Monday, March 25, 2013

The Winter Church

March is not the time of year I expect to be posting winter pictures full of snow, but then the English weather is not providing me many other opportunities at the moment. I take solace in the fact that I know the rest of Europe is pretty much plunged in winter still as well, at a time when most of us are hoping to see some spring. Such is life though, the weather is certainly something we cannot influence or change, so there is no point focusing on it that much.

Having grovelled a little there, I am secretly a bit thankful as well, as the snow allowed me to go up to the village I grew up in, Woolton Hill in North Hampshire, to take some pictures of the village church, or more specifically St. Thomas' Church. I don't normally have this opportunity during the week, so did not waste the opportunity presented on this Saturday morning.

Churches and Cathedrals I find are some of the hardest buildings to photograph. This is usually due to the fact that they are massive structures in sometimes small grounds, meaning that getting the whole church in the frame is a real challenge. For the angle I chose here, I had to (carefully) walk through the graveyard to set up in the corner of the grounds. The bonus of setting up there as well is that I was under some tress, which kept me and my camera fairly dry as I took pictures (as you can tell from the picture the snow was still coming down fast). This was not possible at other angles I took.

This is an HDR picture taken from 5 different exposures. There was a lot of work and time put into this picture, mainly in photoshop to rid it of ghostly artefacts (no pun intended there), clone out some bins and do general clean up work.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Miami Sunset You Can't See

Film critics have often said that what you can't see in a scene, is often more important than what you can. Hitchcock was a master of this, though it was also used to great effect in the movie Se7en (I even wrote it like it is on the DVD). You know the 'What's in the box?!' bit at the end. I would write spoiler alert there, but if you haven't seen it now, well you really should have, it's nearly 20 years old. Now I know it's completely unartistic to point out features like this in your own work, but then I don't really think of myself as an artist, just a guy trying to capture the scenes of the world that capture my imagination. This will probably backfire on me one day, when I insist I want to be treated seriously as an artist, man. I think I'm way too grounded and down-to-earth for that though.

Miami in February is certainly a more attractive place to be than the British Isles, though I'm not an anti-winter person. It certainly has it's charm and beauty, though the typical day here is 9 times out of 10 a dreary, wet, overcast, cold one. I'm not a great fan of Big Brother (the TV series) but I could not help but LMAO (!) when Jermaine Jackson came to Britain a few years ago on Celebrity Big Brother, thinking it would be a snowy, fairytale-like land in the winter. Oh, when will the world learn!

So anyway, the beauty of being in Miami in January/February is the summer-like sunsets you can get, that are months away in Europe. I was lucky enough to be treated to a boat trip around the Miami Bay area the evening of this picture. As a photographer, this means you won't be getting the crispest, super sharp shots, but you can certainly get pictures that would not be possible from other vantage points. The sun was going down way over my right shoulder and was reflected beautifully in these 2 buildings. It took a while to grow on me I think, but it is perhaps now my favourite shot from my Miami trip. It is a single image, processed nearly entirely in Lightroom, with some minor clean up work done in Photoshop.

f/6.3 / 92mm/ 1/100sec / ISO 400

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The Middle East, one of the most tense places you could possibly be on Earth. I have said on a previous blog post that Palestine is perhaps not a place I would visit again. In fact, I was mocked at work the other day because I said it is not a country I would voluntarily go to, which was met with unsuppressed laughter of "but you did!". As dumb as it may sound, I really didn't! I had no idea that the tour we took from Sharm El-Sheikh to Jerusalem (The Holy Land tour) meant going to Palestine as well. I knew we were visiting Israel, and mainly Jerusalem, but I honestly did not know that Palestine was that close to it. I must state though, that it was perfectly safe to visit Palestine, and indeed if you want to visit the birth place of Christ (Bethlehem, for all you who have forgotten your Christmas nativity stories), then you have no choice but to visit Palestine, because that's where it is (likewise Nazareth, which is also associated with Jesus, is also in Palestinian territory, though we were told that it isn't safe to visit there at the moment).

I have also mentioned on a previous blog post that the tour we took was far from ideal for taking photographs, simply because we had so little spare time. So today's picture is rather like like a tourist picture I suppose (albeit one that took me ages to process), but is still a record of my travels there. This is looking away from the Church of Nativity and into the local town area of Bethlehem. It is a 3 shot HDR picture taken with a Nikon D90, processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop and Topaz Adjust.

