Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Featured Photograph for December

I'm a little late posting my featured photograph this month - the result of a busy two weeks which included a couple of short talks for Wilmslow Guild Photographic Society and judging a competition at Frodsham & District Photographic Society. In both cases I got out alive and I am going to consider that a result.

My photograph for December was taken this time last year and is of one of the finest buildings there is (imho), Liverpool Cathedral. I had taken my youngest daughter into Liverpool to seek out architectural subjects for her A Level Photography project and this was top of the list. It is a truly magnificent building and is also where my graduation ceremony was held.

They even let you use your tripod!

I suspect I won't get around to posting again before the new year so I wish everyone reading this a very happy Christmas!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Featured Photograph for November

It seems I wasn't the greatest talent to emerge from my school:


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Saturday, 19 October 2013

When in Rome

It must have been around this time 16 years ago that J and I began planning a city break to mark our 10th wedding anniversary the following year. At the time, I was desperate to go to Rome but J's preference was New York and she won out. As it happens, we celebrated a year late, our original plans being scuppered by my catching chicken pox off the girls (a not very pleasant experience in your 30's and, thankfully, not something we have photographic reminders of); we loved New York and have been back a number of times since but, until this year, we had never visited Rome.

We finally made the trip in September using my Dad's 80th Birthday as an excuse - it was one of the few places that he and my Mum had always said they would go back to (my Mum being a great one for 'been there, done that, now onto something new'). I have to say that I wasn't disappointed, except, perhaps for the crowds which where crazy at times. I would certainly like to go back at a quieter time and explore a bit more.

In the past, such a trip would lead to all sorts of photographic anxiety caused by the difficult decision of what to take with me but, now I have the Fujifilm XE-1, it's a much easier question to answer; I just took that camera, 35mm and 18mm lenses and my compact carbon fibre tripod (3 Legged Thing Brian). The tripod was specifically intended for sunset/dusk conditions and so, most of the time, I carried only the camera and the two lenses - perfect for walking around a city.

I had hoped to come back with lots of really interesting street photographs but the reality was that my Dad had to come first and, of course, there were sights to see. Also, if I'm honest, I still don't know whether I properly 'get' that kind of photography yet; for me, it is a work in progress. What I have come back with is a bit of a mix but mostly what L&CPU judges would typically refer to as 'record shosts'. Even so, I thought I would share ten of my favourite photographs/places from the trip.

1. Our first afternoon in Rome was a little mixed. I'm not sure what I expected to find but it certainly wasn't the kind of mad crowds we encountered (it's a capital city - d'oh!). After depositing our cases, we headed for the Spanish Steps which are, well, steps really; they are very grand steps but I'm not sure I get what all the fuss is about. We then wandered around taking in the Trevi Fountain (which certainly is impressive) and battling the crowds again, before taking in some of the quieter back streets. Meandering around these back streets, we finally started to relax and really take in our surroundings and I took this photograph while resting in a peaceful square only a stones throw away from the hoards.

2. Our hotel was a 15 minute metro ride from the centre of Rome. It was a really nice hotel and excellent value but, of course, meant we used the Metro a fair bit - no great hardship as it is clean and efficient. The hotel was on line A which, bizarrely, appears to be the newer of the two lines. The picture above is of a train on line B when we were headed to the Coliseum. We had to change lines at the main station (Terminii) and had taken heed of the guide book's warnings of pickpockets and bag snatchers who like to operate there; just as well - an apparently well practised gang of respectable looking young women made an attempt to part J of her belongings on our return journey (J was ready for it fortunately and barged past them). This was the only bad experience we had on the Metro and we enjoyed using it otherwise.

3. The Coliseum is a sight to behold, as is the Forum. However, they are, of course, very popular and so we really appreciated the relative peace of the third site in the grouping, the Palatino. Your ticket gives you entry to all three sites but, I suspect a lot of people don't bother with the lesser known Palatino yet it has it's own impressive ruins as well as wonderful views down to the Forum as you descend. The photograph is of a modern art installation situated in the main arena. I was taken by it as it was but it made for a much more interesting photograph when the children began to interact with it. I stayed here for a while in the hope of getting a good balance and am pretty happy with the result. My Dad is deeply unimpressed by things like this and went off to find a bench to rest on while I was occupied.

