Monthly Archives: April 2013

Just checking in…..48 hours late

The last 48 hours have been manic. I have not had two minutes to even contemplate blogging. Well, actually that’s a tiny fib as I re-blogged a small post yesterday; what I actually meant to say was that my normal afternoon typing marathon on the PC disappeared in to oblivion yesterday.

Monday morning reality sank in. That dreaded word echoed around my head like the never-ending tone of tinnitus. “Dentist !!! ” I know, I know..most of you don’t mind and its routine but I do mind and by no means is it routine. My dentist has deserted me a few times over the years as they always seem to be leaving. The phrase “This will be the last time you see me” has now become a familiar saying on my visits. So back to square one and a new dentist; maybe things just wouldn’t be so bad after all I had not been having any problems why would it be any different. I had tried to put it to the back of my mind over the weekend and just get on with life as normal but it was just sat in the back of my head like an itch that wouldn’t go away. “Be brave, be brave Mark just a walk in the park” is all I kept saying to myself.

One final brush and rinse and I was on my way. I arrived about 15 minutes early as the rush hour traffic for a Monday wasnt as heavy as I perhaps thought. This presented me with a choice: a 10 minute wait in the comfort of my warm car or a 10 minute wait in the surgery watching other victims leaving after been inflicted with unecessary pain. I opted for the first and stayed warm listening to Radio Aire.

When the time came it wasnt that bad actually, I stayed calm, took some deep breaths and pretended to be strong. I could hear the voice of Richard Hammond from BBC’s Top Gear…”Scared, Scared, Scared…quite scared..still scared..very scared”. That was me….scared. Actually the dentist was fine, nice guy..I went through the usual routine, you know what I mean…sit down, open wide, any problems I should know about sir? No !, OK then just a quick clean and off you trot. That wasnt quite how it went! Gutted isn’t the word.

From my viewpoint laid down in that wretched chair I could just see the expression on his face as he prodded his prodder and articulated his Budgie mirror for a better view. The wrinkles on his forehead were enough, three of four times he got to the same tooth and he repositioned himself to another angle. Everytime he reached my front right tooth he stopped. Only five minutes before, after asking me if I there had been any problems he commented how clean and nice my teeth were, what on earth has he found wrong with one of my front teeth. My original state of worry and fear had subsided when I sat down, but as he progressed his way around my top row of teeth from the back to the front and back in the opposite, a sudden state of nervousness returned resulting in my stomach dropping through my backside. The words I had never expected to hear now bounced off all four walls. “You’ve cracked your front tooth”. Oh S***t I mouthed without the words coming out. I had this mental vision of my face next to Jimmy Nail’s mug shot comparing similarities with a toothless Oz (Oz been his character in Auf Wiedersehen Pet)

tumblr_mbhhvt0uzz1qhdw0vo1_400The image I found of “Oz” doesn’t really does his toothless smile justice as he hasn’t got his mouth open but a quick google search will reveal video clips of a more appropriate Oz. This took me totally by shock. Firstly, I just wasnt expecting it and secondly how and when on earth did that happen. Mr “lovely-dentist-person” advised me that he would do what he could to repair it, if not, all the options would be reviewed later. Maybe my vision of ones head on Jimmy Nail’s body was a little premature but it was a scary thought nevertheless. I left the chair (and the surgery come to think of it) like a stabbed rat. (That’s a Top Gear expression I think) and made a beeline for the exit. Unfortunately, I will have to return.

Monday evening was cold, a lot colder than the average for the end of April in Yorkshire anyway but I chose to take a trip up to Yeadon Dam/Tarn. The opportunity to take photographs when there is some nice golden light should never be turned away.  The whole place was buzzing with activity, it was quite a surprise really as the wind and the cold normally puts people off walking in circles around a shallow stretch of water. I could have understood if the Little Fisherman had been open as the hypocritical excuse of a little exercise after scoffing fish and chips is one commonly used by visitors, but it wasnt. Mondays are a closed day, much to the delight of the missus.

