Photographing Cornwall

CornwallIt was the draw of pretty Cornwall that made me sign up for the trip, that and the knowledge that my wise photography teacher was hopefully going to calmly reintroduce me to my camera and tripod.  But by the time I arrived in Lands End, it was already dark and having listened to my taxi driver regale me with Cornish folklore all the way from Newquay airfield, I was beginning to have my doubts. With my kit bag and luggage, I stumbled out of the car, to howling wind and the crashing sound of the sea that most certainly was registering on the Beaufort scale.  I was back with Light and Land for a photography tour around Cornwall as well as some tutoring on printing techniques. I had last been in Cornwall in 2006, for a culinary tour of Rick Steins eateries, now here I was in a rain jacket and hiking boots thinking oh my God where have I landed.

CornwallBy lunchtime the next day, the bad weather had cleared and while dining out on soft Cornish pasties we drove to the deserted stony inlet of Sennans Cove. We clambered down sheer cliff sides, to set up in a landscape of natures own doing. Huge sea sprayed boulders dominated the shoreline, alongside a warren of rock pools with brown seaweed sprigs and lime green algae. In pockets, gritty sand with chipped shells and pebbles allowed for a steadier work space and easier tripod assembly. And right at the back of cove, mining caves and abandoned rock formations provided alternative compositions. So much to shoot! Where to begin? and what to photograph? My mind was at a blank.  One of the instructors ambled over and kindly remarked that in an action packed landscape its typically hardest of all to set up a good shot. He provided some pointers on lens and composition choices and for the rest of the afternoon, I shot multiple images of everything and anything, panicking that I would have nothing good to print.

By evening, things had improved. We had moved back near the southerly tip of Lands End and the sun was setting. There was now ample opportunity to capture a pink sky, a blue grey seascape and as if by an act of God a perfectly formed sea arch just off the coast line. This shot needed precision and patience. At some point the sun would dip to a perfect angle, send its beams across the bay and flood the chamber of the sea arch with red and orange rays. I wasn’t going to jinx it. I sat unmoved on the cliff for over an hour and snapped repeatedly as the sun made its descent and catching the curve of the rock and illuminating the sea. Relief I thought as we hiked back to the hotel – I think I got have at least one photograph (out of five hundred crappy ones) worthy of a print out.

CornwallIn the mornings the group assembled for tutorials on the art and science of printing.  It was fascinating to listen to the precision and exactitude of mastering a quality print.  Understanding the intricacies of Lightroom and Photoshop, made you realise how much there was to learn. Mulling over colours, shades, textures and mood was labored – Cornwall it would appear photographs well in either black and white or in colour. Deciding the finish of the paper – matte, gloss or canvas, before loading up into large Epson and Canon printers that had been specially set up in the work room with the assistance of fotospeed.  And then finally the overwhelming joy of seeing your own image, still warm to the touch, coming off the printer – making you want to run out and frame it in an instant.

CornwallBy midweek the sun was high in the sky. One of those gorgeous bucket and spade days in Cornwall with the sea sparkling a turquoise colour and a steady stream of day trippers making their way across the Lands End southerly tip. We were off to the former tin and cooper mines of Botallack – now part of a World UNESCO site combining other Cornish and Devon mining landscapes. Set on sheer cliffs overlooking a pretty bay, Botallack comprises a series of chimney stacks and engines rooms that offered lots of shooting potential. We trooped down the cliff and crossed a narrow stone bridge to position ourselves on a bluebell sprayed cliff with the sun shining down on us. The scene was simply idyllic. Down below in the bay, a seal was frolicking on the rocks and as the waves rolled in to the foot of the mines, their white crests set off the blue sky, the blue water and the violet hue of the bluebells. It was the stuff of pretty pictures and with some tutoring from my wise teacher the photo took shape. For the rest of that blissful afternoon, we sat perched on the side of a cliff perfecting and tweaking the shot surrounded by heart wrenching beauty, enough to make your heart sing.

CornwallThe days rolled on and started to form a natural pattern of printing, shooting and Cornish pasties from the bakery in St Just.  One day, we clambered over boulders for miles to get out to try and shoot the epic rollers crashing off the coastline. I was eager to get the chance to use my newly purchased (but oh so heavy)  Canon 70-200L IS f4.0 lense. More than challenging when you are clinging for dear life to the rocks, with your kit bag and tripod. But we made it and while the photos weren’t great, the experience was heady. But all too soon, it was time to pack up and leave. My Cornish taxi driver was ready with more yarns by the time I was departing. With so much to process – both in terms of photos and memories, I sat back in the car and let him chatter on. Cornwall photographed and freshly printed but more importantly a small part of Cornwall shared.

