I mentioned a little while ago that I’d been shortlisted in the Weather Photographer of the year competition.
The organisers, the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Photographic Society received over 2000 entries from 60 countries for this year’s competition.
Quite bizarrely, whilst not taking the overall title, I came in first place. This is a link to the results – https://www.rmets.org/weather-photographer-year-2017-winners-announced
I wish I’d been able to attend the awards ceremony in London last night, that would have been my first. I’d have been worrying about just how happy I could look for the winners, certainly not expecting I’d have been one of them. However, I’m honestly very happy to be here in Fuerteventura, exploring a whole new angle to my photography. I’ve another post to follow about ruined and decaying buildings very soon.
I got a Google alert on the beach today (great to have 4G while lying in the sun) to say that I’d appeared on the BBC News website. Certainly not something I thought would ever happen.
Here’s the picture, once again, that got me first place..
If you want a map with lots of detail, great if you enjoy hiking, cycling or just enjoy a nice gentle stroll, the map of choice in the UK is Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain and is one of the world’s largest producers of maps. Since the first of April 2015 it has operated as Ordnance Survey Ltd, a government-owned company that is 100% publicly owned.
The agency’s name indicates its original military purpose, mapping Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. There was also a more general and nationwide need for maps in light of the potential threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars, reflected in the inclusion of the War Department’s broad arrow in the agency’s logo up until 2015.
Ordnance Survey mapping is usually classified as either “large-scale” (in other words, more detailed) or “small-scale”. The Survey’s large-scale mapping comprises maps at six inches to the mile or more (1:10,560, superseded by 1:10,000 in the 1950s) and was available as sheets until the 1980s, when it was digitised. Small-scale mapping comprises maps at less than six inches to the mile, such as the popular one inch to the mile “leisure” maps and their metric successors. These are still available in traditional sheet form.
This year Ordnance Survey decided to update their cover photos and I’m really pleased to say that one of my photographs will now adorn Map 204, Truro and Falmouth, part of the very popular 1:50,000 Landranger series. The picture was taken of Fowey from across the Fowey River on a footpath known as Hall Walk. You take the Bodinnick Ferry from Fowey and a little way up the road, the foot path begins on your right.
I’ve done a bit of cut and pasting to show how the map will look (roughly). The photograph was taken on one of the most glorious June Mornings I can remember. It was just a perfect day and to have that day immortalised (well nearly) on the cover of a map covering my area of Cornwall, that makes me happy. This is a walk that I couldn’t manage today so it’s extra special and it’ll be very nice keepsake to have. The new maps will be available from February next year. I hope many visitors to the area will enjoy days similar to that one, although it has to be said, over the last few years these days, weather wise have been rare.. :-)
It was a lovely day yesterday so I took a trip to Golitha Wood through which the River Fowey runs. The river rises at Fowey Well (originally Cornish: Fenten Fowi, meaning spring of the river Fowey) about 1-mile (1.6 km) north-west of Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor, not far from one of its tributaries rising at Dozmary Pool and Colliford Lake. The river passes Lanhydrock House, Restormel Castle and Lostwithiel, then broadens at Milltown before joining the English Channel at Fowey.
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..
It feels like an age since I posted some pictures from Cornwall so here are some pictures I took last evening. As the sun started to go down, it really looked promising so I suggested to Poppy of www.poppytump.wordpress.com (who is visiting at the moment) that we go over to Constantine Bay to watch the sunset. We were not disappointed!
We were not the only ones to head to Constantine Bay. The beach was lined with people just watching and taking pictures with just about every device capable of taking a picture imaginable. This person was happy just to sit on the fence and watch however..35mm f/11 1/6 sec. ISO-100
For day 3 of the 5 day black and white challenge, I’ve gone back to my roots as it were. I guess I’m best known for my landscape photography work so I suppose it’s fitting that I post a few black and white landscape photographs but this presented me with a problem because for the most part, I’m not a fan of black and white landscape photography. I love colour. Why hide so much of what makes our planet so beautiful by taking away the colour?
I was very much of the same opinion when it came to photographing flowers in monochrome but yesterday’s photograph demonstrated that sometimes, by taking away the colour, we are forced to look beyond to shape, form, textures, tone and another layer of beauty is revealed. The same must be true of black and white landscape photographs.
I didn’t have the chance to get out with the film camera today and put this knowledge into practice so I’ve had a look in the archives and I’ve found a few pictures where I think that absence of colour, rather than taking something away from the photograph, brings something new to it.
Today I’m going to invite John Todaro to take up the 5 day black and white photography challenge. John’s photographs from Long Island, New York are incredibly beautiful and if you haven’t visited John’s blog, I heartily recommend it. There is of course no obligation to take up the challenge, it’s a bit of fun if time allows.