As always with my passion for photography, I knew what I wanted. I was looking for silhouettes, low light images with plenty of shadows. Even the possibility of a colourful sunset. As the sun sank so did the temperatures and before long it was bitterly cold.  With a 28-135 IS lens on I grabbed what I could, when I could. I managed to get questioned by a swan and after poking its beak in my lens it withdrew its ideas and carried on foraging. Looking in to the sun can create some wonderful effects, including light flare in abundance. Doing just what I love felt great, cold but great. I kept tapping away composing and grabbing what I could. Always best to get more than what you need as you can always dispose of what you don’t require.

The limited clouds that were loitering around the sun an hour before were now dissipating with the cold air and low pressure. The sun was dipping closer to the horizon creating a noticeable colour change in a narrow band across the scene. The gradient of colour from a pale orange to mid to dark blue was evident as I carried on capturing silhouettes. Runners, walkers, dogs, swans, ducks, trees, houses and boats didn’t escape my viewfinder in the last thirty minutes.  A poor lens choice (again) left me composing a stitch as opposed to a single image with a nice silhouette of Cemetery Road, Yeadon as a foreground to the setting sun.

One hundred and eighty images later, with the sun now below the horizon I wandered the short distance back to my car. I was quite happy with the outcome, but as with any photo shoot what looks good on the camera back doesn’t necessarily look good on the computer back home. Only time would tell. Sitting in the car to examine my images soon gave way to the thought of getting home and feeling some warmth.

Tuesday morning started the same way Monday evening ended: taking photographs. Elaine has managed to get a place in the BUPA Great North Run this year and been her first time she is training hard to give her the best chance. You can actually follow her progress as she writes a blog called “Boothie is doing the Great North Run” every few days.  If you would like to donate some money towards Sue Ryder Wheatfields then you can visit Elaine’s Just Giving Page. If you have looked at the links show previously then you will understand Elaine’s passion for what she is doing. Elaine’s 10 kilometre training route incorporates a circuit of Yeadon Dam/Tarn so whilst waiting for her return it seemed like a good idea to capture a few more images. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? She wouldn’t mind, would you Elaine?

Might as well make use of the sunshine so off I went. In total contrast to 12 hours earlier, the light was excellent, the sun warmed the morning air and the colour was vibrant. The Swans were just as nosey, the Geese just as rowdy and in between all this the ducks were in abundance.  The shot that probably made the morning was a gentleman fishing by the side of the tarn, he was smoking a pipe and as I was facing in to the sun the light was catching the smoke being expelled from his long pipe. I waited and waited for the perfect opportunity. He was total unaware of my presence which really helped the situation. I envisaged the image in monochrome with the smoke showing up against the dark background. Unfortunately he had a small tent by the side of him and no matter which position I stood in I couldn’t manage to get a decent image that didn’t contain part of the structure of the tent. Still, despite that I was reasonably happy with the outcome. A small preview is shown below and as I am now over 300 images in editing arrears. I will post a link from the last two days shooting on a subsequent blog entry.

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Thanks for looking, as always comments are very welcome and in particular if you like the image above. Thank you.

I think Canon consulted me before printing this….

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Is The UK Government Trying To Kill Off Photographers

Photo This & That

New Act Makes It Legal for Photographs to Get Used Without Payment to Their Authors

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Yes, you did read that correctly. I’m in a state of disbelief and utter disgust with our Government. Appalling behaviour. Before I continue, it’s imperative to understand that my post not only applies to professional photographers whose livelihood just got taken away by this Act, but also amateur photographers too. Also, this applies to photographs worldwide; any photographer, from anywhere can be affected by this.

Firstly, by taking a picture (any picture, be it a family snap or an amazing news picture, wedding picture, landscape etc) you create it and have copyright and ownership of that image. This is the law and a human right.

