Tides and Tempests

I had a great time at Patchings Art Festival earlier this month.  I had been asked by Outdoor Photography Magazine to give a talk. The Festival clashed with my prior commitment to Surrey Artists Open Studios so I could only make the last day, but I am glad I made the effort.  It was a lovely event, despite the relentless rain (where has summer gone?). I wasn’t nervous about talking as I am accustomed to giving presentations but I did wonder if anyone would bother to attend. I needn’t have worried – it was standing room only!  I have now published the introductory slideshow from my talk on YouTube and it can be viewed below or here.

I would like to thank Crywolf for giving me permission to use his epic music and Outdoor Photography Magazine for inviting me to talk.

 

 

 

About Waves and Imogen

wave

Poseidon Rising

Last month I published a collection of ‘wave monsters’. I have been down to the South Coast almost every week all through the winter, working mainly on fast-shutter captures of high seas. That’s a round trip of 140 miles at least once every week, usually getting down there in time for dawn. Often, my efforts have been rewarded with poor light or even driving rain. But it has still been one of my most exhilarating projects so far. Finally, my patience paid off, when Storm Imogen hit the coast earlier this month. Epic surf met great light, and I was one very happy, wave-obsessed photographer. So, I hope you will forgive me for one more surf-orientated post.  If, like me, you are addicted to seascapes, there are more on my website.

wave

Raptor

wave

Leviathan

wave

Thetis

wave

Panther

wave

Kraken

wave

Methuselah

wave

Landfall

Ephemeral beauty

south downs
For the last three years, June/July has seen me out searching for that ephemeral wonder, the wild poppy field. This year, together with my photo-buddy Jenifer Bunnett, I went out looking for poppies on four separate occasions. Out first safari was disappointing; we found poppies galore but couldn’t get close to them thanks to some determined fencing. The second was much more successful, thanks to a generous tip from another photographer, Malcolm Oakley, on Twitter.South DownsMuch hiking and a pair of binoculars were needed but we found them, in three patches, against the flank of Black Patch Hill near Storrington in the South Downs National Park. We were able to return a few days later for some gentler evening light.South DownsPoppy season is now mostly over down here in the South. Poppies do not reliably flower in the same place year after year. Their seeds need rough handling to germinate but then the ground must be left fallow to allow them to bloom, although they do well at the edges of rape fields where the rape seed has not taken hold (or it has been eaten by birds). But not knowing where they’ll be next year is all part of the adventure, and their ephemerality only adds to their allure.south downs If you fancy joining the poppy hunt next year, there is now a group on Facebook dedicated to sharing locations for poppies and other seasonal wildflower displays: Poppy and Flower Site Finder 2015.

south downs

A rare picture of me in action, thanks to Jen.

Creativity with bluebells

woodland

I have spent much of the last two weeks out and about in our local landscape capturing images of bluebells.  Nearly 50% of the world’s bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) grow in the UK. Every Spring, for about two weeks, ancient woodlands are carpeted in nodding azure bells. If the Japanese go out in droves to appreciate cherry blossom, we Brits do the same for bluebells.

woodland

Of course, they are irresistible to the landscape photographer.  But capturing pleasing photos of bluebells is harder than you might think.  The temptation is to go wide, to capture all the majesty of the forest, but this tends to exaggerate the distance between the flowers, minimising the profusion that attracted your eye in the first place. So a longer focal length, that compresses distance, is often the better solution.

woodland

Finding a strong composition can be challenging.  Paths, the more winding the better, create shapes that led the eye into and through the frame.

woodland

Colour balance is also tricky. I often see comments on-line that either praise or criticise bluebell pictures for the way they reproduce the colour of the flowers: ‘nice to see proper blues” is typical.  But bluebells actually look different depending on the light.

woodland

In sunlight or at certain times of day (golden hour, for example) they take on a mauve/magenta tint. Pre-dawn or in shade, they appear more blue.  Equally, the fresh spring leaves of the trees under which the bluebells grow, especially beech, have a strong, almost acid-green colour, that can look over-done to people who have never properly looked at the real thing.

