The weather was kind to me for the eclipse today; cloudy enough to make direct photography possible but not too cloudy as to completely obscure the sun (well not all the time at least). What a show nature puts on for us every once in a while.
John, a family friend who writes a blog about his travels around Europe, has just challenged me (amongst others) to come up with four photos that represent the ancient elements of earth, air, fire and water. As is usual with such things, I am supposed to nominate five other people to continue the challenge but I won’t be doing that as I appreciate the power of geometric progressions (it takes surprisingly few iterations before the entire population of the earth has been included). I have however, come up with some images and as a nod to the theme of John’s blog (http://continentalbreakfasttravel.com/), they are all photos I took traveling around Europe. So here we go …
Travelling to Holland on the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, I went up on deck at daybreak to watch as we passed into the mouth of the Rhine. It was a very still morning and air pollution over the city beyond made for a spectacular sunrise. Air pollution and a becalmed wind farm; it seemed ironic to me.
I noticed this man walking slowly along the rows of gravestones in a small war cemetery in Ypres and wondered whether he was looking for the name of a relative. We visited several military cemeteries on that trip and I found the experience very moving.
We spent a delightful couple of days in Bruges one winter. I know that many people think of the place as false as there are so many buildings where the medieval facade only has been preserved with the remainder being modern, but I loved the place. I struggled however, to take a photo that encapsulated the place for me. Then I saw Julie waiting patiently on a bridge over a canal and took this shot which is the image that I always think of when Bruges crops up in conversation.
I struggled with this element I’m happy to admit. I know that the aurora is not fire of course and I also know that for many Brits the term “Europe” in this context is usually taken to mean “mainland Europe” but regardless, this is the image that I’ve chosen. I had been house-sitting in Shetland for several weeks and my friends had returned so I was soon to leave for my journey back down south. The weather was overcast as we sat down to dinner when I said “ all I need now is for the clouds to clear and an aurora to show”. An hour later I was outside watching this amazing display of what Shetlanders call the merry dancers. It may be taking place high in the upper atmosphere and it may have nothing to do with fire but it certainly warmed my heart.
We had several close encounters with these fearsome individuals while in Amsterdam. I’m told that the rules of the road apply to cyclists just as much as any other road user in Holland, it’s just that in Amsterdam many of them choose to ignore the rules. We saw countless examples of them cycling the wrong way along one-way streets and on the pavements (that’s sidewalks for any US readers). Red lights were no obstacle to most of them and bike lights at night were for sissies only.
We were crossing the road once when a cyclist ploughed into the man in front of us. After he picked himself up he pointed to the green walk sign but the bike rider just jumped back on his bike and rode off, weaving through the traffic crossing the junction in front of him. The startled pedestrian turned to me with the most comical of expressions as if he couldn’t believe that the collision had really happened. I just shrugged; what can you do?
I’ve never photographed a comet before and with a clear sky last night, I just had to get out into the garden to try my luck with Comet Lovejoy. Unfortunately there was too much light pollution and exposures with settings suitable to show the fine detail such as the tail, came out completely swamped. But I did get an image or two that showed the comet as a small green blob; not very impressive but hey ho, that’s the penalty you pay for living in the middle of a crowded country like England.
Have a look at the image above and find the star cluster above and to the left of the middle, that’s the Pleiades. Now look for a green blob below the middle and to the right, further from the edge than the star cluster. It looks just a bit bigger than a star and slightly fuzzy. Well there you are, a far from impressive image of Comet Lovejoy.
As we arrived in Canterbury by train, the heavens opened and it was a quick dash into the nearby “Goods Yard” market created from an old railway goods shed. While Julie and my friends were busy looking at the contents of the stalls, my attention was focused on the building which fascinated me. I wasn’t the only one either as I noticed a pro photographer (at least he had professional camera gear) walking around taking shots as well. I had to smile as his assistant (who may have been his wife) looked bored out of her mind as she stood there holding his camera bag while he looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Later I got my chance to be a pro photographer myself (well almost). I was taking a shot along a barrel-vaulted soffit under an overhanging building when a couple of people walked under. A joke about saying cheese ensued and soon there were five of them around and I had offered to take their photo and email it to them when I got home. After the shot, as I shook hands with the gentleman he slipped a bank note into my hand and an uncomfortable minute then passed as I endeavoured to persuade him to take it back. Eventually my protestation that I was most definitely an amateur photographer won him over. It certainly put a smile on my face for the rest of our visit though.