It has been the most unbelievably busy year. I have been working on a project that is about to come to fruition but will keep under my hat for now. I’ve also had two new book covers since I last posted and been shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition as well as Weather Photographer of the Year, a competition organised by the Royal Meteorological Society in associating with the RPS. Both competitions feature photography from around the world.
I’ve been very lucky, anyone who follows this blog will know that I have been able to travel to Iceland a few times, a place where a lot of weather happens so you can guess where my shortlisted photograph was taken. This has all involved a lot of work organsing prints, profiles and narrative to accompany the photographs as well as work on my project.
Though a bit of a ghost in the blogosphere over the last year, I am still here, still dipping into blogs and though not as actively engaged, I have been enjoying all the posts that I’ve been following through my reader. At the end of the project, end of August, I will be away, recuperating for a few weeks and then will be back, I hope, to being a more active member of this amazing community. Thank you for your patience. I wouldn’t be so busy if it wasn’t for all those on WordPress who have been so supportive over the last four years.
For all those suffering the heat of the summer, I hope these pictures can cool you down a little. For my friends in the southern hemisphere, it could be colder.. ;-)
Below is my shortlisted picture for Weather Photographer of the Year, I’ve added a couple of others. Some of you may have seen this image before. Just one of those shots taken when you find yourself in the right place at the right time and you happen to have your camera with you.
You can see all the images shortlisted in this years competition by following this link. Amazing photography. Well worth clicking the link. Not sure what I’m doing there but I am looking forward to the awards ceremony where I’ll get to meet some of these amazing photographers. The winner will be announced at the ceremony.
Whilst I’m busy sorting my photographs from Fuerteventura and the photographs I took this morning when I made a trip with my good friend and fellow blogger Poppy to capture the sunrise, I thought I’d write this quick article that I hope some of you will find useful.
With modern digital cameras, we tend to take focus as a given. We all have auto focus so why would we ever resort to manual focus? There are times however, particularly with landscape photography, when auto focus can let us down and to get optimum results, we do need to think about manual focus if this is an option with a particular lens.
When taking landscape photographs, we’re usually looking for maximum depth of field. We want our pictures to be sharp from front to back. Using auto focus, if we focus on our foreground interest, there’s a good chance that whatever our background might be is going to be soft. Similarly, if we auto focus on whatever is in the distance, our foreground interest is going to be soft.
To get over this, we might resort to focusing at the hyperfocal distance using an app on our phones to determine where that is but again, there’s a good chance this won’t actually give you the best result. Hyperfocal Distance Focusing is great for producing column inches in photography magazines but not much else in my experience. The hyperfocal distance will give you a theoretical optimal point but in all probability, your photograph will not be as sharp as it could be. The optical physics maybe spot on but I have never managed a good sharp result using this method and boy did I try.
As a rule of thumb, if we auto focus approximately one third into a scene, we’re going to get a sharp picture with good depth of field but where exactly is one third into a scene? This can be a little difficult to determine. This is where a bit of experimentation comes in as every lens has a sweet spot. A spot on the focus ring where you’re going to get optimum focus from the front of your picture to the very back. An hour or two spent in the garden determining the sweet spot on your particular lens can be time very well spent. Particularly when it comes to long exposures at night where there’s a good chance there’s not going to be an option to auto focus on anything anyway.
I’m lucky enough to own an AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens. It’s a beauty but when I first bought the lens and started using auto focus, I wasn’t particularly happy with the results I was getting. So, I got an app for my phone having read various articles on hyperfocal distance focusing but I was still not happy with the results I was getting. I knew this lens to be an exceptional one so I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I solved the issue by going out into the garden with tripod and laptop nearby and started to experiment. After a little, well actually a lot, of trial and error, I found the sweet spot on the lens where everything, front to back was sharp. I never auto focus with this lens now. I don’t focus at the hyperfocal distance. I manually set the focus ring to my sweet spot and it works everytime. Here it is, conveniently right on the right edge of the infinity symbol so I didn’t have to mark my lens in any way..
Now, even if I go out in the dead of night to photograph the Milky Way for example, I don’t need to worry about trying to auto focus my lens maybe using a torch to illuminate a distant object to get a focus point. I just set my lens to the sweet spot and I know I’m going to get a good result. An hour or two spent experimenting with your particular lens, really getting to know it, can save an awful lot of hassle whenever you go out to take pictures.
