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Choosing BBC Countryfile 2016 Calender Entries

BBC Countryfile are once again running their annual photographic competition to feature photos on their calendar. This year the theme is "From Dawn Till Dusk"  which to me can be any landscape image. Up to 3 can be entered.

Choosing a selection of images is a challenge as having an objective view when they are your own work is difficult. 

I would appreciate any readers feedback on what images could be successful in the BBC Countryfile competition, not that I have any expectations of winning anything. Select as many as you want and I will consider the top three to be my submissions. 

What images do you like?
 
pollcode.com free polls

1. Wayland Wood Bluebells, I am unsure if this image could be considered a landscape image but in my mind worth considering. 

Taken in 2014 Spring in Watton Norfolk and is a popular image. 


2. I love Dersingham Bog on the Sandringham Estate for its fungi among its rich woodland habitat taken on one early September morning in 2015. Love the love level fog with lovley orange tones on the horizon.    


3. This image was taken on the Norfolk Broads near the Berney Arms Windmill not too far from Great Yarmouth in early spring. Taken on the way back to the car when I saw this scene of flowers and the River Yare on the left.  


4. This image has made my short list for just being a sunset image, not too sure about this image being good enough for a competition. Taken in 2015 on the road between Watton and Dereham. 

 


5. Similar issue with the bluebell image in regard it's not a landscape image but I like how the eye is lead down the path and the golden colors of Autumn taken in Great Hockham Forrest between Watton and Thetford. 


6. Another wildcard image again with not being a typical landscape image but certainly worth including in the shortlist. Taken during last years harvest where I was invited along. 


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7. The Norfolk Broads is definitely a great place for photography that I love to visit on a regular basis. Thurne Windmill is one of a few windmills that are intact.

I got up very early one winters morning just to capture a sunrise over Thurne windmill. While I love this scene I am unsure if this is the type of image the judges are looking for. 


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8. Only taken a few months ago just down the road where many of the local fields were growing rape seed and with the yellow fields were photogenic. Taken just as the sun was setting with the orange glow still visible on the horizon against the foreground of yellow.  


9. Taken in the same field as the previous image at a different angle. Again this image is not a typical landscape and therefore unsure if this would be suitable for the competition.  


10. Another image from the Norfolk Broads from How Hill, a boat house. I just love this view with the reflections and the sun setting. Again unsure if this is the type of scene the judges would be looking for. 


11. This stunning rainbow was only captured only last week during a period of unsettled weather which for me is great as scenes like this are possible and I got very wet while going in between nearby spots, rainbow on one side and stunning cloud formation on the other side of the road. Taken in Burnham Overy Staithe.


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12. Taken at the same time and place as the previous image, Even though these images were taken a couple of weeks ago I still cannot decide what image I prefer between them which concludes my short list. 

Sea Of Yellow

While commuting too and from work its hard not to notice the amount of rapeseed being grown which creates striking blocks of yellow which to my photographers eye is very appealing. 

Going down side roads can be tricky as they are often wide enough for only one vehicle to travel down and once the fields started turning yellow I consulted Google Maps to get an idea of the small interconnecting roads and I have never been down these roads. 

Playing around with different techniques can be interesting and effective such as creating panoramas and using different lenses for closeups and wide angles to capture the sea of yellow against the sky.

I believe experimenting is a good way to get a great and unexpected results with photography and revisiting the same location lots of times over a days, weeks, months and even years and at different times to really capture something great.  

Thurne Windmill Sunrise

Thurne is only a small handful of windpumps in good condition with many others being derelict. I have been to Thurne many times before but only on the same side as the windmill or on the river passing by on a boat. Having seen other images taken by other photographers I have been inspired to try an angle from the other side of the river. Setting the alarm for 4am I decided to travel there on a Saturday morning to explore the beautiful and soothing Norfolk Broads.

The route was straight forward except for the uneven dirt tracks right at the end of Cold Harbour Road after going through Ludham village. Care was required driving down this road due to the pot holes, which looked to as if landmines had gone off. 

Once parked up I equipped myself with the appropriate wellington boots, extra pair of socks, hat, scarf and torches. Not being here before I took the odd path which were a dead end thinking it was a shortcut. Usually when photographing sunrises or night time images I like to have been to that location previously so I know the location in complete darkness.   

To get the views I wanted of the windpump I needed to cross a small marshland that was between the main path and the clearing which I presume is private property which means I was most likely trespassing. This is the part where my trip took got very wet!

In order to get to the flat clearing where there were clear views of the windmill I had to cross mud submerged in shallow water where I underestimated the depth of the water and how much I would sink into it. I attempted to step onto foliage in order to spread out the weight, but my wellies sank below the waterline which gave me a shock and my feet with two pairs of sock became soaked. 

Soon as I reached the other side the wellies and socks came off and a futile attempt to dry them out on a cold winters morning began. At this point the sunrise was underway. With my bare feet I setup the camera onto the tripod and started to take images while squeezing out the water in between exposures.   

