Sunday, November 25, 2012

Where the Red Trees Grow

Back again in Westonbirt Arboretum, this will perhaps be my final image to emerge from my trip there a few weekends ago. I stated on Thursday that there would be a change to my blogging pattern, specifically meaning that I would not blog on set days, but will try to keep up the regularity. Therefore as promised, I have posted this picture on my usual Sunday blog. When I blog again I have not decided, but it won't be very long. As I said on Thursday, this new approach is about posting the right picture, at the right time I'm happy with it, and not just because I have to get a photo ready for my set blogging day. When I'm a professional photographer and have more time on my hands, that may change, but whilst I'm juggling my photography course, as well as my full time job, I don't always have the energy and inspiration to blog on my set days.

Enough of that anyway. You may think today's picture is a bit similar to my 'Underneath the Maple Tree', and it is indeed the same tree. I have taken out the immediate foreground interest in this picture though, and gone for a more authentic and artistic 'far east' look to the photo. This is a Japanese Maple tree, one of the highlights to any visit to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, which I thoroughly recommend. It's time for me to go out and shoot some new locations now. With Christmas coming up and hopefully (fingers crossed) some frosty winter weather round the corner, there should be inspiration lying all over the place.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Finding a New Path

Uh oh, with a title like that, it sounds like it's going to be one of those 'announcement' blogs. Well it kind of is, but I don't want to make a big deal about it. As you may know, up until now I have been blogging for most of the year on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Well I'm going to change this slightly now. I'm still going to blog regularly, but not have set days when I blog. I had planned to do this in the new year, but now I figure why wait. The main reason for doing this, is simply that I want to focus more on posting quality pictures on this blog, rather than just filling the weekly quota. I have blogged about this before, but now I really do not want to be restrained by my set days of blogging. Sometimes, I have little inspiration to post a picture on say a Tuesday or a Thursday, but yet have to blog because of my title statement. And this is not good for creativity. I notice most other photographers do not have set days for posting new pictures, and I want it to be that way for me as well.

I don't want this to be misinterpreted as a sign that I'll be blogging less, I fully intend to keep this as a regular blog, but yes it will mean that there are times where I post very frequently, and other times less frequently. Again though, it will all be about posting the pictures when I'm happy and want to post them. Just to prove I do not intend the blogging frequency to become less, I have a photo ready and will blog again on Sunday as usual, so do come back!

Today's photo is taken within the Japanese Maple Tree Area of Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire. Ok so the title is really about my new blogging pattern, but it is of course entirely applicable to this picture as well. It would have been nicer perhaps if we had visited on a drier day, but late October is a great time of year to visit Westonbirt, though next year I reckon I will go a few weeks earlier.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Going Underground

Seems like a long time since I did an 'inner city' shot, so to mix up things a little here on TPWPH (worst abbreviation ever....), I decided to post a picture from back in my D90 days, when travelling round a city taking handheld HDR's was a lot simpler. I can't really walk round taking handheld HDR's with my tank that is the D700 now (too many blurry shots) and to be honest I wouldn't want to, as I'm pretty much attached to the tripod nowadays, which does make your pictures better.

3 bracketed shots, Lightroomed, Photomatixed, Photoshopped, Topazed and finally Nik Colored. I prefer natural looking photos though......What?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dark Days at Lacock Abbey

Another Sunday evening post, as opposed to a morning blog post. Been very busy today, but would not fail to blog on Sunday as standard. It was a very tough choice for a picture to post today. I feel like I am moving on a bit now from the recent batch of Poland and Eastbourne pictures, and now looking for new subjects. I decided to go back a few months to when I visited Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire.

I processed today's picture nearly 4 months and honestly never imagined I would publish it online. It was intended as an artistic experiment really, because I don't believe I have ever (actually I think I have once before) used the 'Burnt Sienna' filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. It is a very unique filter and I imagine would only be used with a very specific type of image. I don't necessarily know what that type is, but nonetheless I took a photo of the front of the abbey, put it through the Burnt Sienna filter, played around with the sliders, and then worked on the picture even more in Lightroom. Having been looking at some of the pictures in my digital collection, my wife and my brother both said they liked this picture, so then I began to get curious what other people may think about it.

It was intended as a rather dark picture (despite the fact it was actually quite bright that day), and while I was processing it, I had the idea of naming it something related to Dante's book (from The Divine Comedy) Inferno. I thought this was unfair however, because A) I have never read Inferno (it's on the reading list) and B) I didn't think it was fair to label a religious building with a connotation of Hell. It has that artistic 'look' that I often try to get from my pictures though, and it has definitely grown on me over the months.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Late Sheep

From enchanting Poland to sheep? Yeah why not! Ok so I am struggling a little with a picture to post today, but can't help but find it a bit fun to combine sheep and HDR. I doubt it will be going in my portfolio section, but hey these guys deserve some 'air time'! I'm worried that if I'm not careful, I'll develop a reputation for pictures involving sunsets and farm animals (such as this picture as well), but how often do you see the 2 in a photograph?

