Friday, 26 November 2010

Image of the Week - Coombesgate Beach, Devon

If there was any doubt about autumn being over, I guess the covering of snow that much of the UK has seen this week clears that up. Personally autumn was over for me a couple of weekends ago when gales blew all the leaves off the trees around here. That was my signal to bunker down and crack on with working my way through this year's backlog of pictures.

There's no snow here in the Southwest of course which unfortunately gives me very little excuse to divert my attention from the backlog. Last year's batch of snow images has proved rather popular with image buyers so a little snow here again would be rather welcome.

Never mind, working through my backlog is not without it's rewards, especially when I get to complete pitures that I first started work on many months ago such as this weeks image from the little beach of Coombesgate on the North Devon coast by Woolacombe.

I had spent a very sunny and hot day photographing beach huts and sand dunes at nearby Saunton. As the evening approached my thoughts turned to where I was going to finish off my days work. The list of possible locations is endless, but today Coombesgate came to the top of the list. When I arrived the high tide was just on the turn so I took the opportunity to explore and photograph the surrounding area before returning to the beach about an hour before sunset.

I was able to follow the retreating tide and discover the beach's hidden gems as they were slowly revealed. I did not see a single other person for the rest of that day which meant I had the whole unspoilt beach to myself.

I was rather spoilt for choice but I eventually settled on two post sunset compositions. I estimated I would have just enough time to expose the first image as the dusk afterglow neared it's peak, then carry my camera to the second location, set-up and expose the second image before the afterglow faded.

My estimate was right, but only just. The second composition was inevitably a rather stressful affair. Unlike the first, I didn't have the luxury of time with this one but my planning beforehand paid off and I was rewarded with this weeks picture.

Update: just as I was finishing this blog snow has started falling outside. I'm not sure it's going to settle, but you never know....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Image of the Week - River Teign, Dartmoor

In my landscape photographs I generally concentrate on the wider picture as we believe we see it. I try and create pictures that reflect a scene exactly our brains tell us we see it and hopefully make the viewer feel they could simply step into that picture.

The camera is of course capable of a lot more than simply recording a scene as we saw it (or at least the way we thought we saw it). It can also record time in a way that we simply do not see. For instance it can freeze motion and reveal things normally hidden from our relatively slow brains. Equally the camera can record the extended passage of time and compress it into a single image.

Moving water is a perfect subject for photographing the passage of time and although some argue is rather overdone these days, I still enjoy these long exposure photographs. I relish the challenge of "seeing" in my head what the final picture will look like, long before my exposed sheet of film as seen a single chemical in the lab. These images reveal patterns normally hidden by our own perception of time and, perhaps, offer a glimpse of how the world might look to much slower creatures than ourselves.

I came to make this image as a result of struggling to find a good composition of the fresh green spring foliage along the banks of the River Teign earlier this year. I had noted a couple of potential pictures, but nothing that had inspired me to unpack my camera. Instead I turned my attention to the smaller, and mostly unnoticed, world closer to the water. I studied the smaller rocks and how the water was flowing over and around them and it wasn't long before I had spotted these two rocks virtually in the middle of the river. It was a precarious walk over some wet and slippery rocks to get my camera in position (always a good laugh to watch from the safety of the river bank!) but after managing to avoid falling in during my numerous trips back to my kit bag on the bank, I had made an exposure.

Although it was a late start to my creativity I was very happy with that first composition of the day. As is often the case, finding that first composition was a release and I was suddenly aware of a number of interesting compositions around me that I had failed to notice before. It was getting dark all to soon, but not before I had managed to expose a few more sheets of film.

The smaller image above was my last image that day. It was made just a few meters upstream from my main image but with a very different viewpoint it depicts a totally different world.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

New Images - Bude, North Cornwall

I've just added a selection of new images of the lovely seaside resort town of Bude in North Cornwall to my website. These were taken during a trip this May while on a wonderful sunny day.

May is a perfect time to photograph the town as it has a great summer feel to it at this time of year (when the sun is shining) and very few people to get in the way. That changes as the summer approaches and it can be very busy by mid July when schools break up and the holiday season begins in earnest.

The town boasts a canal, a little fishing harbour and a great sandy beach known as Summerleaze. No wonder it's so popular. Personally I enjoyed photographing the beach huts on the beach - the pastel coloured huts in the sun were perfect against the blue sky and great fun to photograph.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Image of the Week - Combestone Tor, Dartmoor (Pt II)

Another take on the subject of my last Image of the Week. I wondered if consecutive images of the same subject might seem rather boring, but this image, or rather images, got me seriously questioning why I lug my large format gear about. So I thought it might be interesting to share some of this questioning rather than talk about the images themselves, although they are still my favourites this week.

