Llano, Texas

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You can pick up quite a lot about a place, even if you’re only staying there overnight.

Llano is a small Texan town, quite rural and quite pleasant. There are antique shops on the main street, full of interesting clutter, jumble and a few possibly genuine pieces too. Such shops can be interesting for tourists to browse around – who knows what you might find? But as it gets dark, the shops close, the lights come on and the town exudes a different lifestyle.

Cafes and bars are open and busy, the lights draw those who are out and about on a Saturday night (as I was) and the lure of the Opry at the Lantex was calling to some (not to me; I’ve no idea what the Opry might be in Texan terms! Singing, music, a dance hall?).

P1060752 (2)Around the main square everything was closed but the sedate and respectable front of the building housing the Llano News drew my attention. Drab, proper, tidy and rather unexciting. I wonder if the kind of articles that make it to the pages of the local rag are as mundane as those in the local paper where I live?

Turning the corner of the square, ready to head back, I got a clue about something which goes on in the area. The well-illuminated sign bore the call to attend “License to carry classes” provided twice monthly at the Midway gun and ammo shop. This is rural Texas after all…..

I was puzzled by the lit up leaping deer, but discovered later via a poster in a shop window that there is an annual deer fest in the town, so it’s a huntin’ shootin’ kinda place.

Not my cup of tea, but the take out BBQ we had to eat that night was.P1060757 (2)

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Black and white photography

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Traditional diner, Tucumcari, New Mexico

I recently watched a TV programme about Don McCullin, veteran photojournalist, whose iconic black and white photography had me looking at some of my own humble archive shots.

Famed for his war photography and images of urban strife, McCullin took viewers on a tour of modern day Britain as he revisted and photographed places he’d been to many years before. Armed with old-fashioned but stalwart cameras which have seen much action, he was equally comfortable wandering around in towns, talking to people, asking them if he could photgraph them and taking candid shots, as he was joining a local hunt in the countryside to get some excellent shots (although I was glad to hear he didn’t think much of fox hunting).

All his photographs are in black and white – the detail is superb. Viewers were taken, at the end of the day, into his dark room. He develops in the “old fashioned” way; no digital cameras for him. At 83, he’s still working…or should that be doing what he loves doing?

Every now and then I try my hand at some candid or street photography. In this shot the customer in the diner had laid his stetson on the seat beside him, and I liked the row of chairs lined up against the counter. But I didn’t ask if I could take his photo as I didn’t want him to pose. I had my lunch, left the diner and he was none the wiser.  But I’m glad he was there for my picture.

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In the Cloisters

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What were they discussing, these two middle-aged men in the cathedral cloisters in Najera, Spain?

It was hot and sunny, and I remember how cool and pleasant it was inside the cathedral and the cloistered area.

I liked the shadows formed by the fancy stone work of the arches, stopped to take a photo and noticed these two stocky men in shirt sleeves, deep in conversation.

This one from the archives; it’s not especially good quality, but I like the way it captured that moment. Two locals chatting, with a small group of tourists at the far end.

The last time I saw Paris

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Photo by Barry Hopewell

I’ve not been to Paris for a while, and some of my visits there have been in winter when it can be excruciatingly cold, but if it’s dry, bright and sunny, it’s nigh on perfect. It’s preferable to being there in the heat of summer, when it can be unpleasantly sticky and heaving with tourists.

I came across this shot of Notre Dame taken several years ago. Tinged with wintry sunshine, it is seen through a tangle of bare branches. The bookseller’s stalls – always worth a browse – were open for business, but it wasn’t a day to loiter too long before finding a warm cafe and some chocolat chaud.

Alone

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The dictionary definition of alone is without others being present.

Sometimes it’s good to spend time alone, necessary even, but there’s always a potentially narrow line between aloneness and loneliness.

This lady with her shopping in San Gimingnano didn’t exude loneliness, just an air of being comfortably alone as she made her way with her shopping down this quiet street off the busy main drag, full of tourists.

Way down yonder in New Orleans

New Orleans – NOLA – has its own very special vibrant energy and appeal. I went there recently for a short break, took my camera and tried to capture some of the many aspects of this incredible city.

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 The jazz band in the square outside the cathedral clearly paid no attention to the sign on the lamp post.

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The Natchez steams away from the dockside, hooting and churning up the Mississippi mud on a damp Sunday morning.

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For Mardi Gras, the previous week, even the carriage horse’s hooves were decorated.

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A hot dog vendor trundles to work through a quiet road in the French Quarter.

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Cool saxophone jazz on a street corner.

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The sign says “I wonder what happens if you put $$ in the box”. The statue moved and gave the donor a card with a short, positive sentence written on it.

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Lively street parades happen often.

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Outside a Bourbon Street bar.

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This group were singing and playing hot music from the 1920s and 30s.