STILL LIFE 102 – SWAN 3 (MONO)

 

 


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Mute Swan in low key – the first of these bird still lifes, with context, is here: 1, and there are other images here: 2; 3.

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that larger image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Smooth preset; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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ARCHIVE 287 – IN THE HARBOUR AT ABERAERON (MONO)

 

 


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Black-headed Gull and mooring buoys in the harbour at Aberaeron, Ceredigion, west Wales; 24 Sept 2014.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that enlarged image to enlarge it further.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 3 preset.
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ARCHIVE 285 – EARLY MORNING AT TEALHAM (MONO)

 

 


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Early morning on the Tealham-Tadham Moors, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 28 Aug 2013.

Rhyne (rhymes with seen) is the Somerset term for water-filled ditches that help drain the land and often, as here, act as field boundaries.  This rhyne’s surface is covered in floating waterweed and, in the foreground, are the tall, pointed leaves of wild iris, which love these waterside locations.

The two prominent trees are in the fact the ends of two rows of such trees that line the undulating, single track, tarmac road just visible lower right of them.  The two, pale sheets of corrugated iron set up against the rhyne’s bank on the right of the picture are held there by stout wooden stakes, in an attempt to prevent the road collapsing down into the mud and water. 

The point here being that there is no solid rock supporting this landscape.  Below this countryside are over 60 feet of sodden clays and peat – “rocks” easily demolished by your shovel if not by your bare hands – such that everything is soft, yielding and unstable.  Stand beside this road as a tractor goes by and you are suddenly rising and falling as if on some rural trampoline, which can be quite shocking for those unused to it.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with Sigma 12-24 zoom lens at 12mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono and split toning with Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Pinhole preset.

UPDATE: still a very favourite photo of mine, one that – in my eyes at least – will certainly stand the test of time.  No, it by no means depicts reality, but it is about a small, out of the way area of countryside that has a permanent place deep within me and, visually, it forcefully turns me on.  Technicalities?  Well, this image owes much to Silver Efex Pro 2 processing software, it would probably not have ended up looking like this without SEP2.  Reading about the photographic world, it emerges that SEP2 is very, very widely used by those with a love for black and white imagery.  And the other thing to mention here is my (now ancient) Sigma 12-24 zoom, which has facilitated this angle of view which is far wider than the human eye can achieve.  I call this lens ancient and, in digital terms it is – I first started using it with film cameras, shooting colour transparencies that I presented in slideshows – which maybe dates me a bit!  But since those far off days, Sigma has put this lens through two major updates, which have apparently improved image quality considerably.  The only downside to that is the cost of the latest update, £1600, which is significantly more than the cost of my recently acquired Fujifilm supercamera, the X-T2!  So I think I’ll just be sticking with my ancient 12-24 and, if it doesn’t give me “perfect” image quality, well, that’s just how it is – I’m not really into that degree of perfection, I don’t peer manically at pixels on screen, I’m more interested in the content of images, be it graphic or, sometimes, narrative.

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STILL LIFE 92 – SEASCAPE

 

 


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Study in blue – looking out to sea from Lizard Point, Cornwall; 19 Oct 2016.

Composition: a Minimalist image, take away the fluffy cloudlets and there’s really not much here, although it might still (just) work sans nuages.  But I like these little clouds – their shapes, fluffiness and colour – and the way they are at once separate from the dense, dark overcast – their relationship to this overcast is rather like that of little children skipping along beside their humourless, stolid, heavily pacing parents.  There is also that thin, linear break in the parental overcast just above these cloudlets – is it the trace of a smile? – perhaps their parents are not so humourless after all!

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto the larger version to enlarge it again.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom.
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ARCHIVE 280 – MALLARD

 

 

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Mallard in Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 6 Apr 2015.

A Minimalist image – some ripples and a silhouetted duck.

The up-curled tail feathers show this to be a male (drake) Mallard, a very common and often tame waterbird here in the UK.

This is a colour image, albeit one with little colour in it.  And I’ve used CEP4‘s Cross Balance filter to give the effect of Tungsten (i.e. artificial light) film that has been used in daylight, which has resulted in the image’s cool, faintly bluish tints.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4, using the Cross Balance filter.

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TALKING IMAGES 27 – HAVE BLURRED SKIES AND WATER BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHIC CLICHE?

