Monday, 24 August 2009

Image of the Week - Rumps Point

Although I was aware of this location it was not on my list of locations when I was travelling along the North Cornwall coast this spring. However, I did actually end up at this headland due to navigational error but I quickly realised my real mistake had been to overlook it in my planning. Although I exposed a few 4x5 transparencies that day, the sky was far to clear for my liking so I put it on my Cornwall short-list and vowed to return soon.

During my trip to Bodmin Moor this month, when cloud looked like it was going to spoil the party, I made my way over to Rumps Point in search of clearer skies on the coast. A clear patch in the cloud had appeared on the westerly horizon, leaving plenty of cloud to the North. It was a simple case of finding a pleasing composition, setting up and waiting for the sun to reach the horizon to see what the light did to the clouds overhead. I was not disappointed.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Image of the Week - Westward Ho!

Usually the retreating tide at this little North Devon seaside town leaves a completely flat surface on the sand. On this particular spring day in May this year there was absolutely no wind and virtually no waves to speak of. The result was the tide left this striking pattern in the sand that covered the entire beach. I have never seen the beach quite like this so as sunset approached I set off down the beach with my large format camera and tripod.

I made a total of 5 exposures that evening. this, the 3rd, is my favourite. My original composition was actually a horizontal one, but I had neglected to consider the effect the cloud, moving in from the East, was having on the sand in front of me.

It was about a hour after sunset and in the dim light the eye is easily deceived and I failed to notice how dark the sand in the right hand side bottom corner of the composition was. Most of the sand was too dark for my spot meter to give a reading anyway so the difference in light across the composition remained unnoticed. I was largely guessing how much light was reflected from the sand.

By simply taking a full vertical crop from the left hand side of the image I eliminated the distracting dark area and improved on the original composition by giving impact from a less cluttered foreground. The foreground is still dark, but this is very much how I wanted it to be. The darkness helps isolate the raised ridges of the delicate patterns in the sand and adds mystery that would have been missing had I simply placed a stronger neutral density graduated filter over the sky and increased exposure.

I have noticed that it is currently popular to to produce photographs with as much shadow detail visible as possible. Perhaps I am wrong but it seems to me this is somehow a statement of the photographer's prowess, "my shadow detail is bigger than yours". They might seem impressive when you first them, but to me these "HDR" images often lack emotion and mystery and the viewer's interest is soon lost because these cold images have failed to connect to the viewer. Can the photographer, almost blind in the dusk light, really say that they could see every tiny detail in the dark shadows before them? Assuming the answer to this is no, then I suggest perhaps their image does not convey the true emotions they felt.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Mines of Bodmin Moor

Following on from my post last week, I thought I'd put up a taster from my Bodmin trip.

I have to admit to feeling a little under pressure when making this image. Not only was the sun setting and shadow rapidly creeping over the landscape, but a large bull with the biggest set of horns I recall ever seeing was eyeing me up suspiciously just out of shot on my right!

I would have preferred some interesting cloud in the sky, but as the previous day I had provided too much cloud I was happy to settle for blue sky.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Teddies in Space

Yes, really!

Teddies in Space

This is one of the many excellent images entered into the Cambridge University Nokia Photography Competition at the Department of Engineering 2009 which are all well worth a look. The brief: "We are searching for an image that relates to research or teaching in the Department or engineers out in the field, which may be beautiful, fascinating, intriguing, amusing, or possibly all of these things".

My favourite certainly fitted into the latter category and appealed to my mischievous side, but given this was the result of a collaboration between the University and a group of 11 to 13 year old children it was still no mean feat. How many school kids can claim to have designed space suits for actual space faring travellers? Well done! Mind you I can't help wondering if teddy on the left found the whole ordeal a little uncomfortable without a helmet!

That's given me some ideas for some new landscape images. Now where did I put those leftover birthday balloons?

Image of the Week - Rhossili Bay

Another from the spring. Rhossili Bay is on the westerly tip of the Gower peninsular and overlooks the headland known as Worms Head, the start of which I was stood on.

On this day there was plenty of blue sky and sunshine, but a stiff westerly wind (blowing from left to right of this image) kept me on my toes as varying cloud raced overhead. One moment the sky was completely blue with the odd puffy white cloud and the next it was filled with heavy dark rain clouds. For a while the cloud you see in this image hid the sun from view, but as the cloud reached land, the sun broke through once again and illuminated patches of the beach and hillside.

I broke the rules with this composition and had equal amount of sky and sea. I felt each had an equal part to play in this image and I had been unable to make different proportions of sky and sea work as well. The farm cottage and buildings, dwarfed by the sea and cloud, added important scale and acts as a focal point for the eye to settle after exploring the cloud and sea. I just had to wait for a patch of sunlight to reach the cottage and act as a natural spotlight.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Why it's safe to kick trees

I love the solitude of landscape photography and most of the time being alone with no one around to stray into your shot this is exactly how I like it. Occasionally though people can brighten up my day and you can't beat a bit of people watching while waiting for the light.

Being the school summer holidays my chosen destination this week on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall was quite busy which can make landscape photography a frustrating business. Is it really necessary to climb every granite stack and wave to your family below until your arms drop off? Apparently it is.

I was cheered up no end when I overheard a mother telling off her little girl for kicking a small tree on the moor. In an attempt to make her daughter understand why she shouldn't kick down small trees she asked, "How would you like it if a big tree came over and kicked you?"

"Well, that's silly because trees can't move." the little girl replied.

You can't really argue with the logic can you?

Minions Mines on Bodmin Moor

I've been photographing Bodmin Moor in Cornwall this past week during a rare prolonged sunny spell. It's been many years since I last visited the region and this time, being my first visit as a photographer, I saw it in a completely different light (quite literally given the nice weather!)

I had intended photographing the granite stacks of the Cheesewring at Minions, which I did quite comprehensively, but it was the many old abandoned engine houses from the mining in the 19th century that captured my imagination. Stood on the top of Cheesewring I realised how many engine houses stand abandoned all over the moor.

I wished for a time machine to take me back to the 19th century to view the landscape being worked. Just imagine the photographs I could take with all those chimneys billowing their smoke from the great steam beam engines working within. I suspect the reality of the hard life the miners and their families lived was quite different to my silly romantic ideas, especially in view of how many times the local mining companies went bust and mines were closed, reopened and closed again all in a few short years. I wonder if in a 120 years or so our descendants will look back at at our troubled times at the start of the 21st century in the same romantic way?

Despite their World Heritage Site status, many of the old engine houses are crumbling, some quite rapidly according to a local I spoke to. With this in mind I will be paying many more visits to the Cornish mines over the coming months in an effort to build up a collection of images before further decay occurs.

I want to post some images, especially as I shot some black and white film, my first in quite a long time, but shooting on film means these will have to wait for processing and scanning. Watch this space as they say.