Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tudor England

I like to think that historical pictures are one of my specialities in the photographic and HDR worlds and it certainly is my ambition to use my imagination to present scenes from our past. Opportunities I have had in the past such as attending civil war battle reenactments are certainly a way that I can capture a bit of historical magic and I'm constantly looking for other ideas to present history in photographic form. HDR processing helps enormously as well because for me it has always been the artistic look HDR can give to photos rather than 'capturing the entire light range' that makes HDR so special. It really helps give pictures an extra dimension and although of course I love standard photography, HDR provides more opportunities I feel to create an artistic look.

The location in today's picture is again within the grounds of Hever Castle, with the focus of this one being the Tudor Village that lies behind the castle. Now this part of Hever Castle does not actually date back to the Tudor period (1485 - 1603 for the historian buffs like me) but was created in the 20th century to house extra guests that would be staying at Hever Castle. You're not allowed to walk round it either, nowadays I believe it is specially reserved for weddings and other events. Therefore, I got this picture while stood by the castle, whilst looking towards the Tudor Village. I found it quite intriguing that there was a boy who was in and out of this boat by the village and felt this would look good as part of the picture. I'm sure he works for the castle but luckily was not wearing any kind of uniform that would look out of place in this picture.

Processing wise, this is an HDR picture taken from 3 shots and after a lot of painstaking work, I merged in a texture from a rock that I also pictured from within the grounds of Hever Castle. In the final image I did think about going a bit lighter on the texture but then I lost the authentic historical look of the buildings, which I was not prepared to sacrifice, therefore I kept the strong texture look in.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mickey Mouse has Grown Up a Cow

Ok, so the title comes from a line in David Bowie's classic song Life on Mars? which I don't really understand but if anyone does then please let me know! There's no real hidden meaning of the title on this website, I just couldn't think of anything else to call it.

This was taken last week as I was chasing the sunset all over West Berkshire. I was hoping to come across a stretch of water such as a lake with the sun going down on the horizon but knew I wouldn't really find it. Having driven down so many endless country lanes, I came across an elderly couple watching these cows as the sun dipped down and as I drove past, my intuition said 'that's it!'. I turned the car round and parked somewhere off the road I probably shouldn't have and took quite a few bracketed shots of these cows in the field. Now I didn't use a tripod because it wouldn't stretch to where I wanted it to go anyway. I perched on a fence that quite luckily was right in front of 30mph sign and this gave me stability and a fairly steady hold as I took the shots.

It wasn't the easiest HDR to process because of the contrast in light between the foreground and background but I think the persistence has paid off. Layer masking certainly helped eradicate the movement of the cows between the different bracketed shots.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An English Summer Scene

You probably wouldn't know it but this is another picture from my day spent at Hever Castle last week. I mentioned the other day that as well as the castle, Hever has some spectacular landscape surrounding it and I hope this picture demonstrates that. I was very lucky to visit on a beautiful sunny day (hey, I live in England!) but the weather was my inspiration to go on this particular day. The bright weather made it quite difficult to capture some HDR pictures but it was still a fantastic opportunity to capture some great scenes of the English summer time.

This isn't an HDR photo but a single exposure processed in Lightroom and then Nik Color Efex Pro using the Glamour Glow filter. I wanted it to represent the English countryside in the summer but I dialled back the vibrance of the colours as my original version I felt was a bit too green. So this way I hope to have given it a more artistic look which is the aim of most of my pictures.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hever Castle

Finally something from a new place on this blog! In fact, this photo is a bit of a change in more than just being somewhere new but in actually looking more like a real photograph. I spent all of yesterday's glorious sunshine at Hever Castle in Kent and whilst the sunshine was very welcome, the blanket bright blue sky did not really lend itself to taking HDR pictures. So it was back to my photography roots with the intention of just capturing a single shot fantastic landscape, which for this scene I wouldn't have done any other way. I will perhaps be a bit more creative with this scene in the future, like making it look a bit historical with a filter or texture maybe but with over 500 photos to go through, I'm pretty happy with this for just being back at the computer for a couple of hours.

