Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wilton House

When I launched my 2nd photography blog last year, TheNightBoat.com (the first was the short-lived and appallingly named recordsofday.com), pictures of Wilton House were quite common from me, as I had only just visited there around that time. However, I never processed this picture, a portrait like HDR photo of the front of the house. This is indeed the first time Wilton House has appeared on this blog as well.

It's been so long in fact since I posted a picture of Wilton House, that I can barely remember anything about it! So rather than go into various different internet sources now, I will just say that it is indeed a spectacular country house near Salisbury in Wiltshire, surrounded by some spectacular scenery and gardens. Unlike when I visited Hever Castle a couple of months ago, Wilton House was not visited on a sunny day. In terms of HDR, that's not too bad as clouds can be much more interesting than a plain blue sky.

As I said, this is an HDR from the fairly standard 3 different exposures and processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop and Nik Color Efex Pro 4.

Just a gentle reminder, why not have a look at my new website HalewoodPhoto.com!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

HalewoodPhoto.com Launch

Yes here it is, the announcement I promised last weekend, my brand new official website. Finding a website package for displaying my photography has been as challenging as finding great photo opportunities themselves. Some of you may know that as well as this blog, I do have another photography website petehalewood.com and though I have previously termed that my 'official website', I have now decided that all my efforts will now go into HalewoodPhoto.com, which I feel is the website I've been wanting to create for all these months. I built it using the Squarespace.com service, which I wholeheartedly recommend to other photographers, and though I don't want to turn this into a commercial for them, they have provided all the tools I have wanted to create a photography website. It integrates beautifully with this blog page (something my petehalewood.com site couldn't do) and I am very excited to move forward with my photography with both my new official website and this blog.

So what's unique about this new website? Well, I figure that people come to a photographer's website mainly to look at photo's, so that's what the essence of HalewoodPhoto.com is. On the home page are the 7 galleries that make up the pictures collection. These 7 galleries are all in different sub-genres of photography and reflect my best work in these fields. I will attempt to upload new pictures as often as possible but the essence of these galleries will always be my very best photos. If people like the photos so much they want to purchase them, there is a link to my RedBubble page, though I do need to complete adding all the photos at my RedBubble page at the moment. There is also a Latest page, an About me page and also a page dedicated to videos of my photography. Of course, like any website there is also a Contact page. I have many planned additions for the website, so the website will simply grow from how it is at the moment.

I would really appreciate any feedback and comments regarding my HalewoodPhoto.com site, what you like or indeed don't like. I really would like to hear any good ideas and suggestions people have, so I can therefore implement new features and functions.

All that's left to say is why not take a look at it yourself, at www.halewoodphoto.com! Then leave a comment of what you think about it on this blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Creaky Steps to the Lake

There are many pictures like this on Flickr, the little pier going off into the lake and I was never sure whether to post this picture because of that. Most of the ones you see on Flickr are beautifully straight, wonderfully crafted piers but I was not blessed with one of those in this case. This is in south west Poland, a region I shall shortly be revisiting twice in the next couple of months, the second time of which to get married and though I have my priorities fully in order, it will also give me an opportunity to take D700 abroad and hopefully capture some great landscapes.

I did do a vertical portrait shot of this scene, as so many of these pictures are on Flickr, but I found it much more interesting with the boats and the landscape in. I feel it perhaps does make up for the unspectacular pier. Perhaps if my Photoshop skills were better, I could have straightened out the pier a bit more, but overall I'm happy with it. It was never going to be easy with the risk of making the boats look unbalanced on the water, which would have looked obvious. Anyway, not going to bang a drum about it but I have something new to show on Sunday, so if you have a spare couple of minutes, do come back then!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Leaning Tower of Albert

Now I never assume I will get comments on a particular picture or what those comments will be but in today's case, I truly hope that nobody says to me that this picture isn't straight. It's not me, it's the tower! Not a likely phrase but this is the Albert Clock in Belfast and does indeed have a pronounced lean. The 'Albert' it refers to is Prince Albert, as in Queen Victoria's husband who had recently died, therefore this tower was erected as a tribute to his memory. I had to go quite far back through my RAW files to find a picture I wanted to post today but I'm surprised I never did post a picture of this tower, as it was always my intention once I returned from Belfast last September.

