Monday, 31 January 2011

Save Our Forests

OK, so we're in financially tight times and the Government of the UK has decided that we need to tighten our belts and reduce the country's borrowing. Fair enough and without getting political I think it's fairly obvious that most people think we need to do something. The main debate is what.

The Government, in their wisdom, have decided that they wish to sell off forests in the Forestry Commission estate. I am sure that generally the Government don't wish to level all our forests and replace them with housing estates, but with them out of state ownership where are the safeguards to protect our forests from greedy developers and other inappropriate action in the future?

It occurs to me that it would be easy for one of the new owners to "accidentally" clear a large area of their new forest. The financial penalties might be worth the financial gain. Or as I have witnessed locally they might choose to illegally close public footpaths and bridleways. One such concern is that we could legally loose the rights to cycle and ride horses through some of our most loved woodlands. As a mountain biker myself who cycles through Forestry Commission woodland locally I know what a loss this would be for many. Indeed it would be heartbreaking to loose any of our woodlands.

I know the National Trust have indicated an interest in some forests, but they alone cannot afford to buy up all our national forests. No matter what promises of safeguards may be given by the Government, I cannot see how these could be honoured long term.

I therefore urge anyone who values our precious British woodlands to sign the petition.

There is a vote on a motion in the Commons this Wednesday (2nd February 2011) demanding a rethink on this policy. Every name on the petition at that time will help add weight to the motion and may help influence our MPs to see sense.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Image of the Week - Burnham-on-Sea Lighthouse

My New Year's resolution to write more regularly lasted all of one week. I've been working through some pretty mundane stock images most of this month so haven't had anything worthy of writing about on a landscape photography blog. It's better to write nothing than write about nothing I say.

Today I finally came upon an image worth writing about and by pure chance it nicely follows on from my previous post about the Moon illusion.

Back in May last year I planned a night shoot at the lighthouse in nearby Burnham. My intention was to record long star trails in the sky above the lighthouse. It's something I attempted a few years ago but clouds had prevented me from achieving the final image I had visualised on that occasion. Using a digital camera also introduced dreaded noise that my old Nikon used to exhibit in long exposures creating quite a bit of work to remove. That's not an issue with film.

Of course, no matter what planning goes into such an endeavour something quite unexpected often catches you out. My preparation had included careful timing to coincide with an almost full moon for some illumination of the lighthouse and a study of star charts so I knew where to find the Pole star. I could not fail, but after patiently waiting for over two hours to expose one sheet of 4x5 film and one 6x17 frame, my efforts were thwarted by my tripod which had slowly been sinking into the soft sand all that time. My images, although wonderfully exposed, were ruined by the movement.

I came away with just the images I had made before sunset, but that was not a bad thing.

The image here included the moon and made for an interesting comparison to the previous image of the week. That earlier image had used an ultra wide angle lens which had the effect of reducing the moon to a small point. My style of photography these days means I no longer use ultra wide lenses. This image was made using a 150mm lens which on a 4x5 camera equates to a “normal” lens of around 45mm on a full frame DSLR camera.

The moon was nowhere near as small relative to the scene in this picture, but I have nevertheless experimented and enlarged the moon just a little to give it more natural proportions.

I am hoping to have another attempt at those star trails, once I have sourced some large feet for my tripod.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Image of the Week - Moon Illusion

I spent some time over the Christmas period catching up with some reading of blogs and other writings of photographers that I'd collected. There is always something new to learn and one interesting tip I picked up was the suggestion of enlarging the moon in photographs. I am not talking about images where a huge moon has clearly been pasted in to create a scene where anyone stood directly under the moon will be sucked into space by it's gravity! Just a little enlargement is required to emphasize our nearest celestial body.

Now initially I baulked at the a suggestion. Image integrity has always something I have been careful to maintain in all my work. Removing ugly pieces of litter I've missed, or the odd carelessly parked car in the distance (usually mine) are the limits of my retouching work. Enlarging the moon was most definitely a no go as far as I was concerned but for a few days I kept thinking about the idea.

On Tuesday this week we had a partial eclipse of the sun that was due to occur during sunrise and therefore would be at or near the horizon. I don't currently have suitable equipment to photograph an eclipse, but given it was sunrise and cloud was forecast I felt that perhaps viewing it with the naked eye might well be possible if the cloud was just the right density to act as a useful filter. Then I excitedly remembered the “Moon illusion” and realised that would mean the eclipse might look even more impressive. The cloud was so thick that Tuesday morning here felt like a scene out of the film “The Road” so no eclipse for me but the thought of the illusion got me thinking.

The Moon illusion is where, for reasons still not entirely clear, the moon appears much bigger when it is near to the horizon than it does when it is high overhead. This illusion only occurs when viewed with the naked eye and not in a photograph. So, could enlarging the moon be a way of restoring a scene to something closer to what I experienced when I made the photograph? I figured an experiment was in order.

A quick search of my archive brought up a handful of candidates and after a little work in Photoshop my favourite was the image of Sandymouth beach on the North Cornwall coast you see here. I remember being a little disappointed at the moon in this image when I first viewed the photograph and I have to admit it does actually make the picture feel a little more authentic. It only works for some images so I won't be applying this technique to every moon photograph, but for the right image it's a useful tool.