Joe Cornish, the great British landscape photographer, advocates taking most of your photographs no more than thirty minutes from your home. So, here's my blog featuring pictures either thirty minutes drive or walk away from my front door or from the place where I'm staying for a few days. I'll also be writing about photography in general from time to time. Please enjoy!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

And I'll Show You a Sunset...*

Last Sunday was a damp, cold and dreary day in Anglesey and we set off for home a little earlier than usual. As is often the case in Wales almost as soon as we got onto the mainland the weather improved and we drove home in lovely sunshine deciding to make for West Kirby to see if a sunset might develop. 

The best laid plans... roadworks delayed us and the sun was almost on the horizon when we finally reached the Wirral but Parkgate was within easy reach so we headed for the salt marshes there. There had been a very high tide earlier in the day and the marshes were still flooded in places giving some lovely reflections of the sunset.

The perfect end to a lovely weekend...

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* Stay With Me Till Dawn by Judy Tzuke from the album of the same name.

Lee Filters

I've been wanting to get some filters for a while and have been kicking around various options. I finally decided that I had to opt for Lee Filters - I've added a link to their website in the Resources box on the right. They are the best and that means having to wait for delivery. I was lucky to find a dealer with a couple of the items I wanted in stock but I'm on a waiting list for the neutral density soft grads I really wanted.

I'd been waiting for the opportunity to try them out but had to wait until last Saturday afternoon. After doing the macro work I thought that a decent sunset might be in the offing and set off for Cable Bay on the west coast of Anglesey to see what developed. Sadly, clouds gathered on the horizon and quickly killed off any chance of a half decent sunset but at least I got to experiment.

Most filters I've tried in the past have worked pretty much straight out of the box but you have to work the Lee ones. And they are so adaptable. The ability to angle a filter, mix, invert and generally be creative is great. In the picture below I used a 0.6 ND but only on the sky. I took a few test shots to get everything right and, for a first effort, I'm quite pleased. 

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It's the First Breath of Springtime*

Spring really is here - hurrah!

The beautiful weather of the past few days really has been inspirational and after listening to Heather Angel at Focus earlier in the month I was eager to try my hand at a bit of macro photography. The light on Saturday afternoon was perfect and  I set up a simple studio, fitted my Nikkor 60mm macro lens to the D700, dusted off my Lastolite reflector and got to work. The reflector helped to illuminate the inside of the flowers - tulips - while backlight from the sun helped to create a high key effect in the first picture and to saturate the colours in the second.

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Click the image for the bigger picture

Once I uploaded the pictures into Elements I decided to have a play with some of them using Niksoft's Silver Efex Pro 2 plug-in, which I upgraded to earlier this week. Here's my first attempt using some presets with a tad of tinkering in Elements once I was satisfied with the effects. Enjoy!

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There is an awful lot more to version two of Niksoft's package and I think it will become a much used tool in the coming weeks.

As always, your comments are welcome.

*Thankful by Rumer from the album 'Seasons of My Soul'

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Focus on Imaging

The annual photography trade show that is Focus on Imaging has come and gone for another year. I went along on Tuesday to a look round and to get one or two bits of new kit if the prices were right, and to chat the the manufactures, try their products and listen to some of the experts who give of their knowledge freely at various seminars.

Three seminars by eminent photographers were planned; the first, with David Clapp at Imagine Publishing's stand, was interesting and gave some new ideas for future pictures. Paul Gallagher gets a link from this blog (see the links on the right) so any chance to listen to him, see his work and listen to how he gets the effects in his wonderful monochrome landscapes is a must do. He didn't disappoint. Paul really does have a minimalist approach to image editing! After scanning large format negatives he sets about enhancing them with small selections using the lasso tool and curves in Photoshop. What he achieves is quite remarkable and, in his words, it's little more than dodging and burning he would do in the darkroom. Finally, and in a change to my programme, I sat in on a macro photography lecture from Heather Angel on the Nikon stand. Wow! What fabulous images and such simple techniques.

In between seminars I wandered about looking at new toys to add to the wish list, played with a few bits and bobs, made a few purchases and picked up a few freebies - calendars, pens and the like. 

I've been looking to get more into monochrome photography and had been looking at Niksoft's Silver Efex Pro, recently updated to version 2. Well, dear reader, I bought a copy and having only briefly played with it I can tell you that I'm very impressed with it. I've only tinkered with one picture so far, which is the bicycle picture from Bridlington posted a few entries back. I thought when I took the picture that it might make a good monochrome image and I'm not disappointed with the results. Only a tad of additional tinkering was made and the addition of Kodak's ISO32 Panatomic X emulsion, a lovely black and white film that I used in the past. Here's the updated picture:

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I'd appreciate any comments about which image readers might prefer.