I mentioned on Sunday having a 'major announcement' coming soon and I just want to state that I did not mean that as a shallow PR trick to get people coming back to this site. I'm not good at that stuff anyway and I know how annoying it is when websites go on about a big announcement in the near future, only to find out the announcement was completely underwhelming and of only real value to the person announcing it. So just to clarify and be specific, I will definitely have something to announce this upcoming Sunday, it's not life-changing but hopefully you will enjoy it and it won't cost you anything! I was hoping to have it ready by today but that was optimistic and saying this Sunday gives me plenty of time to finish the preparations.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Highclere Castle

One from the archives today. I'm a little concerned that one day I'm going to post one of these 'classic' shots that has already been posted but hopefully that won't happen. I did just have to check I hadn't posted this one before as I have posted pictures of Highclere Castle already (from my Downton Abbey weekend) but this was my first and most successful picture of the building. I think it is still my second most popular picture on Flickr and this is perhaps a lot to do with Downton Abbey. I think it is a good picture in it's own right though, without all the attention from the Downton Abbey bloggers and I remember being pleased with this as a landscape shot at the time.

I have spoken before about re-processing a picture many months after originally processing it and though I think it can be beneficial, it's not something I will be doing any more of. Unless there are serious flaws with the original or there are techniques you really did not know of at the time, it is unlikely you will improve a picture. I say this because I recently decided I was going to reprocess one of my civil war battle pictures but after spending quite a while on it, realised that it is far away from my original picture and not nearly as good. I trust my original intentions of a picture when I first process it and intend to stick with that original vision now. Today's picture for instance, if I was to change anything, it would be the rather unsubtle vignetting but I accept that for whatever reason, that was how I intended the picture to look at time and what I thought was best then and therefore I'm happy to stick with how I saw it.

It looks like the weather might be turning for the better in England (just in time for the Olympics!) and so I will probably be out and about with my camera more. All that's left to say is I have a major announcement coming soon as well!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Time for a Clean

Now I know very well that one of the last places you would expect to find a photographer looking for inspiration is within a sewage works plant but that is exactly where this picture was taken. It's actually looking into the sewage works (in Thatcham) as I had managed to fit my camera through the fence. Even I would not really want to wander that far into this location because you can smell it from miles away as it is. Sometimes I don't know what draws me to a particular scene such as this one. I used to naively think that photography was about all about capturing beauty in all it's forms and though that certainly is a big motivator for many photographers (including myself), what about capturing something ugly, derelict or even disturbing? That's what motivates many other photographers as well and I think I am quite attracted to the derelict or abandonment of some places. Although I'm not suggesting this cleaning facility (I think it is anyway) at the sewage plant is unused, it hardly looks like it is well looked after either.

I've mentioned before a book that really inspired me with my HDR photography and that is Practical HDR by David Nightingale. Some of the urban and derelict scenes he captured in that book have definitely influenced me with some of my photography and I think that is why I am attracted to capture pictures such as this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bridge 45

Recently, I've been doing a bit of soul searching with this blog, trying to figure it out what is the point of it and where do I want to go with it? Do other photography bloggers feel that? My love for photography has not diminished at all in the recent years that I have 'discovered' my passion for it but I am questioning a little if blogging is the right outlet for my creativity? There are so many different platforms out there for photographers now (which you all know of so I won't list them) and you get an incredible amount of time difference between how often some photographers post pictures compared to others. There are your daily blogs such as the incredibly successful stuckincustoms.com by Trey Ratcliff, to the post-less-frequently approach by Klaus Herrmann (farbspiel-photo.com) and many other artists on Flickr.

With this blog, I promise 3 pictures a week, which is good for me because it keeps me working on this blog and producing new photos. But in an ideal world, I do believe that like Klaus Herrmann, I would simply post pictures when I feel that one is ready. I know of all my recent pictures, that my 'Like a Setting Sun' picture has had a particularly great response on this website and other sites such as Flickr. Maybe this is the only picture I should have posted recently? The problem with promising a quantity of pictures in a certain time (and I'm guessing this must drive Trey Ratcliff nuts sometimes) is that you often find yourself not particularly inspired, but having to post a photo to not fail on your quotient. The artist in me wants not to be forced to put up with my own restrictions and sometimes plea 'Look, I just haven't got a photo today!'. But then I don't want to fail on my promises either and in the end, I'm satisfied with the fact that producing regular photos can only make me better (he says hoping).

