Saturday, October 2, 2021

All of this unreal time

I kicked off last weekend with a reunion with my former Black Country Living Museum comrade and fellow photography enthusiast, Lynne.  

It had been 2 years since we last met up and I had agreed to introduce Lynne to a local National Trust beauty spot - Clent Hills.  

Saturday's weather gods offered up some morning mist and moody light - just perfect for photography.

There were cats hiding in plain sight in the timber pile...,

...traces of summer amongst the ferns...

and stars in the Four Stones.

I'll let you into a little secret.  These stones may exude an aura of ancient mystery, but they were actually erected in 1763 under the instruction of nearby Hagley Hall's eccentric owner, Lord Lyttleton.  Still, the views are pretty awe inspiring, stretching for miles and taking in the Worcestershire countryside, the Malverns and Shropshire's Brown Clee, a hill which tops 1,770 feet.

 After some serious inclines designed to take your breath and give you by way of exchange, tight and burning thigh muscles, we caught up over an alfresco coffee.  

We were also privileged to spot a herd of deer lurking in the shadows of the woodland forming part of the nearby Hagley Hall Estate.  Naturally I didn't have a zoom lens to capture the moment on camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  They were grazing, tails flicking in the dappled shade and looked the picture of contentment.

I rounded off the weekend with my first paid for online film festival viewing.  Courtesy of Manchester International Festival, a few months ago I had paid a nominal fee (amount entirely at the viewer's discretion) to view All of This Unreal Time, a short film starring Cillian Murphy.  

The 23 minute film tracks a man's solitary night time walk through London's rain-soaked streets.  The script is particularly poetic and subjective; it's not clear what the man is apologising for, but an apology or confession of sorts appears to be at the heart of the piece.  

The cinematography was visually stunning and Cillian is filmed walking through empty streets, briefly stopping at an all night cafe, before heading outside again, over motorway bridges, through underpasses and finally into a field adjoining a railway line.  The film was so compelling that I could virtually feel the damp dawn air on my skin in the closing scene; the sounds of crow calls and crackling electricity pylons carried on the breeze of daybreak.  The "sorry for" monologue I found particularly moving.  See it if you can.  Not that we necessarily need reminding these days, but it did reinforce the message that time is precious.  Well, that's what I took from it.  

On the subject of the passage of time, on our recent trip to Anglesey we visited the National Trust property (Plas Newydd), traditionally the home of the Marquis of Anglesey.  The most recent title holder - 7th Marquis, George Paget - departed this world in 2013 and his study has remained exactly as he left it ever since.  Consequently, for me, this was the most abiding memory of our visit, even when pitted against its stunning Menai Straits location, meticulously maintained gardens and Rex Whistler portraits.  A most authentic and atmospheric time capsule!

Parked in the grounds of that very house, was a beautiful and timeless old Bentley too.  I'm sure the Marquis would have approved.  What better subject to experiment with a cinematic vibe?  It would absolutely benefit from the addition of a chauffer at the wheel, but you can't have everything.

I had felt a little flat and uninspired upon our return from Anglesey - back to the same old same old.  Thankfully, the meeting with Lynne kicked me into touch.  Her enthusiasm was infectious and when all else fails, I return to macro photography.  Macro nature photography is my top tip for outdoor therapy.  If ever there was a reason not to mourn the passing of summer and to embrace the onset of winter, freeze framing the treasures of every season, macro photography is it.  This genre literally focuses the attention, forcing you to live in the moment.  Macro photography is all about stealth (waiting for example, for the breeze to settle so that you don't frighten off your miniature subject, if living) and a steady hand (assuming you don't have a tripod to hand).  Given that you are zooming in on your subject, the camera's sensitivity to movement is heightened.  Just like the senses in fact, when one is immersed in this genre of photography.  I can't recommend it enough.

Here are some macro moments from a recent walk around nearby Enville, complete with early signs of the transition into Autumn.  First up a dragonfly.  

A stray dandelion seed suspended on brittle, decaying weeds.

Elderberries.  I can no longer look at these berries without a) recalling my Dad's attempt at home made elderberry wine which proved unfit for human consumption or b) thinking of the Monty Python line:  "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"

Evidence of spiders is everywhere.


This arty shot was inspired by the browning edges of the fronds.  Autumn's calling!

Finally and sticking with the time theme, here's the obligatory birthday photo of my mother who turned 75 on 1st October.   

She's one of the few people I know who is entirely comfortable in front of a camera.  I certainly haven't inherited that gene!  Contrary to the impression given by my nature-heavy Instagram feed, I do like photographing people.  I love a good studio shot and admire Rankin and the Don, David Bailey, but I love the spontaneity of capturing someone in a natural, relaxed setting.   Plus, it was great to experiment on someone close, for I have just returned from a booking to capture the start of an important new life chapter for a groom on the morning of his wedding.  The weather's been awful, but as the saying goes, "Time and tide and brides wait for no man." 



  1. The Clent Hills look like a magical place for a walk and a catch up, especially with cats hiding in the wood pile!
    From your description, I think All of This Unreal Time would be very much my cup of tea. Even the title itself conjures up quite an atmosphere.
    Plas Newydd is another one from my must-visit list. I'm loving a time capsule!
    Gorgeous macro photos, too, and I think you might be right about its therapeutic properties! xxx P.S. Oh, and congratulations to your Mum, Claire!

    1. Hi Ann, Thank you! Clent is a beautiful location - several members of my family lived in the village many moons ago, so there are a lot of family stories associated with the place. xxx

  2. Hello Clare, well I've just thoroughly enjoyed your latest post along with a mid-morning coffee. Marvelous moody morning shots and I'm loving the cinematic vibe. Have you ever dabbled in moving image / short films? 'The sound of crow calls and crackling electricity pylon carried on the breeze of daylight' - brilliant! Regarding Monty Python - I thought it would be a good thing to smell of elderberries (p.s. my kids smell like hamsters, and sometimes look like them). Happy birthday to your lovely looking mother. Lulu xXx

    1. Hi Lulu, Thanks for the kind words. I set myself a challenge to teach myself the basics of filming during lockdown. It’s quite a challenge to maintain focus when filming in manual and there’s lots to keep tabs on but I was very keen to learn. I recorded a number of short clips using my tripod and hand panning but unfortunately I need to acquire some video editing software and films take up lots of space, so it’s on a back burner right now. Might have to stick with the old iPhone and invest in a decent App for editing. It does fascinate me though. xxx

  3. glad you found my blog as I am now enjoying yours! lovely photography - makes me want to get outside and explore the woods.

    1. Thanks Betty! We’re lucky to have some beautiful countryside close to home, although our walks take longer than most when I have my camera with me. Glad you enjoyed reading. :-) Claire



It's been a curious week of unexpected connections, conversations, sights and sounds, underpinned in some shape or form by panic. I was ...