4. I only took my tripod out on one evening and I knew I wanted to do something at the river, but I wasn't exactly sure what. I knew the Pont St.Angelo is a popular spot so we headed there only to find it heaving with tat sellers, buskers and beggars; not exactly what I was hoping for. However, it was immediately obvious what the picture should be (another d'oh! moment). I know there is nothing original about this scene but I am still very happy with it and it makes a beautiful print. Looking at this, I can almost forget the chaos around me on the bridge at the time.

5. Some major sights can fail to live up to your expectations but that's not generally the case in Rome (except, perhaps the Spanish Steps for me); St. Peter's Basilica certainly does not fail. It is truly magnificent! There is architectural magnificence wherever you turn and I now have a load of, probably very unoriginal, photographs of the interior (more record shots). I think I should probably find a way of using them creatively but, for now, here is one of the stunning dome. As an aside, I am very pleased with how well the XE-1 coped with these low light but high contrast images; the dynamic range of the sensor is very impressive.

6. The Vatican Museums were a bit of mixed bag; another example of extreme crowds which made moving around and viewing anything very uncomfortable; particularly the Sistine Chapel in which, although amazing, I was reminded of the mice in Wallace & Gromit's 'Grand Day Out' - crowded together, staring upwards. There was one place where the crowds thinned and that was in the Map Gallery, a 120m long gallery hung with forty huge maps created between 1580 and 1583. I love maps so this was perfect; I was able to spend time admiring the detail.

7. Our final full day began with a slightly longer than usual metro trip to the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano. It was the first Christian basilica to be built in Rome and was, for a time, the Pope's main place of worship. It is also clearly not as well known or visited as many other sights but it deserves to be. Although on the whole much more modest than St.Peter's, the nave and alter are breathtaking.

8. While we were in the Basilica San Giovanni, a group of workers arrived to change some light bulbs. They had a cart which transformed into an enormous ladder which one brave man (or perhaps he drew the short straw) climbed up. Coming from a society in which health and safety considerations are paramount, I was struck by a number of things; they clearly couldn't rest the ladder on the facade so it waved precariously as he ascended, he had no safety ropes (although what he could rope himself to I have no idea) and no attempt was made to clear the area beyond dropping a couple of cones on the floor. I only wish I'd had an even wider lens to show just how high up he was (should have thought of stitching a couple of pictures together).

9. The final major sight of our visit was the Pantheon. It was a bit of a trek for my poor old Dad but well worth the effort. I know this will sound stupid but it just looks so very old and is another example of incredible engineering for the time - 2000 years old with the World's largest un-reinforced concrete dome. It also presented a major challenge for the camera in terms of contrast, the bright, midday sun pouring in through the oculus.

10. After we'd been to the Pantheon and had a delicious sandwich from a nearby bakery, we decided it was time for an ice-cream and I was determined that we should find Giolitti, Rome's most famous gelateria. Roman Holiday is one of my favourite films so once I realised that was where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck had stopped, I had to pay homage. The photograph was taken in one of the side streets around the corner from Giolitti and just says 'Rome' to me; the classic Fiat 500 in front of the peeling coloured walls. I would have liked to allow more space in front of the car but the doorway was just too messy.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Featured Photograph for October

October is probably my favourite month. The days are starting to get shorter; something most people tend to dislike but for me it means sunrise comes back into play (you can only do so many 4am starts before they begin to lose their appeal) - and then there is all that 'mists and mellow fruitfulness'. Unsurprisingly though, the greatest attraction is the glorious colour.

This month's featured photograph shows the River Dochart at Killin with Inchbuie, the ancient burial ground of the Clan Macnab, ablaze with colour and living up to the Gaelic translation of 'yellow island'. I gather it is possible to go into the burial ground, the key to the gate being held in Killin library; I desperately wanted to explore but, sadly, there wasn't time and this has now been added to my list of 'places to return to'.