In a nutshell, the new Act (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which received Royal Assent) that got voted through by government allows all work considered to be an orphan…

View original post 1,394 more words

25 Random things to share…..as I am bored

1. Whatever happened to SPANGLES
2. Never eat Yellow snow
3. There is no black or white only shades of grey
4. If Oranges are called because of their colours why are Lemons not called Yellows
5. Smile at least once a day….it does the soul good
6. Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away
7. You only have 1 life……Live it !
8. Can a colourblind person do a rubiks cube
9. Why is an IPOD not called an APOD….what happened to B C D E F G H
10. Never let a man orgranise a wedding
11. 79,000,000 people are engaged in intercourse right now FACT
12. 58,000,000 are kissing FACT
13. 37,000,000 are relaxing after having sex. FACT
14. Santa lives in the North Pole
16. A cat’s urine glows under a black light.(I wonder who was paid to figure that out?)
17. Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.(Okay, so that would be a good thing)
18. An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.(I know some people like that)
19. Starfish have no brains..(I know some people like that too.)
20. Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.(If you’re ambidextrous, do you split the difference?)
21. bears are left-handed.(If they switch, they’ll live a lot longer)
22. The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.(What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?)
23. The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet.(O.M.G.!)
24. A pig’s orgasm lasts 30 minutes.(In my next life, I want to be a pig.)
25. The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male’s head off.(Honey, I’m home. What the…?!)

Dust, Dust, Dust….Damned Sensor Dust

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I knew there was a reason I had two cameras……Digital photography has its advantages and it has its disadvantages and one of the flaws is dust. No matter what steps you take to prevent dust it gets everywhere. In the past, within twenty-four hours of buying a new camera I have found dust on the sensor. This week things got bad, very bad. I had to revert to the second camera at one point. This meant that the dreaded sensor cleaning time had come around again. I hate doing this, I can quite catergorically state that I DETEST DOING THIS !!. Before we move on to the tutorial, I tried a wet process first as some of the dust was quite stubborn, the wet process is linked further down the blog. I decided to show you the dry process as this was more successful on this occasion for me. Obviously this will vary according to your camera and quantity of dust.

Anyway, just in case you have never cleaned your camera sensor here is a tutorial using a Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly. Your DSLR is a picture-taking tool that’s been designed to capture tens of thousands of photos without any problems – and like your lenses your camera should provide a lifetime of service, too. But, like all tools, it needs to be looked after properly if it’s to keep running smoothly. By far your biggest concern will be dust, and the tutorial below will show you a simple sensor cleaning technique to keep your camera running smoothly.

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We all know that when you change lenses, dust can enter the camera and be deposited on the filter in front of the sensor. Dust can even be generated inside the camera by the friction between moving parts.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same: blotches in the same place on every frame. When you consider that the imaging sensor inside your DSLR is packed with millions of receptors, yet isn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, you can imagine how much detail a minute piece of dust can potentially obscure in an image.

Sensor dust is most noticeable in areas of smooth, pale tones such as skies, particularly if you’re shooting with narrow apertures, and it becomes particularly obvious if you use a narrow aperture and slow shutter speed during a panning shot.

Bear in mind that it’s only once you’ve taken a picture and you’re looking at it on the rear LCD or on a computer that you’ll spot sensor dust. If you notice other specks when you’re looking through the viewfinder, it’s either the viewfinder window or the mirror inside the camera that require a quick blast from a rubber bulb blower.

The Integrated Cleaning System inside your DSLR does a fine job of vibrating most of the offending particles away from the sensor, but it isn’t perfect. Image-editing programs such as Photoshop make removing any shake-resistant spots relatively simple, but it’s better to remove the dust from the sensor directly.

If you’ve got the right tools and lots of patience you can have a go yourself; although bear in mind that you’ll void your warranty, and replacing a scratched sensor doesn’t come cheap! If in any doubt, leave it to the pro’s.

What you’ll need to clean the sensor in your digital SLR camera

A whole industry has built up around camera care products, with sensor cleaning devices in particular taking many different formats. But which items do you really need?

We’d recommend that a minimum on-the-road cleaning kit comprises a bulb blower, brush and microfibre cloth. You can add a set of wet/dry sensor swabs and a sensor loupe if you’re confident of removing dust manually, although with the EOS Integrated Cleaning System doing a genuinely fine job of removing dust particles automatically, this should be a relatively rare requirement.

It’s also a good idea to keep a pack of lint-free Pec-Pads or lens tissues in your camera bag to help remove marks from lens mounts, buttons and LCD screens.