Just before Christmas I visited the Jubilee Pool in Penzance and was really taken with the beautiful Art Deco design of the pool. I was aware that funding had been found to restore the pool to its former glory following the devastating storms at the beginning of last year. The pool was opened in 1935 to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Today, it is one of the few remaining 1930s lidos in the entire country.
I was very interested in the future of the pool so I contacted the Mayor of Penzance and asked if I might be given access to take pictures of the pool, as it is now, before the restoration work begins.
I was put in touch with a chap called James Hardy, Community Network Coordinator, who is overseeing and coordinating the work for Cornwall Council. I told James what I wanted to do, to capture the pool as it is now and to follow the work as it progresses over the next 12 months or so. The plan is that the pool will re-open in May 2016.
My request was discussed at a meeting two weeks ago with the contractors who are carrying out the work and the Friends of the Jubilee Pool who are busy raising money to match funding from central government. I’m really pleased to say that I have been taken on as photographer for the entire project and I will be now be a regular visitor to the pool, cataloguing the work as it proceeds.
I visited the pool on Monday and met Ashley Snell, a geo-technical engineer, who is currently surveying the pool. During the storms of last winter that I mentioned earlier, the force of the sea was such that the pool was lifted and moved from its anchorage on the bedrock beneath. It’s Ashley’s job to now carry out a survey to assess the full extent of the damage and to gather information on the rock the pool sits on. On Monday, drilling equipment was craned in and the process of drilling bore holes at different points around the pool has begun.
Monday was a beautiful day with bright sunshine presenting a few challenges photographically, but also opportunities. I’ve a lot of pictures to go through and will be posting a gallery of those images soon but in the meantime, here are a few of the images I’ve processed so far. In the bright sunshine, looking at the pool, one could be forgiven for thinking just a lick of paint here and there would put things right. However, the reality can be seen in the third photograph, the pool has buckled and twisted under the force of the sea, almost as if an earthquake had struck..
My thoughts and deepest sympathy go to the families of those who lost their lives in the latest terrorist atrocity in Paris. As mature, liberal democracies in the West, we stand, for the most part, for freedom and tolerance. People may face discrimination but they do not live in fear because of what they believe, what they might say, or who they are. If we lose sight of this tolerance, the terrorists win. I don’t know the answers, I just try to focus on the beauty I find all around me and wonder why…
Happy Birthday Cornwall Photographic
I used a title very similar to the title of this blog 3 years ago today when I wrote my first ever blog post. I did so at the suggestion and encouragement of a good friend and fellow blogger Marina. As it’s turned out, my hopes expressed in that first post have been realised. I have now written 377 posts and counting. I never imagined for one moment when I started this blog that anyone would actually look at it, but on one day alone last year I had 1,481 views, over 105,000 views in total now.
I bought myself a DSLR camera for Christmas 2012, the blog came along in the new year as a place I could post the pictures I had started to take. Up until this point, I’d taken nothing but snaps at family gatherings and on annual holidays with a basic point and shoot. I’d been interested in photography in my early teens. My parents gave me a Zenit SLR. No auto settings of course and I learned the principles of exposure using a hand-held light meter. But, my initial interest in photography gave way to bikes and cars and the usual stuff. Determined to find something I could do despite my illness, I’d decided to take up photography again, reigniting that early interest. Both the photography and the blog have been a godsend.
I knew that I was embarking on a journey with my new DSLR hence the blog’s title. I didn’t realise at that time however, what an amazing journey it would be.
I’ve posted a lot of pictures in the last three years. Some I’m very proud of, more than a few not so much to say the least but good, bad or indifferent, they are all an important part of the story and the journey.
This last year has been incredible. From my first tentative steps with a DSLR three years ago, I’ve been shortlisted in a couple of major international photography competitions. I became a Licentiate and then an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. I’ve been published in magazines, the latest being the February edition of Classic Boat, my images have been used in national and global advertising campaigns and one of my photographs has just been selected to join 99 others (chosen from more than 3.500 entries) to tour the country in a Royal Photographic Society Exhibition this year. I’m really not sure any of this would have happened without the support and encouragement of the WordPress blogging community. Having somewhere I could share what I was trying to do and to get such positive feedback, I have no doubt is what’s kept me moving forward.
I’ve made some very good friends here in the last three years and hope to make many more in the coming years. I would like to thank everyone who has looked at, followed and commented on my blog. This is, as I’ve said, a wonderful community of supportive, encouraging people. I’m now looking forward to many more posts as the journey continues..
These are a few of my favourite photographs from the past 3 years, some because I like the pictures, others for their associations. This is the beauty of photography, we capture a moment and we have it to hold for ever..