Prints are available from my website :

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Featured Photograph for September

My featured photograph for this month was taken just three days ago in Rome and is dedicated to the very friendly New York based Bulgarian we met on the Pont St.Angelo (pictured). Like me, he had gone to the bridge to photograph the view towards St.Peter's Basilica but, while he intended to wait for dusk, I was planning to put eating with my family first (they might add 'for once'). While we chatted, he mentioned there was a good spot under the next bridge along, looking back towards the Pont St.Angelo and the castle and that is the scene you see here. We did leave the bridge before dusk but ended up at a restaurant just over the road and the draw of the photograph proved just too great for me; I quickly told J what to order for me and excused myself for ten minutes. It was a humid evening and jogging down to the next bridge and back left me uncomfortably sweaty but it was well worth the effort. I have to credit my new friend for his selfless suggestion.

Before returning to my family and the waiting beer, I also managed a quick visit back to the Pont St.Angelo where I took the following photograph:

It's hardly surprising that, in the time we were there, we saw four different wedding couples being photographed in front of this scene - the only downside being the plethora of street sellers selling tat and the cheesy violinist playing Beatles songs.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

New Website

For many years now, I have hosted my website using Clikpic and I would recommend them to anyone looking for an easy way to build a site. However, I have now switched to Smugmug and my new site is live. The content hasn't changed greatly from the previous website but I am happier with the appearance and Smugmug have eliminated the issues which used to make their templates so difficult to work with. I'm happy but I will be happier still if you go and have a look.

Monday, 26 August 2013

From Genesis to Revelations

A couple of things have led to this post; firstly, as you may have noticed from the last entry, I have been going through my back catalogue to see if I've overlooked any files with potential. Secondly, I've just returned from a couple of days in London where I took in Sabastiao Salgado's 'Genesis' exhibition. For this, I have to be thankful for a day of truly miserable weather; being a family outing, there is little doubt that a nice day would have meant seeing the sights. As it was, we looked for somewhere to get shelter and the Natural History Museum was my choice and not for unselfish reasons - I have long wanted to see Salgado's work in the flesh.

The exhibition was worth every penny of the £10 admission and I would urge everyone to see it although, sadly, it is only on until 8th September. We spend so much time viewing photographs on a screen these days that it is easy to forget just how much better it is to see a really well produced, large print and these were some of the finest I have ever seen - certainly some of the most impressive black and white prints. It is certainly true that Salgado has spent time in some amazing landscapes but that isn't the only reason why the prints held me spellbound.

And so it is that I have started looking specifically for images which might make a decent black and white picture. Of course, there is a world of difference between my pictures and his but maybe I can come up with something that makes a nice print of my own. I certainly realise there is a lot more work required to make a print sing the way his did but I'm going to try. The proof will be in the print.

Prints are available from my website : 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Featured Photograph for August

I certainly couldn't claim that this month's featured photograph is very original. Liverpool's waterfront is iconic and many people have photographed it at dusk from the Birkenhead side. Perhaps surprisingly though, this was my first attempt, exactly a year ago. J was out at a work event so I headed up to New Brighton with the intention of photographing the lighthouse (yet again) at sunset before moving on to this spot for dusk. As it turns out, that was slightly ambitious and I arrived at Woodside Ferry Terminal a little late to get the best light and I confess I was a little nervous to be standing there on my own with a bag full of expensive camera equipment. I am, however, reasonably happy with the result, especially as I hadn't bothered processing this file until just now.

Prints are available from my website :

Monday, 22 July 2013

Featured Photograph for July

I'm a bit late with this month's featured photograph and, as that is due to me being on holiday for the last couple of weeks, it seems only right that I should post a photograph made during that holiday. There is something of a risk in spending your main two weeks annual leave in Anglesey; I love the place and the coast is wonderful but, if the weather is bad there is not a lot to do. This wasn't going to be a problem for us as we mostly wanted to relax so, stocked up with plenty of films and books, we were set for whatever the weather threw at us. Of course, you will know by now that we were incredibly lucky and had two weeks of amazing sunshine. My legs don't often see the light of day but I wore shorts every day.