Warning: dust-spotting your camera’s sensor requires a gentle touch and the right equipment. Remember, one wrong move here and you are looking at a write off

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Step 1: Try auto cleaning
Make sure the camera battery is fully charged, then select the ‘Sensor cleaning’ option in the second Setup (yellow) menu. Choose the automatic option to start with.

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Step 2: Switch to manual
If dust persists, return to the sensor cleaning menu and select the manual option. This locks the mirror up and opens the shutter. Remove the lens to get access to the sensor.

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Step 3: Use a blower
First, use a manual air blower to dislodge any particles (some will say not to do this, but I am yet to have any problems and I have been doing this 8 years)  – face the camera down so that the dust falls out of the body. Avoid using a compressed air can as these contain propellants, which reminds me too…dont ever blow with your breath inside your camera. Once you have done this, take a test shot.

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Step 4: Start dry cleaning
If dust remains, charge a sensor brush for ten seconds and carefully drag this over the sensor. If dirt is stuck to the sensor, do a wet clean with a swab and sensor cleaning fluid. A great tutorial on wet cleaning can be viewed here

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After you’ve finished your sensor cleaning…

When the sensor has been cleaned – either automatically by the camera or manually, by you – take a test shot to check that all is clear. Switch the camera to Av mode, and set the smallest aperture available on the lens.

Photograph a bright, clean area – a piece of white paper is ideal or even a clear sky – with the lens manually focused at a close distance. Upload this shot to your imaging software and apply Auto Levels or the equivalent to show up any specks.

The bottom of the image actually represents the top of the sensor, so flip the image vertically prior to cleaning your sensor to find out where on the sensor the dust lies. A sensor loupe – a device incorporating a magnifying lens and lights that fits over the lens mount – is also a great aid here.

And that’s it !! What is so scary about that I here you ask?

The week that was….week 17

Thats right…seventeen weeks in to 2013 already…..

Here we are today, Friday and I am yet to put even one article together for my blog. It’s been a hectic week at Winterbourne Towers with lots going on. Not all on the photographic front but as my life doesn’t quite revolve around a camera that’s probably a good deal.

Inspiration is good… to be inspired is in fact something that we all do without even knowing that we have done it. Keeping your eyes open, looking and observing is a fantastic approach for a photographer to learn. Even if you don’t have a camera with you (although these days most of us have a camera on our mobile phones) it doesn’t stop you looking and coming up with ideas for future images. Town Centres, Shops, Railway Stations, Parks, you name it…they all host a wealth of opportunity for images. Of course I am not just talking about images of people, there is so much more to see. Each day the sun moves round from east to west and as it traverses the sky changes the way we see things. The shadows are shorter and longer at either end of the day, just like they are at the end of each year. A static object such as a building or a statue, a monument or a tree will look completely different every hour of the day. As photographers we can use this light to be creative and use photographic techniques that can be learned by either trial and error or research in media.

Media is the biggest and most available source of inspiration available to us all. We all watch television, listen to the radio, read newspapers and magazines; most of which contain photography. We all pick up leaflets and publications which contain images either artwork or photography. The images used in these publications are sought by editors and publishing companies all over the world. Normally they are purchased from picture libraries which host many thousands if not millions of images on the simplest of subjects. There is never “nothing to take”….. A good photographer will find the simplest of subjects to take at home on the rainiest of days. Take a look at something I put together using sugar and water, a small pipette and a DVD disk.

DVD reflections........

A very good friend of mine, Jean Phillips (Please have a look at Jeans Photos on Flickr) invited me to pay her a visit over in Wrenthorpe near Wakefield. Having looked at Jeans images over the months I have to say that her photography has come along in leaps and bounds. Jean got the sunset bug and started taking the early morning and late evening sky and using my term “the best light of the day”. I posted one of Jeans images on April 19th here if you want to take a look. I headed over to Wrenthorpe on a beautiful spring day and after a quick coffee it was off to our first stop off  and Sandal Castle just a few miles away.

