A Flash of Inspiration: Blog http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog en-us (C) A Flash of Inspiration info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) Mon, 23 May 2016 19:22:00 GMT Mon, 23 May 2016 19:22:00 GMT http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/img/s/v-5/u929357063-o152637386-50.jpg A Flash of Inspiration: Blog http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog 86 120 Side Streets of Barcelona http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/5/side-streets-of-barcelona  

Capturing the streets in the city early mornings excites me. The street cleaners have washed away the grime of the previous day. The tourists are still leisurely eating breakfast in the nearby boutique hotels. Perhaps it's that I like being present in the city but I don't like the crowds. I contemplate purposefully seeking solitude in the city. 

Photo taken on the side streets of Barcelona

This is Barcelona. The side streets. The first of a series exploring the side streets of cities. 

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) barcelona city http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/5/side-streets-of-barcelona Mon, 23 May 2016 18:46:04 GMT
Solitary http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/solitary A walk along the coast path is one of my favourite activities to de-stress.  I like to settle myself onto a weather-beaten wooden bench and gaze out to sea. This is often my time to contemplate. Lately I've been thinking of those creative souls who dig deep and create from a place of distress. Often when I'm feeling under stress or off-colour I withdraw into myself and my creativity suffers.  I'm gradually learning to create more from the heart in good times and bad. I'm a firm believer that photography can be very therapeutic. The coming months, I think, may be a test of this. 



In the more immediate future I'm looking forward once again to participating in photographer Henry Lohmeyer's e-course "Heard' - the emphasis will be on listening to our photographs. The start date is 28th March - check it out on thehereco website. His courses are always thought-provoking and moving.  I intend to post some of my work here. 

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/solitary Sat, 19 Mar 2016 19:21:34 GMT
A Glimpse of Castlefield http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/a-glimpse-of-castlefield I put together a selection of my favourite photos taken around Castlefield in Manchester displayed in a different format. It started as an experiment one lazy Saturday morning but I definitely see possibilities with Slate. I like it. I'm not so sure it always displays as you expect though - I need to fine tune this.   Have you tried it too? Thoughts?


Simply click on the image to view and then scroll down! 

A Northern City






info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/a-glimpse-of-castlefield Tue, 08 Mar 2016 19:59:23 GMT
From the Shadows of Winter http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/from-the-shadows-of-winter It hasn't been a particularly snowy winter and fresh frosty mornings have been few. What little snow we've had has melted away quickly. I look back on this last winter with memories of mainly grey days with low light and patches of drizzle.  As a photographer you are particularly aware, I think perhaps even extra sensitive, to light conditions. I'm also aware that the tone of my photography tends to be influenced by the seasons. This is not intentional -it just happens. My monochrome photos have been noticeably dominant over the last few months. This is most evident over on my Instagram stream. My world has lacked colour. I even began to question my ability to take colour photos... wondering whether I'd lost it. Perhaps it's simply hibernating and waiting to emerge alongside the new fresh growth of spring.

Much of my work is influenced greatly by the industrial backdrop of the north of England and the rich industrial heritage. I think industrial and monochrome go comfortably hand-in-hand. I've been working on this piece lately - it was inspired by a traction engine rally. I find that these events offer a rich source of creative inspiration with plenty of vintage objects and down-to-earth characters. The text is an excerpt from the work of Friedrich Engels "The Condition of the Working Class in England". I find his writing fascinating as it gives his insight into the harsh living conditions of working people in the north of England and especially around Manchester and the surrounding industrialised towns in the 1800s. You may recall my post Marx, Engels and Mrs Banks ?


Traction engine silhouette SteamTraction engine silhouette. Enhanced with industrial textures and industrial inspired text from Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844.

Layered within are subtle elements from industrial heritage sites. 

I appreciate the changing seasons and the value each one brings to my creative work. And the greyness of winter heightens the anticipation of the arrival of spring. 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on winter!

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2016/3/from-the-shadows-of-winter Sun, 06 Mar 2016 13:29:06 GMT
Monochrome Manchester http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/12/monochrome-manchester We want to open our doors and for nobody to walk through them. 

The Wellspring, Stockport. 

By far one of my favourite places to photograph is the Castlefield area in the city of Manchester. A beautiful grungy tangle of historic waterways and railways - a reminder of Manchester's grand industrial past. This urban heritage site was perfect location to test out my Fuji x100t in an city setting. Although in recent months I've been using the camera in a wide variety of situations I always envisaged that urban settings would be where it would prove most productive. 

Castlefield is a paradise for photographers. I like to visit early mornings on a Sunday when it  feels like the city is still asleep and recovering from the revelry of the night before. The downside is that certain areas can leave you feeling vulnerable and especially more so as a female. At times I can be oblivious to danger as I'm absorbed in creating. Add expensive camera gear in to the mix and the chances of getting mugged can be perceived to be increased.  There are dark hidden spaces and uninviting deep  murky areas of water. A place where the imagination can run wild. Nevertheless, there is a certain thrill which makes a great capture all the more worthwhile. 

photo at Castlefield Manchester

I waited and waited for a lone figure to cross this bridge. When a bloke in a dark hoody crossed I knew as soon as I'd captured the scene that it would convey perfectly  the sense of place.

photo at Castlefield Manchester

Looking up from the dark shadows below and I'm fascinated by the different structures crammed together - styles, shapes and textures. I would imagine not very welcoming after dark though!

photo at Castlefield Manchester

The criss cross of cast iron tructures add interesting shape and texture - and with beer barrels and graffiti thrown in the mix for added interest. 

photo at Castlefield Manchester

Looking up again as a train rumbled overhead. Home to the pigeons!

photo at Castlefield Manchester

I battled with my conscience whether to post this or not. This is someone's child. To be so alone. But then, like it or not, this is reality in the city. There's no avoiding the rough sleepers. I can not imagine how difficult survival is for these people. Homelessness in Manchester has been a controversial topic in the news headlines in this winter. And whilst politicians and pressure groups and even those on the streets argue amongst themselves on how to ease the problem the desperation continues. 

photo at Castlefield Manchester

Finally I had to sneak in a colour shot. I love to shoot reflections. A perfect blue sky would've popped the colour but I'm in Manchester and, as the saying goes, "it's grim up north" and yes, it was a grim day but that adds to the drama of the location!

photo at Castlefield Manchester

The Fuji x100t is now my camera of choice for urban photography. I won't go into the technical aspects of the camera here  - there are plenty of reviews online for that - except to say that the quality met my expectations and it feels so very good in my hands.  The big plus for me is that I feel safer shooting with a smaller and more discreet camera and don't have to compromise on quality. Having said that I must tell you that my one scary encounter came not from a human but from a butch looking pit bull type dog who almost cornered me and made my heart race by the water just behind the far barge in the top photo! 