 

 

Sometime last year, and I can’t now recall exactly when, this was the question asked by an opinion poll in the magazine Amateur Photographer (AP).  10% or 20% of the respondents to this poll (and I can’t recall the exact figure) thought the answer to be “yes”, and I agreed with them. It took no soul-searching on my part to come up with this answer but, then, I’m the first to acknowledge that my views (on many things, as it happens) may not be mainstream, and so there it was.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

QUOTE FROM JEREMY WALKER

However, in the 18 Feb 2017 issue of AP, the respected landscape photographer Jeremy Walker, talking about taking parties of clients on photographic explorations of the wilds of Iceland, wrote the following:

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Basically there are shots to be had, but there’s a danger of getting overloaded with blurry long exposures.  It seems to be what people want to go and do.

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ARTICLE BY DOUG CHINNERY

And now has come this.  Other than AP, which I subscribe to and regularly devour, I don’t usually read photographic magazines.  I’ve tried some of them, but in reality they’re really not up there with AP‘s quality, and they simply don’t shake my tree.  However, recently, I have bought a couple of issues of Outdoor Photography magazine and, despite it going on a bit to much about landscapes – well, outdoors, it would, wouldn’t it? – there have been some real nuggets in it.  And, coming from the same stable as the B+W Photography magazine I have praised extensively on this blog, it is very well produced and has some wonderful photography.

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Anyway, going through the issue 215 of Outdoor Photography, I came upon a long article by the photographer Doug Chinnery, entitled Understanding Exposure.  Well, I had a fairly good idea what this might be about and, the first pages were just as expected – working with a tripod in Manual exposure mode, using Neutral Density Graduated filters, paying strict attention to the histogram, etc etc.  OK, no question at all, this is one way of doing things – and one on my most deeply felt convictions about photography is that there are no rights and no wrongs.  There are simply the ways in which  I – or you – do things.  We are all different, each one of us.  And whether we do things one way or another, and whether we use this bit of kit or that bit of kit, or this post-capture process or that post-capture process – Canon, Nikon, Holga, film, digital, wet plate, pinhole, you name it – we are all photographers, and that’s all there is to it.  And the only real question is whether the resulting images look good – first to ourselves and, someway second, to others too.  That’s all there is – and never let anyone tell you to the contrary.

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Enough preaching!  Anyway, I read on through Doug Chinnery’s article, and came to a piece on the limitations of light meters, and the exhortation always to use Matrix or Evaluative metering – and then, under the heading ANOTHER PATH, I was hit by a bombshell!  Never one to do things by halves, I’m quoting here the first three paragraphs, verbatim (and I’m putting the whole of it in red font, as I think it such an important piece of thinking – especially the first paragraph) :

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While making beautiful, technically crafted photographs is absolutely fine, some find that they can convey little in the way of soul, story or emotion.  The images will tend to have full detail in the shadows, and the highlights will be bright but not ‘blown’.  They can be seen as simply beautiful images of locations, enhanced by fine compositions and good light.

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For many of us, though, our creativity begins to search for ways to inject to inject something more into our images.  Using our understanding of exposure and being willing to stray from convention will allow us to explore this need.

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Once we realise that no one is hanging histograms on gallery walls, we can free ourselves from some of the constraints some would place upon us as to what a “correct” exposure is.  I would suggest that a correct exposure is simply one that realises our personal creative vision for an image.  It bears no relation to what a light meter or histogram is telling us.  Convention tells us shadows have to show detail, and highlights must not be blown, in the same way we are told images must be sharp or comply with certain compositional rules.  Once we accept that this is not necessarily the case, the creative fun can begin.

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And he goes on to say that this thinking has had profound results.  For a start, his tripod is now largely a thing of the past in his landscape photography – which must mean, not so many blurred shots of clouds of water, although the article does include an absolutely beautiful, 2.5 second, handheld image of rolling hills.  Gone too is the need for front to back sharpness.  And he is now using aperture priority exposure automation with – wait for it! – a mirrorless camera system!!!  Wow, I can’t believe I’m reading this stuff!  I don’t know what to say – well, that’s not true, I do know what to say – WAY TO GO, MAN, WAY TO GO!!!!!

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And while revelling in all this euphoria around making creative exposures, an important point to make >>> using a camera with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) (or using any camera’s LCD screen, comes to that) lets us see the results of such creativity at once, rather than having the guess the effects of such changes when using an optical viewfinder.  I’ve found the large, bright EVFs on the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2 cameras superb.