Click on any of the images for a sharper, clearer view. This will open a slide show :-)
This photograph was taken in Mousehole a few days ago. Each year the people of this tiny fishing village in the west of Cornwall decorate the harbour to raise money for charity. Mulled wine was on offer along with mince pies and the opportunity to drop some coins in a bucket. When I visited, a group of carol singers were doing their best despite the weather. It was raining, the wind was howling but the atmosphere in the village was a festive and happy one.
The blurred object in the bottom right of the picture is a whale spouting, outlined in lights, but the wind and fairly loose tethering were conspiring against a decent capture over a long exposure.
I’d like to thank everyone who has followed, commented and supported this blog over the last year. It’s been a pretty amazing 12 months for me and it wouldn’t have been the same without your company. Thanks for being there.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very happy new year.. See you in 2015! :-)
Trebarwith Strand sits on the north coast of Cornwall not far from Tintagel. The rock structures are a superb subject for photographers. At high tide, the waves start washing up two channels created by the action of the waves while a seam of much harder rock forms a spine down the middle. The result makes for some interesting pictures and on more than one occasion, including this one, wet feet. Click on the image for a clearer sharper view.. ;-)
This picture was taken using the Lee Big Stopper filter.
Lerryn is a beautiful little village that sits on the River Lerryn, a tributary of the River Fowey. I was passing through one morning having been up all night photographing the Milky Way. I was tired but as I crossed the little bridge and saw the misty calm on the river, I had to turn around and get my camera set up once more. Click on the image for a clearer sharper view.. :-)
There’s nothing quite like the light at dawn as the sun peeps over the horizon. That lovely soft glow can’t be beaten and is the result of the angle of the sun being so low. This is why the light in the autumn is so much softer, the sun is much lower in the sky. Anyway, here’s St Michael’s Mount, just off the coast of Cornwall at Marazion.
You can just see the causeway on the left, outlined in white water. Another half an hour and it’d have been possible to walk across to the castle. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I enjoyed taking it. Click on the image for a clearer sharper view..
I posted a picture of a copse on top of a hill a couple of weeks back. This copse sits right on the border between Devon and Cornwall on the main arterial route into the county, the A30.
It’s a very distinctive landmark. Quite a few people commented that when they see the copse, they know they’re nearly home. For others it was a sign that their holiday starts here.
I was up early this morning. Just as it was getting easier to make first light shoots, the clocks went back an hour for daylight saving time. This doesn’t save any daylight of course, daylight hours remain the same, it just means landscape photographers have to get up really, really early again.. ;-)
I wanted to photograph the copse again but I also wanted to try to capture this sense of arriving and leaving. I decided dawn would be a good time to do this as I’d be able to capture the light trails from cars leaving and arriving, capturing a sense of movement below the copse that stands silently, immobile, marking the transition.
Click on the image for a clearer sharper view. :)
There was a lot of water on the road hence the spray so I will be re-shooting this on a dry day. On a technical note, you have a very narrow window of opportunity when taking a shot like this. It needs to be
a) light enough that your background is properly exposed and not too grainy.
b) dark enough that the cars still have their lights on and
c) dark enough to allow for a long enough exposure to create decent light trails and ensure the vehicles themselves don’t show up in the photo.
It worked out to around 10 minutes this morning in which to get it right. My first exposure was at 6.15 and lasted nearly 7 minutes. I guess I must have set that exposure off at 6.08. My second exposure, this one, was taken at 6.21 and was just one and a half minutes. All other settings were constant. That’s how quickly the light changes. By 6.30, the light trails were weak, the vehicles were showing up in the picture as a blur. The exposure time was down to just 8 seconds. I could of course have used a filter at this point to extend the exposure time again but cars were starting to turn off their lights. I don’t think I’d have got the shot I wanted.
I was asked by Leanne Cole to write an article for her excellent and very successful blog Leanne Cole Photography on the subject of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters and how I use them in my landscape photography. This is what I came up with. Most of the photographs you’ve seen before but they provide some good examples..
There are a few essentials that no landscape photographer should be without. There’s the camera of course and almost as importantly, there’s the tripod. Third on the list of landscape photography essentials is a set of Graduated Neutral Density Filters. Neutral Density filters are also useful although not essential so I’ll be mainly talking about ND Grads in this article suffice to say, neutral density and graduated neutral density filters are your camera’s equivalent of a pair of sunglasses. They cut down the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor and whenever you cut down the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor, whether it’s by stopping down the aperture or using a filter, exposure time is affected.