PS My charity of choice to support the homeless and disadvantaged local to my area is The Wellspring in Stockport. The link is here if you'd care to take a look. 




info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) manchester monochrome urban http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/12/monochrome-manchester Mon, 28 Dec 2015 15:25:31 GMT
I'm Still Around! http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/8/im-still-around I know, I know... it's been a while since I last posted on my blog. I had hoped to have my new site in place by now - the plan was to get it live on summer solstice but it didn't happen. I've had issues with the hosts of my domain name giving me false information on transferring my name, email addresses not working, the 'email by subscription' set up has had me tearing my hair out and the galleries on my new site not displaying as I'd hoped. I wanted to set up two blogs on the one site and that turned out to be a nightmare and out of frustration I ended up setting up a 2nd site. So now I have double trouble!! Two sites and neither up and running! Deep breath...

So here I am still on my old site which is painfully slow and creaking when I add to it. Although I'm a great believer in beauty in imperfection, when it comes to tech stuff it has to be right - I don't want to launch a glitchy new website or two! 

The longer I leave posting here the more disheartened I feel. So I thought it was time for a brief update. Creatively it's been a wonderful summer. I've been photographing more than ever. The creative passion is burning more intensely than ever. Additionally I've been exploring photo artistry in more depth and immersed myself in a great community over on Instagram. I wanted to share a few of my favourites here.

A while ago I headed down to the south coast for a holiday. It fuelled me creatively. I have a dream that one day I'll live beside the sea. So here's my celebration of the coast.

I've always been drawn to capturing lone trees in wild and vast landscapes.  This has recently evolved into capturing lone figures. The light, sea spray  and lone figure all worked together perfectly here. Being in the right place at the right time. It just happened - I couldn't have planned the scene in advance.  It filled me with immediate joy. 

I've pondered the significance and place of man on our planet. This has influenced me to portray small figures set in vast land and seascapes and making use of plenty of negative space. I've enjoyed experimenting scale. 

I've reflected on solitude and loneliness, on man's vulnerability.

For those who choose to lead a more simple life I wonder does this give you inner peace and contentment? Or would you still be searching for that 'something'?

I couldn't post my favourites without including my friend and photo buddy Viv. To be able to share a common creative passion is priceless. I'm feeling the pull to explore and engage in creative collaboration. 

A lone bird too! I have common theme emerging! 

I spotted the wind-swept tree behind the historic Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island.

I recently came across the saying that the more you learn the easier it is to downsize and simplify. I think this is especially true with photography.  I've participated in dozens of workshops and creative classes.  Many of them I've never completed in full but the important thing is that  I've always taken something from them and my confidence has grown. Recently I felt the pull to simplify so I bought a fixed lens Fuji X100t camera. I'ver certainly not abandoned my Canon but in certain situations this little gem has brought me a new found freedom. I no longer get hung up about not having the right lens on my camera to suit the scene. My camera bag is no longer bulging with lenses, filters and all sorts of gadgetry.  I move my feet to frame my shot and dial in the settings manually. The small size is deceptive - this is not a point and shoot camera nor is it particularly easy to master. It has been a steep learning curve and my brain is working overtime! I think if you've used a film Slr then this camera is like stepping back to how it used to be.. but with the advantages that digital has to offer. The fujichrome setting produces beautiful deep colours.

The Fuji X100t is discreet and so for introverts like me it's perfect for capturing street scenes. Although I'd been increasingly using my iPhone for street photography I didn't find it particularly comfortable to use. Street photography is something I want to explore further over the next year and this is one of the mains reasons why I invested in the Fuji.

The camera performs particularly well in low light levels such as here on the beach as the sea mist rolled in and in! This, I recall, is ISO 100 with little obvious  grain apart from the sand! 

I know we Brits like to moan about the unpredictable weather but I've gradually come to embrace this. There is no point in having a camera and only bringing it out on bright days - it would gather too much dust in the drawer!  A few hours after I took this photo the sky was brilliant blue. 

Down the lane from our holiday home was the setting for a wetland nature reserve. The light here was ever changing. I think a combination of the reflections, grasses and the irregular shapes make this location particularly photogenic. 

And so to sit a while and contemplate. I wondered, as LS Lowry did, what if one day the sea rolled in and in and in...

Recently for me it has become clearer in my head that I'm especially drawn to exploring solitude, loneliness and simplicity. The coastal erosion and wild weather I witnessed drew me to question the power of nature and man's vulnerability . I'm heading over to Yorkshire next week and I'm looking forward to exploring these themes further. 

Ahhh ...I feel so much better for getting back to my blog. Thank you for not deserting me and I hope to get my new sites up and running very soon ( or at least one of them!) 

Have a peaceful week! 

Helen x 



info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/8/im-still-around Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:23:14 GMT
The Importance of Looking Closely http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/6/the-importance-of-looking-closely These pictures ... celebrate fleeting moments of intense beauty and remind us of the importance of - and the joy we can get from - looking very closely. 

David Hockney

I couldn't phrase it any better than David Hockney. What he says is exactly what I try to express here on my blog. 

So a perfect Sunday morning for me is taking in an exhibition and stopping by a cafe (independent, not chain), sipping a cappucchino  - one of the few times I drink coffee - and watching the world pass by. Paris would be the perfect location but on this occasion Saltaire near Bradford in West Yorkshire suits me just fine. I'm paying a return visit to Salt's Mill, the magnificent UNESCO world heritage site which, when it was originally built in 1853, was the largest floor space in an industrial building in the world. And it oozes character.

The aim of my visit is to view the latest David Hockney exhibition The Arrival of Spring. I'm unsure what to expect and if I'll love it or not love it.  However, I do know that as a Yorkshire man, his work feels as if it belongs here. 

photo taken at Salt's Mill Saltaire Bradford Yorkshire England

permanent display of Hockney's work hangs in a gallery down on the ground floor of this historic mill. It's a perfect setting amongst exposed brickwork, aged timbers, worn stone flooring and metalwork.

Photo at Salts Mill Saltaire West Yorkshire

Clusters of vintage tables and cupboards have tempting displays of arts related goodies to buy. It's all very quirky and 'just right'.

Photo at Salts Mill Saltaire West Yorkshire

It's impossible to leave this space without spending. I'm quite restrained this time and simply buy a couple of postcards. 