As well as acquire a decent flash, another thing I would like for the new year is to improve my timing for capturing sunsets. I have previously been very guilty at thinking 'well the sun is going down at about 7.30, so I'll make sure I'm there by 7.20', which of course leads to rushing around convincing myself I'm an idiot for missing a great sunset again. This happened when I was in Eastbourne a few weeks ago. Being well away from the cliffs, this was the best opportunity I had for a sunset picture that evening. The sun was going down at such a rapid speed (as it does in the final minute) you could literally watch it move over the horizon. Therefore, I did not have time to set up a tripod, but just fired off some bracketed shots handheld at these sheep while I still had the time. I would file that under the 'if all else fails' section of an HDR tutorial.

Due to that mad rush, it was never the sharpest picture, so I used a couple of filters (such as Glamour Glow) in Nik Color Efex Pro, but still quite happy with the final result.

The new look Halewood Photo

I know I have beaten the drum a little bit over the new look to my website, but just thought I would post a picture of it here, to show you the look in case you hadn't seen it for yourself yet!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Enchanting Part of Poland

Disney title perhaps? Maybe, I was indeed struggling to come up with a title for this picture, especially as the one that kept coming to my mind 'The Land of Krzeszow' had already been used on a previous photo. In the end I couldn't get away from the 'magic kingdom' feel to the picture (maybe that's just me), albeit this being a very real and wonderful place. Yes this is one of my favourite pictures to come out of my recent trip to south west Poland, and an idea I hope of how truly beautiful the landscape and scenery is in this part of the world.

It is has been quite a long time in the making this picture, even the last day or so I have been uploading to my site and then reloading it, because I have made tiny adjustments I think will improve it. I know it can be a dangerous game spending too long processing a picture, but in the end if your heart is telling you it can be improved, then it's best to go with it.

This is a single image taken hand-held from near the top of a hill that overlooks the village of Krzeszow in Poland. I didn't want to have to say it again on this site, but one more time, the wonderful holy building you can see in the picture is the Basilica of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Have I mentioned I got married there recently?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Underneath the Maple Tree

The third part to my Westonbirt Arboretum trilogy, this is more specifically a Japanese Maple tree, one of many they have at the arboretum. As I said on Tuesday, it's anyone's guess what the best time of year to visit the arboretum is, but last weekend was quite a good time to picture these wonderfully coloured maple tress, as there is plenty of colour left on the tress, but a lot on the ground as well. This is one of the rare occasions where I have used the camera's popup flash, which helped give the photo nice foreground details whilst keeping the colours strong in the background. It is on my christmas list (stuff to buy after christmas, not the Father Christmas list) to get a decent flash unit for my camera, as I can see myself taking many more pictures that will benefit from it going forward.

I have mentioned a few times (though can't remember the last time when) I am doing a Photography Institute course at the moment, which is teaching a lot of things I didn't really care to know about before. One of the lessons has been the benefits of shooting in Manual mode, something I can now see myself doing a lot more of, rather than the typical Aperture mode I use for 90% of my shots. I will share  more more in-depth some of my learnings as the weeks go on. makeover

Please head over to to see my new, and may I say more 'professional' look. I know it's easy for photographers to appear that they are being paid by certain photography companies, when they rave about them to death, but if you are interested in setting up a good website, I would recommend the SquareSpace team. I have used them for my site, and continue to find them helpful and equipped with the best tools for photographers on a budget who still want to set up a very professional website.

I'm not one for new year resolutions, but one I think I have vowed to myself, is that I will spend much less time working on websites next year! I seem to lose a weekend or 2 working on them every couple of months, and would now like to invest that time in taking more pictures!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Autumn Way

Trees are in my opinion the hardest subject to introduce HDR techniques to. Even if you are picturing whilst on a tripod, it only takes a minute amount of movement by the branches or leaves of a tree to make the whole post-processing task a (photographic) nightmare. This can be rectified by producing 2 versions of an HDR (as I commonly do), a heavily anti-ghosted version and a non- ghosted version, and then combining the best elements of the 2, which in this case would include the non-moving parts of a tree. That doesn't always work but it helps a lot. Another problem with trees and HDRs though is the patches of bright exposure between the leaves and branches, which can be totally out of sync with the exposure of the bare sky in the rest of the picture. Photographers will probably know what I am talking about here.

Luckily, I did not seem to have many of those problems with today's picture. It was another picture I took from Westonbirt Arboretum at the weekend, and is the kind of picture I wanted to post on Tuesday, but just didn't have the time to do. This tree didn't move at all during the 5 bracketed exposures taken (only 3 were used for the final HDR) and I had very little problems with exposure as well. It is indeed a beautiful tree, though that is about as much information as I have on it. I am no expert on plants, trees, things that don't talk etc, and do not have the patience to go looking on the net for a tree that looks like this, just to know the name of it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Away From it All

Unfortunately, I have very little time to write a blog today and I have had even less time to process many pictures recently. This mini busy period should not last longer than today though, and on Thursday I will have had much more time to work on a few pictures and write a proper blog.

