Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Park Central Hotel / End of 2013

The end is nigh. Not in some apocalyptic fashion, but of course I mean the year 2013. I always post the pictures at the beginning of the blog posts, knowing that a lot of people will be only interested in seeing the photograph, and that is absolutely fine. But for others who read what I write as well, I would just like to write about my thoughts going into the new year 2014. Before I do though, I should  quickly say that the picture above was taken in Miami, in the famous art deco street in the South Beach region. Among all my processing, I have tried to give this picture a little vintage look, to match the wonderful car in the foreground.

So 2013 is about to be gone, and to keep with tradition, a new year is about to begin. The reason I want to share my thoughts on this New Year's Eve, is because there seems to be an extra amount of motivational messages/goal-setting exercises, that are spring up in the internet world this year. Now I am very interested in personal development, and am completely for people bettering themselves as time goes on. Some of you may know, I launched a website this year called PhilosophyOne.com, which was all about personal development, and sharing whatever knowledge I had learned about how to achieve success. If you search the internet for this website now however, you won't find it. This is simply because I have reverted it to my HalewoodPhoto.com website, which it initially replaced.

The reason I ultimately think I decided to not proceed any further with my personal development website at the moment, is because I read a book in July that changed my life. That book was 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian Logotherapist (a type of therapy he created), who survived the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz, and others as well. Man's search of meaning is not only a heart-breaking recollection of his experiences in wartime death camps, but also his thoughts on finding meaning in life, and how having meaning in life, is essentially the only way we can live happily. I could probably write a whole essay and more, about my views on this book, and the lessons within. However, I will quote Frankl from his preface of the 1992 edition of his book (he died in 1997).  This little passage has become my basic philosophy for living now:

"Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself."

Having real meaning in life (and these days it is not easy to find as Frankl acknowledges), would replace all the goal-setting exercises and motivational speeches you hear. The kind of meaning that makes you get up with no problems every morning, and helps you look to the future with excitement. Of course, I am not suggesting not listening to motivational speeches, some speakers are extraordinary, and indeed very inspiring, but I would suggest replacing all your goals and new year resolutions, with the simple question - what am I living for? Then ask yourself, are you happy what you are doing, and do you feel that you are doing what you put on this Earth to do? I believe that when you find that meaning, that has perhaps been lacking from life, you suddenly realise that you now have all the motivation and happiness you ever needed to sail through life.

Which brings me back to the point, why did I ditch my personal development website? Well, because I realised that after a lot of soul-searching, having read Viktor Frankl's book, my main enjoyment came from Photography. It is everything I love, and everything I want to do in the future. With the plans I have for my photography (you should hear a lot more about these during 2014), I wake up happy, and am looking to 2014 with nothing but anticipation. You cannot fail when you love the activity you are participating in. Perhaps when I have some more life experience, I will one day come back to the personal development side of things, but whilst I enjoy my photography and am pursuing my dreams within this field, there is nothing else I want to focus on.

Having shared my thoughts, I would like to wish you all a very happy new year, and hope you all enjoy your new year's eve. Without much fanfare, I will be back in 2014...more specifically Thursday.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Puppy Love

Something a bit different for today, Pet photography. I should say 'my pet' photography, as I'm not setting up a Pet photography business. This is mine and my wife's Cockapoo puppy called Chester, who we have had for 2 and a half months now. He has been spoilt rotten over Christmas with gifts, but it's lovely to have my first Christmas with a pet. He is very much apart of our family now.

This was taken over a month ago in Savernake Forest, and though it is not my ambition to make him a regular model for my photographs, there were some scenes in the forest that made themselves for a picture. Like hoisting him up on to this fallen tree trunk. Now as you can see from the original RAW file below, we did not put his safety at risk, he was fully attached to his lead at all times (with wife very close by out of the picture). I have used Photoshop as you probably guessed to erase his lead. If you click on either of the picture, you can then do a comparison using the left and right arrows.

2014 is fast approaching it's end, and that leaves me with one more post for the year, which will appear on New Years Eve.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bridge to St. Paul's

Ahhh Boxing Day (is it called that anywhere other than the UK?), judging by my friends on Facebook, it should be renamed recovery day. Since I barely drink at all these days, I feel pretty good, it's only a pre-christmas stomach bug that's letting me down a bit. For those who are feeling a bit worse for wear, I hope you had a great time, and that you feel better soon! In general, I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas.

As well as Boxing day, it's Thursday, which means I owe you a blog post. Yes it's a little later than usual, I have had a bit of a day on the sofa myself, as we don't get many days like that anymore!

The picture you see was one taken a couple of years ago, when my main camera was a Nikon D90. Sometimes I go back into my photographic archives for inspiration, and come across a photo I want to work on. I often then question why I did nothing about it at the time, but realise that it doesn't really matter. As we grow at our said artistic ability, our inspirations and motivations will always change and develop.

I looked at this picture and knew I wanted to create a black & white image out of it. Although I have black & white photo processing software applications, I nearly always create the black & white image in Lightroom, as I find this does everything I need it to do. The only other feature I thought about adding was a dollop of 'grain' to give a real old photo look, but I preferred the cleaner, modern look. The only other program I used other than Lightroom and Photoshop, was Topaz Adjust, to bring a bit more detail out of the buildings.

This photo has a couple of obvious leading lines towards the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral, and I have seen other photos from the same perspective, but I was happy to capture the hustle and bustle of the bridge as well.

Until Saturday then (my next blog post), keep having a great Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Everyone!

The title says it all really. I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and of course a happy new year. I have not been as active on this blog as I would have liked to have been this year, but as I hope you know, I have changed that. I am back to blogging 3 days a week, and the numbers are in, and they say that my page views are higher than ever! Not quite sure how that happened, but it is indeed a happy thought that so many people seem to visit this blog. I have absolutely no doubts that 2014 will be a bigger year for me in the realm of photography, and as stated many times recently, my love for photography continues to grow and grow. Thank you to all people who regularly visit this blog, and indeed have continued to visit this blog, after a relatively quiet year. I hope to catch up with plenty more of you in the new year. To all other fellow photographers, keep up the great work and never stop learning. Let's keep this ball rolling.