Photo at Salts Mill Saltaire West Yorkshire

A few floors higher in the minimalist setting of mill is the exhibition The Arrival of Spring. This is a collection of work inspired by the changing seasons in the English countryside and set close to the coast in East Yorkshire. The works were created on his iPad and I find that intriguing. I think in this country people can be a little 'sniffy' about work created digitally. I have the impression that in the US it's becoming more of a recognised art form.

And so back to Hockney...

photo taken at Salt's Mill Saltaire Bradford Yorkshire England

Wow this is an impressive body of work. From a distance the vivid colours and simplicity are very striking. Taking a closer look the detail in the subjects and the layers of colour showcase what can be achieved with digital brushes. I recall he uses an app called Brushes
photo taken at Salt's Mill Saltaire Bradford Yorkshire England

In a small side room I spotted a row of three screens with changing displays of Hockney's iPad work. The vibrant colours are likely what defines his work and make it stand out as his own. Of course I had to take a monochrome shot. And there's just something about a row of chairs calling out to be photographed!

photo taken at Salt's Mill Saltaire Bradford Yorkshire England

I find the fabric of the building to be equally as interesting as the exhibition.  The windows perfectly frame scenes of village beyond. The light falling on the old textured flagstones creates interesting shapes. Many a wooden clog would've clomped over this floor in centuries gone by.  

I stop for my coffee. It feels good to be in this bubble of creative space. 

I can't leave the mill without taking a peek around the not so perfect rear of the building. An array of texture and reflection await me.

This is one of my favourite views through the window of the security door. The beauty of imperfection.

photo taken at Salt's Mill Saltaire Bradford Yorkshire England


So digital art?  What are your thoughts?


​Ps My new website is coming along well. But what's holding me back at the moment is the email address for my new domain name - sometimes it works and sometimes I get delivery failure messages. The inconsistency is so frustrating. I need to research further. But I prefer to create...


info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/6/the-importance-of-looking-closely Wed, 10 Jun 2015 11:04:44 GMT
Janet's Foss and the Money Trees http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/6/janet-foss-and-the-money-trees Sometimes you see an intriguing sign and you just have to follow it... 

Curiosity got the better of me and so over towards Janets Foss I headed. The path lies on the edge of the village of Malham in Yorkshire. I'd stayed overnight at Beck Hall - a quaint and very old B&B standing alongside the babbling beck and so set off early before the crowds arrived. The substantial full English breakfast - minus the black pudding - had fuelled me ready for walking. 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

This is a shallow crossing point for cattle. The presence of water hints at what lies further up stream. 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

The neat path leads through kissing gates and  alongside farmland with grazing sheep. A couple of lambs with their mother eyed me suspiciously. I noticed that the sheep here are bolder than the timid ones closer to home. Clearly they've ignored the sign on the gate though. 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

Farm outbuildings are perfect for capturing grunge and rough rustic.  A group of passers-by seemed bemused by me photographing a rusty old trough. 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

I spotted a family of camera-shy baby rabbits hopping in and out of the stone barn. 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

The ground here was lower than my visit to the sole tree from my previous post. But even on the  lower levels you witness the harshness of the environment as weather-beaten trees bow and strain against the biting cold winds.

This trio of trees clinging to the edge of the ridge caught my eye. This was a stark contrast to what was to come further along the pathway.

photo of farmland on the way to Janets Foss near  Malham in Yorkshire, England

A few strides further and I came across the National Trust sign for the Malham Tarn Estate and the scenery changed dramatically.  An enchanted wood  beckoned.

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

The verdant woodland was striking. Green - so very green and fresh. The scent from the lush carpet of wild garlic wafted across the valley.

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

I caught a glint of metal on a fallen tree trunk. I took a closer look and saw that the bark was covered in coins which had been hammered into the tree trunk. Row upon row upon row of coins. I glanced further along the river bank and spotted more. These were tree versions of lucky wishing wells. You shove a coin in the tree and make a wish.

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

Even the solitary bees have their own bee book nests high up in the ash trees. They form part of a bee library - you can read more about them here.

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

In the distance I spotted a wall of water and quickened my step. Was Janet waiting for me with a cuppa? 

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

Ahh,  and  so this is Janet's Foss - a small but perfectly formed waterfall.  Janet - or Jennet as she's sometimes known - Queen of the Fairies lived in a cave behind the water. So goes the local legend. 

A place to be still...

A place to sit on the rocks and clear your head of incessant chatter.

There's something very soothing about running water.

photos on walk to Jant's Foss Malham Yorkshire

At locations like this I regret not carrying along my tripod. I find it difficult to get a comfortable balance of weight when out walking and I find that my sturdy Manfrotto tripod can be cumbersome. I can be clumsy and have been known to trip over them...


Ps The tripod issue has been playing on my mind of late. I returned home and bought a new travel tripod - the Manfrotto Befree! I've not yet managed to get out and about with it but I'll let you know how I get on with it! 

I'm currently working on a new website - just a few small ( I hope) issues to resolve and then I'll be ready to launch. This one, I feel, is growing old and creaky. I find the Blog side of it increasingly difficult to use and especially as this is something I really enjoy I've decided to jump ship to Squarespace.  I hope this will be an improved and easier platform for blogging. 



info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) yorkshire http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/6/janet-foss-and-the-money-trees Sat, 06 Jun 2015 18:40:59 GMT
Lone Tree Lone Tripod High above Malham http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/5/lone-tree-lone-tripod The skies are big and wide above Malham in Yorkshire - a place where you can breathe in the cold fresh air and feel all is well with the world.  It's no secret that Yorkshire is one of my very favourite places. I feel so at home here. 

The landscape surrounding the pretty village of Malham is incredibly beautiful but without doubt hostile too. The mist descends. It drizzles. Hard driving rain. Biting wind. It's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when the sun comes out and the clouds float gently across the vivid blue sky - so close that you feel you can reach out and touch them. 

Trees are few and far between on this landscape. It takes a tough tree to survive here. In all seasons the wind viciously whips across the land. Bracing. Lone trees are a magnet for photographers. Who doesn't get excited by the gnarled weatherbeaten skeleton of a lone tree? Simplicity is the keyword.  I'm not so much excited by those bedecked in leaves - you may see a fine silhouette from the distance but the character's hidden. 

And so in the distance I spotted a naked solitary weathered tree. A lone tree with a lone nest. As I perched myself on a drystone wall and carefully composed my photo I noticed movement amongst the limestone rocks. Of all the trees in all of Yorkshire and the one tree I want to photograph is not alone. A photographer had set his tripod up next to my tree! The idea of a lone tree and lone man appealed to me so I snapped away. Alone but not alone.

photo of Malham landscape Yorkshire

After a while I think he noticed me. He moved away and so I moved in a little closer. Our paths briefly crossed. We nodded our heads and although we didn't speak we glanced at each other in a knowing way - a mutual appreciation of that lone tree. 