So that brings me back to the original point, what do I want to achieve with this blog? Am I happy it being just a bit of fun and a great way to share my love of photography or am I secretly hoping it will achieve much more? Many people like myself find themselves setting up photography blogs once they have been bitten by the photography bug, because it is a fantastic and personal way to get your creativity 'out there'. But do we need to have them? Would it be more satisfying to just upload pictures occasionally, but ones that were your absolute very best work? I'm writing a lot of questions today without knowing the answers myself but that was the point of writing this blog. I thought about writing a blog on Sunday that was going to be titled 'Time for a break' and at one point had made up my mind that I was going to take a little time off and come back when I felt like (in my gut) I had a bucket load of wonderful pictures to post one blog after the next. But as you can tell, I decided to stick with it and focus on new ideas and other avenues I could perhaps think of for my photography. I don't think I really know what I do want from this blog, but at the moment, I kind of like that.

Bridge 45

I took this picture on Sunday while walking along the Kennet & Avon canal in Newbury, whilst the weather had upgraded from absolutely dismal to mediocre. I'm not an expert on canals, canal bridges or canal barges, but I think the 45 obviously means something to people who like to travel along the canal. This is actually a rail bridge that goes over the canal at this point, so that may have some significance. It's an HDR shot taken from 4 exposures (-2 to +1) and was pictured with my latest (artistic) weapon, the D700.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The East End

Just a short blog today, as I am heading out very shortly. This place is far from the East End in London but actually a small place outside the village of East Woodhay in Hampshire. East Woodhay is a neighbouring village to the village I grew up in, Woolton Hill. I chose to venture out here while undertaking the Woolton Hill postcard project because the project remit allowed the option to venture further afield to get good photos of the local area. I wanted to get both a natural and detailed look (especially in the brickwork) of this picture, which meant applying about 4 filters in Nik Color Efex Pro. Additionally, desaturating individual colours and other tweeks were carried out in Lightroom.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Olympic Fever

Oh yes, the Olympic show is coming to town and within a month, London will be swarmed with people from all over the world coming to enjoy the year's biggest sporting event (not counting the Royal Rumble). I personally can't wait to welcome all the different corners of the world to the UK, because you will all have to suffer our dismal weather along with us! Yes finally the world has to endure a UK summer as well! Of course I'm not really being that pessimistic about it, I'm very much looking forward to the games and indeed hope it is a tremendous success. 

On it's merry way to the capital is the Olympic torch itself and yesterday made it's through my neck of the woods, Newbury, and in fact even went passed the offices where I work. So we were all released from our cuffs and allowed to enjoy the Olympic torch passing us for 15 minutes or so. I did not want to waste the opportunity of seeing the Olympic flame, so took my camera along and took a few snaps. I could probably add a few more but don't want to bombard this blog with too many pictures, but still, I hope you enjoy these ones, they are the best of what I got.

An HDR snap for you all

The crowd want to savour the moment as well
Onto London (via many other places first)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Faith

This is another picture taken from my recent postcard project for the village I grew up in, Woolton Hill in North Hampshire. Whether they will use this one or not I have no idea, I have a feeling it's a bit too 'arty' to be appropriate for a postcard but I was quite pleased with the shot nonetheless. I took this outside St. Thomas' Church, the only place of worship in Woolton Hill. There have been quite a few Union Jacks popping up in many places this year, mainly because of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee but this flag was put up more than a week after those events had taken place, which I was a little perplexed about. It wasn't up the week before when I began taken pictures of the village, which was during the jubilee bank holiday. Nothing wrong with having a British flag up of course, was just a bit confused about the timing.

The stone cross it is next to is actually part of the war memorial that stands outside the church, to remember all the men from the village who died during the first world war. While not trying to use that as a tenuous link to talk about TV programmes, I always tell my fiancé she must watch Blackadder Goes Forth, which despite being a comedy programme is perhaps one of the most poignant pieces of television ever made about the first world war. It's most notably remembered for the final scene of the last episode but another part that always gives me goosebumps is the scene where Baldrick reflects on all the people who have been lost during the war and complains 'Why can't we just say no more war, let's just all pack up and go home, why would that be hard, tell me why?'. I know not every war is as simple as that but it always strikes a chord with me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The King Charles Tavern

The great British pub.....A national institution up there with fish & chips in terms of essential British culture. Ok, there are many other things such as the royal family and getting over excited about our sporting potential that also define the British, but pubs are clearly important. I must confess, though I will never be a tee-totaller, I rarely find myself in one of these nowadays. I don't know if it's settling down or being fed up waking up completely unmotivated but I just prefer not to drink these days. I hope I don't sound too boring by those comments, as I said, I would never be a tee-totaller, I enjoy going for a drink like most people, it's just I enjoy it so much more when there's a real reason such as a celebration or people you haven't seen in a long time. I'm not a beer man either, my tipple is anything vodka-based because A) I like drinks with flavour, B) I can pretend I'm James Bond for a short time and C) it helps me get along fantastically well with the Polish when I visit there!