There is perhaps no better setting for a Christmas picture, than back to where it all began (let's not argue about this), in the humble town of Bethlehem. These candles are within the very building that Jesus is believed to have been born (yes ok I'm sure it's changed a bit in a couple of thousand years). It's amazing to look back at 2013 and remember that I visited the holy city of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the same day. These are indeed special places to visit, and I encourage you all (especially the believers) to visit these places. They will stick with you.

So light the candles, put on the Slade, and have a great Christmas with your families. All the best, Pete

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Wonderlands

Saturday evening is here which means it's time for another blog from myself. I don't actually try to aim to post them on Saturday evening, but with things to do on Saturday, it's the first chance I get to post a blog.

As mentioned on Thursday, I have prepared some winter (or festive) pictures below, to celebrate the time of year. I stated that I had no new winter/christmas ones this year, which is true, but I'm quite inspired recently to try some Christmas Bokeh pictures, so might get one of them on this blog before Christmas.

A couple of the pictures below (Gainsborough Stud and red house winter picture) go wayyyyy back. Back as far as 2010 I believe, and though they may have appeared I think on Flickr, I don't believe they have appeared on one of my blogs. Further to that, the picture of Donnington Castle in the snow, I don't think I have posted anywhere at all. The Winchester Cathedral picture and The Winter Church have definitely appeared on here. So my last post before Christmas will be on Christmas Eve, but based on the possibilities of new pictures, I may post an additional blog as well.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Crazy Firestarter from Egypt

There were many crazy sights to see whilst in Egypt earlier this year, but this nights entertainment, was perhaps the craziest. This guy literally put my life at risk. Ok so it was all really a bit of 'fun', being nominated to join him on stage and have him fling fire all around me, but I would be suspicious of any kid who says when they grow up, they want to play with fire.

So after he had nearly singed all my hair off, I nevertheless decided to try get some good action shots, in the low light. This whole evening of 'fun' took place in the desert after some camel-riding, and did have a very authentic Egyptian feel to the show. Which I have tried to incorporate within this picture. I have heard an old saying that says that photographs are more interesting with the people element, which works against me somewhat, as I am not a people photographer. I like landscapes and buildings primarily, but I am always keen to incorporate the human element when it adds to the scene.

This guy clearly goes to the gym more than I have recently, and it was good to do some post-processing based on bringing out the detail and tone of his body, in a style I enjoy, but am not very used to employing. I kept the background within the picture as well, as I thought it added an Egyptian night club feel to it (even though this was outside). The last thing to do was to try and eliminate as much noise as possible (this was taken in low light with a D90), though not too much that would lose the atmosphere, and make it look smooth.

Christmas is literally just round the corner now, and though I don't have any new festive pictures to offer this year, I will use Sunday to post a collection of winter shots, I have previously posted in the past. See you then!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

John Paul II Statue Krakow

Staying in Poland for the third picture in a row, today's photo is back in Krakow, the beautiful and culturally rich city in the south west. As I have written in a previous blog post, Krakow is heavily associated with the former Pope John Paul II, who indeed was Bishop of Krakow for many years before becoming Pope in 1978. He is honoured throughout of the city of Krakow, but I particularly like this memorial outside this mysterious church, which I cannot seem to find anywhere on online. Of course it will teach me to pay attention when I'm visiting, but then I am too busy normally taking pictures.

Fact: I had to wait at least 10 minutes to take this picture, due to a woman standing right in front of the statue, taking pictures on her mobile phone, and literally staring at them for about 2 minutes at a time. I have learned to be patient as a photographer travelling, but this this was a test of the highest order. She must have seen me standing there waiting to take a picture the whole time. Oh well, patience pays off and all that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Lakehouse

Here we go again Saturday night.....I thought about posting a picture of a singer in Oxford, due to the fact it is the UK X Factor final night, but that would perhaps mean losing any credibility I have. Therefore, I have decided to remain within the Polish National Park of Zakopane. I had to check I haven't posted this picture before, but it seems I haven't, so we are good to go.

The trek to get to this lake was about 3 hours of steep but beautiful adventure. It was taken near the spot of my Mountain Hut picture from a few months ago, and likewise is an HDR photo, created from 4 exposures. Topaz Adjust was also used to bring back detail in the mountain side and the lake.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waterfall of Zakopane

Regular viewers (the 3 of you) of this blog may recognise this picture. It's actually a new version of this waterfall pictured in Zakopane, Poland. I posted an HDR version a few months ago, but I much prefer this non-HDR version, that I processed afterwards. It's much cleaner and sharper, and proves I didn't really need to 'HDR' this one. Having said that, I have taken some of the HDR version's elements and blended them into this picture, such as the water in the foreground, that was more brought to life with the HDR features.

Tip: Blending HDR elements into non-HDR pictures (and vice versa) can help give you the best of both worlds.

Back to the regular blogging schedule tomorrow. I have been a day late twice this week, because of metal and fatigue.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Helter Skelter

Catching up from missing my usual Tuesday slot, I unfortunately had 'things' to deal with, mainly evolving around having to leave at midday yesterday, to head to London to see Black Sabbath! Was an amazing gig, but it came at the price of my blog post yesterday (plus of course all the money it cost me).

So I just want to post something quickly today, as I am still short of time, but have to make up for yesterday. I took this picture over 2 years ago at Bournemouth Beach, and originally posted it on my first photographic website TheNightBoat.com. In all honesty, it looked awful and I have always wanted to go back to it, though having done so now, I think I am done with it. I have given it a bit of a mixed HDR/realistic look, but the nature of the raw files (I took this with a D90), and my poor composition skills at the location, mean I think it will never be as I vision it in my head. Still, it's nice to have it done and move on. See you tomorrow (don't judge me if the blog post arrives in the evening)!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Simple Life

Third Saturday in a row and still going strong. It's great fun being back to the regular blogging scene, it is the only way I get blogs done. When there's no structure to posting, it can take ages to make your mind up to post.