Lone TreeLone TreeMalham, Yorkshire

The area around Malham is renowned for the striking limestone landscape made up of vast mosaics of clints and grykes. It's a paradise for geologists and photographers alike. The landscape takes on an almost lunar appearance in parts. Scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were filmed way up here - the next time you watch the movie take a closer look at the landscape during the atmospheric scene when Harry and Hermione pitch up the tent. 

photo of Malham landscape Yorkshire

For me the lone tree represents solitude. We all need solitude very now and again. It's when I feel at my most creative. I'm not talking here about loneliness - I think there's a fine but definite line between solitude and loneliness. What do you think?

photo of Malham landscape Yorkshire

Only the well- insulated sheep and a handful of hardy cattle survive up here. They huddle together alongside the dry-stone walls or shelter in the tumbled down stone barns.

photo of sheep above Malham

Perfect Yorkshire!

Ps I admit I've only ever seen the first Harry Potter film!

PPS Pesky dust spots!  I usually take my camera to the local camera shop to have the sensor cleaned but a few days before my trip I discovered that it had closed down. It saddens me. I'm guilty of sometimes using the likes of Amazon to buy bits of kit but when your local shop's gone so too has the wealth of expertise and friendly advice.  Too late for my local shop but next time you reach for the buy button online take a few moments to think if you could better support your local camera shop.

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) landscape yorkshire http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/5/lone-tree-lone-tripod Sun, 10 May 2015 14:31:30 GMT
Pinch Belly Park http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/5/pinch-belly-park  

Pinch Belly Park? Oh I had to find out more!

As I delved deeper into the history of my hometown I set out to explore Stockport's oldest park Vernon Park which is tucked away on the hillside and a short walk from the town centre. 

I wrongly assumed that the imposing red brick building standing beyond the grand stone gates of Vernon Park was Vernon Hall.  I knew that the Vernon family were key players in the industrial development of the area. But I suppose by choice they would've lived away from the smog and grime of the mill town. After all, Friedrich Engels - in his lengthy read  "The Conditions of the Working Class of England" had rather harshly  described Stockport as being "renowned as one of the duskiest, smokiest holes in the whole of the industrial area".

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

Surprisingly the park came before the building. In 1844 Lord Vernon gifted agricultural land to Stockport council with the intention of it being developed for "the purpose of public walks and as a place for outdoor activity". Various financial disputes delayed the building of the park and work didn't start until 1857. The building came a few years later and became Stockport Museum. I'm not certain what was displayed here but at that time the Victorians were keen to travel and usually returned with all sorts of 'treasures'. Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

Outside I met a number of people who'd come to visit the museum. Except it had closed. I never even knew it existed. I'm not too sure what the future holds for the building but I hope it isn't left to go to ruin. I took a peek inside - it was a little dark and gloomy but nevertheless had features. In the right hands and with investment this could be a fantastic arts centre.

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

Beside the doors stood a pair of ornate urns overflowing with neglected dying plants. 

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

The signpost beyond the house suggested that there was plenty more to be discovered.

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

I came across a commemorative park bench which dates the park - 150 years takes us back to 1858. Stockport over the centuries has known extreme periods of economic boom and bust. I know I've mentioned the decline of recent years here in Stockport - it comes and goes in cycles. That gives us hope for the future. It has to get better doesn't it? 1858 was not the best of years - English cotton trading was suffering and unemployment amongst the mills workers was high. The council employed the poverty-stricken mill workers to construct the park. it's likely they would've laboured in return for a pittance - the minimum to survive... and so the nickname  Pinch Belly Park. Their endeavours would've greatly benefited the community - it's not difficult to imagine the positive impact this pleasant green space would've had on the wellbeing of the locals. We all deserve space to breathe and simply 'to be' don't we?

The view through the gaps in the trees of old and new stretches for miles and miles. Many old textiles mills still stand in Stockport. Beyond the mill is the visible line of the M60 motorway - the Manchester ring road. 

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

I was bemused by the sight of the cannon. The original Russian cannon came from the Crimean War but was the metal was melted down to aid the 'war effort' in the 1940s - yet another period of hard times in our history. The ornate railings and water fountains also suffered the same fate.

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

The original Victorian bandstand was demolished in the 1960s and later replaced with this replica.

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

The two bowling greens were neat and well kept. There's something very traditional about bowling greens. Calm and peaceful places. 

Bowling and bowling only. Obviously. But horses? 

Photo taken at Vernon Park Stockport

The local community police officer was enjoying the peace and quiet of the park. 

Or perhaps he was looking out for horses?

I hope you enjoyed my visit to Vernon Park in Stockport. I regret not making the time to visit the lovely tea room - I definitely will do next time though.


info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/5/pinch-belly-park Wed, 06 May 2015 17:47:52 GMT
The 100 Day Project Wabi Sabi Wedding Flowers http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/4/the-100-day-project-wabi-sabi-wedding-flowers I've been having creative fun participating in The 100 Day Project over on Instagram. I first heard of this via the digital magazine The Great Discontent. I mentioned back in February that I was photographing the fading wedding flowers from my son and daughter-in law's wedding. Well that project has been rumbling along in the background but The 100 Day Project seemed a perfect opportunity to attempt to get myself more organised and show what I'm creating. So I jumped in with both feet and I can honestly say it's been fascinating to see the wide range of projects. Oh my, there are some very talented and creative people out there and it's great to make new connections.

So, a quarter of the way through the project and I thought it timely to share a few of my favourites. The plan was to compile an interesting collage using Lightroom but I ran out of patience. I'll try and master it for the half-way point.

Aren't the flowers looking fabulous in decay? As they fade away my intention is to celebrate beauty in imperfection. My hashtag is 100daysofwabisabiweddingflowers  My other tag is weddingbouquet - well mine certainly stand out in that gallery of stunning fresh blooms! 

From the start I knew that the roses would be interesting to photograph - full of texture and beautiful tones.

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

A surprise beauty. I can't even remember the name or even what it looked like originally.

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

An abstract selfie of sorts. This reminds me of a bad hair day. And I have plenty of those!

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

I've been watching this curly stem wither away over the last weeks and wasn't sure how to capture it but finally it all came together perfectly.

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

Initially I intended using the project to explore processing on my iPad using apps such as Stackables and Mextures. But sometimes the processing becomes a little overwhelming - so many choices - and so I feel the need to show something straight out of the camera. Foliage is often overlooked but the curl of the leaf caught my attention.

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

The roses are almost three months old but still have vivid flashes of colour. Like the leaves above, I found the edges to be striking and so attempted to reflect these with the shabby frame too. 