We had a fabulous break but there is something perverse about landscape photographers in that they are rarely satisfied with the conditions and such settled fair weather meant I wasn't going to get any dramatic lighting. Even so, I had established that the sun would set behind South Stack lighthouse and that is where J and I headed after a wonderful meal at the White Eagle. The image I've chosen to feature was made just after the sun had sunk behind an annoying bank of cloud on the horizon; consequently, the colours are rather muted. Compare them with the image below (the first I made that evening) where the foreground is lit with a beautiful golden light; the drawback being the unavoidable flare from shooting directly into the sun. Two quite different moods with only something like 20 minutes between them

The previous evening we watched a fascinating program about wildlife photographers in which one of them said that he was nearly driven mad by the noise he experienced during months spent with penguins and I felt I knew a little of his pain in just one evening in the company of thousands of seabirds.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Featured Photograph for June

I'm a little late posting this month's picture, largely because the last two weeks have been spent editing pictures from our latest wedding. I was tempted to use one of those pictures here; although our experience of weather for June weddings has generally been poor, this time it was a glorious day and we had some gorgeous evening sun in which to photograph the bride and groom. However, the couple have yet to see the pictures themselves and it would be wrong to post any online before they had.

The picture I have chosen is from a few years ago. It shows the sun setting over Liverpool and was taken from Frodsham Hill. It is only during the longest days that the sun sets this far round and I had been hoping to see it frame the Anglican Cathedral as it sank. I've been meaning to go back closer to the longest day to see if that does actually happen but have never had that combination of time, weather and tidal conditions necessary -for me, it is important that the foreground is broken up by the mud banks exposed by the low tide. Maybe I will have a chance yet this year.

Prints are available from my website:

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Am I a bad person?

I have a confession to make. I have been carrying a guilty secret around with me for the past few years but I think it is time I got it out there so I can move on with my life with some degree of normality.

I don't use the histogram.

There, I've said it. I don't feel any different right now but I am almost sure it will help to have got that great weight off my shoulders. But the question remains; does this make me a bad person?

I say this because I read quite a lot about photography and it seems that every description of someone making a picture requires them to pay great attention to the histogram in order to get an accurately exposed image. I've never done this. I do refer to the histogram when applying relatively minimal tweaks during post processing but I can't recall ever having done so at the time of making the exposure.

Now, clearly, I have my tongue firmly in my cheek right now but I honestly do wonder whether I am missing a trick by ignoring what appears to be commonly held best practice for digital photography. Alternatively, is the value of doing this overstated somewhat? To answer that, I will tell you what my approach is: For general landscape photography (i.e. fairly straightforward lighting conditions), I generally use aperture priority (I can almost hear the sound of mouths dropping as I write - that is, assuming anyone ever reads this) because the aperture is typically what I need to control. If the camera is on a tripod (almost always the case for landscapes), I obviously don't care how slow the shutter speed is and I trust the very advanced metering to cope with such lighting conditions.For trickier lighting conditions (for instance, sunrise or sunset), I usually switch to using manual exposure and employ my trusty, handheld spot meter - very old school I know but also very accurate.Wedding and street photography are a different matter. I still tend to use aperture priority but if the lighting is contrasty I find it easier to switch to the highlight view on the display; this means a very quick glance at the back of the camera gives me instant feedback (in the form of flashing) of any burnt out areas and I can quickly determine whether I need to re-shoot with, maybe, some exposure compensation. I certainly don't have the time to study the histogram in such circumstances.

So, in my opinion, reviewing the histogram isn't really as crucial as some would make out. I don't even think it is necessarily the best way of checking exposure. However, everyone out there in printed media land seems to think it is crucial so perhaps it is just pure, dumb luck when I do get something correctly exposed.

Prints are available from my website :

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Featured Photograph for May

My featured photograph this month is from May 2012. Although late May, it gives an ideal of just how late spring has been this year. Here we are in May and the blossom is only just appearing while a couple of weeks later than this last year, the laburnum was in full flower.

The photograph was taken at the Dorothy Clive garden in Staffordshire. I wrote about it at the time and don't propose to repeat myself but you can see more of it here. I do recommend you go if you enjoy peace, quiet and a beautiful garden.

Prints available from my website :

Monday, 8 April 2013

Featured Photograph for April

The photograph I've selected for this month was made just last week. We spent a few days in Anglesey over Easter and were blessed with some wonderful weather; very cold but bright and sunny - hardly a cloud in the sky. Of course, that's not always what I am looking for when it comes to landscape photography (much to J's annoyance) but it does make for a good few days away.

On this evening I set out with the intention of reproducing an image I made of Ynys y Fydlyn a couple of years back. Then, the setting sun had bathed the cliffs in a beautiful, rich glow but a very strong wind and spitting rain made for very difficult conditions and I was frustrated to find an otherwise very nice image spoiled by rain drops on the filter. A bit of judicious cloning was called for but the picture was just not as good as it might have been.