This is a simple picture, of a simple way of life. It was taken in Poland, at a village just outside the magnificent city of Wroclaw. I processed this almost entirely in Lightroom, with some minor clone stamping work done in Photoshop (to remove the engine on the boat). Obviously, I have got a little creative with the tone of the picture, but I like the fact that it is predominantly a light shade of green, rather than a green tree, with a blue lake, and brown sand, and so on. It helps gives the picture some coherence, if that makes any sense at all.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend - 18 days until Christmas now, it always creeps up so fast! See you on Tuesday!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who Sees these Interiors?

First of all, the title comes from the opening line of the Manic Street Preachers song 'Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning). That is the only tenuous link, nothing that clever. Interior work is something that doesn't often feature in my photography, and yet is a key area I want to focus on in future. I have always loved how interior shots lend themselves so well to HDR, and the lack of a sky means that the time of the day is not so important.

If there is any photography business I could see myself going into, it would be interior design. This is simply because there are plenty of hotels, bars, local businesses and houses that require good photographic work. The main reason though, would be to bring my own creativity to these buildings, and we all know that HDR in the UK is yet to have created a big impact in the business world, as HDR real estate photography has in the US. The French photographer Serge Ramelli is a particular inspiration here, and has some tutorials on shooting interior design (www.photoserge.com).

The photo above was taken at The Swan Hotel in Bibury about 2 and a half years ago, when my main camera was the Nikon D90. It is an HDR image, taken from 3 exposures, and was taken on a tripod, which is essential for interior design photography. It means that you can shoot at low ISO, and therefore create all the light you need for a particular scene, without having to deal with noise.

You can see the image as it came out of Photomatix below, before my layer-masking and retouching steps in Photoshop and Lightroom. I used Topaz Adjust as well, to bring out more detail, perhaps lost by the layer masking process. If you click on either photo, you can alternate quickly between the 2 in the lightbox, to see the before and after changes a lot better.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Should we have Photographic Principles?

Today's picture is a bigger deal than you probably realise. The reason is because it goes against a photographic principle that I used to have, which was basically that I would never add into a picture anything that was not there previously. In this case, it is the blue sky. But even that I used to frown upon, seeing it as unrepresentative of the scene as it was taken. Now however, I am much more relaxed about it, and start to wonder if you are setting yourself up for failure, by having any photographic principles at all?

It goes back to the question, what is photography, and what is art? Or is there a line at all? Aren't we all just trying to create beautiful pictures for people to enjoy? As I said, I used to not like the idea of blending in a sky that was not originally part of a picture, but what happens when you have a day out in a particular city, hoping to get some iconic shots of particular landmarks, and it is nothing but grey sky above? Or even worse, a blanket, empty, featureless sky? Is there no artistic licence to 'improve' the scene? Can I ask any more questions in this blog post? The perspective that made me change my mind, was this tutorial by Serge Ramelli (well worth a watch). He transforms a wonderful building with a featureless sky, into a much more interesting work of art. Although my favourite version of the picture, was about half way through the video, the point is that adding elements in the post processing stage can simply make a photograph much more interesting.

I still don't think it's wrong to call it photography, as you have to your original photograph in the first place, but I suppose there are people who are always going to say you cheated. Heck, people still think digital post-processing is cheating, but my opinion is that your work will soon become irrelevant, if you are not keeping up with modern developments and techniques. At the end of the day, the idea is to produce an image that people simply love to look at, and therefore nothing is really ever wrong. Of course I agree that competition photographs should be free from heavy enhancement (or whatever the particular rules are), but for art's sake, I do not think it is worth having any deeply-held principle, you are only likely to go against it one day.

The last question I will ask in this blog post, and one you should ask yourselves with your pictures, is does the image enhancement make it a better picture? You can see the original cloudy version (after some processing) below. It's all completely up to one's own preference of course, but I'm not sure a cloudy version of Big Ben, the London Eye, or a London bus would make it onto a souvenir postcard.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Match of the Day

Saturday night has been the time of day for my new blog post for 2 weeks in a row, but when else is a better time to post a picture called Match of the Day? Perhaps only the British audience will understand this, but of course Match of the Day is the national institution TV show, showing all the highlights of the Saturday's football games. It will be a bit lacklustre for me this week though, as my team is playing tomorrow (#grumpyface).

Photography is a wonderful hobby to have, but once people know you have it, it leads to many requests for picturing various local events taking place. This was a cup final that took place in my local town of Newbury in May, and I was asked to capture some pictures of the Canal Bar FC (team in red and gold shirt) in action. Sadly they lost the final, but it gave me an opportunity to practice some sports photography. I am very interested in this field, and would of course love to picture some of the great sporting events, but I think due to the cost involved, it is a field of photography you have to work your way up to (unless of course having a few thousand quid lying around is not an issue). There are lots of local events that take place though, where you can learn to take your first steps in sports photography, before you make it to Wembley!

Even for a local football match, I tried to make this picture come alive, so I used quite a bit of Topaz Clarity, as well as some cross processing (in Color Efex 4), to bring out the details of the pitch, and give it a more attractive shade of green. The Topaz Clarity gave a great boost to the details of the football shirts as well.

Tip: I am no experienced football photographer, but I do know the key to a great action shot is to have the ball as the key focus of the picture. You can see in this picture that the players only have eyes on one thing, and the struggle to get it shows in their faces.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Magic Kingdom of Krakow

Ok, so I may owe a slight debt to Walt Disney for the title, but I'm sure the Disney Magic Kingdom owes (at least some of) it's design to the magnificent churches of central Europe. All over Europe you can of course find magnificent old and new castles and churches, and Poland is no exception. The church above is St. Joseph's Church in the Podgorze district of Krakow, slightly away from the city centre. It was built at the beginning of the 20th Century, and is well regarded as a magnificent work of architecture. We were only passing by on our way into Krakow when I took this picture, so it was captured during standard daylight (there are some wonderful photos taken of this church at dawn/sunset), but I still could not resist firing off some bracketed shots to create an HDR, no matter if it is a fairly touristy shot.