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

The hydrangeas are ever so crinkly. I dried them out using the Martha Stewart method which some of you kindly recommended to me. The stems had previously been dyed so the colour will last and last.

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

Back to close-ups. I piled up petals on a pebble from the beach. The plan was to create an impressive stack but they floated away as quickly as I layered them!

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

Minimalism. I spotted this tiny leaf on the stem of a rose. It took me three days to capture a sharp photo. 

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

The tones of the vintage glass attracted me.  

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

I gathered  a heart-shaped pebble from the beach. 

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

This is the bride's favourite so far... 

photo from the 100 day project wabi sari wedding flowers

You can find me on Instagram as happyhelsy - if I'm not already following your photostream please feel free to connect - I'm always interested to see what others are posting. 


A selection of work from this project is available as prints and framed prints in my Botanical Squares Gallery on my website!

I've also been busy getting to grips with the art of podcasting with two fellow creative friends Viv Halliwell and Jessica Maleski. We've launched  creative Podcast Pull Up A Chair  and you can now subscribe to it over on iTunes. To say it's been a very steep learning curve would be an understatement! Nevertheless we've had a good chuckle. And I apologise in advance for my screeching laugh! This week we discuss organisation - or in my case lack of it - whether creativity and organisation are compatible - and share recent interesting and inspiring  finds.

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/4/the-100-day-project-wabi-sabi-wedding-flowers Thu, 30 Apr 2015 22:01:12 GMT
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly St Thomas' Church http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/4/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-st-thomas-church I was stuck in a traffic jam in an unfamiliar part of town. Feeling anxious because I was late for an appointment, I decided to take a detour. This took me down a road I’d never driven down before. I happened to glance down a side street of old terraced houses and spotted a grand piece of architecture fronted by a row of  imposing neo-classical style columns. It seemed so out of character for the area. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out more. I made a mental note to revisit.

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

Fast forward a few days and  my mum had listened to my trial podcast Pull Up A Chair. This seemed to pique her interest in my photowalks. I felt sure she’d enjoy coming with me to explore a town she’d lived in for 50+  years - perhaps I may even glean  ‘insider’ snippets of information from her. Secretly I felt a little smug that I was about to introduce her to a beautiful location unknown to her until now! The beauty of St Thomas' Church awaited us.

I took some photos from outside the church gates. The columns would've formed part of a grand entrance. At the time the church was built it stood in a prominent position on the main route from London right up to Carlisle the north of the England.  As new roads were built to accommodate increasing volumes of traffic the church was bypassed and became hidden away and possibly forgotten by many. It no longer stood in a dominant position.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a wall of ugly graffiti. It shocked me that someone would do this to a church - a total lack of respect. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

Momentarily I was distracted by the old stone steps. I imagined the thousands of worshipers who'd trodden up and down this stairway over the last couple of centuries. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

The entrance to the church was grubby and unwelcoming. I felt uneasy. Not the sort of place you'd hang around for too long. A passer by stopped beside me. I often notice that  a camera in hand has this effect. People seem to like to chat - to add their ’two- penneth worth’ as we say around here. The proud working-class folk of Stockport are generally a friendly bunch. He told me that as night closed in the church grounds  became a haven for drug addicts and to look out for discarded dirty needles. Sometimes they were also present during the day too but it was comforting to me that the gardeners were here today and so likely that the druggies would stay away. 

. ​ Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport


My journey to rediscover Stockport had a shaky start. This post has troubled me. Part of me didn’t want to publish this side of my home town of Stockport. But then I thought I want to be honest and the reality is that whether we like to admit it or not, all towns, I’m sure, are troubled with similar  problems to one degree or another. It's just ... well I didn't expect to find it in the doorway of the church. As I glanced up I saw someone looking down on me. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

The building is certainly worthy of further exploration. It's tells a story of great historical significance and one I'd never heard before.

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

The church was consecrated in 1825 and is still in use today. Interestingly it's known as a Waterloo Church and was one of a hundred built with funds from the government as a thanksgiving for victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It's Grade 1 listed by English Heritage and considered to be a building of national importance. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

The church doors were locked so I could only imagine the beauty of the stained glass viewed from inside.

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

There's an ongoing restoration fund to repair the building back to former glory. The building has been placed on English Heritage's register of buildings 'At Risk". 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

I spotted the stonemason's mark on the weathered stone by the foundations. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

My mum, I noticed, was particularly moved by the rows and rows of gravestones which were full of babies and young children - a sad reflection of infant mortality in the 1800s. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

Ornate stonework lies crumbling. The engrained dirt is a reminder of the smoke which would've constantly hung in the air in this mill town. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

In recent years the local council has inspected the old gravestones in the churchyards and marked those considered to be a danger. I wondered about this one - it must've suffered a hefty blow of some kind - I hoped not an act of deliberate vandalism which is not unknown around these parts. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport

From the entrance and in the distance I spotted a reminder of the the past when Stockport was a significant player during the Industrial Revolution. During these times the town was crammed with textile mills. In particular it was known for hat-making and some of my ancestors were hatters. In 1844 Friedrich Engels described Stockport as being "renowned as one of the duskiest, smokiest holes in the whole of the industrial area" . Although many of the old mills have been demolished over the years, there are still many to see - this is high on my list of places to explore further. 

Photo of St Thomas Church Stockport


I hope you enjoyed my still around St Thomas' Church. My thoughts are that it's hidden gem of rich historical significance and very worthy of a visit. I've asked around and I've not come across anybody who knows that it stands here even though it lies just a short walk from the town centre. I'm happy that English Heritage is keeping an eye on it. I hope it serves the local community for many years to come.




info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) Stockport http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/4/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-st-thomas-church Sat, 04 Apr 2015 16:48:38 GMT
We Northerners Like Our Pies http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/3/we-northerners-like-our-pies I can’t remember when I fell out of love with my hometown of Stockport. Perhaps it was so gradual that I didn’t notice. For now I won’t rant on and on here about social, political and economical issues. There's no denying that the economic downturn in recent years has had a devastating effect on Stockport. There can be, at times, a depressing air to the town.

The truth is I can’t remember when I last walked around town to browse the shops or drink in the pubs and cafes. I’ve skirted around the town with my camera always finding more visually pleasing and interesting places to photograph - the pull of the big city or the tranquility of the beautiful countryside over in Cheshire or Derbyshire  You won’t have missed any of my blog posts on Stockport because they don’t exist. I know I'm not alone with my thoughts.