When planning sunrises I aim to be at the location well before the sun appears as with sunrises, usally an hour before the sunrise. I find the most exciting scenery happen before the sun actually comes up, the colours in the clouds are usually what provides beautiful scenes. The same can apply to sunsets and dusk. 

I took many images with and without a 10 stop filter using different lenses to increase the exposure time, to make the water more smooth to create mirror like reflections. I keep the ISO at 200 which is the lowest Fuji's go to (No idea why) and aperture around F/8 to F/11 on the Fuji 35mm 1.4 and I think F/8 on the Samyang 12mm F/2.

When capturing landscape images I like to set the camera to -1 exposure compensation to try and keep details in the sky as taking images in RAW mode will give me the flexibility to create a properly exposed image in Lightroom later on.

Soon as the sun started to make its appearance over the horizon I packed up my equipment and put the soaked socks and wellies back on to make the 20 minute walk back to the car

With my wet feet I had no enthusiasm to stick around much longer as the sun was about to come up over the horizon. This time I made more of an effort to stand on folded over reeds to support my weight which lucky worked. It did not take me long to return to the car and I drove the 1 hour home in bare feet which is an unusual feeling.

Night Time Landscapes At The North Norfolk Coast

With the recent photographic talk presented by Tony Worobiec on taking night time landscapes, I have been visiting the Norfolk Broads and the North Norfolk Coast to try this out for myself.

Taking images of the night sky is very different to taking nighttime landscapes. When taking images of the night sky, typically cameras are pushed to the limits of high ISO and with the lowest aperture possible to gather as much light before the stars start to blur due to the rotation of the planet. Also added to the fact that a clear sky is desired with no moon which limits the opportunities further. 

With taking landscape images at night, long exposures of at least 2-3 minutes and longer are required to gather enough light to create a properly exposed image to look as if the image was taken during the daytime. This type of photography is much easier to capture as I was mostly using an ISO between 200-400 with an aperture of around F/8.

Burnahm Staithe while standing in inches of moving sea water - a 4 minute exposure  

I can see all modern cameras made within the last 5 years would be capable of these settings and produce acceptable results. As a clear sky is not required, having clouds would be beneficial as moving clouds are very effective with long exposures, the only time when not taking nighttime landscapes could be a challenge would be during rain. Even then that could be possible and interesting if the camera was inside pointing out of a window. 

All that is required is an intervalometer that can be purchased from eBay around £15 and a good sturdy tripod. 

Taking pictures at night can be tricky in terms of setting the focus point, on a manual focus lens such as the stunning Samyang 12mm F/2 (est £140 I spent) where the focus markings are clear and easy to read is fairly straight forward. On auto focus lenses I find a distant light for the lens to lock onto and then turn off the autofocus, if there is no distant light is around then I shine my torch onto something to the desired distance for the camera to set the focus. 

Typically I only visit placed at dark when I have been before in daytime, in the case of Burnahm Staithe and Thornham I have been here a few times and know the layout. Below is a list that I bring with me, not all items are essential but these are what I have found to be useful and change depending on where I plan on going and the likely conditions

What I took with me on my nighttime trip to Burnahm Staithe and Thornham

  • Fuji X-E1
  • Fuji 35mm 1.4
  • Samyang 12mm F/2
  • Tripod
  • Intervalometer
  • Wellington boots and wearing 2-3 pairs of socks for extra comfort and warmth
  • Head torch
  • Normal handheld torch
  • Extra camera batteries 
  • Music to keep me entertained between the 4-6 minute exposures 
  • Battery Bank to charge my phone if needed (Not Used)
  • Flash Gun (Not Used)

Thornham - around 4 Minutes as the battery died during the exposure 

Finding the desired composition can be difficult in the dark even for a mirrorless camera as it was literally "a shot in the dark". The best way I found was to take a quicker snapshot by bumping up the ISO and lowering the aperture and capturing a minutes exposure. Once I found a good composition I the went back to an ISO of around 400 and aperture of F/8 to get a more cleaner image and more movement in the clouds.

These setting I used were from trial and error, I set an initial exposure with a low ISO and mid Aperture and guessed the shutter speed. To bight and I would need a shorter exposure, to dark and a longer exposure would have been needed. If the shutter speed is taking too long then dont be afraid of increasing the ISO.

Ending this post with a word of warning, I took some risky steps that I would not recommend anyone to take. At Burnham I was actually standing the the sea and my wellies only had a few centimetres clearance and the ground was mostly stones making it possible to support myself on the mud.

A couple of years ago I visited Morston which is not too far from Burnham and it was in the daytime. I had the great idea of wanting to stand in the middle of the river as the tide was out to get a better angle of a small boats laying on the mud. Soon as I put one foot into the empty river (wearing wellies) it sank a good few inches and created suction. Not being able to initially move it out I started to panic, I eventually got out of that situation a bit more dirty than I wanted but made me appreciate the potential dangers when out and about.