It was nevertheless a difficult picture to process (as these tall churches often are), as it does feel the building has been compacted a little. I could fix this in Lightroom, but then I lost the pathway leading up to the church, which I had specifically allowed for in the composition at the scene. Sacrifices have to be made occasionally I guess, but the HDR work and a bit of Topaz Adjust has given me a result I was hoping for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Beginnings / The Wroclaw River

Saturday was a fairly new beginning for this site. For too long, I had not been giving it the attention it deserved, and my output of photographs this year has been relatively quite small. The odd thing as I said on Saturday is that my passion for photography is as strong as ever. I'm so keen to learn all the techniques I can on youtube videos and webinars, and having upgraded all my software recently to Lightroom 5/ Photoshop CC, I for the first time want to be an expert on these programs. I have been particularly been enjoying videos by Serge Ramelli and Glyn Dewis recently, and I highly recommend their photo tutorials. The photo community is indeed one of the most giving communities in the art world, and it sometimes astonishes me what you can learn for free, if you want to.

You may notice there is a new look to this website, and as well as having reverted back to my 3 days a week blogging, I would also like to state what this photography website is about:

*Regular HDR (and non-HDR) photographs from myself.
*Tips on taking and processing photographs.
*My view on recent topics in the photography world and software.
*Recommendations of great photographers and websites out there.

What it is certainly not:

*A means to slate any other photographers or photography companies (there's too much of that these days).
*A merry-go-round of ideas I say I'm going to do and don't.

Despite constant going back and forth (due to the whole and rather boring watermark issue this year), all my photos on here will be watermark and border free. I copyright my work, so am not worried about people using it for whatever use, unless it is a large clear case of profiting, despite copyright infringement.

I of course thank all the people who keep visiting this website, and I only hope I can make up for my lack of output this year, with my new 3 blogs a week scheme. It seemed a bit too much to blog 3 times a week before, but even if it is low on text, there will be no problem for me to post a picture at least every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Wroclaw River

The river that runs through the Polish city of Wroclaw is the River Oder (pronounced o-dra). This was a handheld HDR (you can just about get away with it in good light) and is taken from 5 separate exposures. As I said, I have been watching a lot of tutorials over the last few months, which has led me to experiment with a lot of non-HDR pictures. I processed this picture over the weekend, to bring myself back into the HDR processing world, which I love so much!

Tip: HDR pictures are always better taken on a tripod. I say that as a guy who hates carrying tripods, and accepts that it is simply not possible to always have one with you. However, though you can get fine handheld HDR's in good light, the slight movements of camera shake can show up when you view the images back on the computer. A set of motion-free sharp images gives you the best chance of producing a wonderfully sharp HDR image.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Bodleian Fortress

Yikes has it really been that long!? I knew I hadn't blogged in a while, but didn't realise it had been nearly a whole month! Well it's a good job I've decided to revert back to an old habit. Oh yes, I will again be blogging 3 times a week, starting today. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (as opposed to previously Sunday), I will post a new photo or topic for discussion. It is the only way I can keep up my blogging habits on here, at a time when I am enjoying photography more than ever.

So having said that, I will keep it brief tonight. Today's photo was taken at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. It was processed entirely in Lightroom, despite the numerous black and white processing programs available for photographers these days. I am currently trialling Topaz BW effects, and am yet to make a decision whether to make the full purchase. Lightroom 5 (as 4 did previously as well) does a great job of black and white processing, and it's often difficult to judge how a stand alone black and white program can go further. What might win it for me with Topaz's program, is the detail slider they have added, to bring out those extra details in a black and white picture.

Tip: The key to black and white processing is contrast. It's too easy when converting a picture to black and white to overlook how boosting the contrast can really bring the picture too life. They can look quite flat otherwise. See you on Tuesday!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Village Life Poland

Another example of 'hyper-realistic' HDR, as I blogged about yesterday. Unlike yesterday's photo though, I did not 'hyper' the sky as well. It's dangerous territory I think to apply a global effect to any post-processing technique (sharpening being another example), but of course there are pictures it will work for.

This is from a village just outside Wroclaw in Poland. My wife does not actually like me taking pictures such as this of her home country, as she thinks it represents Poland in a way (she thinks) most people think of, which is under-developed and poor. Having been several times, I can promise you it is not like that, but in fact I love these old rustic buildings, that are so hard to find in England. They lend themselves so well to HDR, as there is so much detail to capture. Therefore, another good candidate for a hyper-realistic (must stop using that word) look.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hyper-Realistic HDR

Creating 'hyper-realistic' HDR photographs has not really been a forte of mine. Hyper-realistic means going beyond creating a realistic photograph (HDR or otherwise), and taking it into something perhaps a bit more extra dimensional. Critics tend to cause this style 'over-cooked', meaning they have taken the HDR too far. This criticism is completely justified in many cases, but I think the hyper-realistic look is one of the key looks of HDR pictures, and encourages many photographers to give it a try.

I have tended to go for a look that uses HDR techniques, but still tries to give the photo a realistic look, and not providing an image that was an unrealistic representation of the scene. However, I have tried my hand at more hyper-realistic techniques recently, to give a particular scene more edge, and yes something beyond reality. In another sense, going for a bit more detail in architectural pictures. It is important to note that the hyper-realistic look is not suitable for all HDR scenes, and I will certainly stick to my usual HDR techniques for landscape scenes, away from an urban environment.

This picture was taken on the Oxford photo walk recently, and the idea as stated above, was to give it a look perhaps beyond reality (even though of course all the details were there when I took the picture). 

I hope you like it, but in any case, let me know what your thoughts are on 'hyper-realistic' HDRs.

Friday, October 25, 2013


This is undoubtedly a party I am arriving very late to, perhaps even to the point where all the other guests are leaving. However, having finally acquired an iPhone in the last month, I have added a new tool to my photographic repertoire - mobile phone photography.