In recent weeks there's been a shift in my view of Stockport.  The more I immerse myself in writing and photographing around the north-west of England the more I've come to realise that every town and village has a story to tell and Stockport is no exception. There is beauty to be found here and I'd love to share my journey of exploration on my blog over the coming year. I know there's a rich history and a story to be told.

We northerners like our pies! My eldest son gifted me a delicious pie - a pie filled with cheese and onions in a sauce. It would be classified as a gourmet pie.  It was beautifully wrapped in greased proof paper with a trendy vintage-style label. No photos of the said pie because I was so desperate to eat it! He’d been rabbeting on for a long time about a shop called Lord of the Pies in Stockport and I’d taken little notice. All that changed when I tasted the pie. 

I craved more pie and was intrigued by the name Lord of the Pies. I checked out the company  was struck by the forward thinking business venture established here in Stockport. Beautifully presented and marketed with innovative pie fillings.  I thought... if only more businesses could open like this in Stockport then the town would become great place to visit. The crowds would return and the boarded up shops revitalised. I think of the Northern Quarter in Manchester and how that used to be so dilapidated  but has revitalised to become a vibrant 'must visit' area. I think creatives have an important role in regeneration too. By chance I came across an advert for a monthly vintage market and so this drew me into Stockport one Sunday afternoon. 

The historic market place here dates back to the 15th century. In days gone by it was vibrant and bustling. I remember as a child hanging on to my mum's hand  in fear of getting separated and lost in the crowd. This was a Sunday so I wouldn't expect it to be as busy as, say, on a Saturday, but I have heard that visitor numbers are dismally way down.  Ironically  I spotted the online grocery delivery van from ASDA taking a short cut through the market place. For sure online shopping has contributed to the decline of town centres. 

I think my earliest memory of Stockport Market is visiting the Produce Hall on a Saturday morning. My cheese addiction started here.  People visited from miles around to buy their Cheshire cheese, butter and eggs from here. The highlight of the morning for me was the free sample of cheese cut from massive cheese truckles. 

A sign outside pointed up to a vintage sale in the room above the Produce Hall. A fantastic mix of artwork, old books and vinyl records plus a lovely cafe - the place had an exciting buzz to it and well worth a visit. 

Across the old stone cobbled street stands the traditional market hall - a beautiful ornate Victorian structure. I was drawn inside to a fabulous array of vintage stalls. All sorts of goodies on offer to suit every era, taste and budget.  name="title"name="title"

Who remembers playing vinyl on a record player like this? Remember the wobbly stacks of records and how they dropped down with a clunk onto the turntable? My mum still has hers in the loft together with a collection of 78s. 

I still have my vinyl record collection stashed away high in a cupboard. I couldn't bear to ever part with them. They all hold memories of one kind or another. Do you remember the first record you ever bought?  Age 11 mine was "Devil Gate Drive' by Suzi Quatro in 1974 - I recall my mum wasn't impressed with my purchase! 

One of the stallholders had an impressive collection of cameras and gadgets and very reasonably priced. It took great willpower to resist a purchase.

Earlier I'd been browsing a vintage clothes stall when a man in a fine hat negotiated the purchase of polystyrene head. The head was part of the stallholder's  display and wasn't for sale! He wanted it for his own hat. I chuckled when I saw him later with the head in a bag. 

Around the edge of the marketplace I spotted these beauties at the entrance of Seven Miles Art Cafe.  Obviously they drew me inside and I was delighted to see a crowd supporting the Tea & Cake &Rock & Roll event - I witnessed  some impressive powerful and energetic slam poetry - take a look at the link here for more info on this. It's interesting and creative spaces like this that play an important part in regeneration, in getting locals and those from further afield back into the town. 

Further along the street and still on the marketplace I came across the Bakers Vaults. This historic building has been standing here and quenching the thirst of market goers since 1861. It closed for business suddenly at Christmas 2014 but thankfully has been revitalised by local brewers Robinsons and three blokes who run trendy bars in the Northern Quarter in Manchester - the place I mentioned earlier. This is such a positive step in the right direction for Stockport. Shall we sample the local ales and gourmet hotdogs? 

As I made my way around the marketplace I came across all sorts of little vintage shops and cafes - a real hive of activity. I spotted this old Servis machine outside a vintage shop. 

Heading back out of town I walked across the old bridge and stopped a while to take in the view. Stockport is built on two levels with the market place standing at the top of a small hill. As you look downyou can see the historic clock and mechanical figures of Winters the Jewellers. In years gone by this was a bustling area of town. You can glimpse the empty shops. This is a prime historic area ripe for regeneration.


I like to look over rooftops and to observe the rich mix of architecture over the ages.

In the distance is the local brewery Robinsons or Robbies as we affectionately call it. My ancestors would've likely supped Robbies in the local hostelry! 

Old brick stairways lead down to the lower levels of Stockport. I'm keen to explore there soon. Just before I was born, when my mum was around 7 months pregnant, one of the stairways collapsed minutes after she'd walked down them. This was a close shave - the thought still makes her shudder to this day. To think… had she been minutes later I may not be here ...

I think a town can fall down and down but at some point there has to be a turn in fortunes. These things come in cycles. I'd love to think that Stockport will turn that corner sooner rather than later. People need to come back to Stockport. 

Stockport is rich in history and my plan is to reveal  this via my photo walks. I hope also to capture optimism for the future. 


And now for something totally different  

I've been experimenting with Podcasting together with two creative friends Jessica and Viv. It's been a huge technical and personal challenge and I'd love for you to take a listen and let me know what you think!  There are still some technical issues to resolve but I hope you like the spirit of the broadcast. As my youngest son so wisely said to me " you can't expect BBC broadcasting quality on your first attempt"  A valid point!

Click here for the link to our new Podcast Pull Up A Chair. If all goes to plan future episodes will be available via iTunes twice a month. 

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/3/we-northerners-like-our-pies Sun, 22 Mar 2015 16:04:37 GMT
Ruined by King Henry VIII http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/3/ruined-by-henry-viii Come rain or shine I feel a pull to get out with my camera. I still feel almost a sense of urgency that there are so many places to discover. Exploring in the winter usually means the touristy places are almost deserted. I don’t like crowds.  I enjoy peace and quiet and to be able to explore  every nook and cranny, to go ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhhh’ at new discoveries and to rub my fingers over the textures of weathered stone and metalwork without  getting strange glances from passers-by. In my head I  scream to them  “Hey, just slow down and take a closer look at what you’re missing”. 

It was a crisp cold Sunday morning with blue skies dotted with  fast moving wispy clouds. I felt a little uneasy as  the wind seemed to be gathering speed. A storm was brewing. I wound my way through sleepy village after sleepy village  in the Yorkshire Dales and admired the carpets of weather beaten snowdrops dancing in the wind on the neat grass verges. 