[The tour was led by Joe Cornish and Antony Spencer from Light and Land, with Vince Carter from fotospeed]

Dead Sea Spa at the Kempinski Ishtar Jordan

By Dearbhla Doyle, Guest writer for Unwind and let go.
JordanThe Kempinski Ishtar Hotel at the world famous Dead Sea was the perfect place to end a wonderful five day tour of Jordan. Having spent a dusty day in the Wadi-Rum desert, undergone the trauma of losing my luggage for more than three days, and spent two days hiking in blistering heat through the spectacular city of Petra in flip-flops (I kid you not), myself and my travel companion were in serious need of some rest and recuperation.
Dead Sea BathingThe Kempinski Ishtar has everything you would expect from a five star resort on the shores of the Dead Sea but we were specifically there to avail of its award winning luxury spa. Given its proximity to mineral rich waters and detoxifying muds, the menu of treatments allows for a Dead Sea salt immersion in a comfortable and intimate surrounding. That been said, I still took a dip in the Dead Sea waters in the early evening and watched as many fellow bathers covered themselves from head to toe in blue grey mud, a ritual dating back centuries.
Dead Sea MudIt was only fitting therefore that I had opted for a ‘Polish & Swathe’ treatment at the Spa that evening, an invigorating Dead Sea salt body scrub followed by a Dead Sea Mud wrap accompanied by a gentle head and neck massage. The treatment did not disappoint, the polish combined the Dead Sea salt detoxifying cleanse, with an Apricot and Avocado polish allowing me to drift peacefully swathed in a body wrap to the accompaniment of gentle Arabic music. My therapist was accomplished and attentive and gently coaxed me through the whole process, so that it felt truly relaxing.  Afterwards as I sipped a glass of mint tea, I felt thoroughly cleansed and relaxed, and my skin felt deliciously soft, just what was needed after a few days of exposure to the desert sun.
Kempinski Ishtar SpaVisiting the Dead Sea, is of course a one in a lifetime experience and the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel is a great stopover. Asides from the luxurious spa, there is a super choice of restaurants. We dined in the resorts excellent Italian restaurant, having by that time had our fill of the delicious local Jordanian ‘Mezze’ platters (there is only so much hummus one can eat!), but here at the hotel you can take your pick of Western, local, or Asian cuisines. There is also a number of swimming pool options, as well as the obligatory Dead Sea bathing experience on the shores of the hotels private beach. I ended my too-short a stay with a sumptuous breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Dead Sea, alas minus my travelling companion who had to leave early to catch her flight. As I sat, staring out across the still waters of the Dead Sea, I made a mental note to return someday to the beautiful country of Jordan.
Kempinski Hotel, Ishtar Dead Sea,Swaineh, Dead Sea, 11194, Jordan
Dearbhla DoyleDearbhla is a sometimes Irish Diplomat living and working in Brussels. When not lamenting the current sorry state of the world, she enjoys fine food and wine, good conversation, opera, reading and seeing new places. She is also not averse to some well deserved pampering from time to time. 

Vinyasa Flow at Samyama Yoga – Palo Alto, California

Samyama Yoga CenterAfter an intense week of meetings in and around Palo Alto, I finally coaxed myself into doing what I had been meaning to do for ever and visit a local yoga class. Whilst there were several listed in the area, I liked the look of Samyama yoga and decided to book an uber and attend their Saturday morning Vinyasa Flow. The class was already in session as I crept into the back row in my bare feet on white wooden floorboards. In fact the whole room was white with a large shell shaped yoga room, complete with mood lightening, floor to ceiling windows, and a feature ripple effect wall at the front of the class. This shala was most certainly on the chic side of the scale.

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Deep Tissue at the International Orange San Francisco

Golden Gate bridgeWhile in Switzerland last year, I was introduced to one of the worlds top Spa consultants and over an interesting exchange, he offered me several insider tips on city spas around the globe.  And so when I was last visiting San Francisco based on his recommendation, I took the opportunity to visit the International Orange Day Spa on Fillmore Street, located in Pacific Heights and close to Union Square.

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Volunteering for Strictly…

By Ingrid Miller,  guest writer for Unwind and let go.

Volunteering for StrictlyI’m glad I didn’t listen to my dad, his advice has always been never to volunteer, but there I was, a volunteer member of the Parents Association of my children’s school. “We need a new soft surface playground” the Principal said. An emergency meeting of the Kitchen Cabinet was convened – in my kitchen. After a few glasses of wine and some serious brainstorming we agreed as a team to take on “Strictly”. As the bottles were emptied, our confidence grew… and so

it began.

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The Delamar Hotel Spa in Greenwich Connecticut

Delamar Hotel SpaAs part of a recent work assignment on location in Greenwich Connecticut, the schedule included (much to my joy!) a complimentary treatment at the Delamar Hotel spa. Located on the waterfront, the hotel overlooks a pretty marina with fancy sailboats and kind of reminds you of a laid back Summer postcard. Having flown long distance to get there,  I opted for a Swedish massage as my treatment du jour. Perfect for weary travelers but not too demanding for already jet lagged muscles.

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Exfoliation at the Bulgari Hotel Milan

Bulgari HotelAs part of my recent Detox program, I upped the ante on my regime by including a body exfoliation at the luxurious Bulgari Hotel when I was last visiting Milan. Located in one of the nicest parts of the city, the Bulgari Hotel overlooks beautiful botanical gardens and is reputed to be the most exclusive hotel in the city.  I visited it on a quiet Sunday afternoon and observed many elegant guests in the lobby and adjoining spa. I chose my treatment carefully from the extensive spa menu and settled on the creme dela mer inspired ‘La mer signature body treatment with exfoliation’ to apparently ‘renew, relax and restore’ my body.  I don’t normally use the La mer range of products, but with a diamond component, I was happily anticipating beautiful shimmery skin by the end of my treatment.

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