Sandal Castle stands in a commanding position, to the south of Wakefield city centre, overlooking the River Calder.
The castle is best known for the famous Battle of Wakefield which was fought nearby in 1460 during the Wars of the Roses in which Richard, Duke of York was killed.
Remains of the 13th century stone castle and the fine motte bailey can been seen on site. Steps lead to the top of the motte where visitors are treated to superb views of the Calder Valley.
A modern visitor centre features family-friendly hands-on displays about the history of Sandal Castle and its owners.
During the English Civil War in the 1640s Sandal Castle was besieged twice by Parliamentary forces. Afterwards it was stripped of its defences.

Now as photography goes, this was an opportunity for me….Ruins, landscapes, blue skies and white clouds….oh I feel some high contrast mono’s coming my way. And thats exactly what I did….Photostitches, angles…rugged stone work and a high viewpoint all made for some superb subjects. The ruins are very sparse now after nearly 600 years which somewhat limited my photo ideas. Nevertheless I managed a few decent images and if you click the image below that I put together in a monochrome format then it will take you to the whole set from Sandal Castle

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As I am sure you will agree, the high view-point gives a superb opportunity to capture some sky images. The above image just cried out for some monochrome treatment and you can see why, beautiful dark sky and white clouds.

After an hour shutter crunching it was time to head to our next location. My guide had given me a brief idea of todays tour of unfamiliar territory but I was still unsure. My previous visits to Wakefield have either been to Police events or Pinderfields Hospital; the tourists sites were untrodden turf for me. Below is a map from our companion Google Earth showing Sandal Castle and its proximity to the next stop, Pugneys Country Park.

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After a very short car journey we arrived at the waterside location in Pugney’s Country Park. Pugneys Country Park is a 250 acre site which was previously an open cast mine as well as a sand and gravel quarry and was turned into a country park in 1985. The park has two lakes, the largest of which is a 100 acre watersports lake. This caters for non-powered watersports such as canoeing, sailing and windsurfing. Equipment is available to hire or, alternatively, visitors can bring their own craft to use on the lake. The largest lake at Pugneys Country Park has a footpath which runs all the way around the lake and is approximately 1.6 miles long, making it suitable for running or taking a leisurely stroll. The smaller of the two lakes is only 24 acres and is a nature reserve which is overlooked by 2 bird hides, enabling visitors to watch the neighbouring wildlife in their own habitat.

The sun was still making itself known by hiding behind clouds intermittently then suddenly appearing again. I have a theory that was passed on to me by my late grandfather many moons ago. If its sunny, between the hours of sunrise until 11:00 am and 3:00pm until sunset then the light is perfect for photography, sidelight is a photographers friend. Outside these hours it’s either dark or the sun is too high in the sky to create shadow. Shadows are a photographers friend; creating depth and adding interest to an image. Obviously, like any rule it has its exceptions and as the saying goes it was made for breaking. Press photographers don’t worry about the angle of the sun or whether it is actually shining at all when grabbing images of famous people, all they need is the image. As long as the public can see who it is, no one actually cares if the sun was shining. The landscape photographer on the other hand has different objectives and the sun is a helping hand in the majority of cases.

Today, the sun would be just that…a helping hand. In my early days of photography I would have used a day out as just that…”A day out”, nowadays I see it quite differently. A day out is also an opportunity for photographs. It doesnt matter where, why, who or what…everywhere around us things are happening; people are going about their everyday business and in a world of media this interests others. I have found that people are always interested in what others are doing, be it digging a hole or cooking a meal…people just love people. If I go out with the intention of shooting landscapes I will do just that; that is until I see two people sat on a bench eating lunch and think it looks interesting. Then I change my remit and see opportunities that are complete “one-off’s” and start wandering off track.

I was reasonably happy with the resulting images and a distinct lack of aircraft and sunsets made a whole change from my “stuck in rut” routine. Jean did a fantastic job and I am sure she will share some images on here Flickr Photostream at some stage in the future. You can find that here.Please have a look at the above and as usual all comments are very welcome

Who needs Photoshop Anyway?

What did we do before Photoshop….?
How were images manipulated…?
Did image manipulation exist….?

Questions, questions, questions…. We managed, didn’t we?

