Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sandbanks tideflats, evening

DSC01831 (1300x957)Once the eclipse ended and I returned to work, the skies cleared and spring arrived. Of course. Nothing to be done, though: there’s too much work left each Friday. But by 4:30, the light beckoned irresistibly towards the harbour.

‘Time for a break.

DSC01788 (1300x961) DSC01790 (1300x975)

The tide was far out when I arrived at Poole Harbour, speckled sand flats reflecting orange light from Brownsea.  I scrambled down to the wet sands, splashed across the fishy puddles to the yacht club’s spindly piers.  A few folks clammed about in Wellies, tripods dotted the the sands, photographers jostling for the best light.

It was fun to play for an hour with light, lines, people and contrasts, splashing about in the muck beneath the  docks.

DSC01807 (1300x934) DSC01794 (1300x963)DSC01811 (1300x964) DSC01826 (967x1300)DSC01823 (1300x957) DSC01806 (1300x961)DSC01813 (1300x968) DSC01818 (1300x974)

I cut out towards the Chain Ferry as the sun set: the tide was really rushing in through the narrow inlet, beating against the crossing.  A good chance for some emptier shots, beached bots and deserted lifeguard stations.  But I’m liking the people-pictures better these days.

DSC01878 (1300x974) DSC01854 (1300x959)DSC01840 (1300x975) DSC01846 (1300x975)DSC01903 (1300x962) DSC01843 (1300x975)

‘still sorting out a new camera: the choice narrowed to three and lots of discussions with friends ongoing about the relative merits of lenses, sensors, and pixels.  It will be interesting to see whether better kit makes for better photos.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Midmorning’s eclipse

eclipse 5The UK enjoyed a solar eclipse this morning,.  Totality was over the Faro Islands, far north, but Dorset got 85% coverage of the sun.  Maximum darkness was predicted for 9:30 in the morning,, so I was up early to get fresh bread and coffee from Parkstone so that I could settle in for the event comfortably.

DSC01776 (1300x944) DSC01771 (1300x975) DSC01779 (958x1300)

It’s an astronomic day in other ways as well.  Equinox, where the sun lies directly above the equator for a few moments, was also today: the first day of spring.

‘hard to tell locally, though.  Temperatures are still barely above freezing and the only the hardiest trees are flowering.

Ieclipse 4’d hoped to see the crescent sun at mid-morning, but the day started grey and cloudy.  BBC astronomer-royale Brian Cox (actually a particle physicist) was holding forth from Jodrell Bank, near Manchester.  The skies were clear and sunny.  Schoolchildren, dressed in welding goggles and trying to image the sun through colanders made, for a good backdrop.  To the north, the Faro’s were cloaked in cloud, but there were various airborne cameras broadcasting from clear skies in airplanes overhead.  Apparently, for £5000, anyone could join.

eclipse 2

As half-nine approached, it did get noticeably darker: car headlights went on and the birds got quiet.  eclipse 3The commentators waxed about the 384,400km column of shadow moving across England.  Cox dithered about the diamond ring effect of the sun’s re-emergence.  Contact with the reporter in the airplane flickered.  Schoolkids spun wind gauges and twirled thermometers, participating in a survey off the effect of the eclipse on the weather.  Everyone forgot to check in with the dark, frigid pictures from the ground in the barren Faro Islands.

DSC01784 (1300x975) DSC01786 (1300x975)

Then it was over and past, the streets brightening, the birds did their 5 am thing, the BBC returning to regular talk about politics.  But, since I used to teach astronomy at Columbia Brian Cox 2Basin College, so I still get excited about events like this, and it was cool to follow the coverage and pictures for a few hours.  There is a big solar eclipse in the US in August 2017, ‘probably the next chance I’ll have to see one. 

I’ll miss Brian Cox, though.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mothering Sunday along the Solent

DSC01726 (962x1300)For an expat, two confusing things happen in mid-March.  The clocks jump ahead in the US two weeks before they do in Europe.  And Mother’s Day arrives ahead of the daffodils.  Mothering Sunday, as its known locally, dawned frigid and windblown, ice on the car and low clouds over the coast.  The local cafĂ©’s offered double scones for breakfast and free puddings in the evening; Tesco’s piled a mountain of flowers for sale in every doorway.

My landlord let me know that a new couple would be joining me at 5 Woodside.  I’ve had it to myself since Christmas, too quiet sometimes, and it will be nice (hopefully) to have company again.  I gave the kitchens and bathrooms a good scrub, caught up the laundry and trimmed the ferns, washed winter’s street grime off the car. 

I’ve been looking for a good sculpture garden to visit, and the Cass Sculpture Foundation looked like a good one.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be shut until DSC01724 (1300x974)April 11, when the new installations appear.  Second choice was the Hansard Galllery, an avant garde offshoot of the University of Southampton which turned out to be closed for the season when I arrived.  Nearby, students wrestled in paint and water for charity, but it didn’t rise to ‘art’.

I drove on to West Quay, looking for the museums and galleries that DSC01729 (1300x960)I had seen during an earlier visit.  Unfortunately I’d confused my memories of nearby Portsmouth with the grittier Southampton dock area.  There were satisfyingly large boats docked at Ocean Village, burly workers scrubbing the black hulls to a polished shine, but otherwise only cold wind across industrial landscapes.

DSC01733 (1300x975) DSC01737 (1300x973)

Orienting to the local maps, I put a finger on the picturesque Lee-on-Solent for a last try at peaceful beach walks and cozy coffee shops appropriate to Mothering Day.

DSC01748 Stitch (1300x581)

The village is beautifully set along the waterway, sailboats were racing and the Isle of Wight lay low and green across the channel.  People shared ice cream with their mothers along the promenade.

DSC01745 (1300x975) DSC01742 (1300x1050)DSC01744 (1300x974) DSC01746 (1300x974)

‘Windswept and mostly still shut for the season, the town nonetheless had a lovely little chocolate shop doing brisk business and a nice local diner to warm in after a brisk walk along the gravel beaches.

It’s one of those days that I don’t exactly find what I was looking for but had a satisfying adventure nonetheless.  In part, I get a good story for the upcoming week’s conversations (everyone will have recommendations for what to do in-season), and I lay markers for future outings and rambles along the coast.