So, with that in mind, we made the short drive to the west coast of the island only to discover that the sun was clearly going to sink into a veil of cloud that seemed to have settled on just that bit of the horizon. Undeterred, we made our way down to the shore but I never quite made it. When I looked across to the Skerries from the path I realised this was the spot I wanted to be. The framing is very deliberate but I have retained more detail in the cliffs than originally envisaged; I had visualised them being in silhouette but when I tried that in post production, they became too black and dominant.

I ended up making only half a dozen exposures from two positions, one a few feet lower on the path than the other. The light changed quite a bit during that 45 minute period but was never better than this, only the second exposure I made. Not at all what I had planned but I'm very happy with the result.

Prints available from my website :

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Standing in the Rain

A couple of weeks back my good friend G mentioned a plan he had to spend a day making photographs along the North Wales coast; specifically with the aim of experimenting some more with long exposures using his Big Stopper filter. This seemed like such a good idea to me I asked if I could tag along; a request he generously agreed to. I say generously because to do so was quite likely to put the mockers on his plans - you see, we have an almost unblemished record of awful weather when we go on a photographic expedition together. It looked to be fitting then when the forecast for last Friday looked to be a rainy full stop to a week of unbroken, bright, dry, cold weather. However, we were committed and reasoned that the kind of photography we had in mind might actually be helped by overcast conditions.

We decided to head for our farthest point, Llandudno, and work our way back but, sadly, the forecast was right and the morning was very wet. Undeterred, we stoically headed for Costa where we spent some time in a deep, philosophical discussion about photography over a cappuccino and an over sized custard cream each (at least, that's how I remember the conversation). The rain continued but was forecast to ease off at midday so we made our way to the end of the pier where we split up; G took the high road up towards Happy Valley for a view down to the pier while I took the low road, down the steps to the shore which was already covered by the rising tide.

I stood there for quite some time waiting for the promised passing of the rain, even getting my camera out to size up compositions before quickly putting it away again. The rain got so heavy I even put the waterproof cover on my camera bag. After about 45 minutes, it did start to ease and I was able to set up my camera using an old rucsac cover I carry around as a cover to work under. Even so, I got rain drops on the filter which had to be cloned out of the final image (above). This first picture was made while still raining. It is a 30 second exposure and was taken with one of my Mamiya lenses on the D800 (because I could, ok!). It's quite nice and very serene but G got a better one from where he was.

As the rain did start to clear away, the effects of a 30 minute exposure began to create a more dynamic feel.

When we had done with the pier, we drove down the coast road, essentially, just looking for anything else that took our fancy. A brief stop was made at Rhos where the derelict pier caught our eye. Unfortunately, there was a lot of work going on surrounding the pier and we couldn't really get close enough to make much of it.

So, off to the next stop at Llandullas where G wanted to investigate a pier used for loading ships with stone from the nearby quarry. A ship was moored when we got there so we ate lunch and then killed some time photographing other things while waiting to see if it left (we assumed it had to leave fairly soon as, by now, the tide had turned). G concentrated on more long exposures using some groynes as his focal point while I entertained myself with the textures of the rotting sea defences.

We then made our way over to the pier but discovered there was no very obvious composition, particularly with the ship still moored to it. It may be worth another visit but we couldn't be bothered going back when we saw the ship pull away as we walked back to the car.

Our final stop for the day was Talacre and the Point of Ayr lighthouse. By now the tide was well out so the long exposure work was over but there was the promise of some nice light if the big dark cloud would just head away from us. Sadly, it didn't. It came right at us and a downpour of hail and then rain forced us back to the shelter of the car. I just managed one last effort before it arrived; the patterns in this weathered stone were fascinating. This is the best of several exposures I made.

Although we did get wet as usual, it was by no means a wash out. Some useful experimentation, a couple of pleasing photographs and, most of all, excellent company. That's a good way to spend a day!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Wirral Art & Photography Exhibition 2013

Good news in the post yesterday (a rare event) - I discovered that not only has my picture been accepted to the annual Wirral Art &Photography Exhibition, it has also been chosen as the prize winner in the photography category.