I came from an era where film in the form of negative or positive was the only option. The seventies and eighties were great for photography…truly fantastic. This was closely followed by Polaroid Instant Film but we are going slightly off the beaten track there aren’t we? Yes we did have image manipulation, it involved push processing. dodging and burning and even masking; sometimes all three not editing I hear you say but at the time it was classified as image manipulation.

Did anyone question the ethics of this work in the darkroom? Well I was never questioned if that’s a genuine answer. No I don’t think they did.. Surrealism is considered to be an element of this subject but I don’t want to cover that here.

I have slightly touched on this whole subject in other blog posts but after chatting with someone the other day it spurred me to write this post. For the purpose of this blog and this blog only we will call him “Jeff”. Jeff is a nice chap and a damned good photographer too. Up until last year he continued to use colour slide film which he had stock piled for years in his darkroom refrigerator. Many purchases from Channel Islands discount film stockists had packed full his darkroom fridge. Opening the door would reveal a sea of small green boxes marked “Velvia”. Oh what a memory, a fantastic slide film for landscapes and general photography alike. Velvia was favoured by landscape photographers for its lovely greens and blues which gave awesome rendition when viewing slides on a large screen.

Jeff is a few weeks shy of the grand age of 74. He has been a photographer for nearly 45 years and has progressed through the decades from the post war years to modern-day Britain. The SLR camera is where things stop for Jeff, for his talent lays not just in his ideas but also in his skill with the tool of the photographer….the camera itself. He continues to turn out fantastic images that are super sharp, images with awesome clarity that are perfectly exposed and all round very pleasing to the viewers eyes. So why should Jeff change to meet with modern technology? He is very happy with the results he obtains, what advantage would it be to him to make the switch to digital photography? The answers to that is “None”. Simply because he doesn’t want to. In a single word Jeff is “Happy”

Jeff processes all his own slides using the traditional process of a developing tank, chemicals and has mastered the technique very well. And I supposed that’s quite understandable after all these years. If Jeff wanted to make any alterations to his images then it would mean a change to the processing technique. This in turn would affect all the images on the roll. There are lots of combinations that can alter the way a film was processed from the chemicals used to the way that it is agitated to the amount of time it stays in the tank. All these contravene the manufacturers recommendations and are classified as “manipulation”. The resulting film can have a slight colour cast, which….if that’s what the photographer intended then all is well. With practice it can be achieved every time. What matters here is that Jeff was happy with his alternative approach and continued to ignore the manufacturers guidelines.

Jeff won many competitions. Dozens and dozens, not just locally but nationwide and even a worldwide contest too. His work was outstanding and was way before its time. Jeff was no means the first to do this, it was the normal practice to do this with the wet film process and was by no means frowned upon. It wasnt for everyone, the “average” photographer wouldn’t even consider darkroom manipulation (Please accept my apologies for the use of the word average, I didn’t like to but couldn’t think of an alternative) It was very left-field but there was no complaining and it was never frowned upon.

Take a step forward now and consider Jeff’s youngest grandson James. James is 19 and follows in his grandfathers footsteps with his love for photography. For him its a passion, photography is his life. He spends all his waking hours taking images and working for a local paper part-time. All this whilst studying at University for a science degree.

Jeff has never lived in a photography world other than a digital one. His understanding of his hobby is that photography is a three stage process.

1. Ideas and Investigation… researching and drafting ideas for the results we want to obtain
2. Capturing those ideas using a camera and recording them on to a memory card.
3. Transferring those images on to a computer so they can be edited and completed.

Just to go in to a little more detail regarding the above three statements as they leave a little bit to the imagination don’t they? I am going to use an image that I took as an example as Jeff’s images are unavailable to me.

Ideas and Investigation……..It’s very easy to walk out of the door and go take some photos….Its even easier when you visit a place you know well and have an understanding of the location, the light, timings etc…. However, going somewhere new requires a little more research before stepping out of the door. How will the sun influence your day’s shooting? How will the time affect your visit and the available light? Even something as simple as the weather may affect your ideas and the end result. The very point of this is that we are in control. If the weather isn’t right we have two choices; carry on and deal with the problem or cancel and wait for an alternative opportunity on a better day/time. Doing a recce of a location is an essential part of any photo shoot. I always research using the internet, Google Earth and then Google Street View. All three are part and parcel the same thing but these resources are a photographers best friend and can be a massive time-saving exercise. I look for ideal locations on Google, look where other photographers have been and think of alternatives. Look at the way the light falls on a location and using tools available on the internet you can work out the time of day they were taken along with the time of year. Look for locations that have cover in case it is raining. Think of every possibility….what would you do if the road was closed etc etc…Anything can be researched, and this is a vital part of the photo shoot so don’t put it off. If the worst comes to the worst, go to the location a few days before and have a look around.