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CONCLUSIONS

Well, as always, my first conclusion is that photography has no rights or wrongs, and that no one has the right to tell photographers how to take pictures.  For me that’s a very fundamental given, and I am certainly not going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t blur their images’ skies and waters.  If that’s your thing, do it.

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I have presented another photographer’s picture at the top of this post.  There’s no question but that its very beautiful.  Its gorgeous, calm, a work of art.  But I have totally lost count of the number of photographs of jetties going out into waters that have the consistency of (in this case, bluish) milk that I’ve seen over the years, and I have only to go to poster shops to see still more.

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In a way, I see parallels here with my full frame fisheye lens.  By which I mean that fisheyes can produce excellent images, but there is not the slightest doubt – in my mind at least –  that they are not something to be used frequently because, unless used with a vast creativity that I’m not sure I possess, their effects can quickly become formulaic and, in short, a cliché. 

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Basically, I’m hoping for more originality and diversity of approach.

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What do you think?

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SOMERSET LEVELS 290 – THE SKY WARMS

 

 

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Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, the faintly seen track at lower left, as sunrise colours start high in the sky above the Somerset Levels.

Technique: it was dark!  The human eye is a wonderful camera, able to see in low light levels, but it was clear that most things here were still heavily engulfed by the gloom.  And when I raised the camera to my eye – WOW! – even allowing the brightening sky to influence the reading, 25,600 ISO still only gave me 1/140th, wide open at f4.8 .  So, working handheld as always, image stabilisation helped, as did the fact that this camera is mirrorless, so that it has no mirror slap – there is more on mirror slap here.  Many photographers prefer not to use their lenses wide open due to reduced sharpness and definition, but I always go for it – if the light conditions demand it  (and also if I’m looking for as narrow as possible a depth of focus).  The bottom line being that its far, far better to be left with an image that is blurred and/or grainy, than to be left with no image at all.  This is a part of the great and ongoing debate about the respective importance of the technical quality of images on the one hand – sharpness, definition, colour rendition, white balance, etc. – and image content and atmosphere on the other.  I’m 101% with the importance of content and atmosphere.  Compositionally, the faint lines of the track and the much brighter, water-filled ditch lead the eye towards that single tall tree – and I’ve used this same composition, in this same place, before.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here, here, here and hereEach will open in a separate window.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window, and then click onto this larger version once more.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.
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STILL LIFE 82 – MAN ON FOOTBRIDGE

 

 

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Man, wearing sunglasses and walking across a footbridge, seen as a reflection in the waters below.

This must be amongst the most indecipherable and abstract images that I’ve ever posted.  It does represent reality, it is based on reality, but that reality has been heavily altered by digital post-processing – and then a frame has been added.

Technique: it is the reflection of a footbridge over water in Bristol’s Floating Harbour, with a man walking over it, walking towards the left.  First, because it is a reflection, it was upside down and so I’ve turned it right way up.  Then I’ve substantially lightened it in Lightroom, to restore many of the colours to what was originally a silhouette.  This radical lightening has removed most of the water’s blue tint – some can still be faintly seen right in the middle of the shot, and there are faint blue ripples coming across the top of the shot, just below the man’s head, from upper left towards lower right.  This lightening has also blasted much of the water’s surface to pure white, and so, because I have a white background to my blog, I’ve added a thin black border to outline the image’s space.  The thin yellow poles are the uprights which support the bridge’s guardrails, and the man is walking towards the left, just about between two of these yellow uprights.  The reflection of his head is distorted by the water’s ripples, but dark sunglasses can just be seen above his nose.

Is this an image that I like, and that I may go on liking?  Probably not, as its rather too contrived for my taste.  But I do think it worthwhile posting it, to show the effect.  What do you think?

Looking at this, I’m reminded of (a poor attempt at) the style of Salvador Dali, a Surrealist artist that I greatly admire – his Persistence of Memory (the “folding clocks”) hangs over our living room mantelpiece.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 137mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, including rotation by 180 degrees; Color Efex Pro 4; Pero’s Bridge, at The Waterfront, central Bristol; 20 Jan 2017.
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BRISTOL 117 – RIVER REFLECTION, THE WATERFRONT

 

 

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River reflection at The Waterfront, central Bristol; 3 Feb 2017.