32mm f/22 4 sec ISO-100
Neutral density filters cover the whole of your lens and therefore cut down the light hitting the whole of the sensor. These are useful in extending exposure times allowing you to achieve that lovely silky water effect in rivers and waterfalls. These come in a variety of strengths right up to the now very popular 10 stop Neutral Density Filters. These allow just a tiny fraction of available light to enter the camera allowing you extend exposure times significantly allowing you flatten and smooth the ocean or achieve the silky, smoky water effect even in bright sunshine. These 10 stop filters are so dark it’s not possible to see through them so it’s necessary to compose your shot and focus before attaching the filter. Ten stop filters are often used by architectural photographers to simply make people disappear from busy buildings. All the time people are moving, they will not show up in a long exposure. There is a lot more I could say about using filters like the Lee Big Stopper but I’ll perhaps save that for another article and get back to my favourite filters of all, the Graduated Neutral Density Filter or ND Grad.
24mm f/9 1/500 sec. ISO-100
ND Grads are used to balance exposures. The sunglass effect is graduated such that skies are darkened leaving foregrounds unaffected. One sure fire thing that will let your photographs down from a technical standpoint is blown highlights and lost detail in shadows. These are very basic faults and the easiest ways to avoid them is to pack a set of ND Grads. If you have a bright sky and darker foreground, some of it in shadow, without filters you have two options, expose for the sky and you’re going to lose details in shadows; expose for the foreground and there is a good chance you are going to blow out the highlights in the sky. Strictly speaking you have a third option and that is to use exposure compensation and bracket a series of shots but I’ll get to that.
Once highlights are blown there is nothing in post processing that will allow you to bring them back. Conversely, modern sensors are very good at garnering every ounce of detail from any scene you are shooting but if your shadows are just too dark, attempts to recover them in post will give you blotchy unattractive results. You can’t make detail appear that just isn’t there and believe me I’ve tried. Attempts to do so look very messy indeed.
ND filters normally come in sets of 3. The filters are labelled differently depending on manufacturer but a set will usually allow for a 1, 2 or 3 stop exposure compensation. The table below relates to both ND and ND graduated filters.
It’s important to note I think at this point that it’s worth spending a few pounds on these filters and avoiding the cheaper options you see on websites like Amazon. You can easily find a set of ND Grads for under a tenner if you look but anything you put in front of your lens will degrade your image. Why spend hundreds of pounds on a decent lens and then put a cheap piece of glass or worse, plastic, in front of it. These filters will last a lifetime if treated well so it’s worth saving a little before taking the plunge and buying a set.
50mm f/9 1/100 sec. ISO-100
I use Lee filters because I think they are arguably the best and I have no affiliation with Lee. Hitech filters are right up there however and I’m hoping to put that to the test. Both of these companies offer 100mm filters with holder systems. When using my Nikkor 14-24mm lens, I use the Lee Super Wide system and 150mm filters. The bigger sizes really come into their own if you’re using wide angle lenses. Cokin Z-Pro filters are also 100mm I believe but I have no experience or knowledge of those. The first set of filters I had were of the smaller Cokin variety and I used to have to crop my wide angled shots rather defeating the object This was because the edge of the filters were picked up by my Nikkor 24–70mm lens at 24mm but if you’re on a budget, these are an ideal choice, certainly to get you started.
Another point to be made in favour of spending a few pounds or dollars is that Neutral Density Filters and ND Grads are so called because they have a neutral impact on the colour of your images, or at least they are supposed to. Not all ND and ND grad filters are created equally. Colour cast can be a real issue with cheaper filters and even with the more expensive ones when you get up to 10 stops. It can be corrected, using colour balance tools, but it’s best to try and keep things truly neutral from the start.
24mm 1/125 sec ISO-100
For most landscape shots, I like to keep my aperture constant at f/11 for maximum depth of field. You need to choose the right ND Grad to get the right effect. The sky is naturally brighter than the ground so you want to keep it that way. To achieve the most natural looking result you need to choose the right ND Grad to correct the exposure difference to within 1 stop.
If I point my camera at the sky, not the sun, and take a light reading and my light meter suggests a shutter speed of 1/200sec and I then point my camera at the foreground and take another light meter reading and my light meter suggests that to properly expose the foreground I need a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. This would be two stops and I would choose my 1 stop filter which would be my 0.3.
I would of course have the option of keeping my shutter speed the same at 1/200 sec. and opening the aperture from f/11 to f/9… This would still be two stops and I would still need my .03 filter to even the exposure.
Likewise, if my light meter suggested that to properly expose the sky at f/11, I would need a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. and to properly expose the foreground I would need a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. this would equate to one stop. I would therefore use my 1 stop .03 filter to darken the sky enough for me to shoot at f/11 and 1/125 sec. This would ensure I wouldn’t lose any details in the shadows and highlights wouldn’t be blown out in the sky. A balanced exposure in other words.