New blog name.....Again??!

Yes, you may have noticed that I have yet again changed the name of this blog. Having only just changed it to Home and Away (not influenced by the Aussie TV show), I have now changed it to the non-cryptic UK HDR Photography. Why? Well, because I have decided that the travel photography blog idea has been done to death, and I don't want to appear in the same vein anymore. Therefore, I want this blog mainly to be about what it mainly contains, which is HDR photography, whether from Britain or abroad. Of course, not every photograph will be an HDR, but this would be stated, and otherwise the blog name would just be Photography, which is unlikely to get me up in the Google rankings.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Swan Hotel, Bibury

Something a bit closer to home now....Amidst the plenty of pictures I still have to post from Miami and Egypt, I wanted to post this picture of rural Gloucestershire, that I have been working on recently. The picture was taken almost 2 years ago, during the summer of 2011. I was staying at this fantastic hotel in the village of Bibury, and had the evening to walk round with camera and tripod (something I did not use a lot back then), taking pictures of the local area.

I know it's been said many times, but using a tripod I think is perhaps the single most simple advice you can give someone for taking better pictures. Having used a tripod on the evening I took this picture, means I can still get great sharp images from them now, and come back to them with post-processing skills I have developed over time. I did create an HDR of this back then (not published on any website) and though I was already well into my HDR journey, looking back it was still probably over-processed (too saturated) and not at all well cropped!

This is a standard 3 shot HDR picture, processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop and Nik Color Efex Pro. Most adjustments, dodging and burning and stuff was done in Lightroom, with some spot-healing done in Photoshop. When using Photomatix these days, I would recommend turning down the Luminosity slider (I used to always have this fully to the right by default). A lot of HDR pictures these days are presented as more realistic, rather than the over-cooked HDR look there used to be, and I think that has a lot to do with turning down the luminosity slider.

New post coming over the weekend!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Jerusalem, perhaps the most famous and legendary city to ever exist. Wars have been fought over Jerusalem for thousands of years and continue to do so. It has been completely destroyed and rebuilt twice during it's long history, and of course is a key pilgrimage sight for followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

With my Wife and I's holiday to Egypt recently, came the opportunity for an excursion to The Holy Land, with the main focus being Jerusalem. We sacrificed a trip to Cairo in favour of Jerusalem, which given the instability of the Middle-East region, was perhaps a sensible thing to do. Jerusalem is not always a safe and recommended place to visit. Despite the recent Revolution in Egypt, the Cairo tourist spots such as the Great Pyramid and Sphinx are unaffected by these troubles. Although we were delighted to visit Jerusalem, we were not big fans of the tour we went on. We were prepared for the hard work, as we were picked up in Sharm El-Sheikh at 9pm and returned midnight the next day (meaning a bus trip through the night), but we were disappointed that there were hardly any opportunities for free time to explore the old city of Jerusalem.

Of course, excursions and tourist tours are not the ideal way to get great photographs, but our experience from previous tours in Greece was very good. They gave us various explanations at places we stopped, but at the same time gave us plenty of time to explore and take pictures. Now we did pack quite a lot into our day in the Middle-East (Jerusalem, Palestine, the Dead Sea) but it was still a bit annoying that any photos taken were pretty much standard ones everyone else could get. This should not take away from the fact though that visiting Jerusalem was a very special and fascinating experience, that if times are good, I thoroughly recommend.

The picture you see of Jerusalem here is taken from the Mount of Olives perspective, which gives a wonderful view over the old city of Jerusalem. I do not want to call this an HDR, if I could invent a term for it, I would call it a semi-HDR. This is because my original picture is a standard single RAW image, but I created an HDR out of this single RAW file, to bring out more colour and detail. The final picture is the original image, with the HDR elements masked into the main architectural and old city parts. The picture was completed by eliminating the many cranes and other distracting features in the background.

Quick note: This is my first picture from the continent of Asia. Having visited as well Egypt (in Africa) and Miami (in North America), I now have pictures posted in 2013 from 4 different continents (including Europe of course)! Despite my fairly low output so far (this is going to change rapidly), I'm very chuffed with that fact!