found it quite interesting but not entirely sure it was worth the 8 pound charge. But that's just me.

The museum is massive and I barely scratched the surface of it as I hadn't done any research into what they have. But I'll put it on my list of things to go back to a bit later in the holiday.

It is still roasting outside and this is affecting my energy levels. Once outside I make a b-line for the kiosk to get an ice cream. All they've got are the prepacked treats, no real cones where they ask you if you want one or two scoops. But at this point I don't care, I need the sugar as a bit of a pick me up and the frozeness to combat the heat. The museum is surrounded by some park space and I found this beautifully haunting memorial sculpture .

Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Holiday, Day 4 - Supporting the Arts

OK enough dilly dallying, time to start doing the tourist thing.

The last time I was at the Tate Britain was in 2001 on my first trip to London, so it's been a while. I seem to make my way to London at least a few times per year piggy backing on work trips or with cat sitting duties so I decide to do my bit to support the arts and take out a membership. I choose this rather than say the British Museum or the V&A because you get 2 for the price of one. Your membership is good at both the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. Plus by signing up for Direct Debit I get an extra 3 months added to my membership. As always you get the 10% discount in the gift shop which is a very good place to pick up gift ideas for Christmas, birthdays etc.

Enough of the sales pitch.

Any time I visit a gallery I need to do it in little chunks. My feet just can't handle standing still for long periods of time before they start to protest. That's what the cafe is for, giving yourself a break and having a cup of coffee and perhaps something sweet.

I must say, I was very impressed with this cafe. It's in the basement so no natural light but it had a very art deco vibe to it and I was really digging the ceiling and the lights.

Also hanging on the walls were all these amazing B&W photographs. It was hard to see them all as I was getting the evil eye from a few people as I'd come up to their table and then just stare past them at the photo on the wall behind.

The things to see are of course the beautiful paintings by British Artists but something I forgot was that not only do they have the old more classical style but also part of the gallery houses more modern exhibits as well. The most hyped is the Martin Creed Work No. 850 which involves runners sprinting down the main hall. Actual runners, not photos or paintings.

There was also this sculpture by Julian Opie. I quite liked it.

I found it interesting to look inside the spaces and see the colours poking out. But the title of the piece was a bit much I thought. 'It Is Believed That Some Dinosaurs Could Run Faster Than a Cheetah' , Julian Opie.

Something like that again makes me think that if you give a bizarre long title and back it up with some existential commentary that anything will be viewed/respected as 'Art'. Click here for my attempt at this.

After the gallery I decided to walk up the Thames to try a second attempt to capture this shot.

One of those random things you find that makes an interesting composition. However it on that day it was too bright and I couldn't judge just looking at the little camera monitor if my settings were correct. As a result, the chair looks fine but the sky was completely blown out. So I went back but just my luck someone threw the chair further down the embankment.

So this time I got the sky exposed correctly but you can't see the chair because it's been knocked down (bottom right corner of the shot). My Dad did his photoshop magic to stitch my shots together and this was the result.

Not bad, but I still wish I'd tried a few more shots the first time round. I need to be a bit more disciplined when taking photos. As you don't always get a second chance.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On Holiday, Day 3 - Kitty is Growing Up

My main reason for taking this 2 week holiday in London (other than the typical rest and relaxation) is to cat sit 2 adorable young felines.


And Tom (cat)

They are two very affectionate, cuddly young cats. I think they are just under or perhaps just over a year. Not adults yet anyway.

So my duties involve giving them lots of love and attention and making sure they are fed and watered daily. There is no litter box to clean as the house has a fancy dancy cat door. The contraption is pretty slick in that it's small and complex enough that only the cats can get through it and no other animals like a dog or fox.

Now hold this thought for a moment. Let's back track to Tuesday morning.

I eventually drag myself out of bed, put on my slippers and head downstairs to the kitchen thinking warm thoughts of hot fresh coffee.

As I am going down the last few steps I see something dark and frog shaped on the floor to the left of the bottom step. My initial thought was it was either a bean bag frog like this

(it was dark btw) so I just nudged it over with my foot as I stepped down. However, the weight felt wrong and it wasn't slippery so as I continue through to the kitchen I'm thinking it must be one of those rubber frogs you can get at the toy shop and didn't really think much else of it.

I'm in the kitchen going about my breakfast/coffee making duties when I can hear Tom scurrying around at the bottom of the stairs. I walk over to take a look and there is a 2nd frog, also on it's back and Tom is ever so gently nudging it with his paw and now and then gently grabs a limb in his mouth to drag it around and jump and play with it. Frog is just lying there motionless.

It's at this moment it hits me, these are no toys, they are the real deal. Now I have 2 dead frogs to dispose of before I've even had my first cup of coffee.

Still in my pajamas I don the rubber gloves and pick up the frog the cat is playing with and put it outside under a tree. I'll put it in the rubbish bin when I head out for my day as it's on the other side of the front of the house. Then I go back in and pick up the 2nd frog and put it in the same place.

I go back to the kitchen and start to think "I should really take a photo of this moment as it's so bizarre" I grab my camera and head out the door again but both frogs are gone.

Who knew frogs knew how to play dead?!?!?

It seems Tom is growing up and has taught himself how to hunt. He just hasn't quite got the killing your prey thing down yet. That's probably a good thing because the idea of having the clean up a hairball with a partially digested frog carcass is just not a visual I need first thing in the morning.

The rest of my day was not nearly as exciting. Took a wee wander in and around Trafalger square, made my way over to Leister Square and met a friend for a picnic lunch and then we wandered over to Tower bridge for a walk along the Thames and ended up on the patio of a pub for a Pint of Bitter.

A lovely way to end a summers day don't you think?