Category Archives: Photography

Photos that I’ve taken, shared and like

Do you have a ‘happy place’?

“Years ago I decided that the greatest need in our Country was Art… We were a very young country and had very few opportunities of seeing beautiful things, works of art… So, I determined to make it my life’s work if I could.”

Isabella Stewart Gardner, on the creation of her Museum, 1917

Whenever I walk up to the Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House in London, my spirits lift. Even if they are good to begin with, they lift. I call it my ‘happy place’. I find it impossible to be anything other than filled with joy when I am there.

The same is true of my favourite museum in the world; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, USA. Even though I now feel I know the collection well, I like to go there each time I visit Boston, revelling in the courtyard, the cloisters and delighting in discovering a piece of art I missed last time or simply enjoying my favourite painting.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was a wealthy art collector who created her museum in 1900 and opened it in 1903. She had travelled extensively and had a profound love of Italian art and architecture, so she had the building designed to look like a 15th-century Venetian palace.

Walking in through the modern entrance and arriving at the old part of the museum, first-time visitors gasp with pleasure when they arrive at the courtyard. Even though it no longer surprises me, I still have a mental gasp as I look out onto the atrium-covered terrace, as its beauty staggers me every time. With a central square of roman mosaics, the courtyard is filled with Greek, Roman and Egyptian sculptures nestled among seasonal flowers and plants.

A cool, calming cloister surrounds the courtyard and it is almost a struggle to drag oneself away from it but delights and surprises are tucked away on three floors of galleries, so it does pay to move on when you can bear to.

The Spanish Gallery houses the best jewel; El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent. I will never tire of being drawn in to this picture. I am transported to a cave in Granada or Jerez, and want to stamp my feet and clap along. It is so intense that I can almost hear the guitars and mournful wailing of Flamenco singing.

There are many more Sargent’s to discover, along with two ground-floor rooms stuffed full of glorious early 20th-century paintings and two floors that offer an A-Z of masterpieces from Fra Angelica to Anders Zorn. Play the ‘which one piece would you take away, and only one’ and you will struggle to decide. Will it be a haunting Whistler landscape or a priceless renaissance masterpiece?

If you do ever get the chance to visit Boston, prioritise The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Yes, you need to troop around Faneuil Hall and do the Freedom Trail, I’m not going to tell you not to. But give yourself a wonderful cultural treat and get to Fenway for art and not the Red Sox!

In the meantime, here are my few photos to give you a flavour of what’s in store!

 

Ethiopia: Into the Simien Mountains

Five minutes drive into the Simien National Park we came across our first group of Gelada monkeys. Our driver shrugged when we asked to get out. What was an amazing sight for us was, we now know, just part of everyday life 3,000m up in the mountains.

Our guide, the wonderful Eshete Berju, was thrilled at our enthusiasm. He urged us to go nearer.

“Are you certain?” I asked, looking nervously at the 100 or more baboons frantically tearing at grass whilst grunting at each other. Posing for a photo we were urged nearer and nearer by Eshete and by the total lack of reaction, it was clear the monkeys didn’t give a monkeys about visitors!

It was a glorious introduction to the Simien Mountains and hanging out with Geladas became a necessary and magical part of each day’s trekking; and one that never bored.

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The trip up to the Park was easy and fun. It started really when we got to Debark, to the park office. Craggy, rugged rangers hung around outside, ancient guns slung over their shoulders like troubadours would wear their guitars. Assigned to us for the four day trip was Fantoun, whose museum piece wouldn’t scare a five year old, let alone a hungry leopard. In the truck, Kate asked: “When was the last time you fired it?” Eshete translated and everyone laughed – Fantoun, our driver, Messi the chef and his sidekick. “Well?” Prompted Kate.

“Oh, he’s never shot it,” declared Eshete, seemingly amazed.

“So how does he know it works?”

“Well, he takes it apart and puts it back together all the time, so he knows all the parts work.”

Our laughter set them off again. It was going to be a fun trip.

Debark is at 2,800m and our first camp was 3,250m.

Altitude Guide to our camps and peaks.
Altitude Guide to our camps and peaks.