When I was lured (completely willingly) into photography 3 and a half years ago, mobile phone photography was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to get the best possible images I could, meaning expensive cameras and editing software. I had been noticing though, the advances that were being made on the photo apps market, and whilst not willing to buy a phone just to have a go, now that I own an iphone, I have waded into the thick of iphoneography.

I have 3 camera apps for my iPhone - 1) Snapseed - The best, the king, the one I could not do without. It was created by Nik Software (now owned by Google), which is basically all you need to know with regards to credibility. 2) Mextures - A relatively new app I believe, based primarily on adding textures to your iphone photos. It's pretty good but only gets used occasionally in conjunction with Snapseed. 3) Camera+ - I used this app once after downloading it. I don't like it, never use it, and have no further intentions with it.

It's important to get straight, that though an iphone can take great pictures, it is not a patch on any DSLR camera (which of course it is not intended to be). I will always continue to take out my D700 for  the very best quality. What an iPhone can do though, is provide great images, whilst being a constant companion, being right there in your pocket. There has been more than 1 occasion recently (look at the black and white bridge image above for example), where I have thought 'what a shame I don't have a camera on me', only to then remember, I have a pretty good camera in my pocket.

The other good thing about iphone photos, is that once edited, they are easy to upload to Twitter, Facebook, or any other platform you wish to share them on.

Hope you like the selection of photos above and below, plenty more iphoneography to come!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Meat Specialists

I had planned to blog some pictures from the Oxford Photo Walk (part of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk) sooner, but there has been a new addition to mine and my wife's household; a little Cockapoo Puppy called Chester. We bought the little fella a week ago, and he has given me a very exhausting week. I have never had a dog before, so this is all a new experience for me, but am thoroughly enjoying being a dog owner. Naturally, everyone who meets him falls in love with him, so we can't wait until we can take him out walking in the big wide world (in less than 2 weeks after his 2nd vaccinations).

Back to the Oxford Photo Walk though, and this easily qualifies as my first photo walk with a large group of people. It was led by Glyn Dewis, and he organised a fantastic walk and event in general, and though it is perhaps a cliché, I can honestly say I met a great bunch of people. Meeting other keen amateur photographers, plus the opportunity to visit sights in Oxford I would not have thought of myself, made the day very worthwhile. Looking forward to going on more!

One part of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk are the competitions, and though I am not really motivated by these things, I decided to enter the picture above nonetheless (taken in the Covered Market in Oxford). Whether it is the best picture I took on the day, I don't know, but it is one of the few HDR's I took that day, and ultimately, that's what I do.

Sticking my neck out a bit now, but I have so many photos to post that are fully developed, that I do anticipate being much more active on this blog from now until the end of the year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Should the Krakow Bubble Burst

Been too long again since my last photograph, but hoping to post a few times this week in anticipation of the Worldwide PhotoWalk next weekend, of which I shall be participating in from the city of Oxford, led by Glyn Dewis.

There is no tedious link I can state from Oxford to Krakow, but never mind, here is a photo I tried hard to get while I was in Krakow last month. The city square is indeed a beautiful place, and amongst the many musicians and artists to be enjoyed, there were a couple of people blowing these enormous bubbles, which inevitably led to many children chasing after them to put them out. I was chasing after them too, but that was so I could capture a picture like this, with the city in the backdrop to a picture of these great bubbles.

This was created from a single RAW image, and indeed I put quite a lot of work into retaining the colour and detail of the bubble, without going too far.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Wroclaw Saxophonist

Taking a mini break from the southern most part of Poland (and HDR processing) to the south-western city of Wroclaw. It was near this city that I was based for most of the recent 2 weeks I was in Poland, as it is the nearest city to my Wife's family in Poland.

I have visited Wroclaw several times now and thoroughly enjoy it each time. I have written about it plenty of times on my photographic blogs, but it always springs up new sights for me to photograph.

This wonderful scene presented itself as we were walking towards the Wroclaw Cathedral, a saxophonist playing his heart out to the numerous tourists visiting Wroclaw. It was a great place to ply his trade, against the back drop of the cathedral, and it was only right that I gave him some (well deserved) money, for the opportunity to take some pictures.

I always envisioned this picture as a sepia/black & white image, as I feel it gives an authentic and historical feel to it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Going back to the theme of mountain climbing from one of my previous blogs 'The Mountain Hut', today's picture was taken on the same day, not too long after that picture. I had already been and walked around these lakes and by this time I was heading for the next lake, some 2 hours walk away.

As I spoke about in that previous blog, the visibility was not great when we got to these lakes, so high up in the mountains, but there were moments when it just drifted off (or drifted 'around' would be more appropriate) and gave glimpses of the magnificence of the surrounding landscape. I had no time to set up a tripod for this shot, so this is a hand held HDR taken from 4 exposures.

I may try this as a non-HDR as well, as 1 or 2 of the shots were able to capture the dynamic range of the scene within the exposure, but I wanted to make an HDR out of this first and foremost, to bring out the texture of the clouds. Plus of course I always like that arty look, that HDR brings.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Old Krakow Town

Having visited Zakopane at the very edge of southern Poland, I was also given the opportunity to visit one of Poland's most famous cities, Krakow. Krakow is indeed a stunning city and was once the capital of Poland (up until the 16th Century). With so much culture and history there, it is also a wonderful place to capture some photographs.

This part of Krakow is what the locals call 'Stary Miasto' which literally translates as Old Town. Krakow has many historic churches but aside from them, the Old Town is the place to find some authentic architecture. The second building on the left (the yellow one) was the home of Karol Wojtyła later known as Pope John Paul II, between the years of 1951 and 1967.

On a photographic note, I deliberately did not 'de-ghost' the crowd outside the the Pope's home, because I felt like it lost its 'feel', it just became to static an image. Therefore, to give the impression of movement and life, I left the slight ghost movements within the picture.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mountain Hut

The 2nd offering from my trip to Poland and today's picture remains in Zakopane. I am by no means a mountain climber, but as you climb these high mountains there is a feeling you get which asks yourself if it will be worth it when you reach the top? This was taken on my first day in Zakopane and generally the weather was ok, but as we got near to the top of our planned destination, the visibility got less and less.

