Symonds Yat

Symonds Yat
Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, from the River Wye

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 
and on Flickr 

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.


Saturday, 13 April 2019

Subtle Changes

One of the driving forces behind my photographic efforts is my fascination with the continually changing landscape of our local areas. I often shoot quite mundane scenes, just to record those changes.
For those who are interested, this is a preserved brewing vat outside the entrance to the Romford Brewery Trust car and retail parks. Romford, Essex, England, UK.
Less than two years on, this small area looks completely different.
I wonder how many drivers queueing for the car park even notice.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Photographs for Posterity

I've always been interested in comparing old street photographs with the present day, in seeing how things have changed or, in some cases (fewer, it has to be said) have remained the same. And I sometimes just spend some time wondering what has gone on in those places in the meantime.

Which is why I am a bit addicted to photographing what to most people would seem mundane and even a bit boring. I often have my Point-and-Shoot camera with me, which is great for capturing street scenes when the DSLRs would only push somebody's Let's Take Offence For No Logical Reason Button. I've even been known to use the dreaded phone camera from time to time.

The Horace Cowlin Memorial Shelter on 15 February 2019
F/3.5  ---  1/500 sec  ---  ISO 100  ---  24mm
I took this photo just recently, (with my DSLR as it happened) in Valentine's Park, Ilford (London Borough of Redbridge for those who are interested). At first glance, it's just a park shelter, and a bit incongruous as it is the only one in that park. On closer inspection, I discovered that it is actually a memorial to a local man killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and has been there since 1917. It's in pretty good nick for its age. I know it has been refurbished but other than that I know very little.

So that got me wondering about how he, Horace Cowlin, must have walked around this very lake, possibly on the day before he shipped off to France for the last time, maybe with his wife and family. What was he thinking about? His jewellery shop, maybe? How his family would get on without him? Whether he would come home and how things would be if he did?
And then I thought, why was this shelter put on this spot? Was there one there before? Was it a favourite spot of his?
I guess I could research these things and maybe one day I will. The records exist. But for now, I am content to be fascinated by the multitude of possibilities that this shelter presents.

Almost certainly, my own grandparents, who were sweethearts during the First World War and who moved to Ilford during the Second World War, walked in this park and maybe they sat together in this shelter. I wonder if they knew about Horace? They are no longer with us, so I guess I'll never know. 

So this is my photograph - just an addition to many that have been taken recently. Oddly enough, I can't find any earlier ones, and that's a shame. Maybe in a hundred years' time, somebody may look at this and compare it with what they can see then. I hope so.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Mobile Phone Cameras

I'm not intending to rant, so if this comes out as such, I apologise.

In case you are unfamiliar with one of my particular prejudices, let me tell you what I think of Phone Cameras.

Not much.

It doesn't matter what electronic wizardry you pack inside the things, how much editing software you include (in what is supposed to be a phone) to con an increasingly gullible and materialistic public into spending unrealistic and obscene amounts of money, at the end of the day, they have:

(a) lenses and sensors which are smaller than and old-fashioned toothpaste cap.
(b) screens which you can't see properly in anything other than pitch darkness.
(c) the most awkward camera controls ever invented.
(d) a huge attractiveness to morons.

In the photographic food chain, mobile phone cameras are, in my opinion, plankton.

But that's not to say that they don't have their uses.
Stitching up innocent people for example.
Turning the world into 1930s Nazi Germany by recording everyone's slightest movement and reporting it to anyone who will listen so that all right-thinking PRIVATE citizens live in fear of so much as breathing at the wrong time...

Well anyway. Back to topic.

Yes, they do have their uses, as this picture shows. Sunsets wait for no-one and if the phone is the only camera you have handy, then they fill a gap.

f/1.9  ----  1/500 sec  ---  ISO 40  ---  3.6mm

ISO 40? Even my DSLRs can't get ISO 40 at f1.9! But then, with decent size lenses letting in a proper amount  of light, they don't need to.

Still. It was an amazing sunset, worth capturing.
But don't be fooled. This picture took a fair deal of post production, just to bring the drab in-camera image back to something approaching the glorious scene I was trying to record. It'll do, but that's about all, in my opinion.

There are some very skilled people who produce some incredible shots using phone cameras. And I say, "Congratulations and Respect to them."
But for every one of those, there are hundreds of know-nothings who get lucky once in a lifetime. And for every one of those, there are millions upon millions whose useless talentless dross chokes social media and other platforms.
"Photographs" which, in the days of film (remember the Kodak Instamatics?) would either have been returned from the lab with a "Low Quality" sticker on them or been consigned to the bin. Or more likely, and more to the point, not taken in the first place.

It is the mobile phone camera, and its easy accessibility to everyone with a thumb, whether they know the front of a lens from the back end of bullshit or not, that has largely reduced the position in society of the serious photographer, (amateur or professional) to no more than dubious eccentricity.

These days, to film everything at random and invade everyone's privacy with a mobile phone is normal and even acceptable, whilst creating a carefully framed shot, recording a good-quality image for posterity using skills and experience gained over years with top quality equipment is likely to get you labelled as some sort of pervert.

And that, as you might have guessed, pisses me right off!