First attempt at night time landscapes just before dawn a week prior. Not a picture that I like. 

Only because someone else arrived and went into the very low river and started walk around I thought it was worth a try and I used the tripod to test the ground before advancing my next step. As I was in the water, the risk of dropping any equipment in the sea was a very real possibility and I needed to change the lens, increasing the risk further. Not recommended! 

Thornham just up the road was a very different environment and was like walking on ice with the wet mud, again walking with great care was essential. 



Behind The Photo: St James Hill Norwich 24/12/2015

Location: Norwich, Norfolk, UK - Date Taken: 24/12/2015

St James Hill in Norwich near the prison is one of my favorite places to take images because it offers views overlooking the city. It is also a convenient place for me to access as I can walk from the office in about 20 minutes up the very steep and tiring hill. 

Capturing the sunset is unusual for me at this time of year as I  do not get out if the office till around 6pm while the sunsets around 4pm. As this was Christmas Eve it was a shorter working day making this image possible.

Although I have been to this spot many times taking the same view I usually come away with a different picture every time and so far this has been on of my favorites which finishes off 2015 nicely.

I really like the range of colours in this image with the purples and oranges with the rain and cloud introducing an additional element. 

My typical approach to capturing landscapes is to defiantly use a tripod or use a flat surface. This is to eliminate any camera shake that can be introduced by pressing the shutter button. 

I had used the bracketing feature of the camera to automatically take 3 images. The first one normal and then the other two as darker and then lighter to later merge into one image to HDR illuminating the whole scene. In this case I just used the one image as I think the buildings being in silhouette is more interesting and striking. 

Most of the time I have the camera set to -1 Exposure Compensation to make the picture darker then what the camera exposes for to make sure I have enough detail in the sky. Most cameras will automate taking three or more images when the self timer is active at the same time as bracketing. 

Camera Settings 

  • Camera: Fuji X-E1
  • Lens: Fuji 35mm f1.4
  • ISO: 200
  • F/8
  • 1/35 Seconds 
  • -1 EV
  • RAW File 

Edited in Adobe Lightroom 6 

2015 Anual Review and 2016 Plans

London 

Social Media

This year has really been about building on last year in regards to my online presence with the use of social media. I started 2014 with possibly around 100 Twitter followers and I am now up to 420. While it's not a huge amount it's a start and I hope that it will only increase further.

The growth has really been down to interacting more with companies and associations that own or are involved with the photographs I take, for example when I visit a Nature Reserve owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust I share them and occasionally they will retweet them which generates interest around my work. 

In my experience with social media is that it's a full time job. What I really need is to plan out a week's tweets ahead of time based around sharing my blog posts and schedule them to be posted automatically which should be far more effective than just posting the odd link or picture one a week.

There are tools such as Holosuite that can do them on a bulk upload which would be the ideal solution. Unfortunately these are not free and the basic unpaid version does not come with that feature. With my blogging and photography generating a very small income I am unable to justify paying £10 for a paid monthly subscription which seems to be the standard fee for most third party services. 

I can of course use tweetdeck which is free but lacks any bulk uploading features, I will just have to enter them in manually for the time being. 

Potter Heigham on the Norfolk Broads

Blogging 

Blogging works best when used along with social media to promote articles therefore drawing traffic into the website. Again the time issues with using social media also applies to blogging where my free time has become limited. 

My idea for 2016 is to create a number of shorter articles based on a single image where I talk on what caught my eye and any stories behind taking the image along with the technical information for other photographers to learn from. Once I have a format created for these I should be able to write a few in one session that can be published and shared over the following week using social media to promote them.  

I know from the camera club that the most interesting talks from visiting speakers are not necessarily their images but more of their story behind them and that is what I want to include with these articles. 

Taken on Christmas Eve over Norwich City

Products 

This year I have launched my online store using Etsy which has been an interesting and time consuming experience. Over the 6 or so months I have redone the listings a couple of times and I will be doing so again over the next few weeks. 

Over this Christmas break I have had the time to put together a comprehensive catalogue of images which I can manipulate for various purposes that gives me a list to work against for creating listings and what images to feature in my blog posts.

I have had some success in selling greeting cards that I have produced myself that have been in local shops which I hope to expand in 2016 now that I have tweaked the product that I can be proud of selling. At the retail price of £2.50 these are affordable and disposable which is why I think these have been selling much better than my larger prints which where I have only sold a couple of smaller 10x8. 

Holkham Beach near Wells on the North Norfolk Coast

Plans and ambitions for 2016

Despite trying on a number of occasions I still haven't seen a Swallowtail Butterflies which I intend to try again next spring. 