So this is Hever Castle in Kent, a place I have wanted to visit for a couple of years now. Hever Castle is best known for being the childhood home of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn. She lived here from soon after her birth (circa 1501 believed to be in Norfolk) to around perhaps the time she was made Queen in 1533, with a 6 year gap in the middle (circa 1516-1522) during which she lived in France. She was 1 of 2 of Henry's wives to have been beheaded, the unfortunate victim in a conspiracy to replace her as Queen (almost certainly because she had been unable to provide Henry with a son). As I intend to post many more pictures from around Hever Castle in the near future, I won't go into a complete biography of Anne Boleyn now but naturally she is fondly remembered at Hever.

You can walk round inside Hever Castle, where you will quickly learn it's not really a castle at all but a large country manor house. It can be toured inside in half hour but what really makes Hever special are the gardens and landscape surrounding the castle. There are beautiful statues, fountains, streams, lakes, mazes, really does go on. It's a fantastic place for the photographer and I highly recommend it. It was a fantastic opportunity to try some creative shots within the grounds of Hever Castle and as I said, will post many more of them in the near future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crosstown Wroclaw

So the weather is finally looking like it is starting to turn into dare I suggest sunshine in England and I will hopefully soon have some pictures of glorious summer days and heavenly summer evenings to decorate this blog with. I did go out yesterday evening to take some shots and though I did get a few, I've decided to hold back on the immediate processing and perhaps wait until Thursday to share one. It was mainly as a scouting mission to be honest. As I have recently moved house to the other side of Newbury, I've been looking at locations I haven't seen before to get inspiration from, for when the skies are looking better. I got lost on my run along the canal the other day but it had the positive effect of giving me many ideas for photos when I return with a camera. I would just like to thank though, the people that were having a barbecue at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre on Sunday. Having to run (limp) past the glorious smell of a barbecue that I was not invited to, was not what I needed at the end of a tiring run!

Anyway, to try and get back the international feel (??) to this blog, I decided to post a picture from the Polish city of Wroclaw, which I took last year whilst visiting. I'm getting married in Poland this September in the hard to pronounce village of Krzeszow, which is a good hour or perhaps more from the city of Wroclaw in south west Poland. It is within stunning countryside though and I will post a picture soon of the Basilica we are getting married in, it is an absolutely stunning sight.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oxford Sighs

The second appearance on the website for the Oxford version of the Bridge of Sighs. I was initially quite happy with my first iteration of this bridge (back in January) but it didn't have much impact on this website or any other ones. I started to lose a bit of interest in it as well, despite it actually taking me an age to process! I knew today's picture of the bridge (from a further back perspective) would eventually make it onto this blog, as I believed it had more interesting photographic elements to it.

I also knew that this was likely to be a monochrome HDR. Whereas I liked the colours the picture offered, I felt like I had already done that with my previous picture. Therefore, I wanted a bit more of a gritty, historical look to this version. After a fair bit of processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, I shipped it over to Silver Efex Pro 2 to get the monochrome look I was after. There are many great black and white options in there as you would expect (though I think Lightroom 4 can give you amazing control for your monochrome pictures as well) but I often find myself going towards the sepia/vintage look, as I have applied here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Clock Tower

Not the famous one from Back to the Future unfortunately but the one that marks the end of the high street in Newbury, Berkshire. With the dreary weather we have had in England recently, this is one of only a few shots I have taken. I missed a potentially good shot by about 3 minutes the other day, while I was driving back to my new home in Thatcham. I crossed over one of the bridges that runs over the canal and there was a spectacular sunset sky reflected in the canal along with the silhouettes of the trees. I thought about pulling over right at that moment but suddenly remembered that despite having my camera with me, I didn't have a tripod, which would have been crucial to getting a good HDR. I quickly nipped back to the apartment to pick it up but when I returned a few moments afterwards, the moment had gone.