To prove my point, here’s one of the pictures I took this morning, up on the Malvern Hills just before the sun rose. As you’ll see from the very tight crop below particularly, the bench and the buildings way below the hills and the trees in the distance are all in perfect focus. You can even read the dedication on the bench, ‘In memory of John Alfred Knight who with his wife Maureen and family, loved these hills’. The combination of the Nikon D800e and this amazing lens really do create images with the most incredible detail.
And here’s a picture taken just as the sun rose above the horizon bathing everything in golden light. It was about minus 3°C up on the hills this morning. A little different to Fuerteventura to say the very least. I had to get up at 4 to make it to this point in my wheelchair by first light but I think it was worth it.. :-)
On my recent visit to Fuerteventura, I decided one morning to get up very early and drive into the mountains to wait for dawn. I didn’t have any particular destination in mind but given the island’s landscape, I knew if I took a mountain route, I was bound to find a photograph or two.
The following pictures were taken during the blue hour, the hour between first light and the actual rising of the sun when the light is very much at the blue end of the spectrum. Next time I’ll post a few more pictures from the mountains taken as the sun started to rise and the light and colours changed significantly..
A Postcard or two from Fuerteventura
Regular followers of this blog will know that I love the sea, I love the coast and I love the beach. Whether visiting the beaches around the coast of my home county of Cornwall, the black volcanic snow and ice covered beaches of Iceland or the sun drenched beaches of the Canaries, I’m a happy man.
Here a few picture postcard beach shots from my recent visit to Fuerteventura, I hope you enjoy them..
We’ve been having some very pleasant sunny days here in Cornwall over the last couple of weeks. The wind has been cold which has kept the edge off the heat which for me is a positive thing. MS Symptoms are exacerbated by the heat, perhaps this is why I’m enjoying Iceland so much. The weather today is warm, muggy, dull and wet, quite a change so I’d thought I’d cheer myself up and process a picture I took of one of my favourite signature view down on Chapel Porth beach the other morning. The tide was coming in allowing me to capture a nice reflection of the Wheal Coates engine house in the sand. Wet feet were the inevitable side effect but it was worth it I think. Hopefully the sun will be back with us by Sunday..
At this time of year, the sun barely dips below the horizon in Iceland so it doesn’t truly get dark. Sunset and sunrise are within about four hours of each other and during this time, twilight prevails. I decided it would be nice to visit Jökulsárlón again at dawn so after just a couple of hours sleep, we set off from Höfn for the hour-long drive. My previous visit to this glacial lagoon was a couple of months ago and you can see details of that visit here and here.
Despite there being much less ice in the lagoon itself this time, there was still plenty of ice on the beach as you can see from the pictures. I was doing very well at keeping clear of the waves until the wave in the first picture surged ashore. To say the water was cold is an understatement. I’ve been soaked many times taking pictures on the beaches around Cornwall. This particular soaking is one I’ll remember for a long time. For the next few hours, I drove the car barefoot whilst my hiking boots and socks dried in front of the heater vents. Click on the images for a clearer sharper view! :-)
It was a very early (3.30am) start again this morning to capture some photos as the sun came up. Standing on the beach in the dark, not a sound but the waves gently breaking in the distance as the tide was low, waiting for first light, all tension slipping away, I knew I would get a picture. I was again reminded that this is where I want to be. Under these conditions I can really engage creatively with my environment and as the birds started to sing and the first streaks of light appeared in the sky, my shutter started clicking.
We’re enjoying some lovely spring weather here in the UK and given the weather has been so poor the last five years, I feel I must take advantage. This shot was taken at Hawker’s Cove on the Camel Estuary. The village of Trebetherick can be seen on the opposite side of the river. It is at the village church, almost buried amongst the dunes, that the grave of the poet Sir John Betjeman can be found. I hope you enjoy the picture, I certainly enjoyed taking it! :-)
A friend of mine was taking a balloon trip this week, a father’s day gift from his children and he asked me if I’d like to go along and photograph the event. I thought this was a great idea. I didn’t think it was such a great idea as I dragged myself from my bed at 3.30 on Wednesday morning but I was committed. As dawn broke I found myself in a field just outside Launceston, about an hours drive away from home.
I found the process of getting the balloon ready for flight fascinating and for me as a photographer, it was an interesting challenge given my usual subject, the landscape, tends not to get up and float away. Anyway, here’s one of the pictures..
Click for a clearer, sharper view ;-)