Taking images of the night sky has been a new genre of photography which I want to continue with and capturing the Northern Light is right at the top of my wish list which can be seen along the North Norfolk Coast. Unfortunately these tend to occur at very short and often at inconvenient times. 

Quite a few of my better images of 2015 were from London and I would like to visit the Capital more frequently.

Top 22 Of 2015 Photos Part 2

Continuing from part 1 of my 2015 collection where I show 22 of my favorite images taken in 2015.

Image 12

I had recently purchased a second hand Samyang 12mm f2.0 to fit my Fuji X-E1 which at £140 which was a bargain that I intended to use for my increasing interest in astrophotography.

This new lens has opened up a new genre of photography and the images that I have been able to capture with it have been very pleasing to say the least and has become my lens of choice for normal daytime photography. Being a 67mm threaded lens my 10 stop filter also fits which is a real bonus. 

The the Milky Way can clearly be seen behind the beach huts in Wells in this image and I just love it. 

Image 13

This year I have changed my job and now based in Norwich which has given me access new places to explore easily before, lunch break and after work. St James Hill near the prison is in easy walking distance to the office and I have visited this spot on countless occasions and offer views over the entire city. Although the walk up the very steep hill always reminds me on how unfit I am.

The spot is great to see the sunset and I have included a few images in my 2015 collection from this spot. As with most of my landscape images I try and use HDR to achieve a good exposure which I have used in this image. 

Image 14

Another image taken from St James Hill in Norwich on a different day to image 13.

The man sitting on the Memorial makes the image. 

Image 15

Taken at Winterton-on-Sea not far from Great Yarmouth. I decided to travel to the coast after work one evening in October. 

Typically when I go and photograph the night sky or sunsets and sunrises I like to have been there before in daylight just so I know the area. Currently this has been the one and only time I have visited Winterton.

The Milky Way can be seen dropping down behind these sheds and the bright small cluster M31 Andromeda Galaxy can be seen in the top right, or so I have been told.

Image 16

Taken at Thompson Water a nature reserve nearby that I decided to visit very early on an October Sunday morning for a sunrise.

As I have recently discovered, the real interesting stuff happens long before the sun is actually visible. Now when planning a sunrise I need to be at the location ideally at least an hour before the sun comes up. While driving to this location the sky was even more dramatic but I am still happy with what I have captured. 

Image 17 

One of the more modern building in Norwich and next to one of the oldest.

I got into the city a little earlier than normal to see what I can capture as the sun rises. Taken with the Samyang 12mm f2.0 lens using the 10 Stop filter to capture the movement in the clouds and smooth out the water enhancing the reflections.

Image 18

With the clocks going back the when I leave the office it's now dark, while capturing sunsets is no longer convenient I alter my photography to the conditions that are presented to me. 

Taken in Norwich in late October I was walking along the river towards the Riverside Leisure Park and captured this iconic and well photographed location. As this is a long exposure the water has become smooth enhancing the reflection of this medieval building. 

Image 19

After photographing the fireworks display organised by the council with a fellow photographer we walked past a queue for fish and chips on a slow walk back to the car.

After some trial and error I settled on this angle while using HDR to capture the colour inside the buildings and in the wet cobble pavement.

That fish and chip shop has now become one of my favorite places to get lunch. It can be quite busy and I often have to go elsewhere as I have little time to wait due to the time it takes to walk there. 

Image 20 

This November trip into London was with the camera club which means I wasn't worried about wasting their time as they were also taking images. 

Like with most of my images its usually the case of being in the right place at the right time as you never know what the conditions will be. When we first arrived it was raining very heavily and ending up with this sunset was unexpected. I was using a 10 stop filter on 12mm lense to create the dramatic sky along with the reflections. 

Image 21

With the nights getting longer taking images of the stars is becoming easier, this image was taken at around 9pm which is much better than midnight compared to the images taken at Wells.

Taken at Little Cressingham which is just down the road from Watton I wanted to see if I could do anything with this building and this ruined roof worked really well. In this situation I wish I had the newer cameras that you can control with a smartphone as I had to lay on my back on gravel to see what I was doing. At Least I was sheltered from the wind and it was surprisingly fairly comfortable laying down.

Image 22

Last image making my 2015 collection was taken on Christmas Eve. Finishing work earlier than normal allowed me to capture a sunset which I have not been able to do in a few months. Again this is looking over Norwich from St James Hill.

Due to a quick drink with colleagues I arrived just as the sun went under the horizon. I just love the color in the horizon and then the rain to the right which is very different to what I have seen before from this same location that I keep visiting. I did capture a set of images to make into a HDR image but I think the silhouette if the city skyline is much better.

 

If you have made it this far then thank you for taking the time to view my work. What I love about photography is that I get to see these beautiful scenes and places that I would otherwise have no idea about and being able to share these makes it all the more worthwhile.

