Westminster Bridge at Night

Westminster Bridge at Night
Taxi pickup on Westminster Bridge, London

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Local History

I've been pretty upset over the death of our beautiful Layla, so I haven't really been in the mood to do anything with regard to blogging.

But life goes on, so I'm back. ("Yay!" I think I can hear someone intoning quietly in the far distance...😂)

Photographing ordinary, not-particularly-special places has been an on-and-off hobby of mine for many years. Over a decade ago I donated a CD of photographs from around my local area to the Local Studies library. Don't know if they have ever made use of them, but as far as I am concerned it's all grist to the mill of the archive.

The Captain Cook public house, on the Broadway
in Barking, Essex around Christmastime in 2006/7
I like looking at old photographs of local places and then comparing them with how they are now. It is frustrating when it is not possible to tell exactly when they were taken, so I make a point of ensuring that all mine have a filename which includes the date.

People occasionally ask me what the point of taking mundane pictures is. It is, I am told, a bit boring. I just point to photographs from a century or more back. In general, we are fascinated by how people dressed and where they lived in the past. Who's to say that future generations won't be just as interested in our time? The rapidity and extent of change can be breathtaking and familiar scenes vanish almost in the blink of an eye. Yet, by contrast, so many places remain relatively unaltered.

I know that, every hour of every day, around the world, millions of pictures are being taken. So you might think that really, there is no need for me to be bimbling around photographing derelict pubs and rows of shops. But how many, in reality, of those millions of happy snaps, are actually of any use in recording the places where we live? And how many of them will even survive for longer than the next change of mobile phone?

The same site on 5 February 2020, now occupied by Abbey Leisure Centre.
Pretty much unrecognisable from before.

Will my hobby / project be a success? I have no idea and unless there is a miracle of medical science in the next couple of decades I'll be too dead to find out. But I enjoy the idea that in a hundred years' time someone might be looking at my images, comparing them with those that have gone before, then trotting out and pointing their cameras (or whatever) at the same places to record the passage of time.


One final point. If you ever decide that you would like to do something similar
DO NOT, whatever you do, assign the copyright of your images to your local authority (or anyone else) 

Licence them if you have to, but retain the copyright in your name and make it clear that you are doing so. That way, you can continue to use your hard-won
images yourself and, should any financial benefits come from them, you will have a legal claim to them.

My Local Studies people tried to tell me that they would not be able to use the images if they didn't own the copyright. Utter nonsense. You can give permission by creating a carefully-worded licence. And you can place whatever restrictions on their use that you feel are appropriate. If they don't like it, they don't get your images!

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

A Splash of Darkness

I do enjoy a bit of night photography. 
The challenges are different from shooting in daylight and it is like having to learn how to take a photograph all over again.

I benefitted from going on a couple of evening courses a few years ago, which gave me the basic tools with which to experiment. 

To date, the shot I took back then of the Isle of Dogs is still the most visually arresting night shot I have created. But I have managed a few decent efforts since then.

Isle of Dogs, London, from the beach at Rotherhithe
f/11 ----  30 secs  ----  ISO 100  ----  28mm

I like capturing trails of light, and roads with vehicles moving along them are great for that.

Light trails of a bus passing the Langham Hotel, Eastbourne
Technical data for this image appears to have been lost but I'm guessing
at about f/11 @ 5-10 secs with an ISO of 100 and a focal length of around 28mm

I came across a new challenge recently on a visit to Folkestone. Both the inner and outer harbours were bordered by light sources whilst being, in themselves, in shadow. 

In Folkestone, the bright lights of the hotel did more to accentuate shadow than to illuminate the harbour
f/5.6  ----  5 secs  ----  ISO 100  ----  24mm

I actually had to start think about angles and light direction. It was a great, if unplanned lesson but I think I got some decent results in the end.

Judge for yourself.

The outer harbour, Folkestone, was deep in shadow, requiring a much longer exposure with a wide aperture
f/2.8  ----  30 secs  ----  ISO 100  ----   70mm

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

A Brief Moment in Time

I've often said that one of the things that fascinates me about photography is the way that it captures, in a fraction of a second, a moment that can never be repeated.

That moment, at that place at that time and of that subject are absolutely unique. Even a re-creation of the scene can never capture it in precisely the same way. Looking at old photographs really is a journey into the past.

This was brought sharply into focus for me just recently when our beautiful dog Layla, passed away at the unbearably young age of four years and nine months.