The print is one of the stitched panoramas I made during our trip to the Trossachs last October. This was dawn on the first morning of the holiday and, although there was plenty of cloud around, the muted colours and stillness of Loch Achray made for a beautiful and tranquil scene. This was the first panorama I had attempted with the D800 and stitching five images from 36 mp camera certainly made my computer work hard - I am sure I smelt the CPUs burning. The result was an incredibly detailed, huge file which I just had to see printed big. The trouble is, what can you do with a large print; unprotected, it would only get damaged so I decided it had to be mounted and framed. Sheila Gee at Cheshire Frames kindly did a wonderful job of framing this and another picture for me a very short notice so that I could submit them to the exhibition only for me to discover that this year there is a maximum of one entry per category. A choice had to be made and I chose this image, mainly because there was no room for it on our walls. I'm very glad I did now.

The exhibition runs from 23rd March to 5th May at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead.

Prints available from my website :

Friday, 1 March 2013

Featured Photograph for March

The photograph I have chosen for this month is not new but has been recently 're-worked' - I will explain more later. Despite having been made a few years ago, it remains one of my personal favourites; partly because it is a beautiful scene but also because this is my spiritual home - the Lake District and, specifically, the area around Keswick. I genuinely feel my spirit soar as I near the northern Lakes. This, then, is one of my favourite viewpoints; the top of Walla Crag offers such superb views for such modest effort that it it would be mad to overlook it.

On this morning, the forecast for cold, clear weather promised much and I was not disappointed. I had Walla Crag all to myself for a couple of hours and enjoyed the most peaceful time watching the mist burn away as the sun grew in strength. I then had the enormous, if slightly mean, pleasure of meeting another photographer on his way up as I headed down, aware of what he had missed out on by having his breakfast beforehand (if you tell me you wouldn't get some pleasure from that, I don't believe you).

The photograph was taken on Velvia 50 film using my Mamiya Pro TL and has only been printed once, direct from transparency. Until a couple of days ago, I thought that I had lost the transparency but I eventually found it (I really need to sort out my storage system) and decided to get a high resolution scan before I misplaced it again. The beauty of having a decent digitised version is that I have been able to lighten the fells a little - something I was unable to do with scans from my own flatbed. This now better resembles the original.

There is one other thing that makes this picture special to me: It won the Wainwright Society Photographic Competition a few years back. Now I don't kid myself that this competition had a huge entry but the judge was one of my photography 'heros', Derry Brabbs. Derry produced the photographs for all but one of the 'coffee table' Wainwright books and was instrumental in kick starting my passion for landscape photography as well as inspiring me to my first ever, very modest, published work. The knowledge that he liked this enough to select it as his winner is a source of great satisfaction.

Prints available from my website :

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Love Is .......

I could start by saying that 'love is' my new camera (the wonderful little Fujifilm XE-1) but that's likely to get me in trouble and, besides, is a subject for another blog. What I will say about the camera here is that it is genuinely small enough and light enough to take anywhere - including on shopping trips.

Street photography is a new departure for me and I'm sure many opportunities for good photographs pass me by either because I don't see them, am not quick enough or too cowardly. However, it would have been hard even for me to miss these giant, heart shaped balloons in Liverpool One and fail to see the potential.

While the women were in Zara, I positioned myself with the viewpoint below. The hope was that I would get an affectionate couple in just the right position on the escalator but it was always going to be a long shot. The two pictures below are the closest I got despite standing there for quite some time. There were too many factors I couldn't control even when I got a suitable subject in my sights; crowded escalator, too many people in front of me, prominent coloured clothing and people stopping to have a fag as they come out of the shop. How I longed to have my eldest daughter and her boyfriend with me - they love being photographed, make a good looking couple and I could have orchestrated their movements. I know that's not exactly in the spirit of street photography but I can't help thinking it would have made for a great image.

Eventually, I had to accept that it wasn't going to happen and, as it was primarily a shopping trip and there were others with me, I gave up and moved on. The women wanted to go into a shop on the upper level next so that did give me another opportunity and this time I struck lucky, getting a perfect couple, holding hands walking into the frame - she even had a red coat on. Selective colour is not a technique I use very often, it's a little 'gimmicky' for me but, in this instance, I felt it was crying out for such a treatment to put all the emphasis on the main subjects. Too much? Possibly. I will let you decide.

