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 : www.landscapeandlight.co.uk

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 : www.landscapeandlight.co.uk