Having dodged Brown Bears, Wolves and Lynx's, we got to these lakes we wanted to see near the top of the mountains in this region, to see nothing much but the clouds right in front of us. However, rather magically, the mist began to clear after a short while at the top and suddenly we could see many spectacular sights all around us. One of my favourite 'revelations' was this little mountain hut, which I'm not sure what purpose it had (there was a visitor cafe hut just a little further away). It gave me all those wonderful mountain images in my mind though and was an obvious choice for an HDR photo.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Zakopane - A Photographer's Dream

There are not many places that can be called 'a photographer's dream'. Certainly Paris and Venice would be obvious examples, but normally the photographer has to work hard in any location to produce a worthwhile result. Certain locations though, give you plenty of 'raw material' to help you produce those great shots.

Zakopane is a well known beauty spot in southern Poland, and I was very lucky to get an opportunity to visit this special place, having spent the last 2 weeks in Poland. I have been interested in photographing Zakopane (officially called the 'Tatra National Park') since I watched a video of Charlie Waite, one of my favourite photographers teaching a class of Polish photographers. Here is a link to that video. In particular, after watching his video, I wanted to get close to the fast flowing streams that flow down the mountains of Zakopane, of which the picture above is the result.

It is an HDR taken from 3 images, and luckily I had the 'blurred stream' effect on all 3 RAW images. This was achieved by shooting at F/22 and ISO 100, but was helped by the misty and cloudy weather, keeping the light level low.

I returned from Poland very early this morning and have had my most enjoyable and (I believe) rewarding photographic trip of the year. Lots of photos to come...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

South Beach, Miami

Just wanted to do a quick blog post today. The pictures above and below were taken from my trip to Miami in June. There are still quite a few pictures I have taken this year that I haven't posted yet, but posting (almost) daily on Facebook has helped me go forth and just publish pictures, I may have overlooked for this blog.

These picture as you can tell don't really look like photographs or HDR's, and that I would accept. Miami is of course so wonderfully unique and has a culture all of it's own (as most cities do right?), that I was inspired to create more 'arty' pieces out of these, rather than straight photos (plus it helped eliminate the heavy noise on the picture below!). This was largely achieved in Topaz Clean.

The first picture was taken outside the Art Deco centre along South Beach. The 2nd picture was taken in the Delano Club, which was once owned/part owned by Madonna. Not the cheapest club I have ever been in ($500 a table) but then I was with work, so all costs covered!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Time to Go Hard or Go Home

Perhaps it is a little lame to reference a Black Eyed Peas song on this blog, but that sentiment matches how I feel. After a few months of indecision and uncertainty, I have a new plan with my photography to keep me busy and focused.

After only a few posts, I have decided to revert from my decision to use borders. It may seem to make my words a few weeks ago a little hollow, but after using the borders a few times now, I just don't think I like it as much as the pictures without the distractions, such as borders and watermarks. Having blogged recently about my experience of having my work copied and uncredited to myself, I know this new direction of the borderless pictures again opens me up to internet image theft, but I've decided I'm prepared to take that risk now.

The only thing I ever needed was a copyright to put with the pictures. Most top photographers have this, and it ensures that you can blog and post your pictures away, knowing that if anyone was to make any commercial gain from your pictures, you can take action. I am  now registering all my photographs with the UK copyright service. This makes me much more secure about posting them online. Yes some people will still claim pictures as their own, but they could not gain much from it, as eventually they would be found out. I do not say this out of anger, it gives me a great sense of freedom now to post pictures without worrying what someone else might be doing with them.

More importantly though, I need to have a direction to take my photography in general, and as I said in my blog 'Coming Back to what I Know' the focus will continue to be HDR photography. It is simply the type of photography I enjoy creating and I want to find my way into some of the most amazing places in the UK and abroad, to fulfil my love of HDR photography. It's not lost on me that my output this year has in general been quite low, and I'm trying to ask myself why as well.

One of the reasons I think is because posting pictures online seems to be such hard work. There seems like a new social media website to become apart of every week and it is demotivating to decide which images to post on which side, and to follow that up with all the writing that goes with it. I have written on Twitter recently how I dislike the new looks to both Flickr and Google+ and I stick by that. I never had that much of a problem with Flickr in the first place (contrary to popular opinion) but now I find the changes unfocused and an eyesore. There is simply too much going on now when you view Flickr or Google+ and I have no desire to post on these sites.

Therefore, it may surprise you to learn that I am going to focus now on Facebook, where my following is only currently 44 people. The reason I want to focus on Facebook now though, is because the image quality of the photos you present online has vast improved and of course on Facebook is where you will find not only the biggest social media audience, but also my intended audience, non-photographers. I say that because although of course I love discussing photography with my photography friends, I love the reaction non-photographers have to new digital art forms such as HDR, they just really seem to love it. And of course you don't get the cynical anti-HDR attitudes as you do on specialist photography sites.

I have decided for the time being that I am going to post a daily photo everyday on Facebook. Now most of these will have been pictures I have already posted over the last 3 years, but again, the aim is to keep me busy in the photographic media world while also working on new images. If you want to visit my Facebook Photography click the link HERE. You will find another new picture there today!

I will continue with Twitter, and occasionally Google+, simply because despite my grievances, it seems that it is continuing to grow in popularity. I have finished with Flickr though and other social media sites.

So the final part is my own websites......where does that leave them? I have been searching for the answer to a great photographic website this year and continue to be unsure. You may know that as well as this blog, I have 2 photographic websites, HalewoodPhoto and HalewoodPhotographic. With money tight these days, I find now that I cannot afford to keep both, so have to pick a website to go with. I love the functionality I have with HalewoodPhoto (built using SquareSpace), and though I have stated this as my official site for a long time now, there is a reason I am verging to switch focus to HalewoodPhotographic, and that is simply image quality. On the smugmug based HalewoodPhotographic site, the images simply look better then on any other platform you can find on the internet. Now don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of how to create a website using smugmug and it is this difficulty for non-IT literate people that has kept me from focusing on it. But again, the quality of the images speak for themselves, and I am going to try and push through my difficulties with smugmug and make a permanent home out of HalewoodPhotographic. Watch this space anyway, the final decision is still to be made.

