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Watch the birdie……


I started this post a few weeks ago and never got to actually finish it let alone upload it. This is more of a “Story behind the image” paragraph as opposed to a normal blog post.

My love for aviation photography hit its peak in the mid 2000’s. You will know about my obsession with aircraft and aviation if you have read my blog before but if you havent please take a look here . The hours I have spent at airports watching aircraft, logging registrations and taking photographs have accumulated and if I had the means to calculate a total I think it would make grim reading. Over this time I have seen some strange things, some funny events and some sad events too. I have seen Deer, Foxes, Rabbits, Hares, Kestrels, Falcons, Buzzards, Rats, Mice, Stoats and Weasels to name some in the animal category. I have seen fires and floods, bad landings and good landings and believe it or not crashes too…and before you ask they all walked away.

It always pays to keep your eyes open when photographing a subject as there is so much more going on around you. In the case of the aircraft above it was just another day at Leeds Bradford Airport and the Britannia Airways flight to Palma was preparing to depart on runway 14 to head south. One of the key things about aircraft photography that I discovered later in my years of being interested in this hobby is that you should make this personal. Many fellow enthusiasts concentrate on preparing images for upload to various aviation related websites where there are rules and regulations that must be conformed to. I prefer to do “my own thing” and upload either to my personal site, Flickr or on to this blog. This way I am my own judge and therefore set my own rules (if any at all). The image above was taken on the 8th May 2006 (just seven years ago…..seems like yesterday doesn’t it?) and in the midst of my time of conformation.

Like I just stated, at this time I was conforming to rules and uploading to a couple of the major aviation related websites. The initial image that I took, which would have matched the criteria of the particular site was just of the aircraft and quite normal, head on and aimed strictly at an aviation audience etc.


I noticed the Swallow doing its own personal acrobatic performance for the captain and first officer whilst I was looking through the lens. If I am completely honest it was probably more luck than judgement and the matter of timing was pure coincidence. In the closer image you can see the two pilots have clearly seen the bird and as we all know, birds and aircraft are not a good combination. It was quite a hot day and there was a lot of heat haze as it was three o clock in the afternoon as a result the close up image of the aircraft nose was never going to be the best quality. However, I was very happy with the actual composition.

As photographers we all dream of capturing that one image that stands out from the rest. You know what I mean, the one that just screams of the photographer. A number of years ago I managed to capture an image of a cat drinking from a swimming pool in the Canary Islands. I was sat by the pool one early morning and the feline walked in like he owned the place. He sat down by the edge of the pool and craned his neck to reach the water. I held my shutter finger until just the right second when the cat’s tongue made contact with the water. The image was acquired by Pedigree Pet Foods back in the eighties when it was a lot harder to market your photography but not as easy to capture something special.

The image is a scan from a negative hence the quality is quite poor by todays standards. However, it’s just  a personal record for me as it was one of my first sales.

Always carry your camera…. you never know what you are going to see.

Thank you for reading, as always all comments, good or bad are welcome.

Take care.


Right place, right time!

Thirsty Whiskers !

It’s very easy to see a situation unfolding in front of you, but it’s somewhat harder to instinctively grab your camera or phone and start shooting images. I know this, because I’ve done it….numerous times. In fact too many times. I have given lots of presentations and lectures to camera clubs, students and specialist societies and they all ask the very same “How do you learn to be instinctive when it comes to shooting the decisive moment”. The answer is not so easy to come by let alone explain. I suppose it’s just a case of keeping your eyes peeled and judging what could happen.

I have a small set on Flickr that relate to an unexpected trip to Costa Coffee in Guiseley when I happened to have my DSLR with me. In addition I also happened to have a 400mm lens too, a great tool for shooting from a distance. Being unobtrusive is the key to the whole setting. The minute your are spotted that’s it. It’s all over. The chance of grabbing people with natural poses and expressions have practically gone. In my opinion this is when people are at their best, when they are relaxed and unaware they are being watched. On the other hand, depending on the type of person they are, it can bring out the inner-self of that individual. It can really make them shine

Costa Coffee Sequence

If you take a look at the full set of images you will see how difficult this task is.. (clicking the image should take you to my Flickr pages in another window).

Street photography is great. I absolutely love it and I am in the process of writing a separate section for my blog that covers my history, ideas and achievements in this field. But, this article isn’t solely devoted the art of reportage and street photography but is more about been in the right place at the right time. Something that neither you or I can plan in the majority of circumstances.

So then, the rules…. Number one rule; there are no rules. If you make your own rules you then only you can break them, so why bother….try and experiment, see what works and what doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter. In the image above of the two ladies having coffee and chatting there was very little light available and one of my rules is no flash. This leaves little option but to use a very wide apertures which in turn leaves no room in the depth of field department. This is obvious from the fact that the lady in the right is clearly in focus as opposed to the other lady who is clearly out of the depth of field.

Sometimes you only get one opportunity to grab a smile, or a fall or even a gesture; and I will admit its very difficult to anticipate whats going to happen but in this day and age most cameras and memory cards are capable of holding hundreds if not thousands of image files. This means you can shoot, shoot and shoot again at no cost to yourself. Should you need to you can merely delete the bad ones at a later time. In my early days this wasnt possible as I used 36 exposure films and this practice could become costly when you had 15 rolls of films at a total cost of £4 each plus processing at £3.99, I will let you do the maths.

On other occasions you get more than the single opportunity to grab the same shot. If you look at the image I took on Saturday I am sure you will agree with me that the image has various elements of interest. Apart from been in a set that is about the demise of a crane, the image gives the viewer a wider picture of whats going on at the scene. You can see the crane in the background and you can see the two chaps in the foreground and I believed that the flourescent anorak linked the two together. As an image, the two gents walking worked quite well but after observing the conversation for a few minutes it began to get quite animated as he seemed to be discussing the size of something. It clearly wasnt the size of a monster fish from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and I am assuming that his name wasnt Chief Brody of the Amity Police Department so I could only assume that it was the crane. As I watched the hand gestures kept coming and this is where the real trick comes in. Whilst doing all these observations I kept my finger on the shutter and took about 50 images. I call it “Thinking with my shutter finger”. Afterall, what harm could it do. The image was framed intentionally so that the figures were to the left allowing a view of the submerged crane and allowing for a little of the two-thirds rule to kick in.

So what am I trying to say here? Well, the majority of photographers would never carry a camera with them 24/7 but most of us now have mobile phones that are capable of the same job. The quality of mobile phone images these days is far superior than I could have ever imagined just 5 years ago and perfectly acceptable for publication should the subject be right. We have all seen images on the TV news where something is happening and people are stood around with their phones at arms length taking shots that could possibly sell. What I am saying is…do it…if you have seen it happen then you are too late, but keep your eyes peeled and one day you will get the one image that sells. Go on, try it for yourself

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