A new year, yet another new start

When I first started this blog, back in April 2012, I had a particular reason.  An injury meant that I was not able to get out with my camera to make new images.  Blogging gave me an outlet for my frustrated creativity and a new lease of life for images I had already taken.  Nearly 4 years later and the injury is still troublesome, but I have learned to live with it.  The brain is amazingly good at learning to live with things, even pain. The problem no longer stops me doing what I want and what I want hasn’t changed – I still love (am obsessed with) photography.

misty minimal picture from Venice

‘Five’: Venice

As I slowly returned to making new images, this blog became more and more sporadic. In the end, I will always choose to go out with my camera rather than spend time at the computer.  That is not going to change, but I would like to see if I can combine the two more effectively.  So I have signed up for Blogging 101 with good intentions.

Norwegian landsape

Still morning, Hamnøya, Lofoten Islands

Perhaps paradoxically, since starting a photography blog, I have obtained a Masters Degree in Victorian Literature and Art from the University of London. Yes, I like to read and write! Accordingly, I never intended Focused Moments to be a picture-of-the-day kind of blog. (Nothing wrong with those, by the way, just not what I intended.) Looking back at the early days, I see the posts that were most enthusiastically received usually had plenty of words as well as images.  A good example is my article about the relationship between photography and mindfulness.  So I plan to make time for more posts like that. I am also interested in exploring how the literature I enjoy and have studied may influence the images I make.

seascape

Tempest

Standard blogging advice is to write about oneself, to ‘make it personal’. I am not so sure about that. I am quite a private person and this is a public blog. The images will always be the heart of Focused Moments; I hope they are more interesting than me! Nonetheless, there are aspects of my photographic life that might merit more exploration. I enjoy exhibiting and have already written about some of my experiences in that area. Some readers want to know more about other things, my role as a camera club judge, for example, or what it is like to lead photography workshops. More on those, and other ‘stories’, will follow.

wey navigation

Frost on the Wey

2015 was an epic year for me photographically. I hope that 2016 will be equally exciting and, if any of you share at least part of the adventure with me here at Focused Moments, this blog will have succeeded. It is up to me, now, to make it worth your time.

norway

Aurora over Skagsanden

 

Chalk and sea

One of the clients on my most recent workshop pointed out to me that it has been a long time since the last post on this blog! Shame on me!  So here’s a little summary of what I have been up to in the last few weeks, and some of my latest images.

desert island

Priory Bay, Isle of Wight

In my last post, I shared some pictures from Birling Gap, and I have been back there, as well as other locations nearby, a few times since.  My eye seems to be particularly drawn to chalk cliffs at the moment. Having been brought up on the south coast, they are very much the landscape of my youth and I now enjoy rediscovering them with my camera.

Seven Sisters evening

Seven sisters at dusk

While beguilingly beautiful, the South coast can also be dangerous, as I was reminded on one of my recent trips to Birling Gap.  I was, fortunately, standing out on the sand at low tide, when a huge chunk of the cliff came crashing down. No-one was hurt although there was a group of very shocked foreign students on the beach at the time. It was a sobering sight and, from now on, I will be more careful about heeding warnings not to stray too close to the cliffs.

C2C-49

Seven Sisters

Last week, I spent a few days in another chalky place, the Isle of Wight. Although the weather was trying, to say the least, there were some moments of good light and, let’s face it, it’s hard not to get a picture when at the coast.  It will take me a while to get through all the images I took, but here are a few ‘tasters’.

In other news, I was delighted to find out that one of my pictures has been selected for inclusion in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year book.  It is a year since I first submitted work to Outdoor Photography Magazine, easily my favourite photography publication. Since then, the magazine has published several of my images and commissioned a short article.  I have been bowled over by the enthusiasm and support I have received from them.

Fistral 1

Fistral beach – selected for Outdoor Photographer of the Year book

Regular readers will already be familiar with the work of my friend Jenifer Bunnett, who continues to be a great pal and enthusiastic companion on our photographic expeditions.  If you haven’t seen her work before, you can access her website by clicking on her name above.  I have also recently enjoyed outings with two other photographers, Sarah Medway and Lorraine Heaysmon, both committed landscape shooters with impressive portfolios. Photography can be a solitary activity and, while I really enjoy that solitude, it is also nice sometimes to share the adventure.

tog on the shore

A capture of Jen capturing a seascape on the Isle of Wight

My spare time (what spare time?) continues to be filled with judging at Surrey camera clubs and giving talks.  I recently presented a new talk,  ‘From Canal to Coast’ to Guildford Photographic Society which was well-received.  As a judge I am obliged also to compete in camera club competitions, which is fair enough when you think about it.  So, last month, I was pleased to win the Best Image trophy at Surrey Photographic Association’s 2015 Open Print competition.  I have shared the picture here before but I think a second airing is justified.

seascape

Of course, this is also the main season for f11 Workshops and we have had some great days out with our clients.  Our last workshop of the year was in West Sussex and, although the weather seemed determined to be gloomy, our persistence was eventually rewarded with some really special light.  My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I will not make our own images when leading workshops, so I have no picture to share, but I have seen a few of our clients’ shots and am glad to say they did it justice.

east head sunset 2

The location of our workshop, but taken on another occasion.

