Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prima Ballerina

AA Pic of the Week 125 w

I could have ruined the opportunity to take this very unusual autumn picture had I not spotted something in the air in front of me. I nearly walked into it, but managed to stop in time.

I saw a ballerina in mid-air. She moved this way and that way in the gentle breeze. She danced gracefully in front of the audience, but nobody but me noticed her. There were many people but they did not look up. Everybody had set their focus on something else while I was on the lookout for photo opportunities and tried to see what others did not see.

When I started shooting away most passers-by must have thought I took photos of thin air. People who stopped to take a closer look saw some piece of vegetation suspended by extremely thin cobweb. I saw a ballerina. What do you see?

DSC_0076_20090920_4816 crop cr tiles

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flax Market

Yesterday was probably the last summer day. Apart from some chilly mornings, we have had nearly 20 degrees C in the afternoons. Today started with fog and a distinct autumnal feel, so I think the organisers of the annual flax market in one of our little neighbouring towns were quite pleased with the timing.

We have been several times to this event over the years and we are actually familiar by now with the layout of it all and also recognise individuals and their stalls. As you might expect there are all sorts of things to look at, buy and try out, anything artisan, old-fashion or folksy and rural. Since we are so close to both the Dutch and Belgian borders there were quite a few from those countries as well, as you can see in some of the pictures in my Smilebox.

I hope you enjoy my little guided tour around the market as much as we enjoyed our gentle stroll ending with a rewarding glass of beer and sekt (sparkling wine) respectively.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Flax Market
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fougères Castle

Not far from our place in France is Fougères, just inside the Brittany border. I think we have taken nearly all of our visitors through the years to the impressive castle there. In medieval times it was the eastern stronghold of the Duchy of Brittany, trying to keep the French out, which eventually failed. But to this day Bretons have a very strong regional identity. The links with people on the British Isles with a Celtic ancestry are strong and obvious. For instance, whenever there is some cultural celebration you can bet your last cent there will be bagpipes.

Nearly all of the outer wall of the castle is still intact and several towers are also in very good condition. You can hire equipment to go on an audio-guided tour and enjoy a history lesson on-the-go. Or you can do as I did, let your camera lead the way and forget about your company for a while, just wave at them every now and then when your paths cross.

If you want more facts I suggest you google it. In the meantime you might enjoy some of my snaps from last month.


DSC_0344 DSC_0350
DSC_0389 DSC_0413
DSC_0414 DSC_0490
DSC_0431 DSC_0441

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weltkindertag - World Children's Day

DSC_0075_20090920_4815 banner

We went to Cologne for the weekend and found to our surprise that the World Children's Day is celebrated on 20th September in Germany, not on 20th November as in the rest of the world. So when we went for a Sunday stroll along the river Rhine we were part of a lively crowd trying to negotiate our way between various activities and stalls where charities, associations and companies did their best to promote their merchandise or services. Anything to do with children was present. Although the fire brigade posing for a calendar shoot in front of the mighty cathedral was a coincidence, I guess.

I had my camera at the ready not to miss any interesting in this huge crowd. But I found it increasingly difficult to take photographs for obvious reasons. There is something called privacy and integrity, which are fundamental rights. Yes, we have all taken pictures of people who were unaware of it, or we were unaware of it ourselves and discovered that we had captured the image of a stranger who just happened to be there. That is quite understandable in most people's eyes, I believe.

I certainly find other people fascinating when I am out and about, for instance at a tourist attraction, and I enjoy observing  them as they are being absorbed by the the beauty of something, or they are reading a sign with interesting facts and their faces sometimes reveal their reactions and feelings. In such situations, I have to confess, I find it very difficult to resist taking a photograph secretly. But I am very reluctant to use it on my blog, because I am not absolutely certain where to draw the line.

When it comes to children the issue gets even more important and emotionally charged. I understand that most countries have laws that are extra restrictive to protect children, and we have all seen blurred faces or "headless" children on TV for instance. So you can imagine how hard I found it to take some interesting pictures at the Weltkindertag yesterday! I ended up with lots of abstract pictures and other unobtrusive pictures.

I have however managed to collect some harmless pictures to illustrate the event in Cologne yesterday. You will have to imagine the rest! (Do you find this issue tricky, how intrusive you can be with your camera?)