That leaves this blog. After thinking about abandoning it, I have decided this will remain my blogging home for now. I won't be posting here everyday like on facebook, but I will post new blogs on here for discussions and new pictures.

The picture below is an HDR picture I took at West Woodhay House in Berkshire (I think) recently. Last weekend it was the West Woodhay House Garden Show, and though I do not know much about the history of the house, I knew it would be a good opportunity to venture down there with my wife and take some pictures of the wonderful landscape there.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer by the River

Well it couldn't last really could it? We had a fairly nice spell of weather in England recently (and hey I'm an optimist but I don't think it was quite as nice as everyone makes out, still I don't complain) and sure enough just as we thought we may get a summer this year, it leaves us again. Enough of the cynicism anyway, I'm sure there is plenty of nice weather to come.

It's one of my missions this summer to capture the British countryside in the summer weather, and while that may seem ambitious, I am a sucker for a photograph of a beautiful sunny day. Such as this scene I pictured recently within the grounds of the Newbury Manor Hotel. The river that runs through it is the River Kennet, and a drink to be had alongside this river on a sunny day is not to be missed.

This is a 5 shot HDR picture, crafted in the fairly typical, Lightroom, Photomatox, Photosho process, though like most of my pictures have these days, there is a subtle touch of Topaz Adjust in there as well.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Away From the Rainbow

This may seem like a pretty obvious and easy picture, and being as I walked about 10 steps out the front door, it's not an unfair thing to assume. But rainbows are fleeting things, and knowing this probably would have gone in 2 minutes, I was not going to jump in my car and try to find a more inspiring landscape. I just wanted a picture of that rainbow!

I do need to get out more though. Not been out much taking pictures, not through lack of motivation, just need the time to find a new inspiring location. I want take lots of pictures of the British countryside over the summer time, give them the HDR/arty look, and see how good they are. I have other plans as well, but hopefully you will see some of that soon...

This is an HDR picture taken from 4 different exposures, and layer masked using the original RAW files, hence the car is not ghosted (people often ask me how it is possible to have an HDR picture with moving cars and such, and it's really not that hard). Some more new pictures coming soon.....

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to add an Artistic Frame to your Digital Photos!

You can see from my last blogpost that I have gone in a different direction regarding posting my images online and I'd like to thank everyone here for the comments and responses contributed. Believe me, I do understand and realise that there is no foolproof way of protecting your images, but this is a way of turning the whole thing into a positive. It's about presentation as well, not just about putting my name on it.

So as promised, here are my steps to making a photo frame such as the one used in the photograph above. In fact, this is a step-by-step guide to making that exact photo frame. At this point I will state that of course all colours, fonts, styles, dimensions etc are entirely up to you, but this is how I do it. And as I have no right to call this photo frame my own, feel free to use it! I should also state that as you may know, I am by no means an expert in Photoshop, and am absolutely sure there are quicker ways of doing this. If there is a step you believe I can compact, please let me know!:

Pre-Step: Make sure all your regular photo processing is done. I do not do any further processing after creating the frame around the picture.

Step 1: With your finished photo, select Layer / New Fill Layer / Solid Color. Call the layer what you want and select any colour you want (it's not important here). Also make sure Mode is normal and Opacity 100%. In the Colour Picker box that pops up, take the cursor to the very top left corner until it is bright white and press OK. So now you have a new layer that is completely white.

Step 2: Make sure you swap the layers, so that your new fill layer is at the bottom and your photograph the top layer.

Step 3: Select Image / Canvas Size. Set your width as 4cm and the height as 7cm. Make sure Relative is ticked and then click OK. Your frame appears!

Step 4: Select Edit / Stroke. Set your width as 10px and the colour Grey. Also select Location as Outside, Blending Mode Normal and the Opacity as 100%. Click OK and the inside Grey frame appears.

Step 5: Select Text (the big T in the square box). As you can see, I use a medium/dark grey for the colour of my text. Select the font Trajan Pro at 24pt and write your title in the middle of the frame below the picture. Select Text again and select the font as Savoye LET 24pt. If you fancy 'signing' the frame, write this text below the title.

Your frame is now complete!

Optional Step 6: If you use a white frame like me, you may want to add a thin black border around it, so it stands out on websites that have white backgrounds such as Flickr (and this blog).

Merge your layers together and then select Filter / Nik Software / Color Efex Pro 4 (assuming you have it!). Select the Image borders filter and then use Type 13 / Spread -10% / Size -96%. Make sure Clean slider is fully to the left. Now click OK and this will take you back to Photoshop. Save your image and upload it to your audience online! (Please note, again I state I'm sure there is a way to complete this optional step without going into Nik Software, so am open to tips!)

See you all next time!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coming Back to What I Know

It's been over a month since I have blogged on this website, and though I knew it had been a while, I didn't realise it had been that long! Quite a lot has happened over the last month, and while I can say there are work and personal reasons that have kept me very busy and are true, I think a lot of the reason I have been kept from blogging on this website, is perhaps a little disillusionment recently with photography.

First of all, I think I have been very confused about where I want to go with it. I had aspirations at the beginning of the year to turn photography into a profitable business, and begin doing wedding photography and other commercial avenues, but I'm not sure I have the heart or desire for it now. The key problem I have with going in that direction is that although it would be doing something for a living I love, it would still be that four letter word 'work'. I love creating artistic images and whilst working in photography would still give me opportunity to do that, I am not sure I could maintain my passion for all things photography, whilst meeting deadlines and processing dozens of commercial shots that perhaps don't inspire me. I don't want to burn my bridges here, it's still something I may go into, but perhaps I am still waiting for a different path to inspire me business wise.

