Monday, 17 December 2012

Nature's Elderly













Sodden track, without care,
Earthy soil, damp air;
The woods surround,
More lost than found.

Arthritic branches, cold & bare,
Naked tall, stand & stare.
The trunk firm dark;
Lesions skin bark.

Nature's elderly, furrow old,
Seen and heard, it all does hold-
Terror or be,
Mute, noble tree.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Lego Love


 On Friday I attended a Lego event for part of the We Love Architecture festival from the British institute of Architecture. Senior design manager at Lego Simon Kent gave a talk on how lego sets end up on the shelf - giving some insight to the concept, design, architecture and testing that products go through before the consumer gets their eager hands on the bricks.

As much as I love how much architectural design goes into the set concept build, I found the process of testing and idea creating even more interesting. A set has a long cycle from birth to shelf; much care and attention goes through each stage. It feels loved, it feels agile, it feels a rather beautiful process.

lego
Lego is a long time love of mine, having spent most of my childhood immersed in the wonderful creative bubble of building and constructing your own world from miniature plastic bricks. Encouraging the creative, encouraging the logic, encouraging inquisitive minds as they grow, Lego has to be one of the most innovative learning toys ever invented. A concept so simple and yet so effective in so many ways.

Lego teaches us to be creative. Sure, build the set you bought from instructions, but the real fun is in creating your own. Workers for Lego will do exactly this on prototypes. Here's the bricks - limit yourself, and see what you can come up with. A jeep can become an aeroplane. An aeroplane can become a boat.

As a creative person, you can sometimes be overwhelmed with what you can create - give yourself limitations and you are exercising creative juices that perhaps have been left to grow a little fat. It's this thinking outside the box that can ignite great things.

One of the great aspects of Lego I have always loved, was the minute detail sets would contain, giving an extra dimension of quirkiness. Perhaps it was the firing canons on the pirate lego ship, the lego sharks in the sea; perhaps it was the garage doors on the fire station I remember enjoying moving up and down; maybe it was the medieval swords and jousting sticks, shields and helmets; or even the little arial on the policeman motorbike...But you could always guarantee these little details made the sets/figures so beautiful captivating.

Simon Kent explained that sets or rather, prototype sets go through rigorous testing phases before designs are finalised - feedback is taken on these kinds of intricate and specific details. Children are asked what they particular like and enjoy. And it is this emotional connection the testing brings, that finalises what is kept in the sets. It is through this, the lego sets have particular emotional attachment - the garage doors I loved on the fire station, resembled the garage doors of our own house I grew up in. It also perhaps explains the at times almost random feel of the sets' details and features. And yet  nothing at all is random or not thought through.

Sets will also go through extensive play-testing. Possibly the greatest job in the world for any lego loving child. Here's a set - break it. Lego invite parties of children to enter their office to attempt to play the constructions to destruction. Bricks must withstand excessive play, and even, excessive heat. Once built, test sets are placed in ovens to see if they can withstand the scenario of being left on a window sill for vast periods in the sun. No one wants a melted police station or star wars ship on their living room floor of an evening.

Mention Lego to most people, and they will confess a love. And Lego seem to feed into this in striving to produce a fantastic product for us to love - and a great role model for product creating process. Long may it continue.

Here is an interesting video from Simon Kent discussing the beautiful Space Shuttle Lego set on you tube.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Brecon Becons - The Wellington Bomber crash site


Last weekend I went to the Brecon Beacons, and payed a visit to one of the most unique sites I have ever been to.

Untitled

Over the past 12 years or so, since I started photographing and becoming interested in exploring and visiting new places to, essentially, see what they looked like photographed, I have been to quite a few unusual places, buildings and spooky surroundings. My interest in the decay of life once lived, my love of the mechanical intertwining with the natural has grown and grown, and of course I have become fascinating in Urban Exploration, and the synonymous melancholy of photography and the past. I've walked along derelict corridors of closed asylums; discovered cages and huts from a former wildlife park amidst thick woods; explored derelict residential areas full of decay and ghostly artifacts of normal every day life.

But this site on the barren mountains of Brecon was even more different again. In 1944, on a dark November night, a Wellington Bomber carrying six Royal Canadian Air Force crew, took off over the Brecon Beacons on a training flight. What should have been a routine training exercise turned into something more sinister. The plane began to have engine problems, and dangerously lost height. Unable to recover, the plane crashed into the south west slope of Garreg Goch, killing all six crew.

Incredibly, much still remains of this tragic crash. Wreckage adorns the side of the mountain, pieces of metal lie innocuously scattered amongst the rocks and grass and occasional sheep. You would imagine items would get taken; snaffled by souvenir hunters, or people hoping to sell metal on. But thankfully not, perhaps the fact the site is not easily accessible wards off any vandals, thieves and disrespectful intentions some may have.

In fact, the site is not easily spotted, even up close. Incredibly, the colour of the metal camouflages itself next to the hue of the rocks on the hill; I stood but 50 yards or so away from the wreckage, and at first did not see it - like a chameleon, it has become part of the landscape. Yet again, nature always holds the power, always seems to triumph, no matter what man builds or creates or sweats to achieve. The war plane - so mechanical, such a symbol of man's technology and self-destructing nature - now a relic belonging to the hills.

But the site is also a grave. And after taking my photos, we were left to pay our respects to the brave crew of the plane, who lost their lives on that dark night, many miles from their homes. On the beautiful, yet ominous mountain peaks of the Brecon Beacons. What is left of them is skeletal plane remains. Look, but do not touch; photograph, capture what is there so that before the elements slowly erode their memory, we can have a record of their last physical existence.

