Saturday Reflections

I’ve written before about how I live close to a stretch of the Grand Union Canal, and how I often walk to work along the canal path (a rather splendid way to start the day, if I’m honest).

The walk takes me past modern developments and old lock cottages, passing by an ancient pub and under several bridges, though I’ve found no trolls to date, thank goodness!

There are boats I see regularly moored, people with whom I exchange greetings and conversation, such as the man who discussed collecting autumn leaves with me, peering out from the low door of his picturesque narrow boat. He felt the red ones were the most special of all, and would preserve them between plastic laminate.

The canal changes with the days, sometimes alive with ripples, or flecked with gossamer seed from the overhanging trees. I’ve seen silver fish jumping, kingfishers and herons, watched swans grow from egg to chick to graceful grey birds, following their snowy parents along the dark water.

At times the water is as smooth and flat as glass, an illusion so perfect you almost feel you could step on it and it would hold your weight, so solid does it seem. On these days it perfectly reflects; as above, so below.

And so it was the other morning when I walked to work. I couldn’t linger too long, as I had somewhere to be, but I couldn’t resist taking these shots. And I thought I would share them with you.

Happy weekend, everyone!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – San Sebastian Aquarium, Spain

Continuing with the aquarium theme from yesterday’s Wander, today’s door belongs to the San Sebastian Aquarium. Located at the very end of the old harbour, the Aquarium was built in 1928, when much of the area was redeveloped.

And it has a rather spectacular door, don’t you think?

As well as being a rather wonderful place to watch the sun set…

This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Highgate Cemetery, London – A Few More Photos

My Wednesday Wander this week was a very popular one, something about the wonderful funerary architecture and creeping ivy at Highgate Cemetery striking a chord with many of you.

So, as I wasn’t able to share all my photos in the post, I thought I’d post a few more for those who might be interested.

This lovely Art Deco style stone belongs to a movie producer with the fabulous name of Hercules Bellville.

While this lion stands guard over the grave of a man who made his living exhibiting ‘exotic’ animals during the 19th century.

This is the grave of Malcolm MacLaren, which features his death mask for that extra little je-ne-sais-quoi.

And here is a rather interesting literary gravestone.

There are so many more interesting gravestones – I could have taken hundreds of photos, I think! If you’d like to go there and see for yourself, here is the link: https://highgatecemetery.org/


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Thursday Doors – Look Closer

This, one could say, is a fairly ordinary door. It’s old, certainly, the stone building it belongs to probably built a hundred years ago or more. Other than that, it’s fairly standard, with its carved panels and battered black painted finish. A door like many others around the world.

But look a little closer, and you’ll see what it was that drew my attention…

The handle is straight from a dark fairy tale, a woman’s hand holding an apple. Is it the wicked queen, tempting unwary visitors to their fate, or Snow White herself, frozen by cold poison for eternity, her glass casket replaced by wood and stone, waiting for her prince to open the door?

Or, is it just a really neat door handle?

This is my entry to this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – Keepers Cottage, Berkhamsted Castle

This rather lovely front door belongs to a cottage built within the ancient walls of Berkhamsted Castle, not far from where I live.

The castle is Norman, motte and bailey, and has an important part in the history of Britain. It was a Saxon holding before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066, and is the place where he accepted the surrender of the Saxon nobles before heading to London and the crown.

The Norman castle building commenced in the same year, as Berkhamsted lay on a key route from London into the Midlands, and so was seen as vitally strategic. It was a royal castle for centuries, and eventually formed part of the holdings of the Duchy of Cornwall. It remained so until 1930, when what remained of the castle was gifted to English Heritage, who manage the place to this day.

The castle, as you can see, has been plundered over the years, with much of the stone being taken for use elsewhere after it fell into ruin and was abandoned in 1495. In the mid 1800s, it narrowly escaped complete destruction – the new London Birmingham railway was being constructed, with the optimum route seen as being directly through the castle grounds. Luckily, there was a growing movement to preserve ancient buildings and so, when the railway route was sanctioned, the castle was protected, the first building to be protected from development in this way. Nonetheless, the railway route still ran through the outer fortifications, destroying the gatehouse and ditches in the process.

The Keepers cottage sits in the grounds and is occupied still – I think it must be completely wonderful to wake up and look out at a nearly one-thousand year old castle in your back garden, especially one with such an illustrious history. And so that takes us back to the little white door.

This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s blog and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – In The Village

img_5301I had a little time after work the other day, so decided to photograph a few of the lovely Georgian doors in the village where I work. It’s a small high street, 16th century half-timbered pubs next to Victorian villas and tiny cottages, older timber framed buildings ‘modernised’ with Georgian facades. The village dates back to Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the 12th century it was home to one of the royal Plantagenet palaces, since demolished.

img_5298It’s a lovely place to work, the river running in the valley below next to the more placid waters of the old canal. I’ve seen a kingfisher, flash of brilliant blue, along the river, and at the moment there are snowdrops on the banks – it’s nice to have the option to walk to work, too.

img_5314And I also took a shot of this wonderful fellow. He obligingly stopped so I could take his photo – isn’t he great?

img_5304This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge, for door-lovers from around the world. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Picas – Turning Photography Into Digital Art

This past week I’ve been playing with Picas, a new filter app for my phone. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a couple of shots I shared there.

The premise of the app is, according to the description, that it ‘combines deep neural networks and artificial intelligence to automatically redraw photos into famous art effects.’ The filters are based upon famous paintings: Munch’s The Scream, Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Hokusai’s Great Wave are all represented, along with many others.

So, how does it work?

Well, the deeper programming mysteries will have to remain just that for the time being, but basically, when you open the app, you have the option to either take a photo or access your photo library. Once you’ve chosen an image you’re taken to the filters screen, where you can scroll through the different filters and apply them, only saving the amended images you want to keep.

img_3827And there are some pretty cool effects. Here’s a photo I took of some red shoes (thinking about the cover for A Thousand Rooms). I then applied a few different filters to get the following:

img_3838 img_3837 img_3836 img_3835

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some photos of me. First I added a Snapchat filter (see note on copyright below), then I added the Picas filters to get different effects. It only took a few minutes to do, and I think that, if you played around with costumes and make-up, you could create an image to suit just about any genre.

img_3805 img_3808 img_3809

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, I think that Picas has some great effects, and I really enjoyed playing around with my photos. I was a little disappointed with the Klimt filter, as I would have loved to be changed into one of his glorious golden paintings, but at the same time, I appreciate there are such things as copyright laws, so the filters are designed to give your images the same feel as the artworks, rather than converting them to fake masterpieces.

img_3849And, speaking of copyright, there was one caveat I forgot to mention on my Prisma post, and the same would apply here. If you use a filter for a photo which is then used for commercial purposes (ie a book cover), it’s worth checking with the app provider that there are no copyright issues involved in doing so. As for Picas, I’ve already done that bit for you – a quick email exchange with app creator Miya assured me that, once the filters are on your photos, they’re yours to use as you wish.

So. Another great little app full of options for creating cover designs or promotional images, or even just having fun with holiday snaps. It’s easy to use, and it’s free. Available now for Android and i0S.

Note: I was approached by the creators of Picas to provide an honest review and I thought, why the hell not? This is my blog, after all 🙂