All in all, a very good day out.

Spring Approaches...

March is here and the world is waking up from its winter slumber. Monday was a lovely day if cold. I set off for an afternoon's photography stretching the 30 minute rule to its maximum in search of some new places to capture.

Astbury is a lovely village and in early spring the village green is ablaze with daffodils making a lovely foreground for the church behind the green. Sadly, its becoming more and more difficult to get a photograph of the church and village green without cars or other modern obstructions spoiling the view. I was too early for the daffodils and there were too many cars around so I contented myself with this picture using the arch of the main gate to frame the church. It's shot with my Leica compact, which really does produce a nice picture.

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There's a gorgeous old yew tree in the churchyard, too, with beautiful textures and I'll be going back with the full kit soon.

I made my way home via country lanes and stopped off at a spot I'd always intended visiting when I lived more locally to it. Rode Pool is part of the Rode Hall estate and is a very quiet and peaceful place. By now it was late afternoon and the sun was getting low in the sky. The water on the pool was perfectly calm so out with the Leica to see what the location offered for the future. Here's a shot at the eastern end of the water and once again I'm amazed at the quality my tiny Leica produces.

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Stoke Your Fires

Stoke Your Fires is now in its fourth year and has evolved from an animation festival to a full blown Festival of the Moving Image. I've been slightly involved in a couple of the previous events but this year I was more heavily involved providing photographs of the convention aspect of the festival. Some of my pictures can be found in the Gallery section. Follow this link:

This year there was the world premiere of an Internet serial entitled 'Blood and Bone China' together with the UK premiere's of the movies 'The Insatiable Moon' (see my earlier entry) and 'The Ballad of Des and Mo' filmed as part of the 72 Hour Movie Project at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia. To qualify, films have to be shot and edited ready for screening within 72 hours. Red carpets, glamourous people and a whole heap of fun.

Even as a stills photographer I learned much not least the passion for their art professional and amateur film makers have and the patience and ingenuity animators display to produce their films. I came away from the four-day convention inspired by the speakers and have a few ideas for future images.

I know the team are already thinking about to 2012 Festival - sign up on the website for their newsletter and do make the effort to go along next year. You will not be disappointed.

I must thank Marc, Alec, Niki and the team for inviting me along.

You can watch 'Blood and Bone China' via this link: 

On An Island*

Once back from North Yorkshire a trip to Anglesey was planned, which was blessed with excellent if windy weather. I did some exploring on the north-west coast of the island ending up at a small cove on the northern edge of Trearddur Bay. I wandered out onto the headland and took this picture of the incoming tide.

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A superb afternoon was finished off with a fish and chip supper at the excellent White Eagle pub in Rhoscolyn with its fabulous views of Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsular. The food is very good and the place is well worth a visit if you're in the area.

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The following morning I went wandering along the Menai Straits and encountered Admiral Nelson keeping watch for errant French frigates.

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*On An Island by Dave Gilmour from the album of the same name

Come Watch the Sun Sink Away...*

After attending the premiere of 'The Insatiable Sun' I had a few days away in North Yorkshire visiting Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington and surrounding places. The first two days were damp and cold so photography was limited to a few snapshots for future reference. Despite the rain, the iconic pier at Whitby had a goodly number of visitors so even a rainy black and white shot was out of the question. No matter... we were having a great time. 

The final day was completely different, weather-wise. Bridlington with its harbour and long sandy beaches was the target and by late afternoon is was pretty clear that a half-decent sunset might be had. I took a few pictures around the harbour before wandering along the sand to the south of the town. Strolling along the sand was really nice collecting pebbles and shells, keeping a close eye on the sun and taking a few pictures.Walking back towards the harbour I took photographs of  some beach huts and a bicycle. Here's the images:

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Click the image for the bigger picture
Both were quite difficult pictures because of the tricky exposures involved. Elements has helped a little particularly with the bicycle picture. The sea and sky in this image was pretty much burned out but adding a graduated filter in ACR5 helped initially with selections on the sky and sea lifting out the highlights. I also like the composition of the bicycle shot; it almost conforms to the Law of Thirds - at least horizontally! The image is cropped to 5x5.

Please feel free to comment.

*The Magic Hour - Andrew Peterson from the Album "Counting Stars"