At the same time I have been continuing with my online photography course, and though I do recognise the benefit it has given me as a photographer, I again am feeling a little uninspired by it now. The projects keep coming forward that I am not so interested in, and it has affected my desire to complete it. Now don't get me wrong, I will complete it, I am just saying that it too is starting to feel like work rather than enjoying my photography. I have learnt that perhaps the only photography I will ever love is the type where I am inspired to go out, get the pictures and see if I can turn them into digital work that I am proud of. This is why I think that amongst all my soul-searching, I am going to focus on creating HDR pictures more than ever, because I think this is simply the photography I most enjoy doing.

One of the big reasons I have become disillusioned with photography though, is an event that recently took place that has bothered me way more than it should. Without a doubt my most successful picture I have created is my 'Justice for the 96 picture' below. I was incredibly excited at the time I took this picture, knowing it was a unique event and that I was perhaps 'in the right place, at the right time', and spent a long time crafting it when back on the computer, to get an HDR picture that captured the atmosphere and beauty of the event.

My fellow photography blogger Tim Pursall and a couple of other people on Facebook, alerted me to the fact on April 15th (the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy) there seemed to be a version of my work that was doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, that was a black and white version of my photograph, that I had not created. This version you can see here below:

My brother quickly found who had created this version and emailed him for a response, but as I understand, has never had a response. I have followed this guy's work and can see that he is a graphic design student that takes other people's photos, puts a graphic over them and then claims them as his own work. I'm not saying I don't like what he did with my picture, but what has got to me, is the idea in my opinion, of doing very little work to it, and then putting his name on the picture as if he created the whole work. It is about lack of credibility that I dislike. I have no intention to profit from this picture, and would have had no problems had he contacted me to use it before creating his version of it. He obviously chose not to do this though, and again then claimed the work as his own. Even a simple 'Photograph by Pete Halewood / Design by such and such' would have been ok with me.

I know it perhaps sounds modest to demand recognition for one's own work, but I would stick up for any photographer whose work is being copied, and not receiving the credit they deserve. The time and inspiration photographers put into their work should be duly recognised, and though this is very often not in terms of a financial amount, they should be recognised as the artist and creator of the work, that is the very least recognition deserved.

What went on to bother me more is the extent to which his version (and which he has bragged about) has been copied onto T-shirts and used as the front cover on a fanzine.

Again, I have no wish to benefit economically from this photograph, but I don't like that none of these items bear any reference to the original work I created, and dare I say it, the fanzine is profiting from it. I know too well that in this internet age, it is impossible to get your work out there and not have people copy it and claim it for their own. I have seen it happen so many times, and it indeed is nothing new even in the midst of history. It is in fact a situation that has been paralleled with the sowing of seeds on a farm, i.e. the birds will get some. But what happens when you go chasing birds? You leave the field. I am surprised to the extent that some well established photographers have chased 'small birds' who may have used their work for some purpose, but at least now I understand the annoyance behind it. I have not gone demanding an answer from this individual myself, I really don't want to spend my energy on it. Yes the lack of credit has bothered me, but I can only think about what should I do about it from now.

I also read an online article recently (Here is the link) that said that the government are planning on bringing legislation in, that means that anybody on the net can use any photograph they find for commercial purposes, if credit for the picture is not made clear with the photograph. The article is called 'Is the UK government trying to kill off photographers?' by Edmond Terakopian. Now I do not know the exact facts or truth behind the story, but I see no reason to disbelieve it. As shown earlier, it is a terrible time for photographers to get recognition for their own work. And saying 'where there is no credit' is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I used to naively think that if I filled out all that meta data detail on my photograph, then it would be built into the picture forever, like someone walking round with a microchip inside them. WRONG! It is easy for others to strip a picture of it's meta data, and again only takes a second for somebody to copy a picture, strip you of all credit and leave the picture with no credit, or a credit to themselves. I try not let this stuff bother me, but as the title of the article suggests, it seems that nobody is on our side these days, and could not care whether you benefit from your work or not.

So yes I have become a bit disillusioned recently with the photography scene, but I am now fighting back! I don't mean in an angry way, I would much rather create pictures then fight the world for the recognition of them, but still it is simply a fact I have come to realise that the whole thing about putting pictures on the net with no watermark or frame, is making it ridiculously easy for someone to take credit for your work. I have spoken about putting watermarks and frames on photographs before, but now I have had a change of heart. Whilst I have experimented with watermarks recently, I still cannot bring myself to cover any part of the photograph with a name or logo. I'm not going to argue why, it just doesn't work for me. However, I have decided that all the pictures I create and display on the web now, will come with a frame, and titled signature by myself (see new photograph below!). I know this will not make it fool-proof to stop determined people copying the work, but it would take the more devious type.

I have been guilty in the past of creating new ways to present my pictures, and quickly going back to old habits with no frames or watermarks, but this new presentation is going to stay. Check my Flickr photostream for some of my older pictures I have created with my new white frame! I don't expect it to be popular with everyone, but like changes to Facebook, everyone gets used to them quickly. I must state now (for balance) that I know watermarks and frames are ill-advised by some well established and inspirational photographers such as Trey Ratcliff. He has built his success on the free movement of his pictures around the internet (though of course more importantly great photography!), albeit with a creative commons licence, to counter anyone who uses his pictures for commercial purposes. Though I do not use Creative Commons copyright, I have used the same philosophy with my own work, but it's time to realise that what works for other other people, may not be the best for me. It doesn't help people find your work and get the recognition you deserve, especially if you are not an established photographer. I have to say as well, I do like the new presentation to my pictures, in fact my Wife said she cannot believe I did not present them this way before.

I absolutely welcome any comments or opinions on presentation of photographs online, and indeed about being recognised for your own work. Today's picture is one I took in Chelsea, West London, whilst visiting my brother a few weeks ago. I intend to be back on this blog in a big way now, and apologise to everyone for the absence. Next time: how to create a photo frame such as the one I have employed!