Bristol

Bristol is one of the great regenerated cities of Britain. Somehow, over years of brief visits, I’d never really realised what a great place it is until I was stuck on a course there a couple of years ago. My hotel then was close to the canal, and each morning, I would take a walk before breakfast along the waterside into the city.

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I loved the place so much that over Christmas we decided as a family to repeat the visit at leisure.

Even before we got there, on our drive down, we had our first great surprise- Lydiard Park- near Swindon of all places, was a brief afternoon stop:

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Then as we toured Bristol itself after sundown, we visited first the Cathedral:

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As before, it was an early morning walk that really opened up the city to me:

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The church in the background, St Mary Redcliffe, is even more impressive than the Cathedral:

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Then finally a drive out to Clifton to visit the famous suspension Bridge. First, looking back from the wonderful restaurant at the Avon Hotel we got this view over towards the city:

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Then up to the Bridge itself:

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And finally to the viewpoint looking over it:

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Lost Cruising the fjords part three- Can I talk to a Norwegian yet?

After two days in Norway, and having learnt to at least enjoy the Norwegian scenery, I had decided that day three would be the day that I actually talked with someone who lived here.

And I did! Serge our lovely Spanish tour guide on the coach from Olden had been living in Norway for three months now and was able to fill us in on loads about the local way of life.

The scenery would have to do- fortunately it was quite special. We’d woken up in Olden to some quite cloudy weather which while magnificent, could go either way:

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We soon headed off in the coach to the valley of Stryn where the clouds lifted to this view of the lake:

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In the distance, at the back there, you can just make out the shine of one of the local glaciers which taunted us during the day. One of the features of a cruise is that on each day on land you have to choose your tours from a number of options and I had selected a long drive through scenery rather than a shorter glacier visit. Having visited an Icelandic Glacier earlier this year, I did know what I was missing and how amazing it might be.

Our next stop was way up in the mountains at Dalsnibba where we were actually able to look down through the clouds onto the Geraingerfjord:

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On our way down to the mouth of the fjord, we passed traditional Norwegian houses where they grow grass on the roof. They used to keep goats up on top of the houses to mow it- why on earth did they stop?

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In Gerainger, there was a magnificent waterfall:

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And then we were onto the fjord itself using a car ferry rather than a tourist ship to go along its length:

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A car ferry of course meant ordinary Norwegian passengers to chat to, but no it was just more tourists in their hired cars! More great views, though:

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We stopped next briefly at the lake of Horindalsvannet.

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With no time to further explore the lake itself, and no obvious Norwegians around to talk to, in what appeared to be a ghost town, I did enjoy seeing an appealingly run down hotel:

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And then we were back on the cruise ship sailing along our final fjord, the Nordfjord. The light was more than promising at first:

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The people in the farm house in the middle of the next snap came out to wave just after I took it- at last some in depth contact with actual Norwegians! I had achieved what I wanted and could get back to taking pictures in the gorgeous light:

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But as sunset approached, it was getting much plainer than the day before:

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Finally, in the twilight at the end of the day, we approached our last Norwegian wonder of Hornelen.

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The cliffs at Hornelen are the highest in Europe and we got in close, as the captain showed us a long fissure in the rock which will one day lead to the cliff collapsing into the fjord. With so much weight of rock this will almost inevitably lead to a terrible Tsunami along the length of the ford.

Getting in close to a cliff at night with a ship’s small flashlight strangely leads to only terrible photos which I will not show here!

As the last of the light disappeared, it was time to head out to open sea and slowly home:

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Lost Cruising the fjords part two- One Amazing Evening

In my last post you found me struggling to understand the point of a cruise, but that same evening I got a bit of a sense of why watching stunning scenery disappear out of reach could still be amazing.

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Clouds were descending as we left Flam in Sognefjord and headed up another branch of the fjord called the Naerofjord. This is meant to be one of the most stunning of all and is a Unesco world heritage site.

The cruise manager used the tannoy to tell us of the wonders ahead and briefly there was even a bit of a struggle for space on the deck as all the onboard entertainment paused so that we could take a look.

And then it started to rain and everyone went back inside.