Technique: contrast and colour saturation have been raised a little, because my aim here is not to represent the scene exactly as I saw it, but to produce an image that (hopefully!) is visually attractive.  Compositionally, the left side of the image has a bold design, with the warm brown at the top passing down into raggedly margined white, and then moving on further down to that prominent, vertical white and pale blue stripe.  It is almost as if that vertical white and pale blue stripe is a pillar with the areas of white and warm brown on top of it, almost as if the stripe is holding these two areas of colour aloft.  Moving right, the foreground patterning is more subtle, but there are focal points higher up – the bright golden reflection of a light, and the white structure with a dark central stripe at upper right, which is the most figurative (i.e. least abstract) element in the picture.

There is another river reflection image, taken nearby, here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in another window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom; Capture NX2.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 285 – OH IT WAS COLD!!!

 

 

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Yesterday, I left Bristol in the dark, something I don’t feel totally comfortable with now, my eyes no longer being in the full flush of youth.  And the blackness was cold but, at least, there was no frost or ice – which would remove a definite danger from night driving.  And the bulk of my journey would be on a large main road, the A38, which would (hopefully!) be less prone to problems than the small country lanes I usually infest.

So, driving down to the Levels – and on arriving there the roads suddenly started appearing white in the headlights.  And, slow mentally as I can be, I started wondering what this whiteness might be.  Well, you can guess what it was – it was thick frost and ice – and in emerging from the car for my first, before sunrise photos, I was hit by bitter cold and road surfaces I had difficulties standing up on.

But, what do you do?  Turning around and heading home would be unthinkable, and, as usual (and this is an article of faith for Levels visits), I had a flask of hot, sweet coffee and thick, bitter marmalade sandwiches with me.  So, nothing to think about really, just get on and enjoy the place, get the camera out and see what happens.

So I did just that.  And although the Levels no longer inspire me photographically as much as they once did – most probably because I’ve photographed them so vastly much – I did take a few photos.  And, as always on these visits, I had a pair of binoculars with me too – having been an avid (and, ultimately, professional) birder 1967-2002, birds are still very much in my soul.  So rather than going down to the Levels with the rather stressful feeling that I must somehow find images, I just wander about with the bins – Leica 10×42’s, waterproof, heavy, excellent, rubber-armoured, built like a tank – and if photos appear they do, and if they don’t, well, they don’t.

Anyway, it was very early, a time of day I really like – and which I’ve recently been photographing in Bristol too.  It was fiercely cold, but a delight being there, and I pressed on.

I fetched up at the Magic Carpark. a favourite place on Tadham Moor, and the sun was just about to rise.  I drank the coffee, ate the sandwiches and conversed with the tall tree – a willow – that oversees all my visits.  Thoughts of photographing the rising sun came to mind – but my fingers were by now so numb that I could no longer even feel the camera’s trigger let alone press it.

I think that, another time, I might put my fingers in the coffee to warm them up but, in this instance, I was driven to walking around this little, rough place with two fingers in my mouth.  I was a bit like sucking an iced lolly, and I could only be grateful for the fact that no members of the tabloid press were on hand to document this undoubted example of the hedonistic and bohemian tendencies of the retired classes.

Anyway, here is one of the resulting images – the sun rising on 27 Jan 2017 above Tadham Moor, with a partly frozen water-filled ditch, a rhyne (rhymes with seen), bringing light and a little of the sunrise’s warmth to the foreground.

Technique: capturing Raw files as I invariably do (see below), it would of course be possible to considerably lighten the shadows in this shot, and to end up approaching something like a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.  But I value shadows, I think that darkness adds greatly to many, many images – and in this case I’ve aimed at something like the way the scene looked like to my eyes, rather than illuminating every leaf and individual blade of grass.  Chiaroscuro is a term in art (and photography is certainly an art) that describes the interplay of light and shadow, something of vast value in an image.  There is a link to chiaroscuro in photography – here.  Some pictures benefit from being totally lit, some don’t, its as simple as that.

Technique: Raw files are undoubtedly the format to use if you are contemplating anything like extensive post-capture processing of an image, i.e. rather than using the image straight out of the camera, or with minimal tweaking.  I summarised the fundamental differences between Raw files and jpegs here.

Those with an eye for detail will notice (below) that I was using a Fujifilm X-T2 camera, rather than my usual X-T1.  More on that another time.

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 84mm (equiv); 1600 ISO.
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