Finally, Jen and I have had a couple of productive meetings about our pro bono project with the Basingstoke Canal and there will hopefully be some big developments on that front in the near future.

Phew! What a busy few weeks it has been!  What has been your best photographic adventure so far this winter?  Feel free to share in the comments below. 🙂

Birling Gap

birling gap pastels
I have spent the last two Tuesdays at Birling Gap in the South Downs National Park.
Gentle shore
Although I love discovering new locations, there is also a joy in revisiting known places.incoming tideThe light is always different, the seasons and weather change and, at the coast there is always the added variable of tides. chalk and pastels_The first Tuesday, a low tide revealed sand that reflected the cliffs and interesting sky:jen at birling gapOn my return this week, the tide was shallow, never uncovering the sand.  This created a very different mood:
Birling Gap 2I grew up in this part of the country so photography trips to the South Downs National Park always feel like a coming home.  seascape
The chalk-based landscape is really quite special and, at Birling Gap, I love the way grey rocks sit on the chalky base below the white cliffs…
chalky sea 2 …and the chalk makes the sea bright against a stormy sky.  chalky seaI am heading down to Sussex again tomorrow.  As always, I hope for interesting light.  But I know that I will enjoy this beautiful place no matter what the weather brings.

Dungeness, finally

Dungeness, Kent

16mm, f/11, 1/6, ISo 100, .9 soft grad.

Having holidayed in the mountains this year, I have been feeling in need of a coast ‘fix’.  So, on Thursday, Jen and I made an evening dash south. We chose Dungeness, honeypot location for landscape photographers.  Having lived in the south of England for most of my life, I am not sure how I managed never to go to Dungeness before!

hut detail

102mm, f/7.1, 1.6″, ISO 400

The forecast predicted changeable weather and dramatic skies so we had high expectations. We should have known better. There was a small amount of texture in the sky on our arrival and the promise of some lightning, but in the end the rain washed in and the sky smoothed over.

dungeness

200mm, f/8, 0.8″, ISO 400

I took all the usual shots anyway.  The scene below is particularly oft-captured, as I know only too well from my evenings judging at camera clubs.  But, hey, I’d never been there before!  Had to take The Shot.  Would have been rude not to.

dungeness

58mm, f/11, 2″, ISO 100

When the sky gets boring, the long lens comes out for some detail work.  Dungeness certainly offers lots of potential there.  It’s not my usual style but I enjoyed capturing some images of the netting against the hut.

dungeness

200mm, f/11, 1.6″, ISO 400

I am thinking these two might make a nice diptych.

200mm, f/11, 5", ISO 100

200mm, f/11, 5″, ISO 100

I liked the texture of the partially burnt hut wall.

dungeness

200mm, f/7.1, 3.2″, ISO 400

I can finally see what everyone else has known for ages: Dungeness is cool – weird, but definitely cool.  I will be back.

dungeness

blend of 5 exposures, 200mm, f/2.8, 1/4, ISO 800

Mountain weather

Canadian landscape Last month we were in the Canadian Rockies, one of my very favourite places.   While we were in Banff we had changeable weather.  This was great news for the locals as it helped fight several serious wildfires. It was also great news for me for a less serious reason, as it added drama to my photos. Canadian landscapeThey say that if you don’t like the weather in the Rockies you only need wait 15 minutes and it will have changed.  Makes sense to me.

Of panoramas and exhibitions

Norwegian landsape

Still morning, Hamnøya, Lofoten Islands

It’s been a very busy time since my last post; I can hardly believe it’s only a month!  We have just returned from two weeks in the Canadian Rockies, one of my very favourite parts of the world. In the meantime, the image above, from my trip to Norway in March, won the panoramics competition at Outdoor Photography magazine and was published in the latest issue, which was waiting for me on my doormat when we got home. Outdoor Photography is my favourite photography magazine and the only one I always read, so it was extra special to find one of my images with a full page all to itself. (For those who like to know, the image is a stitch of 7 x 3 bracketed exposures, HDR and stitch achieved in Lightroom 6.)

Lofoten islands

Winner in Outdoor Photography magazine

The timing was particularly nice as that picture is also the main image in a panel I am exhibiting at the Mall Galleries in London this week. The other two images appear below. I hung my panel on Saturday and the private view party was that evening. Much fun was had by all; I caught up with some friends and met lots of new ones and the party continued on afterwards in Covent Garden.

misty minimal picture from Venice

‘Five’: Venice

The exhibition is called Light and Land on the Mall and it is open until Monday 10th August. I am heading up there again tomorrow to meet some more friends and possibly on Friday as well. If you are thinking of visiting, let me know – maybe we can meet for a coffee.

misty beach scene from Sussex

‘Formation’: Winchelsea

Although the exhibition is hung now, the work continues as I am participating in another exhibition next month, again in London, at the Oxo Tower, with a larger panel of different images (black and white this time). Then, in October, I have my first solo exhibition, at Arté Gallery, kindly sponsored by Martin & Wheatley. More anon.

Mall Galleries

A well-earned glass of wine at the Private View party. Phew!

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.