Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Red Café

French for the very beginners now, yes I know that Café Rouge is easily translated into Red Café. I thought it was perhaps a bit too obvious to simply call the picture Café Rouge. It is one of my ambitions in life to speak French though. Currently I'm learning Polish as I am marrying a Polish lady in September and getting married there too. But French is a language I've been learning since I was about 11 and can hardly speak a word of it still. It was the country that gave me my passion for photography though and I want to spend a lot more time there in the future.

This picture was taken nowhere near France however. In fact, only about 7 miles away from where I live, in the town mainly famous for Vodafone, Newbury. I like Newbury for it's ambition though, this restaurant is one of the latest venues to open up in the new and modern Parkway shopping centre, a development that has been many years in the making. I took this picture last Sunday evening and was one of the first new pictures I took in over a month. It is an HDR from the standard 3 shots and I'm very pleased how this one turned out. Now where's their number, there's got to be some money to be made here!......

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beautiful Bibury

Over the weekend I finally got round to shooting some new pictures, having been over a month since I last took photos. It wasn't a massive affair, I just walked round my local town of Newbury on Sunday evening looking for any potential sights in the cool spring evening. I think I've got 1 or 2 good ones, the first of which I will probably display on Thursday but for now I post another picture from the spectacular village of Bibury in Gloucestershire.

I posted quite a few shots of Bibury on my old blog website but off the top of my head, I think this is the first one I have posted here. It's one of those villages like Castle Combe in Wiltshire that could be used extensively in period films, as it still has a very authentically historical feel about it. The houses in this picture (Arlington Row) originally date back to the 14th century I believe and there aren't many villages left that have that type of architecture remaining! On a summer's day especially, Bibury is an absolute joy to walk around and of course fantastic for photography as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


As I said on Thursday, today I have chosen to post another of my 'classics'. I know it is perhaps a bit self-indulgent to call them that but I only refer that to some of my pictures which I feel have done particularly well, either on the internet or with the wider public at exhibitions. I don't deny that I do want to get more of my pictures from last year on this website, as people may find it harder to find them elsewhere or may have not seen them before at all. So whereas I'm primarily fully committed to posting new pictures on this blog site, I will continue to post an oldie now and then.

Of all my pictures, I know this picture from the island of Burano in Venice, divides opinion the most. It really is a case of people either love it or hate it. Many younger people and none photographers will often tell me that this is their favourite out of all my pictures, whereas people with artistic or photographic experience tend to be unsure, even sceptical about it. If you have been to Burano, you will know that the houses are genuinely all different colours but people sometimes people suspect I have changed them on this picture, something I would never wish to do. It remains one of my favourite pictures though and of course I am delighted that so many people do enjoy this one.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rock N Roll Tree

Ok, so yes this is perhaps the strangest picture you will ever see on this website. I processed it many, many months ago and was never sure if I would actually display it on any of my websites but finally I've thought what the heck! I took this as I was walking to the Battle Proms event at Highclere Castle last July. I decided not to drive to the event, which meant I had to walk along a road that leads through some wooded area leading up to the castle grounds. It was during this walk that I noticed this tree on the right hand side that had carved into it 'SHADOWS, CLIFF, BEATLES'. I am still puzzled to this day why on earth someone felt the need to carve these names into the tree, unless it was some pot-smoking 60 year old trying to reclaim his youth (on a tree!). I can't possibly believe it has been on there since the 60's but I guess I'll never know! Oh well, as I said I know it's bizarre and I just thought I'd share it with you.

If I'm honest, it's appeared on this blog partly down to my lack of new photos, which I have finally decided to do something about. I have been lacking a bit of inspiration recently but no excuses, I'll be out and about somewhere this weekend, just haven't figured out where yet. I may post another 'classic' this Sunday, as there so many more I want to post on here. Other than that though, should have some new pictures up from Tuesday onwards. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Little Empire

It's taken me a little while but here is my first picture of Windsor Castle. I've said in previous posts that I wasn't overwhelmed with my pictures of the castle itself when I visited there about a month ago but it was always my intention to process this one. This is actually a panoramic shot made up of 2 sets of 2 HDR's. I needed to do a panoramic shot to capture the width of the picture. I know this doesn't really look like a panoramic shot and the truth is I'm not really a big fan of those long and thin panoramic shots you see on photographer's photostreams. I can understand it if you are creating a picture to print it and hang it somewhere but on the internet they just don't look good.

What am I saying with the title My Little Empire? Well, it's really about looking at this part of the castle in isolation. Windsor Castle isn't like Bodiam castle where you can capture a large portion of the castle in a close up shot. Windsor Castle is simply way too big for that. So you end up picturing bits of it here and there. This little tower over looks a mound made up of palm trees (I  know, in England!?!) and other exotic plants. With the pond at the bottom as well, it doesn't really look like it's defending much. This is an HDR as I said and though I did the stitching and tone curve work in Photoshop, the final look owes a lot again to Lightroom 4.