DSC_0002_20090920_4742 DSC_0059_20090920_4799
DSC_0128_20090920_4867 DSC_0111_20090920_4851
DSC_0119_20090920_4859 DSC_0124_20090920_4863
DSC_0143_20090920_4882 DSC_0144_20090920_4883
DSC_0158_20090920_4897 DSC_0159_20090920_4898
DSC_0162_20090920_4901 DSC_0243_20090920_4982

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Genes Work!

I was sitting here at my desk going through photos, old and new ones, and I was looking for new photos in particular that were suitable for turning into black/white. I was looking for pictures that were not reliant on colour but rather shapes and light, which meant I found quite a few abstract pictures but also portraits.

I have come to realise that it is not always easy to "see them" in black/white when you are new to that game. A photographer friend of mine claims that he can see what an object or a view would look like in black/white through his long-life experience. That sounded interesting, so I went trawling through my many gigabytes of images.

That is when I saw the likeness. I have always had this strange feeling when I observe my grandchildren, both in real life and in photographs. It is like looking at myself in a spooky kind of way. I think you might be able to see that these two little boys share some genes, or is it just me imagining the whole thing?

DSC_0299_20090721_4024 b-w crop solpojksleende

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manna From Heaven?

We went for a mini break to the Loire and Burgundy when we were staying in our Normandy house this summer. One very interesting place we went to was where they produced Cremant, champagne from Burgundy if you like. Normally wine producers keep their barrels in their own cellars or caves, but this particular type of "bubbly" was made in a different way, in Caves de Bailly, which was under this hill.


The farmers delivered their grapes at the top of the hill where they were dropped down a shaft of some sort and then assisted by a screw, pulled down into this gigantic cave (system). When you approached the cave there were not many signs to direct you, but as you got closer you saw a big hole in the limestone hillside and just drove in.

It used to be a quarry but was now dedicated to the making of sparkling wine. During the war however, the occupying German forces used it for military purposes, hence the rusty old tank greeting you.

DSC_0211 DSC_0207 black sign

Then parking the car was easy and since it was a very hot day we appreciated the rather cool 12 degrees C, which made it particularly suitable for storing the five million bottles.

DSC_0222 DSC_0235 DSC_0241

The farmers left their harvest at the top of the hill and collected their bottles several years later. The grapes rained down the shaft like manna to be turned into that wonderful, sparkling liquid. Mmmm!

There is a guided tour which is very interesting, if you understand French that is. Otherwise you just have to wait until you can do some tasting and buying after the tour.


Since the limestone is rather easy to work, sculptors had been invited to carve something out of the stone. Some works of art were somewhat more intriguing than others. The first one is not difficult to understand, but what did the artist have in mind when he created this second piece of art? Any ideas?


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Why I Have Not Blogged for So Long

No, I have not had writer's block. I have not been without ideas, and I have definitely not been short of photos to illustrate blog posts with.

I have written a lot, but not for this blog. My ideas have gone into other writing. Since I last posted here I have taken about 1600 photos, some of which will appear here today and in the near future.

You see, we do not have a land line at our house in the French countryside, which means no internet connection. I have used my netbook on a couple of occasions to check email and to get news using a hotel's or restaurant's Wi-Fi, but I have not dared do internet banking or anything involving passwords and money. Neither do I have the necessary programs on the netbook to blog. I have, in other words, been bloggingly celibate.

The fact is, we do not even have a TV, just French radio, so we have been almost completely out of touch with the rest of the world apart from a few mobile phone calls and text messages. I will come back to our French holiday in a later post.

As soon as the school year was over, I and Ms Swenglish went to see my son's family in Stockholm. I do not think I need to tell you what a wonderful time we had. Among other things we went on a couple of sightseeing tours by boat in gorgeous weather.

I leave you for now with some pictures from the beautiful Swedish capital.

DSC_0020_20090720_3745 crDSC_0035_20090720_3760 cr

DSC_0063_20090720_3788 crDSC_0101_20090720_3826 cr

DSC_0120_20090720_3845 crDSC_0299_20090721_4024 cr

DSC_0143_20090720_3868 crDSC_0159_20090720_3884 cr

DSC_0895_20090722_4616 crDSC_0136_20090720_3861 cr


Now I might even find time to read other people's blogs!