There are of course many lessons to be learned there but with my half glass full approach, the one that cheers me up in those situations is I think to myself 'It's better to have missed the shot, than not know it existed at all'. At least that way you can capture it another time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Into the Venetian Unknown

It's got to be a very brief blog I'm afraid today. Just one of those busy moments that I can't do a lot about but can hopefully make up for at the end of the week. Without trying to put today's blog down though, this is of course unmistakably Venice. It was one of the hundreds of pictures I took of gondolas in action while I was out there (well what else sums up Venice so perfectly?) and this one is about to go under the spectacular Rialto Bridge. I processed this picture entirely in Lightroom 4. A quick thought I will share on non-HDR processing; I love HDR and am of course one of the people striving to make a name for it in the UK but I always remember basic fundamental photographic principles (if there are any?) as well. For instance, HDR would never work with this photo because the mystery is in the shadow detail to the right. Although of course you can still use shadow detail in HDR pictures, it is more sensible to process pictures like this as single images, rather than reveal too much shadow detail which may spoil the picture.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flowers for Billy

I've been working on a couple of pictures recently with a view to posting them today but none of them have really done it for me. I suppose that's one of the drawbacks of photography, or any artistic venture, that you can spend a long time working on a particular image and in the end you have to resign yourself to saying "it's just not working". I know this is my own fault because I need to get out and shoot more but with the weather looking like it's starting to change in England (and I sure wish I had my camera with me in Hungerford yesterday), I can feel inspiration coming back. I know photography shouldn't be dependent on the weather and I see lots of great indoor HDR shots but as I have said before, I don't try to force inspiration on myself either. I have looked around for things to photograph but unless I get that great 'ah ha' feeling, I don't anticipate a good image just miraculously appearing while searching for it. It's the outside world that really inspires me. Perhaps I shouldn't over think it too much because an image that doesn't work for you might be amazing to someone else but surely art has to be something you yourself are happy with. There are of course pictures that I tend to go off very quickly or that are much less preferred to others but I would never put anything I wasn't completely happy with on this blog or any other platform. Which is why sometimes I post one of my self-professed 'classics' because I would still rather post a picture that I am happy with (but has not appeared on this blog yet) than something just to fill a gap.

So onto today's picture then and I decided to stick in the Liverpudlian rock 'n' roll era. Billy Fury was hitting the big time just before the Beatles were and was perhaps partly successful due to his similarities to Elvis. He went on to have many hits throughout the 60's (though if you asked me to name one, I would be struggling) but sadly died of Rheumatic Fever, which he had first contracted as a child, in 1983. He was 42 years old (as Elvis Presley was when he died). Although perhaps forgotten by the international scene, Billy is still fondly remembered in his native Liverpool and this statue of him can be scene in the Albert Dock area of Liverpool. It is a single exposure, processed entirely in Lightroom 4. The clarity slider in Lightroom 4 is one of the greatest tools in photo processing software. It can make single images have a fantastic (and artistic) detailed look without straying into HDR processing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Beatles Story

Back up north now and amongst all the things Liverpool is famous for; the maritime history, the football etc, the story of the most successful band ever to live is of course way up there. Despite my family's origins being Liverpool, I didn't really start to listen to The Beatles as a fan until about 5 years ago. Of course, I have always loved their songs but as an avid collector of their music, particularly their albums, that took a bit longer to develop. Have you all seen Across The Universe by the way? That has to be one of the most underrated films ever and an absolute must for Beatles fans.

This picture is taken quite obviously outside The Beatles museum in Liverpool, by the Albert Dock. This was the 2nd time I have visited the place but it was the first time for my fiancé, who I was taking there. This is an HDR from 3 different exposures and is 1 of 2 pictures I processed of this scene, but this version was by far the better one.

There is an extra treat today (because I like to go that extra mile sometimes), please take the chance to see more Beatles photos below. These are pictures I took the same day from within the museum.

The Cavern Club

Yellow Submarine

Sgt. Peppers

Yellow Submarine Artwork

John Lennon Tribute

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Belfast City Hall

After my relatively provocative post the other day, I've decided I'm not going to comment on other people's methods on my blog posts anymore. I still stick by what I said but I know as well that what will be will be. If other photographers want to raise their profiles by whatever means, then I shouldn't really judge them but my post was mainly about the divide between success and art and what each individual person is motivated by.

