Friday, 31 July 2009

Image of the Week - Trevose Head

I've just spent a few days in Devon with the family for some traditional Great British summer seaside holidaying; sheltering from the rain mostly! I'd been hoping to fit in a couple of trips to North Cornwall for some unfinished business on the coast, but the weather was only going to allow the one afternoon.


Back in sunny June (remember the sun?) I'd returned from a tour of the coast with the above image of Stinking Cove and the lighthouse at Trevose Head. While I am not entirely happy with the composition, the gorgeous colours of twilight combined with the fact this image was only possible due to a navigational error I made the day before (long story) this has become my favourite image.

So, knowing what I needed to do to improve on my earlier composition I found myself back at this location this week. I took the opportunity to try out a Fujifilm Quickload back that I am thinking of buying. I'd dismissed the Quickload system when I was putting together my 4x5 kit last year because I felt the convenience was not worth the additional expense. Lately though I have found myself running out of loaded sheet film in the field and so when I learned that Nick Wilcox-Brown had one he wanted to sell I was keen to try it out.

The first thing I noticed was for some reason the additional step of inserting the film into the Quickload back made me forget to close the lens before pulling out the film envelope (ie the dark slide) on two occasions. I must get into the habit of closing the lens before inserting a film back to avoid this. Secondly in windy situations the withdrawn envelope flaps around shaking the camera a little so for long exposures you need to hold onto the envelope. Minor niggles aside, I was easily convinced this is a worthwhile addition to my kit bag.

Despite the distraction of using the Quickload system for the first time I felt my revised composition was stronger, Sadly the same couldn't be said for the lighting conditions and with the Sea Pinks now gone, this earlier image is still by far my favourite. Looks like a return visit next spring is in order then.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Take a View - Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009

After my success in 2007 of having one of my images selected for the book and exhibition for the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2007 competition I decided not to enter in 2008. This year however I did and I have just heard that two of my images have been short-listed for the final judging.

I am particularly pleased because one of the images is one I made with the competition in mind - I sometimes find it helps me raise my standards if I have a particular challenge or target to aim for. It was also an image taken on my new Ebony RSW45 view camera.

I won't tempt fate or spoil anything by publishing them now, but instead here is my image that made it into the book in 2007. Page 168 if you care to look.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Image of the Week - Burton Beach

This one was from February this year. It had been a lovely clear blue sky day. Not great for landscape photography but a fine day for strolling along the beach in search of potential images.

I was returning to my car when I saw this image. The sun was still relatively high in the sky for my liking, but with the tide rapidly coming in, these rocks were not going to be visible for long so I went about making this image. With my camera ready it was then just a matter of timing to get the best waves breaking over the rocks.

This was my 2nd attempt, although I also made a 3rd exposure just to be sure. This is what I love about film photography; I only make as many exposures as strictly necessary for the job. With digital I find the temptation is to make many exposures and before you know it you end up with dozens of almost identical images to sort through back in the office.

Regrettably I only had my Medium Format camera (my view camera was locked in the boot of my car as I did not expect to see anything suitable to photograph seriously until dusk). While my Mamiya produces fine 6x7 transparencies, without any lens tilt it was impossible to keep everything in focus. I settled for a little blurring of the closest foreground rock in order to preserve sharpness on the horizon.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Image of the Week - Wareham Forest

I saw this photograph out of the corner of my eye while driving through Wareham Forest in Dorset on my way to Corfe Castle in March this year. Cloud had moved in during the afternoon and the sun was now hidden from view, except for the moment I passed these birch trees when it made a brief appearance and lit them up. The silvery bark almost glittered as I drove past.

I quickly stopped the car, backed up and found a place to park. Grabbing my gear I ran back to this spot. I could see from the clouds that I had one, maybe two more chances of brief sunlight so I set about finding a composition in the short time I had.

The pine trees behind on the right had presumably once been part of a larger plantation covering the whole area behind these trees judging by the branches and stumps lying scattered in the heathland. Possibly the composition would have been better with the whole plantation still standing, but I did like the colour contrast between the grass and the blue sky. I managed to fit in a few smaller, although less formal looking, pine trees to the left to balance things out a little.

As it happens the sun only reappeared the once, and then only partially, but it was just enough add a little sparkle to the trees.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Contrasting Weather

Well there I was on one of the hottest days of this year facing the ever daunting pile of transparencies queued for scanning. Scanning is not exactly fun at the best of times and turning on another heat generating computer in the already baking office wasn't going to make it any better. Then I remembered my photographs from February when we experienced heavy snowfall – rare in these parts. Maybe working on these images from one of the coldest days of his year would help me through the heat.

Now I had put off scanning these images due to the fact I had used Fujifilm Velvia 50 and at the time I wasn't completely comfortable with scanning this medium which is notoriously difficult to scan. I had owned my Imacon scanner for only 6 months and was still climbing a steep learning curve. At that point I'd largely kept to scanning the scanner friendly Fujifilm Provia. Why had I chosen Velvia then? Provia tends to have a slight blue tint about it and as snow also has a tendency to record in the blue end of the spectrum too I felt this was a good time to break open a couple of boxes of Velvia. However when I later viewed the transparencies on the light box I decided these were going to be more of a challenge to scan that I first thought and so put them aside for easier projects.



In the intervening months I have almost completely converted to Velvia. I purchased an IT8 target for Velvia 50 from Wolf Faust and created a Velvia 50 colour profile for my Imacon. I had noted from forums that many Imacon users do not profile their scanners and indeed the “Auto” option in the Imacon's Flexcolor software does a remarkable job in balancing colour from a Provia scan without the need for a dedicated profile, but in my experience that cannot be said for Velvia. A profile changed all that and creating scans that match the original transparency is now a very simple and (more importantly) repeatable process.

With white being the dominant colour, my snow scenes still presented a challenge in keeping that famous magenta cast at bay, but they were a breeze compared to what they would have been without the profile.

If you are wondering if working on my snow scenes helped make the heat of the day more bearable, no would be the answer! It didn't help when I discovered I'd left one of my external backup disk drives on all day and I actually gave myself a small burn from it. Blasted external drives, now there's a topic for another day.....

Friday, 3 July 2009

Hello World

Hmm, possibly not the most imaginative title for a first blog posting but still, with a little trepidation, I officially start my weblog here.

So who am I? Well I am a landscape photographer from the South West of England a few miles south of Bristol, just a little North of the Mendip Hills. My work is largely from the West Country and South Wales regions of the UK that I love so much but I have also photographed locations as varied as the English Lake District and Southern Spain, but my main passion is for the West Country, and in particular the coast.

I prefer to make my photographs on large format (4x5) film but I also use medium format film and digital SLRs. I will no doubt explain my reasons for these choices in later posts.

My photographs are used in posters, cards, calendars, books, magazines and newspapers around the world and are available for license through my own website and a number of stock libraries. I also sell prints of many of my photographs direct from my website.

If you would like to contact me to discuss I'd love to hear from you so please get in touch.