No more pain, my beautiful girl, no more pain.
I suppose that, because she was young, I had begun taking for granted the fact that she was there. At any moment, there she was with a wealth of expressions, poses and actions just waiting for me to photograph. And there she would be for the foreseeable future.

But suddenly, she was gone.

I'm still full of grief - it was only a short while ago that she died -  but I am so glad that I took hundreds of pictures of her in the short time we had together.

So often in life, memories, and the photographs that support them, are all that are left.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Exploration of Monochrome

I have published a few photographs in monochrome, but I can't say that, so far, I have really got to grips with it.
One of my earliest attempts at creating monochrome from colour.
Not bad (and you can criticise the composition if you wish). Fairly contrasty. I was pleased with it at the time.

Original image  - f/5.6   ---   1/320 sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   70mm

The more I look at (good) monochrome images, the more apparent it is that it is a skill-set all of its own - distinctly different from colour photography.  I'm not talking about the desaturating of colour images - although that has its place too and, if done right, can be equally impressive. And that is all I have done in this area so far.
Yes, this is monochrome.
The image was desaturated of all colour except blacks, greys and whites,
before I added a tint at the end of the process.
Original image - f/5.6   ---   1/250 sec   ---   ISO 320   ---   400mm

I'm talking about actually shooting in monochrome. It's a whole new ball-game; like having to learn to use a camera again. Light, shadow, texture - everything in fact - are all different.

When you consider that I started out, aged about ten-ish with a roll of black-and-white film and a second-hand Brownie, you would think that I would have a handle on it. But actually, I'm finding the prospect quite daunting.

The side lighting, combined with the
monochrome finish brought out every little contour,
many of which were not immediately evident in the
original colour image.
Original image - f/3.2   ---   1/1600 sec   ---   ISO 125   ---   67mm
Just recently I started taking an interest in the work of street photographers and in particular their monochrome images. They seem to have so much more impact and drama when they are presented like that. So I am thinking about my options. I've got a small Canon G16 camera who's image quality is good, but not up to DSLR standard.

Shooting our black dog against a fairly dark background
really shouldn't have worked in monochrome, but somehow
it did and I even indulged in a small amount of vignette.
I think her lovely shiny coat and the natural light were key.
Original image - f/3.2   ---   1/100 sec   ---   ISO 250   ---   47mm

These days, you're taking your life in your hands if you start pointing a big camera around the streets of suburban London, so maybe I'll get out and have a go with that. A few discreet shots here and there should be a good start. I've also got a Panasonic TZ90, which has a much longer zoom and a flip-up screen (useful in the street) but whose picture quality, so far, I have not found to be as good.

So my aim is, eventually, to be able to publish some genuine monochrome images but in the meantime, enjoy these few, originally shot in colour of course, which I have worked on to produce - well - something different from what they originally were.

Another early attempt at dramatizing an image using monochrome.
I remember being fascinated at the way the clouds suddenly appeared in what had been a rather
washed-out sky and how the dereliction of the building was suddenly accentuated.
Original image - f/8   ---   1/320 sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   70mm

Friday, 19 July 2019

The Moon and Me

Photographically speaking, I have a love-hate relationship with the moon.

Clouds are usually a nuisance when shooting the moon.
But just occasionally, they produce some interesting effects.
f/5.6   ---   1/200 sec   ---   ISO 1600   ---   380mm
It's not the moon's fault. There it is, as it has been since time immemorial, and there am I, a momentary speck on the face of the Earth, trying to capture it in all its glory.

And for most of the time, failing miserably.

There are lots of factors I could blame (and often do, to my shame).

A Blood Moon was not expected the night I shot this.
But as it sank towards the horizon, it developed this orange glow.
f/5.6   ---   1/250 sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   400mm
The moon's position - never in the same place twice, or in my blind spot, or too low or too high.

The moon's brightness -  I always assumed that I would need wide aperture and long time exposure, what with shooting at night. How wrong can you be? That old lump of rock can be damned bright.

The weather -  I'm British, for heaven's sake. Of course the weather is going to muck up my photography, especially clouds. It's a given.
Blood Moon, partial eclipse, clear sky. I was in heaven!
Using a tripod, I shot these five images, all with the same settings,
at one-minute intervals then overlaid them in Photoshop
Interesting effect.
f/5.6   ---   Half sec   ---   ISO100   ---   335mm

It's too far / too small - The moon's distance from the Earth is not constant. But that's what zoom lenses and cropping are for, isn't it?

It's too late (or early) - Yes, well, hauling my sorry arse out of bed at 0400 to get a shot of our nearest celestial body is not something that is likely to happen any time soon.