I unexpectedly happened upon a feast for my eyes.  I glimpsed a magnificent significant ruin. 

Many historical sites are usually maintained by organisations such as The National Trust or English Heritage. But Jervaulx Abbey is privately owned medieval ruin dating back to around 1156.  Can you imagine the thrill of owning a ruined abbey?  A great topic for discussion at a dinner party! 

I popped some money into the old wooden honesty box by the iron gate and scampered excitedly across the site. 

I quickly realised the place was deserted and my heart skipped a beat. Perfect! 

A brief downpour of rain appeared from almost nowhere so I sheltered under a stone archway and contemplated  life  at the Cistercian Abbey before King Henry VIII and his campaign of destruction to rid the country of such religious establishments during the 16th century. Life for the monks would’ve been harsh back then - the strict routine of daily life in an inhospitable landscape. It can be so very bleak, damp and bitterly cold up here.

As always, I'm drawn to texture and shape. It was interesting to determine the outline of the various rooms, spot the remains of features such as flights of stone stairs...

...doors and rounded archways...


…fireplaces and chimneys.

To a certain extent the wild creepers have protected crumbling walls from the elements over the years. The stone is typical of the area.

This was my favourite window with the view of the striking white-barked birch tree.

I briefly considered resting awhile on the rickety bench but thought better of when I noticed the splinters! Ouch! 

But with the wind increasing in speed and whistling through the windows and doorways I couldn’t help but look upwards and wonder  “how much longer will this stand?” And just imagine the costs of public insurance?

I didn’t hang around! And within hours the snow came down thick and fast! 

I hope you enjoyed my walk around the the ruins.

Interesting snippet of information - remains of the lead roof were discovered in the 1920s and used to restore the windows in York Minster.

I'd love to see where you explore  with your camera - please feel free to add a link in the comments box.

Enjoy your week!


For more info on Jervaulx visit the website


info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/3/ruined-by-henry-viii Fri, 13 Mar 2015 21:59:58 GMT
The Wedding Bouquet: Just Married http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/2/the-wedding-bouquet-just-married Around November time last year I contemplated starting 2015 with a  project dedicated to photography with a theme along the lines of capturing  beauty in imperfection. Ideas swirled round and round in my head and stayed there. It was frustrating. To be truthful I had other matters on my mind. My health took a blow last year and I was determined to be fighting fit for a special event at the end of January, plus I had a designer  dress I needed to fit into! I enlisted the help of a personal trainer and set out on a regime of exercise and healthy eating - I'll tell you all about that 'transformation' another time. My Weekend Walks still happened but I struggled to squeeze in the time to sort through the photos and write. I have a backlog but I'm unsure what to do with them.

So last weekend my eldest son got married. All the planning came together perfectly and the families celebrated a most beautiful wedding. The following day I felt a little deflated. I wandered around the house aimlessly. I blew the healthy diet with pizza and left-over wedding cake. My lycra exercise kit lay in a pile on the floor. I'd let all my camera batteries run low. After wallowing for a while I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and 'have a creative day' the following Wednesday - to reclaim my studio and creative space which had played host to the wedding dress in the previous weeks. Oh my... it had been so stressful keeping the adventurous climbing kitten out of that room! 

Late Monday evening I was texting to and fro with my friend B. She'd commented on the wedding flowers. I felt like I'd been hit by a bolt of lightning. There was the subject of my creative project right under my nose and I'd only just realised. 

Our conversation ran like this:

B. "The flowers are gorgeous too, love the hydrangeas"

Me: 'Yes I have one of those vases of flowers - they're beautiful. I'm going to photograph them on Wednesday and then as they fade - a wabi-sabi sort of thing!"

B: " Wabi sabi??"

Me: "Along the lines of beauty in imperfection - I love photographing flowers as they start to fade and dry out - lots of lovely tones and textures. Hmmm… I have an idea for a series - this will keep me out of mischief for a long time! Lol"

B: "Glad you know what you're doing. I'm baffled!"

Me: I'm thinking A Year in the Life of a Wedding Bouquet or something along those lines. It's been a long day!"

B:"The hydrangeas will last forever, I love them in winter."

Me: "Exactly. So do I."

And so the project emerged.

The Wedding Flowers.

Fading Beauty!

As a starting point I thought it best to at least capture the bouquet whilst still fresh and 'perfect' . Well I hadn't reckoned on the kitten getting to it first! 

Little Olive is not so sweet and innocent as her appearance would suggest. She'd had great fun swatting the grasses and stems with her paw. 

The wedding venue was the Belle Epoque in Knutsford, Cheshire. The historic merchant's  house which was built in the early 1900s and decorated in Art Nouveau style was the perfect backdrop to the rich blues and purples in the bouquet.


I expect the long-term star of the project will be the blue hydrangeas. I'm wondering the best way of drying them so that the colour is preserved? Any advice would be welcome!

The roses are just starting to crinkle around the edges. They don't last long in a perfect condition do they?

I have plenty of vintage vases and bottles for still-life photography.

This photo gives a hint of my vintage lemonade bottle. It has an interesting history so I'll dedicate a shoot to it further into the project.

And a final thought...

My thanks to B. for accidentally getting my idea on track! I'm not sure where it will lead creatively but my mind is open to explore.


PS Weekend Walks will be back next week. It's my birthday and so the perfect excuse to go on an extra special walk of my choice! 


info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) the wedding bouquet http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/2/the-wedding-bouquet-just-married Fri, 06 Feb 2015 17:48:10 GMT
The Winter Garden http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/the-winter-garden  

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of Nature, after such a career of splendour and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost either upon the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.

John Burrows, The Snow Walkers 1866


Out of clutterOut of clutterStudy of a Winter Garden
Out of Clutter
Find simplicity
Quote by A Einstein

Join me at the weekend for my latest walk around The Winter Garden!


This photo currently available as a lovely quality  8 x 10" print (delivery UK, US, Canada ) or print in a choice of frames (currently UK only)  here.







info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) inspirational quote landscape print http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/the-winter-garden Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:20:35 GMT
Contemplating Paris http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/paris  


Sculpture by Henri Vidal, 1896

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/paris Sat, 10 Jan 2015 19:13:12 GMT
Against the Grain http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/against-the-grain  

One of the first live concerts I ever experienced was local band Joy Division. That was way back in 1979 in Manchester. The following year Ian Curtis - the lead singer of Joy Division - committed suicide on the eve of their first US tour. But the influence of their melancholic music can still be heard today.  I tend to like my photos as I like my music. I find bright and pretty difficult to capture.  Joy Division's first album Unknown Pleasures was recorded just down the road at Strawberry Studios and released on Tony Wilson's legendary Factory Records label.