Capturing those ideas ……. Providing you have done your research well the location should be now quite familiar and you should be well prepared for what is thrown at you by the elements. You will have a mental (if not written) note of what you are planning to do. One thing I have learned to do over the years is plan individual images. This may only come with experience but visiting a location I am able to wander around and pre-visualise what I want to capture, what I will do with the image in terms of editing and what the final piece will look like. I will describe an example to you…then show you an image.

Haverigg, Cumbria. A location I know very well that hosts a wealth of images and truly is a landscape photographers playground. I have visited this village on the southern tip of The Lake District hundreds of times but for one reason or another I have never managed to capture this particular scene; let alone on a sunny day. The view from the mouth of the River Lazy looking north back up river from the beach incorporates the edge of the village, the harbour area and the river, some wooden edge fences, and finally the beach and the mountains in the background. The day before the shoot, the weather forecast predicted a sunny day with scattered clouds….ideal. I visualised this image as a high contrast monochrome with the blue sky converted in the edit process to an almost black, I wanted the wooden fence to lead the viewer in to the scene showing great detail in the foreground. I need the clouds to look heavy but not pure white to add drama to the scene. I knew at the moment of taking the image that there was no way I could balance the exposure between the sky and the land masses with camera skills alone. This was always going to be attended to post shoot in CS6.

Transferring the images ….. The images are imported as RAW files (CR2) straight from the memory card in to Adobe Lightroom 4. I use Lightroom mainly as a library organiser and an editing tool. It really is great for editing but Photoshop CS6 is my tool of choice. The image was actually edited in CS5 as this was before my software update.  In the RAW browser of CS5 the original colour image was opened and adjustments were made to the exposure, shadows and highlights until I was satisfied with the process. I then open the image in to the CS5 interface and this is where the real work begins.

I first create a layer of pre-sharpening using Nik Software RAW Pre-Sharpener. This is only a light application at around 10%. I now take a look at the areas of the scene that the camera didn’t deal with perhaps as well as I would have liked. The house fronts were far too white and really over exposed. I made a selection around the blown out highlights and on a separate layer made an adjustment to the exposure, dropping it by half a stop. This just took the glare off the whites and stopped the eye fixing on this particular item. The next task was to create some detail in the shadows and darkest parts of the image. This is in preparation for the conversion to monochrome. The areas around the fence posts in the bottom right corner were very dark. A quick working with the dodge tool in CS5 revealed just enough of the detail to make it acceptable. The same was applied to the next fence post in the line. The next job was to work on the sand to the left of the frame. This was also blown out with it been a large expanse of highlights. I worked on this without making a selection and just used the burn tool on certain areas I felt had detail to reveal. I then moved on to the shadows behind the fence in the central area at the foot of the image. These were dodged until detail began to show. The next job was to apply some tonal contrast using Nik Software’s Color Effx Pro 4. The tonal contrast adjustment revealed the details without going to far and making the scene too gritty. It was now time to convert the whole shot to monochrome. For this I used Nik Software’s Silver Effx Pro 3. Like I mentioned earlier in this post…knowing exactly what I wanted made the job so much easier at all stages of the shoot. In the monochrome conversion process I added a red filter; the red filter makes the blues look black and creates quite high contrast. This really brought the detail out in the cloud formation as well as darkening the shadows and blackening the blue sky. Finally, a layer of Output sharpening was added followed by a swift pass of Nik Define to remove any noise generated by the editing process.