36mm f/11 1/160 sec. ISO-100
ND Graduated filters, as well as coming in different strengths as it were, they also come in hard and soft varieties. The hard and soft relates to the graduation between the darker glass and the lighter. Soft filters have a much more gradual division between the two halves. My recommendation would be to buy a set of hard ND Grads. It may be tempting to go for soft thinking this will allow for easier blending of the filter effect. The problem with soft grads is that often times you end up pushing the filter so far down the filter holder it’s nearly out the other side to darken a bright horizon. Having darkened the sky above the horizon sufficiently, because you’ve pushed the filter in so far, you end up with the area below the horizon being adversely affected by the filter.
The graduation on a hard ND Grad is not as stark as it at first might appear. You’re not going to see a hard line across your horizon unless of course, you set it too high but this is less likely because the hard edge also makes it much easier to set the filter in the right place. It’s not always easy to see through the lens, especially with the 0.3 filter, exactly where you need to set the filter. It soon becomes evident when you try and process the picture if you’ve set it in the wrong place however. A dark smudge right across your landscape does not look good. A dark sky with a bright strip just above the horizon doesn’t look good either but you’ll soon get the hang of setting the filter in the right place.
24mm f/11 1/125 sec. ISO-100
I had hoped to show some ‘with filter’ and ‘without filter’ photos to demonstrate just how effective these filters are in properly balancing an exposure but we have had thick fog in Cornwall for the last five days and with no let-up in sight, I’ve run up against my deadline for this article but please, take my word for it; with a set of these filters in your kit bag, you’ll be able to tackle shots you just might not be able to manage otherwise without under or over exposing one part of the picture or other.
This is where I should come back to bracketing as another way to balance awkward exposures. Bracketing can be very effective and when weather conditions make the use of filters awkward, I use this technique myself. But, bracketing is going to give you a whole lot of work to do in post that you just won’t have to do if you use filters. You can use programs like Photomatrix to make light work of merging bracketed shots but in my experience, this is difficult to do without getting an HDR like effect, even when using the ‘exposure blending’ rather than the ‘HDR’ option within Photomatrix. Filters are the best, and in terms of workflow, by far the most efficient option in my opinion.
15mm f/22 1.6 sec. ISO-100
As well as balancing exposures, you can also use a darker ND Grad than your light meter suggests for creative effect. I’ve peppered this article with photos I’ve taken where the use of a filter was essential in order to get a proper exposure and others where I’ve used a darker filter than was necessary to create drama or to otherwise enhance the sky.
With a decent set of filters and with these pointers in hand, the best advice I can give is to get out there, take photographs and experiment. For the added effort of a few minutes setting up, you’ll be amply rewarded, your landscape photographs will improve enormously and you’re going to look very professional to boot.
I think I’ve mentioned before that we had an incredible September weatherwise here in Cornwall and with the summer tourist season over and most children back in school, the beaches were deserted.
These two girls were certainly making the most of this unusual freedom. A whole beach on which to play with mum and dad always in view. The sort of day that lifetime memories are made of. Click on the image for a sharper, clearer view.. :-)
I’d just like to say thank you to Michelle from WordPress who contacted me last week to say that I am now, and I’m very proud to say this, a WordPress recommended photography blog. Since receiving this news, I’ve gained a lot of new followers so I’d like to welcome you all to Cornwall Photographic and hope that you enjoy my posts.
These photographs were taken at a smashing little beach called Porthcothnan on the north coast of Cornwall. Up until last winter, just around the cliff on the left, there was a huge rock that had a hole worn through it forming an arch, a bit like the one at Durdle Door in Dorset. One could get to it at low tide only. Sadly, it was smashed to pieces in the severe storms of last winter. Lets hope we don’t have a repeat of all that this winter. This rock arch was one of those features that I kept telling myself, I must check the tides and go down and take some pictures. I missed my chance and it’s now lost forever. Definitely a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. Click on the images for a sharper, clearer view.. :-)
I visited Trebarwith Strand a couple of weeks ago. It was blowing a gale, the sun was shining and the sea was rough. Lots of people were watching the spectacle, taking pictures with phones. Up on the rocks, a couple of youngsters were really not giving the sea ’nuff respect’ to use the colloquial expression.
Standing so close to the edge with a rising tide, these two were lucky to get a warning. The next wave may well have swept them into the sea..
Please give the sea the respect it deserves, always! Far too many people drown each year around the coast of Cornwall.
52mm f/16 1/125 sec. ISO-100
A couple of weeks ago I presented a panel of 15 images to the Royal Photographic Society and I have been awarded an Associate Distinction making me an Associate member of the Society. I feel very honoured.
The distinction was the culmination of a project I have been working on for some time. A project totally out of my comfort zone which has stretched me creatively and photographically. Imerys, the company behind the china clay mining business in Cornwall gave me hard hatted, hi vis, escorted access to the docks and other abandoned clay sites in Cornwall. I am very grateful to Imerys for their help in creating this project.