Today's picture is one I took last September while visiting Belfast. Belfast City Hall is probably the most famous building in Belfast and was completed in 1906. There are many statues adorning the building but the most prominent one at the front is of Queen Victoria. It's an HDR from 3 exposures and I also used Topaz Adjust to bring out more details of the hall. I used Lightroom 4 extensively as well, as always.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

For Success or Art?

The New Forest Heathland
It's rare that I decide to gear a blog towards the current photographic industry but this is where my blog today leads to. I should offer discussions like this more often. The thing I've been trying to answer a lot recently, especially with my own work, is do you (anyone) take photographs for art or for success?

Now I have no doubt at all that we all got into photography because we loved the idea of seeing a particular scene and wanting to capture it as perfectly as possible. We thoroughly enjoy it and this is what has led us further and further down the photographic path. However, with all the social media and technology raging in the world these days, I am seriously starting to question whether the love of photography seems to come after the importance of raising one's 'profile'. I'm trying to figure out in myself where I fit into this as well.

Most people will know that I am an optimistic thinker and accept success in all forms. If someone is well known, they are definitely doing something right. What perhaps is bothering me a little now though is the fact that quality in the photographic internet world seems to becoming sacrificed in place of exposure (no pun intended there!).

Of course, quality art is an interesting concept to debate in the modern world itself. And yes I would love to raise my profile as a photographer as well. But the problem I find is the whole 'get your name out there' concept, which is very unnatural and awkward for me. It does go against artistic principles I know to have a blog that promises 3 pictures a week because art itself should never have a quantitive promise or restriction. It should take as absolutely long as it needs to take. One person may have hundreds of poor and unpopular photographs but if there is one picture that they worked on for years and became a masterpiece, whatever they did in the social media world would be irrelevant. Art, and particularly masterpieces, are timeless and not affected by what happens in the social media world. There are great artists who probably do not own a computer but having focused entirely on their craft their whole lives, profile-raising does not become necessary.

So I find myself again questioning whereabouts do I sit on this issue? I guess I have a foot in both camps. I have this blog site which I love working on and I also have a Twitter page which I also enjoy updating now and then. But truthfully, I know it isn't social media that is going to lead to any potential success I have. It's simply how good the photos are that I am taking. This is all there is to it. I would happily trade in never trending on Twitter or becoming part of some Google+ debate if it meant taking years to becoming appreciated as someone who worked hard on his craft. In the meantime, find me some more people on the net with perhaps little 'exposure' (sorry again) but some mind-blowing photography and you will have found yourself a new fan.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


As I promised, here is a 'classic' (self-professed of course) from last year, which I'm sure most people will recognise as the London Eye. It is one of my more important pictures though, as this is one that has sold and is sometimes referred to by people who have seen my work as one of their favourites. I certainly hope it goes to show that you can get good daytime HDR pictures as well, it's just a case of using a bit of creativity and of course covering the necessary range! Perhaps it would have been a bit more accomplished if I had managed to get more of the London Eye in the picture but that wouldn't make it perfect, as towards the bottom of the picture, the wheel is broken up by the entry platform. Photography of course is not about trying to fit every bit of a subject in the picture either, just that people know what you are trying to represent and capture, and in that sense, I wouldn't change anything about this picture.

I did mention the other day about having a lack of new material recently and that has coincided with a lot of thoughts about some gear upgrade, so watch this space! In the meantime, it's my responsibility now to go out and find more potential photographic moments and that I fully intend to do.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Overlooking Newbury

I'm happy to accept the opinion that I'm scraping the barrel now for new photographs because it's quite true. Although being the town I live nearest to, Newbury is in my own opinion perhaps featuring a bit to much on this website. Without going into much detail today, this is an aerial view of the town, pictured from the bridge that connects the Wharf with the new Parkway Shopping Centre. The stretch of water is the Kennet & Avon canal.

I know I need to go out and take more pictures but perhaps just as importantly, I need to go back through all my pictures in Lightroom and find some gems I have perhaps overlooked. I never intend to force myself into going and getting new pictures as quickly as possible, therefore Thursday's picture will be a 'classic' picture from last year. Hope you are all still with me recently though???

I just realised, it's May 1st today. May is always a good time and generally one of my favourite months, so I'm sure good things will come...