They missed this:

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And this:

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The light kept changing as we continued on- sometimes just gloom over almost everything:

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At other times, pure magic as individual features of the landscape were spotlit:

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Later as we headed back along the length of Sognefjord and the sun started to go down, the show continued:

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At last the mixture of the changing light and the changing views made perfect sense- along with one other similarly insane photographer I was literally running the length of the deck from front to back to catch the changing views:

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Occasionally, I would rush back to see whether my dad needed another drink and then find that I had nearly missed a random rainbow:

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The wind was up at this point and at the front of the ship it was so strong that we had to take turns wedging ourself against the wall to stop ourselves being flung around, but it was worth it:

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Tuscany and Umbria

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My last post was about twenty-four hours spent in one small city, Porto. An opposite would be the three (so far) lengthy visits we have made over the years to our favourite areas of Tuscany and Umbria in Italy which have yielded barely any more pictures that I am proud of.

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It’s not that there is not a lot to photograph, instead it is the challenge of the familiar that makes it hard to be original.

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Obviously we need to go back.

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Running and Gunning in Porto

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My wife and I have a dream that when we retire we might spend months on end slowly exploring some of our favourite parts of Europe. So sometimes we end up flying in and out of a city on a cheap flight within 24 hours!

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It shouldn’t work for us, but sometimes the lunacy of such a quick trip makes for a really satisfying visit. One of the best times we did this was a few years back when we went to Porto.

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This is a really beautiful, walkable city where we could obviously have lingered, but on a quick visit we still managed to cover an enormous amount of ground. Porto has that great Portuguese character of an old city which has not been tidied up as much as most of Europe- there is still an edgy grunge to the place which somehow works.

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Photographers call this kind of approach “running and gunning” and it is actually sometimes quite a good way to see a place, particularly in a city like this where so many different styles of architecture and lifestyle seem to have been jumbled together with so little logic, but so much charm. You almost feel that if you were there for a proper amount of time, it would start to unravel under the weight of its oddness.

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Marrakech

DSC_4479Back in 1989 on our Honeymoon, Marrakech was our first trip into the exotic. It felt wonderfully dangerous and exciting- everywhere we walked we were hassled, examined and sometimes tricked until just two weeks later we returned from having trekked the Atlas Mountains and had somehow become invisible. Had we changed so much?

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Twenty years later we returned and I took these pictures. This time it was the city that had changed- safer and tamer, but still with all this character:

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Two Temples in Indonesia and a hut on a rock.

When you are a travelling photographer hampered by colour blindness there are two possible approaches to colour. One, as in my last post, is to embrace the drama of black and white, but sometimes the beauty of the colours in front of you is so intense that you have no choice but to render them in full whatever the consequences:

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This was the case most often as we travelled around Indonesia last summer and faced with views like this, I found myself occasionally ending up forgetting about my fear that I was getting the colours “wrong” and instead treating the affliction as a treat that gave me license to go over the top.

This was at Tanah Lot a temple on the south coast of Bali. We had just arrived the night before and were astonishingly jet-lagged. So much so, that as we approached, my wife said “That’s not a temple, it’s a hut on a rock”

As we got closer it looked a bit clearer:

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As you can imagine with somewhere so beautiful, we had the place pretty much to ourselves:

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We came back the next morning and with the harsh daylight sky less dramatic, I tried some long exposure black and white shots:

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About a week later we were on the next Island of Lombok and visited another seaside temple- Batu Bolong. Like Tanah Lot, this is a Hindu Temple, but Lombok itself is predominantly Muslim and this time we really were the only tourists around to see this amazing sunset:

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There were many locals on the beach though, including this old guy:

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He was happy to be photographed and in a great turning of the tables that we got used to in the less touristed parts of Indonesia, many of these locals also wanted to photograph us.

A week later, we were on the main island of Java near the second city of Yogyakarta. Here can be found the most amazing temple of all- Borobudur. This time, on another Muslim island it is a giant Buddhist temple and we approached it in true Indiana Jones style at 4 O’ Clock so that we could watch the dawn.

It was pitch black as we walked up the temple, but the first traces of light began to appear in the valley below:

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Then, as the sun began to rise, we got views of the stupas all around:

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One is cracked open like a russian doll to reveal the buddha inside:

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The moment of sunrise itself was less spectacular with too much cloud in the wrong places:

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Then, this began to lift to reveal briefly some beautiful dawn light:

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