The Grayson Perry ‘disappeared’ post has reappeared – here!

kill-the-computerNot sure why I published on 21 May 2015, but according to the deep dark depths of ‘the Reader’ apparently I did it on 19 May 2015 and it all disappeared. Here’s a link, I think/hope –

Grayson Perry’s ‘A House for Essex’

Sorry if you’ve already seen it – computer has been spontaneously re-starting itself recently and I’m not entirely sure where I am with it all!

The ‘bleached’ filter aesthetic

The advert for Coach - photographer Steven Meisel, stylist Karl Templer and art director Fabien Baron.  Spring 2015 from Vogue Italia.
The advert for Coach – photographer Steven Meisel, stylist Karl Templer and art director Fabien Baron.
Spring 2015 from Vogue Italia.

Last week a couple of photo shoots caught my eye. One was this advert for ‘Coach’ which shows a professional shoot where the images have been treated to a post-production working in a very similar manner to filters on a camera app on your smart phone or the filters on Instagram.

Fashion feature for the Sunday Times 'Style' magazine. Photography and set design by Elena Rendina.
Fashion feature for the Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine. Photography and set design by Elena Rendina.

And, the second was a shoot for a magazine which also produced images with a bleached out effect. Now using filters in photography is nothing new, but I was just wondering whether this recent shift in the look and feel of these fashion pictures, is an attempt to close the gap between the immediacy and youth of mobile social media uploads, and the more sedate rendering of a formal fashion magazine spread.

Below is my series of three images using Instagram. It shows the original (left) and a couple of standard filters – not exactly subtle when viewed on my phone let alone on a bigger screen.

And then, I thought I’d take the same image and try a little Photoshop manipulation to see if I could achieve a ‘bleached’ kind of look but not as harsh as the Instagram filters.

And finally, this is what I settled for. I like it as a picture, but it doesn’t give the most accurate representation of the scarf!

Added a warm filter layer.
Added a warm filter layer.

Breakfast please – it’s been a cold night

Blackbird-food

First very cold night of the winter and this morning five blackbirds have been squabbling over the limited food resources round the garden. One of the birds came up close to the window and just perched on a pot staring out across the frozen pond.

Bird-frozen-pond

Blackbirds will feed from a high bird table, but they prefer pecking around at ground level. This morning I mixed up some uncooked oats with a little lard and chucked in a few raisins and left the mixture on the patio. One male bird attempted to claim the lot, but whilst he chased off one competitor another would dart in and sneak off with a beak full.

Blackbird-waiting

Walking along Waxham Beach, Norfolk

Christmas-Waxham-dogsChristmas morning, it was clear skies and a light wind on the East Norfolk Coast, but when we crested the brow of the dunes the sea was unexpectedly rough.

Unexpectedly-rough

Rare-rollers

No Christmas swimmers, but plenty of dogs ran backwards and forwards into the retreating surf.

Playing-in-surf

Anonymous aliens arrive

Anonymous-aliens-arrive

The anonymous aliens release their messages for all humanity.
The anonymous aliens release their messages for all humanity.

Well, that was last night the 5th November.

Screenshot of Twitter last night, 5th November 2014, following the Million Mask March in London which attempted to protest at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster.
Screenshot of Twitter last night, 5th November 2014, following the Million Mask March in London which attempted to protest at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster.

Protesting in London on the way to the Houses of Parliament, rowdy, serious and in the end a little violent, but in reality it’s still business as usual despite the banking crash and the supposed, virtual meltdown of capitalism! And, back in the very, very ordinary world where I live the local council had a predictable, rather safe family affair ‘fireworks display’ in the community park opposite my street. Only, the tickets were too expensive for many families and so they came and parked down my road and the children stood on the pavement trying to see over the row of houses between them and the park.

Finale-I

Finale-II-burst

I think I'd prefer a visit from some anonymous aliens perhaps a few blue-sky thinking economists??
I think I’d prefer a visit from some anonymous aliens perhaps a few blue-sky thinking economists??

Oh dear – we all make mistakes!

Morning-Glory-underneathBack towards the end of June I planted out some Morning Glory seedlings. I usually put a couple in with an early flowering clematis to take over the flowering from mid summer and a couple more that will thread up into the wisteria. However, this year I had the bright idea to add some to twine round my dark red and bright pink dahlias and so I pushed in a few seedlings next to the dahlia tubers.

The dreaded bindweed. Convolvulus arvensis (photographed in a country hedgerow not my garden!)
The dreaded bindweed.
Convolvulus arvensis
(photographed in a country hedgerow not my garden!)

Spin forwards a couple of months, Morning Glory beautiful, but what is this ghastly, strangling white monster that looks so much like Morning Glory – arggh it’s bindweed in with my dahlias, quick yank it out. Then, oh dear, looking closer, I remember my little Morning Glory seedlings, too late, now ripped up and crushed. Of course, both plants are members of the Convolvulaceae family. When I was in Italy, in a warmer climate, I noticed a blue flower version that was as much a weed as white bindweed is here in England. However, as the blue ipomoea dies with the first frosts here it’s a wanted blue flower that’s grown as an annual and not a rampaging, nuisance weed.