Tools I use

BBC Weather https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=bbc.mobile.weather&hl=en

AccuWeather https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.accuweather.android&hl=en

Blitzortung Lightning Monitor https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.blitzortung.android.app&hl=en

The Photo Ephemeris (Phone - Paid) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.crookneckconsulting.tpeandroid&hl=en

The Photo Ephemeris (Desktop - Free) http://app.photoephemeris.com/?ll=52.629152,1.294935&center=52.6899,1.3622&dt=20151226082600%2B0000&z=10&spn=0.40,1.85

 

Top 22 of 2015 Photos Part 1

It's been awhile since I written a blog update. Since I started working in Norwich my available free time has been reduced. 

Christmas is a good time to sit back and relax while reflecting on the events of the previous months and plan ahead for the coming year. 

Over the next week I intend to catch up on my blog posts and to share my thoughts on what I have been working on and to figure out what I would like to achieve in 2016.

I intended to select my 10 best images from 2015 on this post but having gone through my library I cannot choose which ones to leave out to make a collection of 10 so I decided to made it 22. 

Image 1

Starting from the beginning of the year my first image in this collection was taken in Well along the North Norfolk Coast taken on a week's vacation in March.

Wells is one of my favorite locations in Norfolk to visit as you will get to see. Other than fish and chips being a secondary interest the mile long walk to the beach has boats along the channel from the sea leading into the harbour. Once you get to the beach there is a row of beach huts which you will see later on. 

I do like creating square images as it does often suit the situation where the standard 3:2 ratio doesn't work so well, however photo mounts and frames are uncommon so I haven't yet had any printed. I would presume this is where a Canvas or Metal print would be useful although much more expensive. 

What makes the image for me is the birds in flight on either side of the sales balancing out the otherwise empty space. 

Image 2

I could easily post 22 image of just London, there are so many photographic opportunities and I would love to spend a week just exploring the UK's capital city than the usual day trip.

When I visit London walking along the River Thames has to be a priority with the wealth of architecture and views that really come to life when the daylight starts to fade away and all the colours in the buildings show off.

This picture was taken on a family outing on a cold April evening which made me a little guilty as I tend to stop every few metres while the waiting non photographers with me are standings around freezing. 

Image 3 

The Berney Arms is only a handful of fully restored Windpumps on the Norfolk Broads with Thurne and possibly Horsey (Currently under repair with its sails taken down), are the only three that I have visited. Berney Arms has been the most difficult to access being only accessible by a long walk or boat.

There is a small train station but only stops a couple of times a day. This windpump is close to Great Yarmouth and I believe a popular way is to park up in the seaside town, get the train and then walk back to the car along the river.     

This was taken during another weeks vacation in May where the weather was very varied and got caught in a rain shower while walking to this location.

What's special about this image is primarily the interest in this historic building which has been preserved brilliantly and also the lighting which is shining onto the front with the lines in the grass leading up to the windpump. 

Image 4 

This picture was taken just after Berney Arms, image number 3. 

I used the technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR) taking 3 or 5 images at different settings to capture the colour in the sky as well as the foreground as just the one image would not capture the entire scene like this. 

In this image its the shades of orange on the sky that really attracts me to this view and secondary is the wildflowers in the foreground and then the River Yare in the distance on the left. 

Image 5

This image was taken in the Norfolk village of Caston near Watton where I live on a camera club training evening in May.

A few of us captured the same scene getting similar results which shows off this very special sunset. While I tried taking this scene as an HDR image it works better as a silhouette as the shape is far more interesting than the colour and detail in this boring barren farming field.

Image 6

I missed out on a lightning storm a a couple of weeks prior to this one. During the summer months I now keep an eye on two different weather apps, "BBC Weather" and "AccuWeather" as they both show slightly different data.

Soon as I see the possibility of a thunderstorm I keep a good eye on the app called "Blitzortung Lightning Monitor" that tracks thunderstorms. Knowing my local area was another important factor in capturing this image as this spot is from a layby off a major route into my hometown of Watton that I pass regularly. 

My approach was to set my focus to infinity and then set the exposure manually to 30 seconds and set the self timer to avoid any camera shake and then wait and see if anything happens. Luckily I was rewarded with this image where I could have easily come away with nothing and if I had to pick just one image for 2015 this could be it.

Image 7

For the last few years I have been on a boating holiday with family on the Norfolk Broads at the end of July. This year has been colder and the weather has been varied with more rain which for photography has been very interesting as stormy conditions has the potential to create stunning scenery to capture and I really enjoyed my week off with observing beautiful sunrises and sunsets and on one evening a rainbow in Potter Heigham.

This was a sunrise and at this time of year I got up really early. Using the phone app "The Photo Ephemeris" also available in a normal web browser. I will link all tools used at the end of part 2. 

Using the app the previous evening I scouted nearby spots where I could possibly capture a sunrise.

I was under a bridge where an old barge was moored up. Climbing onto this rusted platform that was potentially dangerous it gave me a better view being more in the centre of the river and what a view this was making the early rise worth it. 