Finally, without moving, I looked up and saw another take on the 'one' theme. This time, I have simply desaturated everything except the reds. Looking at it from a male bias, I would have preferred to have had an attractive women standing alone on the walkway but it wasn't to be.

One thing I am sure of is that I would have attracted a lot more attention and possibly bothered people had I been standing there with a great big DSLR and lens. With the discrete little, retro looking 'rangefinder', barely anyone paid any attention to me.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Featured Photograph for February

I have never found February to be a good month for photography; in fact, I would not be remotely surprised if I've taken fewer photographs in this month than any other. So, although I did consider a few genuine February photographs for this feature, I ultimately decided to go for one from January - January 2012 to be precise. Most of the photographs I tend to feature have involved some degree of planning but this was a truly opportunist effort. I was taking my eldest daughter back to Aberyswyth University and was passing Bala when I noticed the mist rising from the lake. Fortunately, I pretty much always carry a camera and tripod with me in the car and knew a good place to stop. Twenty minutes or so later, I had what I wanted and we were back on the road.

Now, many photo society judges could be relied upon to criticise any landscape photograph in which the horizon has been placed in the centre of the frame and it is true that, compositionally, it often isn't the most effective thing to do. However, on this occasion I was immediately intrigued by the idea that the scene resembled a sound wave and that was the effect I wanted to capture. I've allowed slightly more room at the top of the frame in an effort to avoid splitting the image exactly in half but I felt it was important to retain the symmetry and simplicity.

I hope you like it.

Prints available from my website :

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Stopping Time - Part 2

Back in November I wrote about using my Lee Big Stopper neutral density filter for the first time. I was in Scotland at the time and tried it out at dawn, the low light resulting in a 16 minute exposure. Although the outcome was very pleasing, it was clear that a scene with more movement in it would probably make for more dramatic effects. It was December before I was able to put this to the test. Following an enjoyable morning in Snowdonia, I headed over to Anglesey and Penmon point having first consulted the tide tables to establish that the tide would be on the way in towards sunset.

It was mid afternoon when I arrived so the light was much brighter than my previous dawn effort. The image above was made with a 30 second exposure but even at that speed you can clearly see the effect, with the sea being slightly smoothed out and movement evident in the clouds.

The next two images were made with a 60 second exposure and the smoothing effect is more pronounced. The nice thing about the scene above is that this has meant that some of the colour from the cloud is reflected on the surface of the water - this would be less visible if the photograph had been taken at a more 'normal' shutter speed.

The more intimate scene below shows the misty effect you can get. It is also worth noting that the filter does create a blue cast which was very pronounced on this particular image. Of course, it is easily corrected by tweaking the colour temperature but, in some cases, the blue cast may be preferable.

In the picture below, we are up to 90 seconds exposure and another warning: I was watching the water getting closer and closer while I waited for the exposure to be completed. I was fairly comfortable on this occasion but it did occur to me that, had I been working with an exposure of 8 minutes or more, my equipment might have been in peril (I was wearing wellies).

Finally, below, one of the last exposures I made (I decided the prospects for sunset were poor and packed up to head home - fortunately, I was right). This is 120 seconds and, although subtle, you can see a difference to the picture above; there is slightly less definition in the surface of the sea. This raises a point - if you compose a photograph with a large expanse of water and use too long an exposure, you run the risk of having a large featureless expanse in the picture. Here the rocks break that up to some extent.

In conclusion: Lots more practising to do yet but I am enjoying experimenting with the filter and like the options it gives me.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Featured Photograph for January

My featured photograph this month is from January 2010, the last time we had any sort of significant snowfall in these parts. It is a photograph of Helsby Hill although probably not a view many would recognise. I had to go off the beaten track for it and I think I like it all the more for it not being an obvious viewpoint. It also demonstrates the benefit of going out while it is still snowing; by the time I reached this spot, the snow had only just stopped and the clouds were beginning to break up. Much later and, not only would the sky have been far less interesting, the direct sunlight would have made the scene much harder to photograph.

I do hope we get some of the white stuff this winter but the signs are not great at the moment so, for now, I have only the photographs and the memories they stimulate.

Prints available from my website: