Flower portraits

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After investing on some high-quality new lenses last year, I didn’t for a long time touch my old MF 50mm F/1.7 lens. There was just something seductively easy about the smooth autofocus and wide angle of the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8, and also about the zooming power of the 55-300mm F/5.6. But few weeks ago the trusty old fifty came out of the drawer, and has been in use a lot. In fact, I don’t know why I put it aside for so long – there’s a clean, smooth finesse to it that nothing can replicate, its sharpness as soft as it is brilliant. It does bokeh like no one’s business. The shallowness of its field of depth is magical – just look how this flower floats in the air, disconnected from its background (of shiny rose leaves) and even from its own stem, and how only the petals in the front are in focus, the rest of the flower simply rendering into shape and colour.

Cow-parsley meadow

All photos were taken with my old 50mm MF lens, with all but the bottom one with f/2.0. I love the dreamy textures the extremely shallow field of depth creates (demonstrated beautifully by the photo third from the bottom). Being manual focus, it’s somewhat stiff to use, and occasionally it’s difficult to see how well in focus the pictures are, but the end result almost invariably is worth the effort.

The post with slightly underwhelming arctic summer photos

Today is the second day of St Giles Fair in Oxford, a date in the calendar that symbolically marks the end of the summer; Oxfordshire state schools start on the Wednesday after the fair, and the next big festival is Christmas. The end of summer compelled me to look at photos in my camera, taken while visiting Finland this summer, and somehow they didn’t quite bring back happy memories of a golden summer, even if the trip itself was perfectly pleasant. These are pictures of days so quiet times seems to stop (and not always in a good way), of doing nothing, of solitary walks when one’s yearning for company, of overcast days when the temperature refuses to raise above +16 degrees and the most exciting thing that happens all day long is heating the sauna.
IMGP1398IMGP1421IMGP1555 IMGP1637 IMGP1638IMGP1544 IMGP1539 IMGP1537 IMGP1510 IMGP1512IMGP1502 IMGP1428 IMGP1644 IMGP1651 IMGP1647 IMGP1662I’m ready for the autumn.

The sting in the tale

In my fantasies, this is the garden of my cottage somewhere near the seaside.

IMGP1098 IMGP1117 IMGP1127 IMGP1149 IMGP1153 IMGP1168Actually, these flowers all grown in the Oxford University Botanic Gardens. When I was still a student, I used to go there all the time, especially in the summers,  sit somewhere for hours reading, enjoying the relative quiet. My heart bled when last summer they knocked down the Tolkien tree, an ancient black pine under which the writer used to sit, tree so big and so old it couldn’t hold its own weight anymore. One of my favourite Botanic Garden memories though is from the bleak midwinter of my first year as a student in Oxford. On a particularly grey, dull January Sunday morning, I walked around the gardens with a friend; the plants were dead and the flower beds empty, not even the snowdrops blooming yet. There was a fog – not a romantic mist, but the sort of damp, cold fog that the English winter so excels at, and we escaped its clutches to the nearest pub, where we sat by the fire, ordered lunch and watched through the windows how sleet started to fall. A day as perfect as it was opposite to this.

IMGP1158 IMGP1179 IMGP1203 IMGP1193 IMGP1210 IMGP1243The flower borders were planted to attract butterflies, but on this day, they were actually full of bees – greedy, fat bees of every kind, drunk of the nectar, heavy with pollen.

And there were perfect vegetables:

IMGP1223 IMGP1230 IMGP1231 IMGP1233 Oh, summer!

All photos were taken with SMC Pentax-M 1:2 50mm lens.

Blue Christmas

I was going to post about my London mudlarking day today, but looking at the photos, I felt none of them really do justice to the experience. It was a cloudy, blue day, the sun shining from the wrong direction, the mid-December wind cold and bitter, and my eyes stinging, but it was a wonderful experience all the same. The tide was out and the riverbed exposed, revealing its treasures, and walking along it one of those great, poetic in their solitariness, experiences.

IMGP9088 IMGP9081 IMGP9060I went to London to do my Christmas shopping – and I did, even if Oxford Street’s lights felt a bit too bright after the delights of the river and even Liberty was a bit disappointing. This year Christmas has come all too soon, but rather than look forward to it, I’m already dreaming about January – cold winter sunlight, snowdrops, pink tulips and a sense of a new beginning.

IMGP8916 IMGP9019 IMGP9022 IMGP9036 IMGP8964 IMGP8925 IMGP8957 My Christmas photos have come out all blue this year, quite unintentionally I must add. I’m surrounded by snow where I am now, the Winter Solstice sun hanging just above the horizon. Christmas Day is set to be cold, colder than I have experienced in years. But the day will longer already, carrying a distant promise of spring.

Winter’s dream

Less than two weeks to Christmas now, and suddenly I’m feeling the winter. Skies have been clearer, the air crispier. Yesterday the frost lasted all day, the grass crunching just the tiniest bit under my foot, and from the shadowy corner of the University Park, I found a puddle of water frozen over. There are rumours that the New Year will be coldest in decades. I have struggled to find Christmas spirit (the past few weeks have been difficult in many ways, filled with stress and grief, but also with small moments of joy), and so I’m rather looking forward to January – a month I associate with cold sunlight and snowdrops, those first whispered promises of spring.

IMGP8806IMGP8829IMGP8836 IMGP8840 IMGP8856 IMGP8869 IMGP8887Winter in the southern England has certain lushness about it. It’s never so cold that all the nature would die, and so the grass will be green, the fields will grow winter crops, and through the dead leaves fresh shoots of cow parsley are already growing, defiantly.

IMGP8898 IMGP8904 But first, Christmas.

All photos were taken with my trusty old MF 50mm lens; I still love the hazy, dreamy textures it creates.