Image 8

This is the Windpump Thurne on the Norfolk Broads. I have been here a couple of times before by road but this image was taken on a boat passing by on my annual boating holiday with family. 

I did nothing too special with this picture. As the boat was moving at a good speed using HDR wasn't going to work as you really need to be stationary to take a series of images. I just took a number of images as the boat passed by and used the best one. 

Image 9

A local farmer invited me to come along while his team was harvesting, I believe this was a field of oats. Again this year has not really been completely sunny and more like stormy which for me is great the skies have been fantastic and dramatic.

I just love how the damp conditions enhance the colours. As the combine are slow machines I used HDR to try and get a good exposure from the lightest parts of the clouds to the darkest part on the base of the crops. 

Image 10

This is another image taken at Well and not the last in this 2015 collection. Taken on the 12 August the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, being a moonless night it was to be a better show than normal. 

The idea was to travel to Well in good time to capture a sunset to make my trip worth it incase I saw nothing of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The image of the Meteor didnt make my collection but can be seen at https://flic.kr/p/x1PB5h. I use HDR to make sure I captured enough detail in the sky and the beach huts. 

Image 11

I had recently purchased a Hoya 52mm infrared filter to try this type of photography as I do like black and white photography and I have been admiring the different effect I have been seeing on other photographers images. 

Taken in Norwich on 12th August I spent a few hours walking around before meeting up with a friend later on just using this filter. Because using an infrared filter reduces the light it acts as a neutral density filter where a longer shutter speed is required which smooths out water and clouds that enhances reflections in the river .

 

Continue To Part 2

   

Discovering new photo locations

Norfolk city of Norwich at dusk.

Having a new job now based in Norwich has placed me within close proximity within prime locations along the River Wensum and from Mousehold hill that gives views over the city. When looking for photo ideas I look at other people work on Flickr and http://www.shothotspot.com/. Also being a member of a local Facebook group also provides inspiration. 

Jarrolds along the River Wensum 

Another good way to find locations is to simply just walk around and keep in mind where you have been for future photo opportunities, I have walked along the river many times but I now know where the good places.

Even in my local town where I have been living for 15 years I am still discovering new locations.  

Attempting Timelapse Photography

Timelapse photography is a type of photography that I have tried a little in the past but with my new obsession with night photography the same skills and techniques can be used to create a timelapse video  and has given me a renewed interest in trying timelapse photography again.

The biggest issue for me in making a timelapse video is the amount of time required in creating one. The standard frames per second on TV in the UK is 24, to have a 10 second timelapse video I would need 240 images which doesn't sound like many.

My images of the night sky like in the timelapse video at the top taken at Wells Next The Sea are 25 seconds each plus a delay meaning I am taking two pictures a minute or 2 hours for a 10 second video.

Being fairly impatient standing around for 2 hours on my own doing nothing is quite difficult. The finished timelapse is only 6 seconds due to the sea starting to come in and also the clouds bringing the timelapse to a shorter end than I would like. 

To capture the timelapse I set the camera in full manual mode attached to a tripod and tweaking the exposure and frame before setting the inverlomitor to automatically take the sequence of images and then the hard part of waiting and not touching the camera as any movement between images can ruin the final video. 

Shooting in RAW mode I processed the images as normal, Lightroom makes this easy by allowing me to edit one image and then syncing the edit to the other images before using the additional free plugin to create the timelapse video which can take awhile for the computer to render, easily an hour or more depending on the length of the timelapse. 

Follow this link for the Lightroom download and install and usage instructions http://lrbplugins.com/shop/presets/lrb-timelapse-presetstemplates/

This timelapse taken in Hunstanton only took about 20 minutes to capture, the battery running out cut this one short. 

Attempts at Night Sky Photography

Fuji X-E1 Samyang 12mm 30 seconds F/2 ISO 1250 outside of Watton

Photographing the night sky has been another type of photography I have been wanting to try for sometime as I enjoy learning new skills and pictures of the night sky can be quite interesting and have a wow factor.

I suspect because images of the night are more difficult to photograph in terms of being up later and patience make them not as common and therefore they get noticed more than say landscapes.  

A previous attempt using Nikon D7100 using 18-105mm F/3.5 25 Seconds ISO 3200

Like with anything it takes time to learn a new skill. While its still photography, photographing the stars requires a different approach to other genres of photography in terms of different equipment and techniques which I am still learning and acquiring more specialised equipment. 

I own two camera systems, Nikon D7100 and a Fuji X-E1 and are now a few years old and been succeeded by at least one model and they are not the latest and best equipment.

The lenses I own are not the most expensive pieces of equipment that can easily be many £1000's, thankfully I like to research my options and with looking at tutorials and reviews on equipment to see whats available at all price points.