woodland

It’s always a good idea to try different apertures.  Landscapers tend to favour narrow apertures to achieve ‘front-to-back’ sharpness.  But, sometimes, using a wide aperture to narrow your depth of field can provide a more pleasing image, just picking out a detail and allowing the rest of the scene to become a blur.

wildflowers

Speaking of blur, on breezy days it’s worth experimenting with shutter speed to capture some movement in the flowers or the leaves of the trees.

woodland

In a wide view, it creates a subtle. dreamy feel.  Closer up, more abstract images can be made.

tree

There are other ways to record movement. Intentional camera movement, or “ICM”, is very on-trend at the moment.  Put simply, the camera is moved while the shutter is open.  The result, when it works, is a painterly, semi-abstract rendering of the subject.  The technique suits woodland because it tends to simplify, which can be helpful in cluttered forest scenes.

hammond's copse

One must be prepared for a lot of out-takes when using ICM, but it’s all fun and in the spirit of experimentation. I find that it helps to choose scenes where there are bold shapes, like tree trunks, to give your image structure.  Without them, ICM images can become a formless jumble.  I also like images where there are still some recognisable details within the blur, as in these extracts from the above image, where an oak leaf can be recognised…

bluebells ICM-3

… and, below, where the frill from a single bloom emerges (bottom right) from the blue haze.

bluebells ICM-2

Equally in vogue, making multiple-exposures in-camera can have unexpected and pleasing results. Many modern digital cameras make this simple.  I used my Fuji X-E1 for the shot below. The image on which you are going to superimpose a second shot is shown in live view under the picture you are now taking, enabling you to visualise exactly what you are going to achieve. This image features stitchwort, tiny white flowers I found growing among the bluebells at a local copse on Tuesday.

wild flowers

Bluebell season is mostly over now, but it will surely return to delight us all again next Spring.  I think it’s lovely that the Japanese have a word for their national cherry-blossom gazing, ‘hanami’.  Perhaps we need to invent one for bluebells.  Any suggestions?

Just horsing about

grey seals

I have just returned from a few days of photography in Norfolk. I spent dawn this morning on the beach at Horsey Gap, watching grey seals. I particularly liked this mother and pup playing together in the surf.

My 365/50 is from this day in 2012: rowers on the Thames, seen from the bridge to Desborough Island.

surrey landscape

365/50

 

Birch and pine

Surrey landscape

I thought I’d share some more pictures from my walk in our short-lived snow, on Tuesday morning.

Surrey landscape

No canoeing today!

Chatley Heath is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and it is managed as a nature reserve by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Surrey landscape

Birch and pine

In its efforts to restore Surrey’s lost heathland, important habitat for several species at risk, the Trust has to do battle with birch and scots pine, the county’s dominant trees.

Surrey landscape

They self seed freely in the sandy soil.  I have to say, however that they do look well together under a dusting of fresh snow.

Surrey landscape

I did find a few beech trees too, some still hanging onto autumn foliage.  And one or two venerable oaks.

Surrey landscape

My 365 is from this day in 2009.  I foolishly let on to my daughter’s headmistress that I took photos.  Next thing I knew I was doing all the photography for the school’s new prospectus.  It was a challenge for me, especially as at that time I had only a very entry level DSLR with lousy noise levels at ISOs above 400, no flash and little experience.  But I enjoyed every minute of it.  This image is from my first shoot at the school.

running

365/36

Deer in frost

wey navigation

Another picture from Friday’s fantastic, frosty day out.  As I was taking a landscape shot,  two deer took flight across the meadow.  Of course, my wide lens hadn’t a hope of catching them, but I quickly changed to my 70-200mm lens and hoped I’d find more.  Luckily, I did.

wey navigation

Yesterday, I shared the colour version of this shot, also from Friday but I rather like this tinted black and white edit too.   And it is a handy segue from frost to black and white to my 365/25, from this day in 2009:

car

365/25