If you are interested in seeing where else I am on the web, here is my little empire:

Facebook Group -
Twitter Page -
Flickr Photostream - Pete Halewood Photostream
Pinterest Page -
Official Website -
Online Gallery -

I am in other places such as Google+ and 500px but I keep a minimum presence on these sites. I do not try to make myself appear everywhere!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Red Coats

With my Downton Abbey weekend last weekend, I've spoken quite a lot about the Battle Proms event I attended at Highclere Castle last July. It was a great event to take a camera to and I did indeed come back with many images I have used on the web from that day. Today's picture is another one to add to that collection, this one being taken fairly early in the afternoon before all the big displays and orchestra had begun. Although this was not a fully fledged battle reenactment like some of my English Civil War pictures, it is still a representation of history. If I remember rightly, it was a display of the English army during the time of the Napoleonic wars.

The red coat was the uniform of the British army for many, many years and actually began with the creation of the new model army of Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1645. Despite the new model army being disbanded in 1660, the red uniform carried on for more than a couple of hundred years and is often seen in Hollywood movies such as Zulu and The Patriot.

I processed this picture months and months ago so I can't remember if I HDRed it but I'm pretty sure I did. I've haven't tried to represent this is a 'moment in time' picture as it's pretty obvious it was taken during the modern day (what with members of the crowd huddled in the picture) but nonetheless I have tried to give it a bit of a historical flavour. As with my 'Timeless Torcello' picture, I blended this with a texture of rock from the Czech Republic, this one having lots of old writing written on it, which I knew I would want to use as a texture one day. Who knows, may even use it again or indeed many times.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Paul's Revisited

I have posted this picture on my previous blog and Flickr before but unlike my 'Holy Murano' picture a little while ago, this isn't just a 'make a couple of tweaks here' job, this is a fully redeveloped, remastered picture. As I said, I first 'published' (in the internet sense) it sometime last year and it got quite a good reception but truthfully I was never satisfied with it myself. There was too much noise and distortion in the sky and it was always my plan to start again with it after that.

So this is my new version. It's much more subtle than the last attempt and less extreme on the saturation as well. I am indeed much happier with it and this is the version I will use from here forward. It is of course the spectacular St. Paul's Cathedral plus Millennium Bridge. It was taken late one summers afternoon in London last year, while I had some time to spend after a training course. I created this iteration by using just 2 bracketed shots for the HDR and I think this helped reduce all the problems I had before with it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Timeless Torcello

A picture almost a year in the making.... Perhaps it is my last picture to ever come out of my trip to Venice in April 2011. It is certainly a picture I have been obsessing about for almost the entire time I have been home from Venice. It is quite a long story but Torcello was one of the places I was keen to visit during my trip to the Venetian Lagoon. I had seen pictures of this place, which by the way is the Church of Santa Fosca, and this became high on my priority list of pictures I wanted to take. The day we visited Torcello was a typically glorious Venetian sunny day and though there were a fair few tourists arriving via the vaperettos, it was also a quiet and peaceful place. This gave me opportunities to take the picture of this beautiful church that I had been imagining, though the story of why the picture took so long to complete began that day as well.

You see if you look at many other pictures of this church (and maybe I will show the original RAW pictures soon to highlight my point) you will notice that there is a church spire behind the top left of this church. It is actually the spire to the cathedral that lies next to this little church (click this link). The day we visited, my old enemy in photography had covered the whole of the spire - scaffolding. I took the usual 3 bracketed shots with the intention of creating an HDR but when I was back home in England, nothing could make me nearly satisfied with the pictures I tried, as the scaffolding was hugely distracting and very ugly. I knew that for the picture to be any good, I had to get rid of it. This was an amazingly tough job, as it was not a simple spot heal / clone stamp job. The tone and colour gradient of the sky was different throughout the whole picture and the church spire complete with scaffolding was too large an object (and connected visually to the church in the picture) to easily displace. My photoshop skills have never been good, so I knew as well that I would just have to wait for a time I could easily remove (without being noticeable) the spire in the background.