Thankfully a lens available for the Fuji was on sale at WEX photographic secondhand department a was a Samyang 12mm f2.0 selling for £140 which I thought was a bargain being half the price of a brand new one and knew that I wanted it especially at that price making it remotely affordable. From my limited time of using the lens I have been very happy with the results when taking images of the stars and general landscape images I have taken so far.  

The general philosophy of taking images of the stars is that wider and "faster" the lens is the better. Using the 500 rule the maximum time the shutter should be open for is about 27 seconds before the stars start to blur. The image at the top was taken with an exposure time of 30 seconds but if you look closely enough the stars are starting to blur a little and next time I will try 25 seconds to eliminate this flaw. 

To work out the maximum shutter speed you divide the lens focal length by 500. The Fuji is whats called a crop sensor with a modifier of x1.5. The 12mm lens on the Fuji is actually 18mm (12x1.5=18) so 18 / 500 is 27.777.... or 25 seconds to play it safe. The micro 4/3rds have a crop factor or x2.

I am currently obsessed with this type of photography and hope to take many more if there are any clear nights which is the difficult part and also the moon.

Perseids Meteor Shower

Over the last few weeks with the nights starting to get longer I am now trying to take pictures at night with the aim of photographing the night sky. On August the 12th saw the Annual Perseids Meteor Shower reach its peak. Being a Wednesday I wouldnt normally travel so far as Wells Next The Sea with being at work the next day. I eventually got home around 1.30am with my alarm set for the usual time of 6am making my purchase of Redbull energy drink essential, surprisingly I was fine till about lunchtime. 

The weather forecast kept changing throughout the week and I wasn't hopeful the sky was going to be visible to see the meteors through the clouds, I only decided to go at the last minute. Leaving early enough I had time to scout the area I intended to set up in daylight and to photograph the sunset on the same trip to make it worthwhile incase the sky was too cloudy for the meteor shower. Clouds may not be good for taking images of the night sky but I think they are essential to good sunset images as you capture different colours in the clouds. 

Can I call this a selfie?

I selected Wells because I thought the beach huts would add interest to a potential image other than the night sky which I think can be boring on its own. Also I like the fish and chips there and not having eaten anything before I left home I simply was determined to have a big tray of chips which made Wells the ideal place to go. I could have easily gone to Brancaster or Burnham Staithe further along as alternative locations.

Soon as I arrived at the beach my mind was focused on foreseeing potential images with a sunset using the beach huts as a primary point of interest. Using my Nikon D7100 and the 35mm 1.8 lens on a tripod I set the camera on self timer mode with the bracketing set to 5 images at +/- 2 stops, to later merge into a HDR image to ensure I create an image with good exposure and detail which works well with the top image.

With the self timer on the camera will automatically take 5 images in quick succession which makes HDR easy, more so with Lightroom 6.  The picture at the top of this article would be impossible with a single picture, not without loosing quality in the beach huts as they would be in silhouette as you would need to expose for the sun which is far brighter than the beach.  

Wells Next The Sea Town

After the sun had set I walked back to the high street to get my chips while the sky turns to darkness. Once I return to the beach and pointing the camera towards the town as I was advised the best place to look was north east. Using an intervalometer which arrived only a couple days prior I was all set. I was convinced the bright and frequent meteors were going across the sky everywhere but where the camera was pointing. Only once I reviewed the images the next day and altered the exposure I noticed a couple of images had captured a meteor or two.

Created from 2 images to get three meteors

On the initial image I used a torch to illuminate the beach huts, with the involomitor automatically triggering the camera every 18 seconds I just watched the show with my own eyes. Being on the beach at 11pm was very peaceful and stress free. 

The sunset alone was worth the trip out to Wells after work and watching the Perseids Meteor Shower only made it better. One of the main reasons why I love photography is because I would never have an interest in events such as the Meteor shower or exploring the countryside. 

I entered the beach huts sunset into #wexmondys on Twitter and was lucky to get second place on this weekly competition which is a good personal achievement. Been trying for months but the standard of images entered on a weekly basis is very high.

Cant wait till next year to try again !

Photographing the Night Sky

Photographing the night sky has been another genre of photography that I have not really gotten into. With the nights now getting longer it's getting increasingly accessible.  I have previously read a few articles and tutorials on how to take pictures at night and the camera settings are fairly simple.

The limiting factor in taking images of the stars in terms of camera setting is the shutter duration on how long it can stay open before the stars move and blur. The focal length alters the duration, wider the lens the longer the shutter can be open using the "500" rule equation to work it out. The math is you divide 500 by the focal length of the lens.

Using my 18-105 F/3.5 Nikon Kit lens as the example., shooting at 18mm the lens is actually 27mm taking into account the x 1.5 crop factor of my Nikon D7100 and 500 divided by 27mm is around 18 seconds which works as the above image is a 20 second exposure and using a remote trigger to activate the camera or the self timer will also work. 