The first picture above was taken around 5 to 10 minutes before the evening sun disappeared behind a hill to my left. The second image below was taken shortly afterwards, just before the sun disappeared behind a cloud from where it would never reappear again that day (at least from where I was stood).

There's a slight twist to these two pictures and that is one was made using a 4x5 inch Ebony, Schneider 150mm lens and 1½ stop neutral density graduated filter all mounted on a tripod and exposed on a sheet of Velvia 50. The other was a grab shot made with a Panasonic GF1 (yes that pesky start-up again) micro two thirds camera with it's 20mm pancake lens, no filter, hand-held at 100 ISO. Can you tell which is which?

At this size it's not easy is it? The clue, by the way, is in the grass. The 4x5 inch camera requires a much smaller aperture and along with the slower speed film means whereas the GF1 required an exposure time of 1/60th of a second, the 4x5 camera required 2 seconds in which time the grass was subjected to a gust of wind. The GF1 picture (top one by the way) gives the impression of sharper foreground grass.

I deliberately waited until I had seen the processed film before working on the RAW image from the GF1. My intention was to match them as best I could as a pair. Although I had exposed a vertical version on the 4x5 camera, by the time I had re-composed the camera the light had gone. I haven't matched the colours & contrast exactly, but close enough I think. Bear in mind the light had changed between the two pictures. I had to retrieve my 4x5 gear from the other side of the rocks after making the first picture. By the time I had made the second picture the pink had gone from the clouds, the contrast had reduced and the sunlight was slightly warmer.

As I said, at this size there is little to differentiate these pictures apart and for many uses that I license my images for you won't notice any difference because they are rarely reproduced larger than A4 size.

Clearly the advantage of working slowly with a view camera (and thus produce better thoughtful compositions) was not a factor here as I first saw and composed the picture on the LCD screen of the GF1 (although I was in just the right place at the right time here and the composition jumped out at me). Indeed, the ease and speed of the smaller GF1 allowed for the inclusion of the lovely pink clouds which had all but gone by the time the larger 4x5 was in place. The tripod was still a positive factor as I managed to ruin the horizontal version I made with the GF1 with camera shake. I've noticed when holding the GF1 away from your face in order to see the LCD screen, in horizontal orientation at least, it's rather prone to camera shake. Vertical orientation doesn't seem to suffer this problem for some reason.

There is no doubting that with some careful work a digital camera image can be made, more or less, to resemble the colour and contrast of Velvia 50 film. However, when I started to asses these two images at larger sizes the quality of the 4x5 transparency really shone through and of course there is the small issue of pixels. The GF1 is a 12 mega pixel camera that produces an image of 3000x4000 pixels. On my Imacon scanner, the 4x5 transparency is scanned at around 71 mega pixels creating (in this case) a full size image of 9535x7476 pixels. That's a lot of information and makes for some truly beautiful detailed large prints.

In conclusion then, I'm happy to continue lugging the heavy and cumbersome 4x5 kit around the countryside, but the GF1 is proving to be a wonderful tool too that complements the 4x5 very well and indeed allows me to travel with the 4x5 camera more often than I would if I were using my DSLR.

As for these two pictures, I really can't choose between them. While I love the colour in the sky of the first one, there is something about the contrast between the cool blue sky and the warm tones of the grass that I am drawn to in the second.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Exmoor Autumn Colour

Today I was in Exmoor National Park. Barton Woods beside the East Lyn River near Lynmouth to be precise. Being such a deep and narrow valley this location manages to miss most of the high wind that was blowing over the moors today. In fact being so sheltered some of the trees were not quite as advanced in their colour as the trees I saw yesterday on Dartmoor. The odd splash of green amongst the reds, yellows and brown makes for a little added interest I think.

This was the last picture of the day. Light was very dim by the time I reached this bridge and the wind was increasing and moving the trees about so I abandoned my large format film camera and went for digital capture to preserve some shape to the leaves (shorter exposure time).

If all goes well I'm back on Dartmoor tomorrow (or thereabouts) although I might have to bring my umbrella and tripod clamp judging by the forecast.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Dartmoor Autumn Colour

I've been in Dartmoor National Park today photographing the autumn colour. Wow! I don't think I've seen the colours so vivid before. Autumn has come a little later this year (and there was me thinking it would be early due to the dry summer) but it has been well worth the wait. Plenty of opportunity to use my large format Ebony.

I'm hoping to get a few more days photography in the woodlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor while the overcast weather remains. Looking at the forecast for tonight and tomorrow I'm not sure the leaves are going to be there for long as there are high winds on their way.

I do love this time of year, but the one major downside (now that the clocks have changed) is that I have to drive home up the M5 during the madness known as rush hour. All the lovely peace and tranquillity of the woodlands comes to an abrupt end as I approach the the motorway.

Fingers crossed for a few more days of that wonderful colour.