This pub is the King Charles Tavern, commonly known as the KC in Newbury. Tavern is a word used many hundreds of years before the word 'pub' (short for public house for the non-British) was invented. This HDR shot was taken from 4 different exposures and processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop, Topaz Adjust, Viveza 2 and Nik Color Efex Pro, which I now realise was quite a lot of them.

Before I forget, hope you like the new look! More updates to come in the very near future!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Robin Hood's Roundabout

The name will probably be unfamiliar to anyone outside the Newbury area but this is indeed the Robin Hood Roundabout, probably the biggest (certainly the busiest!) roundabout in the Newbury area. You wouldn't think it was that busy looking at this picture but it was taken on a Saturday evening. In the mornings, this place resembles an angry mob of cars trying to make their way past the many traffic lights and confusing lane changes that make up this roundabout. The name 'Robin Hood' comes from a pub that used to be present on one side of the roundabout, though it hasn't been named that for many years now. I think it's a Toby Carvery place now.

The artwork you see on the roundabout by the way is a metal sculpture called 'Couple in Conversation' which has been up for the last 5 years or so. I'm not sure why they stuck it on there, perhaps it was to commemorate something (but if you thought I cared enough to look, well sadly you'd be wrong!).

It is an HDR image taken from 4 different images. The tone-mapping as usual was done in Photomatix, layer-masking, aligning, noise reduction and sharpening was then carried out in Photoshop and lastly the final look including minor tweeks was achieved in Lightroom.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guided by the Light

On Sunday I stated that location was becoming far less important to me with my photography these days than the scene itself, wherever that may be. Now it is partly out of circumstance that I have to think like that, because I have not been abroad this year and probably won't be until later in the summer, but at the same time I am driven by a belief that great photography (which is what I'm aiming for) can be achieved by using a little imagination in your back garden (metaphorically....or not). Today's picture was one I took while out on my lonesome on Saturday evening in Newbury and of course did not plan a shot like this. I stumbled across it while walking around looking for inspiration.

Although the sunburst came out very well in this picture, it was actually the sun beams reflecting off the rail towards the bottom of the picture that gave me the spark to capture the scene. This is the kind of picture that is perfect for HDR because without bringing together all the exposures, there would be a lack of detail and colour in whatever areas you had decided to sacrifice for a normal photograph. I used 5 exposures as I tend to have to with my D700 and processed this one largely in Photoshop for a change (rather than Lightroom), though all final adjustments were made in Lightroom.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Winterbourne Church

Yesterday I had some spare time on my hands, so I decided that as the evening sky was looking quite promising, I would just go out in my car and see what I could find. In fact, a lot of my photography is achieved that way. Yes I do have day trips planned now and then, but by and large a lot of my photography (especially this year) is done by just deciding I will go out and find something to capture.

I took some pictures around central Newbury, which I know I have covered quite a lot but it's not so much the locations I am interested in anymore, rather than the scene I come across at one particular time. I used to think great photography meant travelling far to capture great scenes but I know now that isn't true. I've seen many great pictures that could have been taken absolutely anywhere, such was the scene captured rather than the location. The sky was looking increasingly dramatic, so I decided to venture out of a Newbury a bit to find a great vantage point to capture the setting sun amongst the sky. I stumbled across the village of Winterbourne, which I have only been to once before (great pub restaurant there!). I saw some signs that lead to the church that was a little bit out of the village and felt that might be an interesting place. It was a nice if perhaps not perfect location, so I took the opportunity to take various pictures while around this church and found this picture to be one of the better results.

I have talked quite a bit recently about my new D700 but one thing that is a massive advantage to me with this camera, is being able to keep lots of detail in the picture, without having to add too much noise reduction. On single photos, even in lowlight conditions, the noise is hardly noticeable, but as you add exposures together for an HDR it becomes a little bit noticeable. Tackling this with some noise reduction kit (Topaz Denoise is my preferred choice) does not affect detail of the picture though, barely at all. This was not the case with my D90.