It’s not much of an elevation but when you’re trying to acclimatise the heart starts to pound and the breath shorten the very second that a path heads uphill. Thankfully that first day, nothing was too steep. Once the driver left us to trek, taking Messi and his assistant onto camp, Eshete, Fantoun, Kate and I set off for a few hours to walk to camp.

Just twenty minutes in, Eshete chatted to a couple of children and then pointed off track into a flat, almost treeless plain.

“There is a big group of geladas across there.” We couldn’t see them but we set off. It took me a long time to spot them but when I did, I was astounded. Hundreds of them. Hundreds. We had lunch with them. Geladas have absolutely no interest in the food we eat, so we were sitting surrounded by them. It was weird. And amazing. The noise is fascinating, as mostly it’s the sound of constant tearing and munching of grass. Every now and then, there would be a minor squabble about nothing and a minor game of chase, but mostly just tearing and munching, munching and tearing.

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Eventually we set off again and the afternoon was filled with great views and birds of prey. As Kate said, “The Simien Mountains: a great place to be a buzzard.” I think I could watch birds coast the thermals for hours on end. It was hard to tear ourselves away from each and every cliff face.

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We arrived at camp to find our tent up and a camp table laid out with flasks of tea and coffee. Popcorn arrived within minutes. It’s the snack of choice in Ethiopia – it’s part of the coffee ceremony that takes place all over the country in most houses, hostelries and hotels.

The view just beyond our campsite was fantastic; a gorge so peaceful that the only sounds were bees (do they have bees that high up or is this a figment of my imagination?) and the occasional distant chatter from the campsite. It was a lovely place to sit as the light mellowed.

The view from the campsite
The view from the campsite

The minute the sun started to sink, however, it got cold. Suddenly we were very grateful for the fire in the cooking hut and layering up, we rushed inside. Expecting a simple supper, we were staggered at what Messi had achieved. He had one big gas ring and about eight different pots. Vast quantities of vegetable soup were followed by a main course of about six different veggies and pasta. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, we had banana fritters for pud. I had been expecting very simple one pot cooking on the trip. I couldn’t have been more delighted.

Messi the chef - a genius of the cooking hut and a nice bloke to boot.
Messi the chef – a genius of the cooking hut and a nice bloke to boot.

And to top it off, we were given a hot water bottle each to take back to our little tent.

Not bad at all for a first day in the mountains.

Kent, June 2014, Day 3: Sissinghurst

Of all the English Gardens in the National Trust’s portfolio, surely Sissinghurst is the best? Delicate, intricate and thoughtful, it’s a delight from start to finish.

The day I went, it was raining and I thought I was going to be out of luck but 20 minutes patience was rewarded with flowers showered with droplets of rain – perfect for up close photos.

When you go (as go you surely will at some point), I recommend starting with the vegetable garden. It’s great to see a traditional veg patch like this.

The local ice cream was superb too!

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By Carole Scott

Kent, June 2014, Day 2: Hole Park Gardens and Chapel Down Winery

Ah, summer. Long days, bees buzzing, flowers opening up for us to delight in their world of glorious colour. There is a good reason that millions of tourists flock to Kent in Southern England each year, from the UK and further beyond.

It is peppered with stunning gardens, all imaginatively created and beautifully maintained. I am the most dedicated of non-gardeners but even I feel a stirring of desire to be green-thumbed when I stroll by the abundant borders of an English Country Garden.

I know, I’m waxing lyrical and sound like a dotty old dear. But that’s the character that I became down in Kent last month. First on the agenda on my second day was Hole Park. Two minutes’ down the road, there was a summer fair, consisting of dozens of tents filled with delightful but expensive home lifestyle goodies. Did that and then after a gorgeous smoked salmon lunch, we meandered around the gorgeous gardens.

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After a wee rest back at base, we headed off to Chapel Down, the Winery. Wow! Amazing wines. I was really blown away by the quality. The sparkling was stunning and I was taken aback at how delicious the Chardonnay was, given that it’s not mine wine of choice. I highly recommend a trip there – friendly and information people, pretty vines, fascinating processes and superb tastings.