For many years, china clay blasted from the hills above St Austell with water canon was pumped in suspension to Par Docks where it was stored in huge concrete silos before being dried and loaded aboard ships for export around the world but in 2006, it was announced that the docks would close along with the loss of 800 jobs.
One of my earliest memories is paddling in the sea at Par, sinking up to my ankles in sand mixed with china clay, the result of spillages from the docks. I was only two so this place has been a part of my consciousness for 48 years, I wanted to mark its passing with this project.
The panel I presented in the Contemporary category to the Royal Photographic Society is about my sense of loss and sadness that this closure evoked; my choice of processing served to emphasise the decline and abandonment. Once a hive of industry, the docks now just echo with the past and only its ghosts remain.
On a site once teeming with people and activity, wagons no longer run along their steel tracks. The vast sheds and huge silos stand empty, their machinery rusting slowly. The café with its strings of bunting still poignantly clinging on, hoping for better times, no longer serves its burgers and chips.
For seaman who needed spiritual guidance with their coffee, a welcome once awaited them at the flying angel club, but this too stands empty. The harbour office no longer takes enquiries and the phone box outside no longer makes calls, it stands at a drunken angle, its door long gone.
In my central image, the cross in the concrete suggests to me the need for an epitaph… ‘rest in peace’ perhaps?
I’m grateful to Imerys, the company responsible for china clay mining in central Cornwall, for providing escorted, hard hatted, hi vis access over an extensive period to what is now a closed demolition site in order to produce the panel.
When presenting a panel candidates are required to prepare a hanging plan as well as a statement of intent part, of which I’ve reproduced above. Below is my hanging plan. Candidates are advised to choose and arrange photographs so that they form a cohesive and balanced panel.
After a morning when not a single panel passed, lunch was rapidly approaching and I was sure my panel would go up after we’d all had a break but, when another panel was brought in and I realised it was mine, I hardly dared watch.
My statement of intent was read out and the panel of Royal Photographic Society Fellows, all experts in their field, got up to view the images. Some photographs were taken down for closer inspection, others pondered from a slight distance. After a short while, the panelists took their places once more and the Chairman of the Contemporary Panel asked for an initial vote on my work. The voting is done such that the audience cannot see how the panelists have voted. Each judge was then asked to offer a critique. I heard some good things said but we’d heard good things said about all the previous panels of pictures that had failed. The Chairman then asked for another vote. I could hardly believe it when the Chairman said, ‘this panel meets the standard’. Up until now it had all been anonymous so my name was read out and there was a round of applause. We broke for lunch and quite a few people came up to congratulate me. It was a nice moment.
Naturally there were many more than 15 photographs taken during the course of this project but for the purposes of the distinction panel, I had to choose just 15. I’ve put my 15 pictures into a gallery that you can view below. It’s been a very absorbing project and I’m now left thinking what I should tackle next..
There is now just one day left in which to vote for the best ‘People’ photograph in the latest Digital Lightroom photography Competition. Photographer David Penprase judged the initial round and gave us 12 shorlisted photographs. It is now down to a public vote as to which photograph wins the competition. It’d be great if you could take a moment to look at the pictures and vote for the one that you think deserves to win. Appreciate it, thank you.. http://thedigitallightroom.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-polls-are-open-5/
The pictures below were taken at Perranporth and Porthcothnan, Cornwall :-)
There is no doubt that I will keep returning to this beach time after time. Chapel Porth has got to be one of my favourite places to be. The beach only appears during spring tides that coincide with the full moon. During spring tides, the difference between the highest and the lowest tide is at its greatest. Neap tides, where there is little change between high tide and low tide, coincide with the new moon. Between new moon and full moon, the height of the tide at its lowest and highest, changes a little each day. Tide tables come in very handy when planning shoots, along with the weather forecast of course.
The day these photographs were taken, the tide was at its lowest at around 11.30 in the morning and on a beautiful September day, the shots I got weren’t the shots I was hoping for but I was quite pleased with these nonetheless. Waiting patiently for the moment the tide dropped low enough to be able to get onto this part of the beach, I was there before anybody else.
I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. It’s a long time since I had a paddle in the ocean usually preferring the Wellington boot to taking my shoes and socks off and rolling up my trouser legs but on this day, I couldn’t resist.. Click on the pictures for a clearer sharper view :-)
That’s if you’d noticed I’d gone so to speak. :-) August has been a month of highs and lows that unfortunately haven’t left room for visiting your blogs and responding to comments on mine so my apologies.
