Macclesfield. An Evening Stroll.

All the Christmas and New Year fun and frolics where over and while I had enjoyed the to and fro shuttling of visiting, catching up with friends and the pleasure of time well spent with good food and enjoyable company, once the dust had settled I felt the need to have a little time by myself and have a think about what I had done with the old year and what I would like to do in the new.

I like traveling by train, still a big kid at heart when it come to the romance of the railways, so I decided to take myself off for a few hours, as much for a breath of fresh air and a little exercise as anything else.

Where I live in Northern England I’m lucky in having railway stations nearby and a choice of tickets which cover a set area, a days travel for the price of one ticket. I chose a ticket which covers an area centred on Manchester and working to my system of catch the first train thats available I arrived in the Cheshire market town of Macclesfield.

In days past the town’s fortunes where built on silk spinning and there is a museum dedicated to the industry. The day of my journey was early January so the days were short and the weather was crisp and cold. The town’s railway station sits at the bottom of a hill, the town centre at the top where a square sits surrounded by a group of fine buildings. I hadn’t really set out with photography in mind but as I always carry a camera of some sort just in case I took a couple of shots of the square and the Christmas lights. Then I made my way to one of the coffee houses nearby to warm up a little before making my way back home with a few thoughts and ideas for what I want to do in 2018.

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Ormskirk. Hot Soup On A Cold Day

It was Thursday which meant it would be market day in Ormskirk. I needed to get out of the house for a few hours as I had a couple of errands I needed to sort out and as I hadn’t been over that way for a little while I thought it would make a pleasant change.

Ormskirk is a market town in West Lancashire, an area of broad flat plains stretching out to the coast and the Irish Sea. The resort of Southport is only a few miles further on. Its a farming area with a rich dark soil. The market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays and straddles through the pedestrianised centre around the clock tower. Its a general market so it’s probably got whatever you are looking for.

The weather had been reasonable when I turned out but as I stepped off the train the rain decided to visit Ormskirk as well. I quickly sorted out the bits of business I needed to and after a short look around the stalls getting colder and damper, I decided I needed to warm up somewhere. I’m a great fan of cafes, something I inherited from my parents who were great people watchers. Ormskirk has quite a wide choice, it’s my mission to try a different one on each visit, on this wet market day I picked Cobble Coffee.

I found a window seat so I could watch the world go by while I had my very pleasant bowl of hot soup and my coffee while outside in the unfriendly weather the Thursday shoppers scurried about getting everything done, while the stallholders put on the brave face and did their best to keep warm.

(PS. The soup was a excellent, lightly spiced Parsnip, perfect for a cold, inhospitable day )

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Edinburgh. A Drink in An Elegant Bar.

It was a friend’s 50th birthday and he decided that an appropriate way to celebrate would be lunch in Edinburgh at the Malt Whisky Society. Three of the attendee’s, Andrew the birthday boy, Niall and myself live in Lancashire, the fourth guest, Gavin lives on the outskirts of Inverness. So train tickets were booked and lunch reservations made.

A travel note, it took as long for Gavin to travel from Inverness to Edinburgh as it did for us to travel up from England, Scotland is by no means a small country.

We all rendezvoused in Jenner’s cafe overlooking Princes Street, there’s a photo of it in a previous Edinburgh post. After a coffee and catching up session it was a taxi to the Malt Whisky Society in Leith where excellent food was provided along with excellent wine. The finale being a measure of a gorgeous cask strength Bowmore single malt.

Extremely happy and satisfied we made our way back into Edinburgh ready for our early evening trains home. There was time in hand though for one last relaxing drink, a little bit of head scratching produced the Cafe Royal in West Register Street, just off Princes Street and convenient for Edinburgh’s Waverley station.

A quiet drink was had in the elegant surroundings and was the perfect end note to what had been a very, very pleasant day.

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Lytham. The Morning Paper.

Lytham is one half of a  a charming pair of  Fylde resort towns, the other is St. Annes,  on the Lancashire coast a little to the south of Blackpool . It’s about an hour’s drive away from where I live so it’s an easy destination to make for with my camera. It’s a bustling place with plenty of life and a busy centre, which means there are many opportunities for the candid image. Sunday is a favourite day, when people ease back a little and take time over the small pleasures, like reading your newspaper in the sun.

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Manchester. Art On The Street.

A few weeks ago a friend invited me along to his graduation ceremony for his Masters degree which was being held in Manchester. I think it now makes him some sort of Jedi.

The event was being held in the starkly elegant Bridgewater Hall across from the Victorian splendour of the Midland hotel, the hotel was acting as the dressing room for the students cap and gownery. So needless to say there was a certain amount of hustle and bustle between the two but in amongst all the celebrations and mortar board throwing etc. there was a small oasis of calm.