It's too cold -  Oh yes. Gloves and cameras. Not a great combo. How do they do it in snowy places?

This is just about the best shot of the moon that I have ever captured.
It's not so bad, I suppose, but I always want that little bit more sharpness.
One day...

f/5.6   ---   ISO100   ---   1/500 sec   ---   400mm
But the one excuse I haven't used - even though it is the most accurate of the lot -  is that actually, I'm just a bit crap when it comes to shooting the moon.  Oh well. Can't be perfect at everything, can you?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Flashless Photography Indoors

It's been a little while since my last post, and I haven't been out and about with my camera as much as I would have liked. However, I did go to Herefordshire for a week and shot some pictures in and around Eastnor Castle, which was great.

I loved the Dining Room. The rich colours really came out in this shot.
I opted for a tight shot along the table rather than something more
general, as I thought it reflected the intimate atmosphere of the room.
f/2.8   ---   1/60 sec   ---   ISO 800   ---   24mm

Eastnor Castle is unusual in that the original family who built it still own it AND live there. They also allow visitors to bring their dogs in, which is rare indeed.
But much like other stately homes and such like, they do not allow flash photography inside the building. You can click away all day, but without a flash.
The staff member who told me about that eyed my camera with a wry smile. I guess he's used to people using their mobile phones and thought I would be stymied.

Well, I wasn't, although it wasn't the easiest shoot I've done. 

It's rather dark inside Eastnor Castle, much of it lit with very low powered lighting, so I knew I had my work cut out. The day was miserable, so what light did get in through the windows was murky and unhelpful.

I wanted to capture at least some of the vaulted ceiling in this room, which meant stacking
two carefully- shot panoramas vertically.
Unfortunately, Photoshop struggled a bit and it initially came out a bit Salvador Dali.
So eventually, I did it manually and I have to say, I am pleased with the result.

f/2.8   ---   1/60 sec   ---   ISO 800   ---   24mm
And of course I was just there as a tourist, so I had to keep out of everyone else's way, shooting during the gaps in groups of other tourists. With the weather being as it was, there were more of them inside the Castle than is usual (or so I was told). No coach parties though, which was a bonus.
I learned as I went round, adjusting exposure and ISO to get the best results.

The Library. This is a two-shot panorama. The ceiling looks a bit bowed but I was pleased with the overall result.
f/2.8   ---   1/80 sec   ---   ISO 800   ---   24mm
Shooting hand-held made it difficult to keep the shutter speeds down, but I wanted to keep the images as grain-free as I possibly could, so I set them as slow as I dared. Luckily for me, my hands were fairly steady that day.

This room is magnificent and goes right up through two floors with light coming in from above.
Another panorama. Three shots this time. There's a little distortion, but it's not too bad.

f/2.8   ---   1/80 sec   ---   ISO 800   ---   35mm
The results were mixed as you may imagine, but I was pleased to come away with some nice, warm shots. Not being afraid to use Lightroom and Photoshop, I have been able to create some really satisfying and colourful images - I have even made use of the automated panorama facility to get some wide shots in rooms where my lens angle was really too tight.

Anyway, enjoy these few images and if you want to see more, I have posted, along with others from that holiday, on both Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bkbimages/ 
and on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/bkbimages/ 

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Time and Motion

F/2.8   ---   ¼ Sec ---   ISO 100   ---   67mm

I bought a couple of cheap so-called scientific toys
a little while ago, with the intention of photographing them. Well, eventually I found a spare couple of hours to set up a light box, a couple of flashes and a tripod and off I went.

f/16   ---   1 Sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   67mm

The intention was to freeze motion while capturing motion trails. For that you require a combination of flash and slow shutter speed.

f/11   ---   1 Sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   65mm

 As is my wont (and 35mm purists will no doubt shudder at this) I shot off a couple of hundred frames, messing about with all sorts of camera and flash settings, changing gels, re-positioning the subject and so on.

f/22   ---   10 Sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   65mm

I won't say that the results were disappointing - they weren't - but, well, there was no "wow" at the end of it all. More, "Yeah, that's ok I suppose."

f/22   ---   6 Sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   57mm

If I'm honest, I don't really know what I expected. I think that the environment wasn't quite right and I also think that my images do not display at their best on my rather elderly monitors.


f/22   ---   6 Sec   ---   ISO 100   ---   57mm

I'll no doubt have another go at something similar one day, but for now, these are a few of those that made the final cut, which was about a tenth of the whole shoot.