At the beginning of the month, I had a major PC Motherboard meltdown, that left me without a computer for about 10 days. I was then visiting with my blogging friend Poppy for a week, taking lots of Photographs and enjoying a real break which did me the world of good but, within a few days I was in hospital for major abdominal surgery. I’m recovering well however and hopefully in the next week, I’m going to get to grips with my blog and catch up with yours so thank you for your patience…
This picture was taken at dawn on Chapel Porth beach. A glorious morning and as ever, when I’m on the beach at dawn, it was a wonderful start to the day..
This tutorial covers the basic steps necessary to capture images like the one above. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is shaped, as the late Sir Patrick Moore, (a BBC, well actually, national institution described it, a man who presented a late night astronomy programme for 55 years) like two fried eggs back to back. We live about halfway across the white. It’s about 25,000 light years to the centre of the galaxy and about 25,000 light years to the edge. With light travelling at 186,000 miles per second, getting your head around how far light can travel in an hour, let alone a year and then multiplying that by 25,000 to get to either the edge or the centre of the galaxy from where we are situated, it really is quite mind-boggling.
The size, the complexity, the multitude of stars and planets, standing on a beach or a cliff top with a camera pointed at the night sky, looking towards the edge of the galaxy that stretches like a huge arch above our heads, one really can feel very small and insignificant indeed. I had a little chuckle to myself, remembering ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ where in the opening chapter, Earth was demolished to make way for an intergalactic highway. With all attempts to contact us having been ignored, so wrapped up in the idea that we are the only ones, the highway was going ahead unchallenged and that was it, Earth was no more and the intergalactic bulldozers trundled on remorselessly.
Find a nice dark Sky
The first step is finding a dark sky without light pollution. This is becoming increasingly difficult as towns and cities spread. I’ve been using a website called Blue Marble to find areas local to me that should be dark, or at least dark enough to capture these images. I have a certain advantage in being able to find a nice flat relatively dark horizon looking out to sea but even then, darkness can not be guaranteed. The orange glow in the image above comes from a trawler or tanker. In the picture below the glow from Falmouth, and a few more towns around the coast plus what I think are navigation lights from a fishing trawler that was coming and going across the horizon clearly impact on the image but not disastrously so. The orange glow from the sodium lighting used the world over will wash out the further stars from your Milky Way image so really, get as far away as possible from towns and cities.
Locating the Milky Way
Once you’ve found yourself a nice dark area of countryside, you need to find the Milky Way. The best advice I can offer here is to look for what could be a ribbon of clouds across the sky on a clear night. The billions of stars that make up the Milky Way can appear just like that but if you look more closely at the cloud you’ll see that it’s made up of stars. To be more exact, the Milky Way extends from the constellation Scorpius (Scorpio) to the constellation Cygnas, (the swan) particularly the area closest to Sagittarius. There are a myriad number of apps available for smart phones that will help you locate what we’re talking about if you’re still nonplussed or if light pollution is obscuring the best of the Milky Way. Here in the UK at the moment the Milky Way can be seen directly overhead extending north-east to south-west at around midnight. Summer is a good time to see the Milky Way. In winter the sun is in the constellation Sagittarius introducing cosmic light pollution. The moon can also be a culprit so it’s best to view during the Lunar cycle when the moon is absent or new.
Right, you’ve found a dark sky and you’ve located the Milky Way, what you now need is a sturdy tripod. With exposure times extending to 30 seconds, you cannot hold your camera still for that time. That said, don’t let not having a tripod hold you back. If you don’t have a tripod you could lay your camera on its back and set the self-timer. Setting the self-timer allows for the shutter to fire without jogging the camera.
To get the widest field of view, to get more of the Milky Way into your photograph, wide angled lenses are best. A typical kit lens would be 18-55mm. 18mm is a good starting point. If you can go wider, all the better. Faster lenses are better. By that I mean lenses that allow you to open the aperture to around f1.4, 2.8 or 3.5. This is simply because the wider the aperture, the more light you can collect on your sensor in the time the shutter is open.
We’re on the move as a planet, when you start taking pictures of the stars with long exposures, you’re going to get star trails if that exposure time is too long. To photograph the Milky Way we want to slow the shutter as much as possible before the star trails become too apparent. For this we use the 500 rule. Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens to arrive at a maximum exposure time before star trails appear. Wider angle lenses are better as they are going to give you a longer shutter speed allowing more star light to be collected by your sensor. I’ve been using a Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8.
Set your aperture to its widest. As I’ve mentioned, ideally this will be between f1.4 and 3.5. If your lens doesn’t open that wide, it’ll be harder to get an image but not impossible. With a wide aperture however comes a narrow depth of field so you need to be quite precise in your focusing.