See the complete set of photos of the Wellington bomber crash site here.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Away

Untitled by sian_quincy
Untitled, a photo by sian_quincy on Flickr.

Climbed an aircraft, skin shade pale,
Amongst elderly fields of Daily Mail;
Time is dead, time to kill,
Travelling, yet feel so still.
Leaving grey, mist relief,
Into colour; flame Tenerife.

Gigantic mountainous, against so weak,
They speak, they tower, the mighty peak.
Amidst snaking roads fear do give,
Astonishment! In this they live.
Such beauty makes a Spine-a-curled,
I'm here. Not there. In my other world.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Celebrating Captain Scott

Hundred years ago this month, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and four other members of his British Antarctic Expedition 1910, reached the South Pole. What should have been triumphed as a great achievement of effort, bravery, knowledge and exploration, was diminished when it was realised that Scott's expedition had been 'beaten' to the Pole first by the Norwegian expedition lead by Amundsen.

What followed after Scott reached the Pole was a decreasing circle of fate. Upon reaching the South Pole and the crushing reality that they had been beaten to the race, Scott and his small team began the even more exhausting 800 mile return to their base in constantly deteriorating weather and ill health.

By March 1912, Scott and his team had lost their lives; perishing in the horrifyingly frozen temperatures. They had been hungry, frost bitten and fatigued for weeks. Captain Scott, Captain Oates, Lieutenant Bowers, Edward Wilson, and Petty Officer Evans had all passed away in their final battle.

Growing up I had long been interested in the tale of the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole. Cardiff's Roath Park lake has a memorial to Captain Scott's team, and visiting the park, I often asked to hear the tragic story. It both intrigued and horrified me; the marvel of exploration counter-acted with the death and sickening end. To me, the romance of real hero adventurers was there in plain view - these were not comic book heroes, they were real people who took on challenges of enormous height. And unlike the hollywood heroes I saw on screen, there was not always a happy ending.

The Terra Nova expedition ship set sail from Cardiff in 1910, with the aim of being the first to reach the South Pole; although it had a secondary aim of scientific exploration. By the 1970s, criticism of Scott had seen his name rather tarnished - criticism of leadership and judgement. A cloud of blame hung around the story. TV adaptations of Shackleton - Scott's contemporary explorer - had raised the profiles of these early twentieth century explorers, and yet Scott was left to still flounder amidst the blizzard of shame. Rumours churned about rivalries between Scott and Shackleton, innuendos and soap opera stylee myths that were leaving behind the real story.

The new exhibition traveling around the country and to celebrate the 100 years since Scott's reaching the South Pole, does much to help champion and pay respects to the bravery of these men, as well as highlight the fact the expedition did much to aid scientific knowledge with the data and artifacts collected.

Criticism of Scott was wonderfully batted away for 6 (and over the pavillion and into the car park) by the epic modern-day adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes in his fantastic book, Captain Scott. As easy as it is for academics and historians to criticise Scott and the expedition from the comfort of their warm desks, Fiennes has done it himself - he has braved the harsh realities of the Antarctic, experienced the battles and extremities, the stresses, the pain. In a nut-shell, he has lived what he's talking about. Fiennes writes that Scott achieved so much, that Scott should be championed for these as victories. The expedition was one of huge scientific importance.

Scott and his team should be remembered as true heroes. It's through the bravery of people like them that man learns and develops. Gaining scientific progress; discovering the limitations of the human body alone. It is why I admire explorers/astronauts and pioneers - they try new things, experience what there is; see life as a quest to discover, to learn. Otherwise what is the point.

And that is their legacy.

"We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for."
Captain Scott's last diary entry, March 1912


The Captain Scott expedition is on at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff until May 2012.
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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Best albums of 2011

It's that time of the year again - Lazuary; no, not some annual homage to the former Bond star (whom was vastly underrated in my opinion); but the month of lazy journalism and blogs as we review the year just departed with endless lists and reminders of what happened as if we can't remember just a few months ago (to be fair, I often can't).


It's as if we can't be bothered to think of any new blog topics of originality so just wheel out geeky lists of things we like as if to define ourselves as having a purpose of existing because of the elements in life that we favour.

Which is exactly what I am going to do. It would be against my geeky religion not to. And besides, it's jolly satisfying. So here is my top 10 of favourite albums from 2011.

Real Estate: Days
Real Estate have been a favourite band of mine for a while. They produce simple pop of understated goodness.

White Denim: D
Lushness. A touch of the psychedelic groove. 

Cerys Matthews - Explorer
Cerys' finest work, fusing world influences with a newer, mature textured layer. Really great stuff.


Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
An intense record of dark beauty. It's quite devastating.


tUnE- yArDs: Who Kill
Merrill Garbus is probably my new hero; she's part bonkers, part genius, part ukulele R&B artiste. It shouldn't work, it damn well does. One of the most original musicians out there.


PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
The Peej is one of my favourite musicians, so I may be biased, but this is amongst some of her finest work. Critical, different, haunting, ballsy, beautiful; in ways only the Harvey can manage. 


M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
O the joys! A stunning album of the supreme 'shoegazer' genre. Eclectic, soundtracky and just a supreme record.

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo
It's 'just' a rock record, but my, what a good one. Unique vocals; twinged with a bit o' the sad.


St Vincent: Strange Mercy
This is her best record yet, and I love it. I loathe to compare and contrast with HRH Queen Kate of Bush, but yes, this is not dissimilar to Kate Bush.

Kate Bush: 50 Words for Snow
Kate is default awesome. A stunning album of stripped, bare, simplicity. Kate may not be leaping around moors anymore singing about literary firgures, but she still writes hauntingly melodic masterpieces.