Well it wasn't easy, but 3 hours working on this picture last week finally paid off and the blood & sweat that went into this picture, began to produce a result I was very happy with. In the end I blended the picture with a texture of sandstone I took from rocks in the Czech Republic, to give it it's final rustic look. I've called it 'Timeless Torcello' because this church alone dates back 1000 years. The cathedral next to it (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) was founded in 639AD. Torcello is an ancient place and in fact was the first colonised island in the Venetian lagoon. If you ever do visit Venice, I promise you will not regret visiting the very special island of Torcello.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Downton Abbey Part 2

The concluding part to my Downton Abbey weekend, I took this picture the same day as yesterday's one (July 30th 2011). The event I took it at was the Battle Proms event that is held every year at Highclere Castle. Last year was the first time I had attended and it was a spectacular patriotic event, complete with orchestra, fireworks, proms music and my highlight of the event, the flying of the Spitfire. It circled round the castle and graced the sky for a good 10 minutes, something completely awe-inspiring and led me to take this picture (click link). I took today's picture a short while after yesterday's picture, when the sun had appeared. If you are wondering where the fence posts have gone from yesterday's picture, I zapped them out with Photoshop. It's much easier to do things like that when it is a single exposure image like this one, as opposed to yesterday's HDR.

As I said yesterday, this weekend's pictures are really for fans of Downton Abbey and do feel free to use this on blogs and websites. All I ask is that you please link back to this site. I hope you have enjoyed these pictures, this one is a particular favourite of mine and today is the first time I have posted it on any website.

DID YOU KNOW: Highclere Castle is the home of the Earls of Carnarvon. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert, was the financial backer of the expedition to discover Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. He was there when it was discovered with Howard Carter. The Earl never returned from Egypt, dying there in 1923.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Downton Abbey Part 1

As promised, this is a Downton Abbey weekend on this blog for all the fans of the hit TV show. As I have stressed before, I have never watched it myself but I do live a 5 minute drive away from the real downton abbey, which is of course Highclere Castle. This gives me easy access to take pictures of this fabulous country house. I say 'easy access' but that's not strictly true, Highclere Castle is closed to visitors for most of the year and getting close to it at other times is anything but easy. Hence, I have taken landscape shots of the castle before such as this (click for link). The picture you see today was taken while I was at the Battle Proms event last year, which led me to be able to get closer to the castle than ever before. This is an HDR image, made of 3 different exposures.

The landscape shot I linked to in the last paragraph is one of my most popular pictures. It has actually sold quite well in the past and is my second most viewed picture on Flickr. I know this is partly because people have linked to it on Downton Abbey blog sites, which I am most grateful for. That is one of the reasons I wanted to do this Downton Abbey weekend, to give fans of the show a couple of great (and large) views of the building that has once again become culturally significant. Feel free to use this on blogs and websites, the only thing I ask is that you link back to this site. As it suggests from the title, this is part 1 of a double bill (to get a TV pun in there), tomorrow's picture will be a none-HDR shot but one I think is better than this one and that I hope you'll agree. Until tomorrow.....

DID YOU KNOW: The architect of Highclere Castle, Sir Charles Barry, was also the architect of a small group of buildings in London called the Houses of Parliament.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Path of History / Lightroom 4

Adobe Lightroom 4 has just been released and I have got my copy! I've said many times that Lightroom is my favourite photo-processing software and that remains the case. I'm always a bit reluctant when they bring a new version out of something that to me is already good, as they potentially change things they didn't need to. I was happy when I bought Nik Color Efex Pro 4 but there are things I don't like about it that I wished they had just left as they were in Nik Color Efex 3. Suffice to say, Lightroom 4 has not presented anything to me that isn't an improvement. All the new controls are great and they have created functions that work just like a charm. I should mention as well that it is half price at the moment, which means that if you are upgrading from Lightroom 3, it is only about £60 which is more than a good deal. In no particular order, here are my 5 favourite new functions of Lightroom 4:

* Shadows control - They have changed the top exposure sliders in the the develop panel, getting rid of brightness, recovery and fill light (and probably something else I'm forgetting) and created a more streamlined Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. The new shadows function is the best shadow adjuster I have seen on any program. Rather than making changes to the whole picture, it uncannily manages to pick just the shadow area (you'll know what I mean when you play with this bar) and makes the changes simple and effective.

* Remove Chromatic Aberration - CA is a particular enemy of HDR photographers as the HDR process tends to amplify any CA in the picture. I spent many frustrating hours trying to correct CA using the old Lightroom 3 options which were to adjust the CA sliders until you felt it was right (this again inevitably affected the rest of the picture). Now however, there is a simple check box 'Remove Chromatic Aberration', it's brilliantly simple and it works. So easy, just like that, done. I love the person that created that switch.

* Single Colour Tone Curve - As well as using the tone curve to make general colour adjustments (RGB) you can individually select Red, Green or Blue and apply a tone curve for just that colour tone. This is great and gives some fantastic artistic effects to enhance mood. I used this function on the picture above by selecting a tone curve for the colour blue and dropping the shadow areas a bit to give it a more yellow and historic look.

* Clarity - The clarity slider has always been a bit of an insider's trick to make a picture look sharper and now it has been hugely improved. You wouldn't probably whack the slider all the way to the right but even if you did the effects are much less extreme but still effective. Many pictures can now have an abundance of clarity, without the addition of Halos. This will work great for single pictures and HDR's.