The wanted truly blue Morning Glory. Ipomoea nil
The wanted, truly blue, Morning Glory.
Ipomoea nil

GBBO – European Cakes – How about a Dobos Torte?

Cooled-caramelDuring the run of the BBC’s ‘Great British Bake Off’ there are some weeks when I watch and think, yes, I’ll have a go at that. And, naturally, I do like cake. Here are a few photos taken over the course of several hours as I followed Mary Berry’s recipe for a Dobos Torte from her book ‘Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book’.

As you can see my copy (bought 1994) is rather tatty and well-used, but this was one recipe I hadn’t tried. Spelled, in error Doboz not Dobos and hailing mistakenly from Austria when J√≥zsef Dobos was actually Hungarian, this recipe was still worth trying out!

Firstly, you have to prepare the cake layers. In this recipe they are made using a simple fatless sponge recipe although I noticed on the GBBO they suggested a Genoese sponge. Either with or without butter the mixture has to be whisked for some minutes to get the volume. Mmm – I was supposed to get six layers, but obviously misjudged the amount of mixture for each circle and only ended up with five. Of course, each layer was then not as thin as it should be, but still they were quite thin and baked really quickly and so a couple (perfectionists look away now) were OVERBAKED!

Whilst the circles of sponge cooled I made the ‘fancy’ butter cream. This involved whisking egg whites with icing sugar over simmering water, adding to softened beaten butter and then incorporating carefully melted dark chocolate. At this point I thought if I make this again I’ll sandwich with chocolate ganache instead.

Moving on to the caramel.

‘Photographing making caramel’ = ‘Watching paint dry’
Well, it is a waiting game and then because I was fussing with camera – oohh it so nearly burnt. And, I didn’t want a ‘bin’ episode. Caramel all fine – it should be I’ve been making it since I first made peanut brittle as a 13 year old at school. Don’t think that would get past health and safety these days.

I think the most tricky part when making this cake is achieving the clean cut caramel wedges for the top. You do need to be vigilant and catch the moment for marking and then slicing the top caramel soaked layer.

Time to assemble, invite other cakeaholics round for coffee and biscuits, sorry cake, and cut.

Five-layers

Oven fresh rolls – a simple pleasure

Bread-rolls
Last night it was GBBO’s ‘bread week’. What? Well, for the uninitiated GBBO is the BBC’s unexpected hit show the ‘Great British Bake Off’ which is now on its fifth series. It is simply a baking competition where contestants bake each week, but somehow it is more than just a ‘competitive’ cooking programme.

Proving

I’m not a big telly person, but this is my guilty secret not least as I love baking cakes and, well, anything sweet! Sweet, yeasty breads such as Chelsea buns, cinnamon brioche and stollen are all personal favourites, but last night only one person made a sweetened showstopper loaf. I guess with all the recent fuss about sugar being so bad for your health savoury breads were considered the safer option. Anyway, following a batch of chocolate hazelnut cookies last week I have restrained myself and baked a few granary rolls.

Into-oven

Cooling-rack

Is it level? – Problems with water and horizons

the North Sea
The North Sea following the British Isles as it slowly slides off the planet.
Sometimes it is really obvious that something is just plain wrong with a picture. Of course, you can deliberately have the sea sliding off planet Earth for an effect, but usually it’s just you haven’t noticed the background or in my case trying to photograph the sea/horizon (above) was not holding the camera properly (excuses, excuses).

Doesn't quite feel level does it?
Doesn’t quite feel level does it?

Photographing water – oceans, rivers, canals and even a glass of liquid comes with expectations. It feels right when the liquid looks level. Well, obviously getting a flat calm sea horizon level is pretty easy, but it all becomes more tricky when the waterline isn’t the main focus of the picture.

CamdenLock1

Are-we-crooked

Since I took these canal photos I’ve been more careful when framing a shot that includes water, but I really, really struggled with this City of London skyline.

City of London horizon
The City of London from Canary Wharf . . . Take 1001!!

And, in the end – defeated – adjusted it in Photoshop.

Rejuvenation2

Okay smarty pants we all know your a natural. Now give me back my camera please.
Okay smarty pants we all know your a natural. Now give me back my camera please.

Contrary Mary

I notice I’ve gone down the ‘very pretty, pretty’ alley a bit too much recently and I feel I need an antidote. Us, humans – aren’t we a contrary bunch? All the grey winter gloom and then it’s spring and there is green and flowers everywhere. And, I’m looking at skeletons! Also, I find I’ve been reaching for the black dye.

Morgan-black

Enough gloom I think it’s time for a little ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’.

coffee cupcakes
Coffee and hazelnut cupcakes.

And a nice cup of coffee.
And a nice cup of coffee.