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By Carole Scott

Kent, June 2014, Day 1: Pashley Manor Gardens and Merriments Gardens

It has been decades since I spent a break down in Kent. At the beginning of June it was stunning. So many different flowers were out in bloom and I had – for the most part – brilliant weather.

We bought my Dad shares in a winery for his 70th (or a share of a vine in a winery), so he and his wife have been going down every June for the annual ‘thank you’ and wine pick up. This year they invited to join them and it was fantastic (more of that in Day 2).

I had a strong recommendation from my garden-loving friend Heather to visit Pashley Manor Gardens and it she hadn’t undersold it. Absolutely stunning – anywhere that balances flora and sculpture gets my vote. And the cakes were great too.

Here’s my edited highlights from the hundreds I took.

First in the day, Pashley Manor Gardens

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And then on to Merriments

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By Carole Scott

Sydney or ‘take it to the bridge’ – a photo gallery

Finally, I’ve had a chance to edit some Sydney photos. I realise that out of the many I took, only a few merited editing. It’s one of those cities where the finger is on the shutter almost constantly when the bridge or Opera House are in view. Whittling down the many to the elected few is a tough task.

So here they are – my Sydney Selection 2014.

Must start with a pano of the view from The Macleay, proving my point (from the previous post) that paying a wee bit extra for a view is very much worth it.

© Carole Scott 2014
© Carole Scott 2014

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By Carole Scott

Blue Mountain Magic

I had a great billy work bonus the other week – I was invited out to take part in a communications workshop by a sister organisation in Sydney.

It was a fun and interesting trip and I’ll post with all my top tips and experiences in Sydney itself but first, my day trip to the Blue Mountains.

Our host from The George Institute, Rich, organised a day trip out to the Blue Mountains and I was thrilled, as I didn’t get there on my last trip.

It was winter, so the sun wasn’t consistent and it did get perishing cold at times but it was stunning. We went to Scenic World – a great way to get a slice of the area in one day and I never say no to a cable car ride or two! If you click on the first photo, you’ll get a full screen gallery.

By Carole Scott
 

The last of the best of 2013: evening sail

I’m two days’ away from flying to the States for Christmas, so I thought a good way to end my review of my favourite photos of 2013 would be to share one from San Francisco. After a fantastic wee trip over to Sausalito, we caught the ferry back in the prettiest light imaginable. I was finding it quite difficult to take photos, as even on a smooth crossing, staying steady wasn’t easy.

In the end, I was delighted with this one. The angle of the sailing boat against the hazy backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and the double outline of the hills is satisfying to my eye. And it is a gorgeous reminder of that beautiful city. I only have to see it to smile thinking of both the beauty and friendliness of the city, but also of the constant laughter of being with my family and friend on that trip.

Sunset sail © Carole Scott 2013
Sunset sail © Carole Scott 2013

And while I may not be heading for San Francisco right now, I am heading for the same branch of my family….bring on the festive laughter, silly quizzes, adventurous cocktails and love that Christmas seems destined to deliver this year!

Happy snapping to all my fellow bloggers and see you for more snap-sharing in 2014.

By Carole Scott

 

Best photos of 2013: rusty ram

When I travelled to California earlier this year, I was hugely privileged to stay for a few days with a friend who lives up in Humboldt County, way up with the redwoods. I took many photos in and around her home, which was full of beautiful details. This is my favourite. I’m a fan of anything rusty and this was gorgeous – the ram’s head is the beater for a triangle  hanging by the front door, which could be used to ring out to family and friends spread across the 80 acres of land. It’s a piece of rusty perfection.

Rusty Ram © Carole Scott 2013
Rusty Ram © Carole Scott 2013

For context, here is a panorama taken on the land…

Humboldt Panorama © Carole Scott 2013
Humboldt Panorama © Carole Scott 2013

By Carole Scott

 

Best photos of 2013: hues of pews

The Cathedral of Mission Dolores is beautifully lit, thanks to the orange stained glass high in the walls. To this day, I’m not sure whether it was the stained glass or the rich wood itself that created so many different hues in these pews. Whatever the cause, I think the effect is wonderful; where the eye expects uniformity, it is given subtle waves of colour.

Hues of Pews © Carole Scott 2013
Hues of Pews © Carole Scott 2013