Suffice to say that today's picture was taken at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire where I visited on Sunday. I had planned to visit this place for a long time, though my timing was perhaps not great last weekend. It wasn't raining when we visited, but the heavy rain that had fallen earlier in the day had led to quite a muddy arboretum and being I guess the tail end of Autumn now, a lot of trees were becoming bare. It's still a great place to visit though, with some wonderfully coloured trees and I do have a few pictures I would like to process properly from my trip there. This picture is a bit of minimalist postcard type scene, but one that nonetheless I found interesting when I approached it. It just gave me sense of relaxation in the fall season that I wanted to share.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cuckmere Haven /

Landscape Photography is still probably my most loved genre within photography, but there isn't many I do not like. I'm not a great fan of brushed up studio portraits and I can't see me ever pouring my heart into child or pet photography, but I'd still be willing to give everything a go! I noticed this week that the landscape photographer of the year awards for 2012 were announced, and what a great collection of photographs they were. The winner was a haunting black and white picture taken at Lindisfarne beach, which had superb depth of field to it. My personal favourite was this one, and you can see all the other pictures through that link.

One of my favourite photographers is Charlie Waite and I was delighted to see that he is one of the judges on the panel. His work for me has so much character and that's what I find appealing about all his images. You only have to work at the gallery page (click link) on his website to understand how I am so inspired by his work. Another thing I like, and this is perhaps why I love landscape photography in general, is the picture is what it is, there are no arty farty type messages mixed in or statements, which I have always found off-putting and overrated. There are books you can buy that actually explain to you why a certain photograph is great, even though I reckon 99% of the population see nothing interesting at all. I'd rather appeal to the 99%, not the fickle 1%. And if you have to explain why a photograph is great, then I doubt it's for most people anyway.

Another reason I mentioned Charlie Waite though is that it was through watching him on a TV programme once that led me to want to photograph the scene in today's picture, Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex. I finally had the opportunity to do that a few weeks ago and it is certainly one of the most unique landscapes in the British Isles. The wonderful thing about landscape photography, which includes great landscape such as this, is that it will always be different every time you visit because of the changing time and light, and therefore I see no reason not head back there again.

I wanted to mention my own gallery website today because I have spent the last 2 weeks giving it a bit of a 'service'. It is actually one of the longest running websites I have, though I have never really done much with it. It's hosted by the smugmug guys, which I know are very popular with a lot of photographers but I have tended to have a love/hate relationship with. When I first joined a couple of years ago, I found the functionality very poor, unless you were of course wonderful at entering html and other coding that means jack to me. So it always seemed like a mountain to climb to get a decent website running out of it and many times I did consider cancelling my subscription (had I found that easy to do, I probably would have done it!). But as fate would have it, after appearing on the Liverpool FC website a couple of weeks ago, I had an enquiry from a lady who said she couldn't find anywhere on the web to buy a copy of one of my prints. That made sense because I'd stopped promoting any kind of web-sales site long ago, as I wanted to focus totally on just producing new pictures and seeing where that takes me. I wanted to help as well though, so pointed her to my smugmug site, and indeed like to think I have a very happy customer now.

So then I decided I would try and make something out of this website and am glad I took the effort to do it now. One of the only things that has kept going is the fact that all my photos that appear on this site are hosted from that site. I have a total of 8 galleries there now, the first one of which is simply called 'Blog' where you can find absolutely every picture that has ever appeared on this site. The remaining 7 are taken from my '7 Galleries' that appear on my official website

I am not a shopkeeper or a salesman, but I have totally over-hauled my prices on there, which range from £40 to £300+ for one of the more expensive type print formats. I have seen other peoples smugmug sites and find that they have way too many prices on there, which are simply a minefield for a prospective customer. With that in consideration, there are only 12 separate prices and products on mine, and are all priced in British Sterling (for Queen and country!), though this can be changed in the Buy Photo section.

I have linked it probably one too many times already but if you missed it, here is the link again, I'd love you to have a look!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Red Sky at Night

Returning closer to home now, this church maybe familiar to some people who visit this blog. I posted a previous picture of this church nearly 3 months ago. It is St. Mary's Church in Newbury, only about 5 minutes from where I live. Sometimes I think I shouldn't post a similar picture from the same location, but I think it's ok to have more than 1 picture from the same location and time. It's right that photographers should try different perspectives when photographing a scene, and to be honest I think I prefer this picture than the original one I posted. It gives a wider view of the scene surrounding the church but also covers more of the red clouds than the previous version.

It is a 5 shot HDR, processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop and also in Nik Color Efex Pro, my favourite plugin in Lightroom/Photoshop.