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.

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?

Aurora over Lofoten

northern lights
I am just back from an exciting trip to the Lofoten Islands, where we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on two evenings. Before I went, I was ambivalent about seeing aurora. There are so many pictures of them on the internet these days, and I had seen them before, in Canada decades ago. My purpose in going to Norway was, rather, to capture the beautiful, snow-covered landscape.Lofoten
However, when green ribbons ripped across the sky that first night on Skagsanden beach, I was as excited as anyone. I was unprepared for the raw power of the spectacle, and for how fast the lights can move. Shutter speeds as fast as 1.3″ were required and even then the lights were occasionally burnt out. It seems incredible that all this drama is silent, apart from whoops of exhilaration from onlookers. I fear photographing aurora may be addictive.
norway

Three from Thurne

Norfolk

During my trip to Norfolk last month, I had the chance to spend a large part of one day at Thurne wind pump.  I took many of the usual, landscape type shots but I also enjoyed the chance to use my long lens and capture some graphic black and white details.

Norfolk

My photographic eye tends to veer automatically to the large vistas but I want to start catching more intimate aspects of the landscapes I visit too.  It’s a new project for 2015.

Norfolk

Do you think your eye tends to favour one sort of composition to the detriment of others and is there another you’d particularly like to master too?

A turbulent evening

Brittany

During the first couple of days of my trip photographing lighthouses in Brittany earlier this month, we had some nicely changeable weather. The wind was so strong at this lighthouse, it was hard to keep the camera and tripod still enough. Black and white seemed to suit this two-toned structure.

Dawn the next day, and it was still just as windy but the sky was serene, heralding more peaceful weather ahead.  A long exposure in colour seemed the way to go.  I love going back to locations and capturing their different moods.

bretagne

* * * * *

Still catching up with my 365 redux backlog. 365/66, 68 and 69 are from 2009, the year of my original, and more conventional, project 365. It’s handy to have that project to rely on when I hit a patch where I haven’t taken pictures in other years. True to my pledge, I have re-edited these. 67 is from last year, a shot previously unshared of a midge on a pieris shrub in my garden. I am enjoying seeing how my images have improved (to my eye, anyway) in the 7 years since I switched to digital, and became obsessed.

365/66

365/66

365/67

365/67

365/68

365/68

365/69

365/69

365 Backlog

derelict hut

365/60

Starting to catch up with my backlog of 365 redux images before a different sort of post tomorrow. 365/60 is from 2010, 61and 62 are from 2009 and 63 is from 2014.  365/64 is also from last year.  According to the traditional song, seven magpies is ‘for a secret never to be told’, but what about 24?  Finally, 365/65 is also from 2014, an image hitherto unprocessed from my day out shooting street images with Damian Demolder and Amateur Photographer magazine.  If you want to know more about my 365 redux project, see here.

wey navigation

365/61

poinsettia

365/62

snowdrops

365/63

magpies

365/64

street

365/65