Carefully, diligently a gentleman was sketching away at recreating the Manchester skyline in a panorama of watercolours and pen strokes. From time to time small knots of the celebrating crowds would break off to admire his craftsmanship but never once did he break his concentration or step out of his zone.

I wonder what the finished image looks like and where it’s now hanging?

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Edinburgh. City At Festival Time.

 

A few days ago I took a train journey up to one of my favourite destinations, Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Scotland’s a place I have been travelling to for many years, my connection being my late father who was a Scot from the Lanarkshire area. The reason, or excuse for this latest trip was that fact that the Edinburgh Festival which always adds an extra dimension to the attractions of the city.

It was to be a day trip, something which is easily managed from where I live in Lancashire, the journey time is about two and a half hours also on this trip I travelled by first class which made it even more of a pleasure than usual. So after an excellent breakfast on the train and a lot of window gazing I landed up at Edinburgh’s Waverley station, nestling in it’s narrow valley between the castle on it’s rock and the well tended greenery of Princes Street Gardens. The station is always a busy, bustling place and some aspects of it’s layout can confuse the traveller unused to it’s ways.

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My Eggs Benedict, a very enjoyable way to start a train journey.

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The always busy  Waverley Station concourse.

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Yes, its the same platform, just remember which end of it you want.

I left the station by the Waverley Steps, a brisk way to leave the station and get myself onto Princes Street. The festival had started the previous week so it was now into it’s stride. I took a walk up to St. Andrew’s Square to get a flavour of the atmosphere, Festival time the square is a popular venue site with pop up arenas and bars.

After an hour or so of people watching I was making my way back towards Princes Street and I decide to stop off at Jenner’s, an Edinburgh department store of some repute. There is a cafe on the top floor which gives and excellent view over the gardens and across to the castle. So I took in this marvellous view while I enjoyed my sandwich and coffee.

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Cafe at Jenners

I like exploring places on foot and Edinburgh is a great city to do this in. I made my way along Princes Street and then up Lothian Road to the district of Morningside, Passing by one of Edinburgh’s great open spaces, Bruntsfield Links. This area is a hive of independent shops and cafes and is one I like to visit with my camera and people watch.

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Jogging by a Bruntsfield Cafe

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Keeping an eye on Morningside.

It was now time to make my way back to the city centre and the Royal Mile to take in the atmosphere of the Fringe performers on the preview stages. The route I chose took me across The Meadows and along the George IV Bridge. Built in the late 1820’s to span one of the many valleys that cut into the city centre this doesn’t look very bridge like as you walk along it, as over the years Edinburgh has crept up on it and absorbed it. It leads you past Greyfriars Kirkyard, the cafe where Harry Potter came into being and onto the Royal Mile by St. Giles Cathedral.

This is the hub of the previews for the shows and is always a must see destination as the performers do their best to drum up and cajole and audience for their own particular show.

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Bright colours to bring in the crowds

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The cathedral looks on as another story unfolds.

So that is a flavour of my Edinburgh trip, it’s a brilliant city to visit in it’s own right and when the festival is on even more so.

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A Parting Of The Ways

Sadly the time has come for me to say goodbye to an old and faithful friend, my Mamiya C220 Professional TLR.

The 6×6 format was my entry into the world of medium format from 35mm. It also represented a step change in my photo thinking. Working in 36 mm it was all a bit of a buzz, a tendency to dart about a bit too much, a little too over eager to get on to the next shot.

With the move up to roll film, the situation became a little more considered, perhaps even thoughtful, A few things brought this about, the size and weight of the equipment added a certain stateliness to the proceedings and then there was the limit of twelve images to a roll of 120 film. I now had to start thinking about what I wanted to do, what was the story I wanted to put across, how economical and pared back could I make my narrative?

The rewards were soon to be appreciated as I developed my first roll of film , B&W naturally, and examined what seemed to be the marvellously large and detailed negatives. This was followed up by seeing the same negatives projected down from the enlarger onto the focussing screen.

It was the same story with slide film. My first results were a little rough as Fuji Velvia can be a little more demanding than Ilford’s HP5+ . Though I soon began to gain an understanding of the techniques needed and this payed off with a slow but steady increase in my image sales to magazines and photo libraries.

Alas though our beautiful romance was heading towards the rocks of technology as digital began to take over and edge film into the margins. I took the plunge into digital but kept using the Mamiya but as is the way of these things, demands on my time left less time for my twin lensed friend.

So the crunch time has come, the camera has sat unused just a little too long in it’s case in my office and it’s time for me to stop being selfish and let someone else have the fun of the big rolls of film. My mind is made up and deed has been done and somewhere on an internet auction site my Mamiya 220 waits patiently for it’s next owner.

That’s not to say that sometime in the future I may be passing a camera shop, look in and suddenly feel the need to hold a large, heavy camera in my hands again.

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