To get enough light on your image sensor, you’re going to have to make it more sensitive to light. This means upping the ISO to anything between ISO 1600 and ISO 6400. The higher the ISO, the more noise will be introduced into the image. I’ve experimented with higher ISO’s and shorter shutter speeds. Really it’s a trade-off. You’ll need to find the best shutter speed/ISO combination that works best for you. I have found with my Nikon D800e that even at ISO 6400 the noise factor isn’t any more troublesome than at ISO 1600. Hence, I’ve been able to set faster shutter speeds to get ultimately a sharper image of the stars. Faster shutter speeds mean less star blur. Despite the introduction of noise at such high ISOs, I’ve printed these images at A3 and they look really good.
Focusing on the Milky Way
You need to set your lens to infinity to get the Milky Way in focus. This is difficult to do on a dark night with no moon to provide a focus point for auto-focus to operate. You’re not going to see anything looking through your viewfinder, the camera is blind. If you have an infinity mark on your lens be wary of just setting to that mark. In my experience setting the lens at the infinity mark will not give you the sharpest picture. It should, and I’m not entirely sure why it doesn’t on a lens costing £1500 but there you are. Perhaps someone could explain that one to me. Anyway, what you really need to do is focus on a distant object while it’s still light enough for your auto-focus to operate. Once you’ve focused, switch the lens to manual and leave the focus ring alone.
This is all well and good but if you want to add foreground interest to your image, given a very wide aperture, if your stars are in focus, your foreground will not be. I have experimented with setting the lens at the hyperfocal distance which, according to the depth of field calculators (numerous ones available for smartphones), at f2.8 on a full frame camera, focusing on a point just 0.83m should give you a sharp image from half a meter in front of the camera to infinity. Sounds too good to be true and it is. This method gives you a very sharp foreground and the stars are OK but they will not be as sharp as they could be. The solution is to focus one image at infinity, and another at the hyperfocal distance and merge the images in Photoshop. If you shine a torch at the hyperfocal distance for whatever f-number you’re using (lots of depth of field apps available for smartphone) for foreground, (ideally f/8 or f/11 with a very long exposure), auto-focus will pick up the point. Once you’ve done that however, you’ve lost your infinity focus and no longer have the option to refocus to infinity because it’s dark. My solution has been to take very careful note of where the focus ring is set when auto-focussing on a distant object. I’ve then been able to return the lens to that point when I’m ready to shoot the stars once more. It’s a bit woolly and if your lens doesn’t have a focus distance scale on it, it’s difficult to do. Some trial and error is going to be required to find what works best for you, your camera and your lens.
That’s it, all you need to start capturing pictures of the Milky Way. Once you have your images and are back at home in front of the computer with a nice cup of tea, you’ll need to process them. I use Photoshop to process my images. Regardless of the software you use to process your pictures, the first thing you are likely going to want to adjust is the white (or colour in Photoshop) balance to remove any colour cast. You can then set about increasing contrast to bring out the detail. There are many tools available to help you get the best of your images these include Topaz Labs ‘Adjust’ and one of my favourites, Topaz DeNoise. If you don’t have Photoshop, it’s available as a full working trial via the Adobe website as are Topaz Lab’s plugins. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the processing of these images as there a million and one ways to go about it but the two most important areas to concentrate on are the white/colour balance and contrast and I’ve mentioned.
Have fun. I hope you find this useful.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my friend and fellow blogger Poppy, when I happened to mention what a fabulous moon there was outside. Poppy’s BB piped up in the background with ‘yes, tonight is a super moon‘. Well, that was the start of another Poppy and Chillbrook excellent photography adventure. Two in the morning, out in the wilds of Cornwall and Worcestershire, Poppy and I were exchanging photography and astronomy tips by mobile phone whilst looking at the most amazing night sky. A plan had been hatched that night, via Skype, to photograph the Milky Way and last night the plan came together. Excellent!!
It’s extremely difficult to find a truly dark sky in the UK as the villages, towns and cities are now so numerous and spreading, each filling the sky with the ubiquitous and vile, orange sodium light pollution however, I found a dark patch, using a website called Blue Marble, on the south coast of Cornwall looking out to sea that looked promising. I thought this would be a good place because I assumed there wouldn’t be any orange light pollution out at sea. I was wrong. The large tankers and cargo ships plying the English Channel also favour this particular form of lighting apparently so it seems nowhere is sacred and a dozen or so miles from the nearest town, the orange glow is evident.
However, despite the light pollution, Poppy and I both managed to get some rather interesting pictures. You can see Poppy’s pictures here. We live in a truly wondrous galaxy. How small and insignificant we are..
On the beach at the crack of dawn this morning, it couldn’t have been better. Of all the offices I’ve worked in over the years, the beach surely takes some beating. I took this photograph just as I was packing up. I attached my Lee Big Stopper 10 stop ND filter and took a few long exposures.
More from my Chapel Porth shoot to follow. Click on the image for a sharper, clearer view.. ;-)
24mm f/22 150 sec. ISO-100