* Blurb Booksmart plugin - I used Blurb Booksmart to write my recent book 'West Berkshire in HDR' and now there is the option of creating any book directly in Lightroom. Brilliant.

I have watched many of the excellent Lightroom 4 tutorials on Adobe's Lightroom Youtube page and I cannot recommend them enough. This is something I need to do much more for Photoshop but watch the videos of the new Lightroom 4 and learn how it all works. A couple of hours spent watching the tutorials and your knowledge of Lightroom can more than double.

The Path of History

I chose to post this picture today as I have processed it almost entirely in Lightroom 4. It is a 3 shot HDR and apart from the Blurb plugin, I've used all the improvements listed above and many more to create this picture. It is of Donnington Castle (what's left anyway) in my hometown of Newbury, Berkshire. I did send this over to Photoshop for a bit of noise reduction and sharpening but as I said, this was largely worked in Lightroom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Most Famous Club in the World

Ok so I know I have posted a few old pictures recently but there are 2 reasons for posting this one today. Firstly, it has been absolutely hectic recently and I have not had a lot of time to process a new picture and have it up and ready to go. Secondly, I am very excited about the new look to this blog, that I want to fill it with some of my own 'classics'. I've been trying to tinker with the look and size of the pictures on this blog for quite a while and it all came together on Sunday. Some of you may know that I have had a smugmug site ( for quite a long time but haven't really been able to make much use of it. Well suddenly now it is very useful, as basically the pictures you see on this site are imported from my smugmug site, which has always been one of the best possible ways to view pictures on the net. So now I can make them look great on this website and present them in a much better and bigger size as well. Therefore, there will be some further 'classics' (my opinion I know) to appear in the near future but I will get round to posting new pictures on Thursday. For now I hope you enjoy this HDR picture, I posted this one especially as it is always one of the more popular ones at the exhibitions I have done.

I'm going to do a 'Downton Abbey Special' this weekend, posting one picture of Highclere Castle on the Saturday and another one on the Sunday. I have never watched the show myself but I know that the photos I have produced of the castle have always been well received and sold well, due perhaps to the success of Downton Abbey (which if you didn't know is modelled on Highclere Castle, a famous country manor about 5 minutes from where I live). So the 'Downton Abbey' special will be for all the fans of the show, especially those who have used my Highclere Castle pictures before on their blogs, tumblrs, pinterest sites etc. Every one I have seen has always credited me for the picture so in that sense I don't mind at all.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Holy Murano

Yesterday's exhibition at Newbury Town Hall went very well and I am delighted that so many people came in to have a look and chat to me about the pictures on display. It is always worthwhile for me to do these exhibitions as the main goal for me is to introduce more people to my work and I certainly managed to do that yesterday. There maybe another chance of me appearing in the local paper this week as a result so I will keep you all updated if that materialises. Thanks a million to all those who attended, I can't say how much I appreciated it and to all those who helped out as well (you know who you are!).

Holy Murano

This picture is a bit of an oldie, though I have revised and updated it (which just means I've tweeked it a little). I'm 90% sure this is the church of San Pietro Martire, 1 of 3 churches on the island of Murano in Venice. At one point I thought I had lost this picture on my hard drive forever, as I was quite disorganised in my early days of where and how I stored files but alas I still had a hi-res jpeg version which I could adjust and tweek (sharpen, crop and saturate a colour or 2 here and there) a little.

On a final note, I have changed the style and background of this website slightly, though don't get too used to the background as I will be changing that again soon. One of the things I love about the blogger system, is that it's very quick and easy to make major design upheavals and other changes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Up in the Sky

This Saturday 3rd March I have a small exhibition of my work at the Newbury Town Hall. It will be a smaller affair than the exhibition I had in Hungerford last October but nonetheless it has many advantages, being in a town centre location on what will hopefully be a typically busy Saturday. If you are in the local area, do pop in and have a look at the artwork, it will largely be the same pieces that were on show at the October exhibition, though the prices will be a bit cheaper! To be honest I'm not looking at it as a sales opportunity, just another opportunity for more people to see my work and introduce them to HDR in the UK. If you are interested in popping over please click the link for the address:

Today's picture is one I took last Summer while over in Poland for 2 weeks. It was the night I was staying in a shed by Lake Otumuchow. We found this field quite close to the lake as the sun was going down and despite the field and area itself being quite featureless, the sun and the clouds were quite a sight in the sky which I had to picture. This would have probably come out better if I'd have had a tripod with me but for a handheld shot I think it came out ok. This is an HDR from 2 shots, though for the -2 exposure, I reduced the exposure down by another 2 stops in Lightroom to capture more of the colour in the sky and therefore I created this HDR from 3 images.