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And that was it….one image complete. The whole editing process took about an hour from start to finish. I know this will seem like a lot of time just for one image, in my eyes it was worth it.As always, thanks for reading and all comments and questions are welcome

A Sunrise & A Sunset … all in 10 hours

The low light addiction continues. At last some nice weather….with nobody working in the planning department over the last few days (btw the planning department is fictional and is actually my personal  ideas bank) and the intermittent rain the camera hasnt ventured further than my cupboard. I have actually thrashed around looking for photos to edit and to my horror after playing around with a recent photo I discovered ten gazillion dust spots. With no sensor swabs left I am stuck with the wretched thing in this condition for the time being. Not to worry, the advantages of having a spare camera body.

Last night the sky looked quite promising and opened up a wealth of opportunity for a an evening sky shot. I jumped in the car, drove the couple of miles over to Rawdon and set my stall out. There are one or two vantage points that are not so high in Rawdon, thus allowing some foreground in the frame. Been to high up limits foreground inclusion and getting the foreground makes all the difference; silhouettes are the primary value of this type of low light photography and as much as minimalism has its place this was not todays foray.

Yes, the low light addiction continues and so does my passion for panoramic stitching. I find it irresistible. Just one look over the vista and I am mentally sewing imaginary images together like a digital tailor. Anyway, one to last nights image. At this time of year sunset is at a reasonable time and 8pm I can cope with when a sunrise is planned for the following morning. At the shortest part of the year, a good spell of weather tests my mentality as well as my strength as the time between sunset and sunrise is at its shortest. The time difference on June 21st is only 6 hours 55 minutes. When you deduct travelling time and getting up along with the fact that the best sunrises are usually before the sun breaks the horizon, the best sunsets after the sun actually sets then you can see exactly where I am coming from.

The following image is taken looking almost due west towards the Pennines just after the sun dipped below the horizon. It comprises of three horizontally stitched images. The clouds were moving from right to left very slowly and in my opinion made the whole scene a much more pleasing. If I had my way (which I didn’t) they would have covered much more of the scene.

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After the result of Friday evenings offering and the knowledge that fine spell was to continue for the next twenty-four hours at least I planned on an early morning sunrise image-fest. With only 5 hours in bed I was up with the birds at 5am and heading out of the door to this mornings chosen location. A few months back I tried some images from a place called Adel. Adel is a small hamlet in North West Leeds just a few miles from the city centre. It is situated in quite a rural area with a vast array of photographic opportunities. Not only that, something I was in need of….Foreground.

I left home in the dark and drove the 6 miles to the east. The location looks across a plethora of fields each bordered by small thicket and the odd tree scattered for good measure. Awesome material for sunrises. One of the advantages of this location is its’ position in regard to altitude. It is in a valley floor and the expanse to the east is flat too. This is a great place to be for including foreground objects as silhouettes. I was on to a winner and maybe a sunrise and sunset within hours of each other.

I knew exactly where I was heading for, previous visits and Google Earth have a lot to answer for you know. On to the images…in the space of 20 minutes the whole scene changed. It started with a glow of orange that paled in to the blue early morning sky with a few scattered low clouds. It finished with a mass of orange spread across a vista of fields, trees and hedgerow.  Two images are shown below to illustrate the difference twenty minutes can make.

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The final image looks quite dark in the foreground but viewed large you can actually see detail. A worthy trip out at both ends of the day even if it did span two dates. Thank you for looking, as usual all comments welcome

Enjoy your weekend.

Just wanted to share this….please take a look

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This image was taken by my good friend Jean Phillips. I have to say that this is right up my street and I think it’s absolutely fantastic. Jean has just got a new camera and her photography is coming on in leaps and bounds. Very impressive Jean.

If you want to see more of Jeans work, her flickr account can be found here

Thanks for looking. Come back soon.

She’s home….

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She’s home…..my lovely car has been finally returned from the Body Repair Centre. Nearly five weeks of driving a Seat Leon Diesel have left me missing my Astra. I shouldnt complain really, courtesy cars aren’t that bad and I suppose they are a life saver if you really need a car. My car went to the insurance companies recommended repairers in Leeds and has been away for nearly five weeks. As you will already know, this has happened before in the same place with a different car. I wrote a post on it a while back here to save me going in to detail.

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