Saturday, 14 January 2012

I finally got out of the house (I hate revision!)

I finally managed to get out and shoot a landscape in decent light the other day, jumping at the opportunity to head up to Waldridge Fell, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham (where I live) at dusk. I really underestimated the Fell at first, thinking that because it was only a few minutes in the car from home (and being open/flat) that there weren’t many in the way of photo opportunities. However, I’ve come to realise that this openness is actually a major strength- you get clear views of the landscape at both dawn and dusk. In particular I’m drawn to a small lake (actually it’s more of an over-sized pond!) that makes a great foreground feature no-matter what time you shoot. There is the added compositional element of a lone tree on one bank that can give your images a wonderfully peaceful, solitary feel, especially in low light. It doesn’t look like much when you first see it but it has provided me with what I believe are many successful landscapes. The low foliage around about 70% of the lake means clear, uncluttered photos and great minimalist reflections when the light is right; and on this occasion I was lucky in that it was close to the perfect sunset.
The sky was very clear which was quite disappointing at first since I obviously wanted to avoid including too much of a boring, blank expanse at the top of my pictures, although before long a few attractive clouds drifted in to hold the colour of the setting sun. I remained mostly and the East bank this time, making the most of the sun-burst, shooting directly into it. I tried several different approaches, shooting wide to get in more of the opposite lake-side and then racking in tight on that lone tree, with the sun behind it. I also made a point of shooting a couple of panos, taking images in landscape followed by portrait orientation to see what would work best-since my current workload meant I didn’t know when I’d be out again, I wanted to covered my bases and make sure I got something usable. A image that turned out nicely is the one below, which is actually a pano of 3 portrait-shot pics, extended using PS CS5. The initial stitch turned out a funny shape, but instead of cropping I used CS5’s Content Aware Fill function to fill in the gaps. It needed some retouching not a lot.

Overall I must have taken a good 150 images- enough to keep me happy for a week or two in Photoshop. I was really impressed by the gradation of colours throughout the evening, from deep reds and oranges to subtle blues and purples. I took far more bracketed sequences than is normal for me as I’m presently having a go at improving my HDR skills, although most of the images here are single frames, balanced through the use my trusty Cokin ND grad filters. As it happens I think I need a new ND8- this (my most used grad) has a few too many scratches which light up like a beacon when photographing into the sun; they were a real pain in the &^%! here and I spent far longer than I wanted with the patch and clone tools!
An HDR shot of 7 merged exposures

Simple list this time; I shot all evening on my Canon EOS 7D and EF-S 17-85mm lens, on a Manfrotto 190XproB + 496RC2 head, complete with cable release. Filter-wise I was quite a bit kore stacked than I usually like to be utilizing a Polarizer, ND4 and ND8 grads (although not for long at the same time) and a full ND8 to reduce the ripples in the water.
Let’s just hope that once my upcoming Uni exams are over I’ll get out and about a little, well actually quite a bit more often J
Oh and watch this..!

I love Photoshop (oh sorry Fotoshop) but you have to admit this is funny :)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

So 2011 is over! It was quite an exciting time in terms of photography. As well as the many expected technological advancments in the production of dSLRs we also saw the Compact System Camera (CSC) market spring to life, introducing a whole new exciting option for photographers. When these started showing up I have to admit I was a little sceptical- I've got nothing against small cameras but I was kinda concerned that sector wasn't really going anywhere special i.e. it was just another gimicky bandwagon the camera makers were using to stop people getting bored with their line-ups. However with the recent introduction of models like the Samsung NX200 and in particular the incredible Sony NEX 7 I think I'm converted!

As a Canon user I guess the biggest news for me was the launch of the much andticipated replacement for the EOS 1DS III, the 1DX. I was suprised (like many I imagine) at the spec of this camera, but pleasently so. The techies at Canon finally decided it was time to respond to Nikon's offering of the D3s and produce a camera that was all about low-light performance and less about pixels. What really made me re-read the press release (in AP magazine) was that fact that this camera not only replaces the 1DS but also steps up to relieve the EOS 1D IV. Interesting. Naturally this is all slightly irrelevant to me as there isn't a chance in hell I'm gonna be able to buy myself a 1DX any time soon but it still gave me a buzz to see which direction my company was heading.

Another proud moment for a "Canonian" was to see the EOS 5D II hailed as the best camera of all time in the Amateur Photographer forums. That wasn't what I was expecting either! I had my money on a Leica rangefinder. Even more important to me was that my beloved 7D came in at No. 6- quite an achievment. Buying my 7D had to be the biggest event of my year- truly not even the mightly 1DX could tempt me away from it :)

So as we look into 2012 it's exciting to contemplate what the world of photography will see next!

My photo New Year Resolutions:-

1) Shoot more HDR!
2) Do my best to get more travelling in and find new places to shoot and explore.
3) Shoot more portraits.
4 (and most importantly) Continue to grow and expand as a photogarpher, being clearly focussed on continuing to develop my own style...