Last month it was announced in the government's autumn budget that a £78 million arts and theatre centre will be built in Manchester on the former site of Granada Television Studios before the move to Media City at Salford Quays. And the name of the new venue? The Factory. 

Anyway, I became completely hooked with live music and have been ever since which brings me to my photo.  I was mesmerised by the light as it swept across the Manchester Arena at the recent Kasabian concert. Super-extra-grainy, grungy, atmospheric … and so perfect in black and white. 

We used to hang around Piccadilly Records- an independent store-  in Manchester on a Saturday afternoon. I recall there was a long scrappy hand-written list of artists and venues by the sales counter - it was fun to pick out a band at random to see that night. I don't know if it's in my imagination but it was much more affordable back then. (Or perhaps I had different priorities!) 

So…I'd love to hear - what are your early live music memories?


info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) manchester monochrome http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/against-the-grain Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:27:05 GMT
Close to Home http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/close-to-home At the start of a new year our minds swirl with thoughts of new challenges. Well I'm passionate about my project here and so will continue to develop it further. I have new ideas I want to explore. I know I've barely scratched the surface. Last year was one of the toughest I've faced health-wise in my life. I'm back on track now - fitter and healthier than I have been for years. I'm keener than ever to pull on my walking boots and get out with my camera. 

Sometimes I forget to appreciate the beauty of my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago I went on a short 10 minute walk to Bramall Hall.  I suppose not many people can claim to have a tudor manor house nestled in their local park. I take it for granted and I'm sure many of my neighbours do so too. I've walked to the pond to feed the ducks or strolled around the ancient woodland to stretch my legs after a heavy Sunday Roast Beef Dinner but only ever once stepped inside the historic hall over the last few decades. The crackled sign gives a hint of what lies beyond.

If your child kicked a ball through this window you wouldn't want to show your face in the village again would you?! Such craftsmanship is displayed in the window and warmth in the old brickwork.

Bramhall Hall is a black and white timber-framed tudor manor house. It reminds me very much of Speke Hall in Liverpool but without the Wet Nelly. 

No exploring inside though for another year though as it's just closed for a £1.6 million restoration. I expected to find scaffolding and workmen but the courtyard was deserted and so offered a perfect opportunity to seek out the detail. 

The ancient stocks would've stood on the village green in times gone by. Local rogues and rascals would've faced humiliation in public. But I imagine many would think they could be put to good use nowadays...

The difficulty in photographing tudor buildings is that nothing lies straight! Not an ideal building to visit if you're obsessed with perfect lines! 

Each panel of wood, window frame and piece of metalwork has unique character.

I like to get up close to the medieval oak timber, touch it and feel the warmth. ( I do similar with old trees - I'm sure I'm not alone in doing this?!). 

The carvings are so intricate and typical of the times. 

The grand side door is pretty spectacular too! 

The decorated chimneys, I recall, were added during Victorian times. Each stack is unique in design.

The reflection of the red brickwork in the window caught my eye.

In more recent times the walled garden was home to rows greenhouses. Plants were grown to fill the flower beds in the formal garden. A few years ago they fell victim to council cuts in spending.

Beyond the walled garden lie 70 acres of beautiful parkland. The grounds deserve a visit all of their own.

I was touched by the memorial bench to a local WW1 hero.

I hope you enjoyed the whirlwind tour around the exterior of this historic house!

If you've been out with your camera please feel free to add a link to your photo or blog post in the comments box. 

Thanks for visiting! 

info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2015/1/close-to-home Fri, 02 Jan 2015 20:52:02 GMT
Exploring in Monochrome - Cromford Mill http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2014/11/exploring-in-monochrome---cromford-mill This time last year Drizzle Almost Stopped Play at Cromford Mill . I'm back again but this time with the intention of shooting solely in black and white and minus the drizzle.  I knew the location was worthy of further exploration in monochrome.

Accompanied by my mini photo walk buddy and armed simply with my iPhone, I set out to capture the essence of this World Heritage Site - Cromford Mill in Derbyshire - with the Hipstamatic app using the Lowy lens and BlacKeys Extra Fine film combo. Tourist flock here from around the world to absorb the atmosphere of the first water-powered cotton spinning mill developed by  by Richard Arkwright in 1771. I'm not one for participating in guided tours although I do sometimes eavesdrop for interesting snippets of information.  I prefer to wander off on my own to explore nooks and crannies.

Many people pass by without a further glance but my curious nature makes me peek through gaps to admire the ongoing restoration of sites like this. Or perhaps I'm just outright nosy?! 

Twelve months ago the water gushed through the sluice at great speed and I captured one of my favourite photos of the year here. 

As always I'm drawn to water reflections. A clear blue sky usually adds clarity but today it was not to be. At least the drizzle which makes my hair extra-curly stayed away!
You can sense this being a noisy hive of activity in days gone by. There would've been no time to daydream through these beautiful windows!

This is the original robust bell used to call the workers to the mill. Those who were late weren't allowed through the gates.

A few local businesses have set up here.  Of course I was drawn to the antique shop - it was jammed solid with all sorts of treasures at reasonable prices.

I collect quirky old bottles. I delved around and discovered a little vintage gem with an interesting history - it'll star in a mini photo shoot for a mid-week blog post soon! 

Across from the mill stands the canal wharf. I love old signs layered with decades of peeling paint..

The Arkwright Society is carrying out an impressive restoration project. If you're ever in the area you must call by!

And so back to my iPhone. I enjoyed the freedom of not having to think about camera settings. But... I found composition a little difficult because of the small view when using Hipstamatic- so I wasn't always sure what I was shooting and especially because my eyesight is not as good as it could be! 

My mono photo walk was inspired by The Monochrome Explorers. This is a new friendly group on Facebook run by myself and two friends Viv and Sarah.  If you have an interest in exploring monochrome/ black and white photography - whatever your level of expertise - we'd love for you to join us!

If you've been out on a photo walk or plan to do so over the coming week, I'd love to see your photos. Why not try some black and white? Please feel free to link up your blog post, Flickr  or Instagram photos below - alternatively please leave a link in the comments box.

Hoping for blue skies and cold fresh air this weekend. I'm desperate to get out with my new dinky Canon 40mm pancake lens! More on this next week! 

Enjoy your week! 




info@a-flash-of-inspiration.com (A Flash of Inspiration) derbyshire monochrome restoration weekend walk link up http://www.a-flash-of-inspiration.com/blog/2014/11/exploring-in-monochrome---cromford-mill Fri, 07 Nov 2014 21:02:34 GMT