Finding an location can be a challenge as you need an area with little light pollution, this tool  can be used to find a dark enough place providing there are no clouds which is another problem. 

Youpic Update

Back in February I signed up to the photo sharing website Youpic to try out another outlet to share my images. In that blog post I outlined what was good and bad based on the user interface. Interestingly the article has been the most viewed page on this website.  

My last posted image on the service was about 4 months ago in May 2015. Comments on the original Youpic blog post pointed out some very valid points mostly around who owns the images once they have been uploaded considering there are no adverts and they don't charge to open an account to support the website. Other services I use such as 500px and Flickr charge for a pro account to remove the ads.

I stopped using the service mostly because the newer updates introduced a ranking and points system which felt to me the service was becoming like a videogame where you would get more points for uploading images as if you were killing an enemy or completing an objective which I don't like. I take images for fun and not for meaningless points or scores. A potential solution if I were to start using it again were to upload in low resolution like 2048px on the long edge with a dpi of 90 to make it not usable in print. I always upload to Flickr and 500px in high resolution, partly as a form of an online backup.

Sharing my images is very important to me which is a core attribute to a photographer and I assume it also applies to any other a artist. Protecting your work is important and with a medium such as photography that is being shared on the internet it's easy to lose control. 

My current attitude as a very keen ameture photographer who is aiming to generate some income with my work is that I have to be prepared for someone to use my images without my consent. I occasionally get enquiries from people and organisations who see my images on Flickr for example that turn into sales which I hope outweigh the risk of people just taking my images. 

Without sharing my images online I wouldn't have build up my relationship with the Wildlife Trust or my local business association were initially I give my time and/or images to be used (non-profit/editorial use) without payment (and I still do) that has lead to paid work.  

Currently I upload almost everything worthwhile to Flickr and being much more selective on what I add to 500px

Please add your thought and comments below or to me on twitter @nealtraf

Churches Thunderstorms and Museum

Thompson Church

Last week has been another busy week for me. Following on from my coverage of the Blossom & Yarn Festival involving 6 local churches to raise funds to maintain the buildings I have been revisiting some of them to have another go at photographing them during sunrise and sunsets to create different and interesting images than I have already taken.

Blossom & Yarn at Griston Church

So far one of my favourite churches have been Thompson which take about 10 minutes to travel to by car, this last Saturday I set the alarm for 4.30am to get there for the sunrise having researched the angle of the sunrise with the building. It is full of character in a beautiful setting of sitting behind a mature crop of what I assume to be wheat. 

With the sun rising from a low angle in the sky, it creates side lighting that adds depth and character to an image. Using the camera's automatic bracketing feature I create 3 images in quick succession at different exposures to later merge into one image to capture enough information in the sky, building and the field to create a complete image.

Thursday's Thunderstorm 

A few weeks ago I missed a very active and angry thunderstorm and on Thursday night another storm was forecast. The reason why I missed the first one was because I was unaware and the BBC Weather app did not predict it where I was later informed other apps did.

Determined not to miss another storm I now use AccuWeather alongside the BBC one which I check a few times a day and when a storm is predicted an app called Blitzortung Lightning Monitor is also installed on my Android HTC device to monitor a thunderstorm, im sure its also available on Apple phones. This app tracks the activity of storms which is useful to have in the "Toolbox". I am very happy on the result and I will post another blog later in the week on how I took it in more detail.

Nature walk at Gressenhall 

I visited Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum located near Dereham with a couple of other people where one had an annual pass that allowed him to bring along of up to 3 other people free of charge with them.

Old bell at a display

The aim were to visit the gardens and nature trails in the hope of photographing wildlife  namely butterflies which I have yet to capture any this year! We also had a look around the many exhibits while we were there which provided a few photographic opportunities to see vintage Victorian period items.

This time next week I be on my Annual holiday along the Norfolk Broads with family on a hire boat. While I live in Norfolk and the Broads is relatively close it's a really beautiful place to visit and hopefully I can capture plenty of sunset and sunrises during my time there and hopefully if the weather is kind some astrophotography of the night sky which I have yet to take any good images.

On order is an infrared filter which I hope it to arrive in time to try a different type of photography and another external hard drive to keep my photos safe in an additional location.

Visit my Flickr profile to see many more images not on display here. 

Sunrise at Happisburgh

One Saturday morning I was determined to capture a sunrise after many weekend of being a bit rubbish. The weather forecast was to be good, this time of year the night is very short meaning I left home for the hours car trip around 2.30am. Even at this time the sky was bright which had me worried thinking I would miss the sun rising making the stupidly early wakeup pointless.

As the lighthouse is only next to the car park I didn't have to travel far to find a good view point of this Norfolk landmark. To my surprise I wasn't expecting to the light in operation considering it's no longer in official use (far as I know).

Using the camera's in built timer to trigger the bracketing sequence to create an HDR image later I worked out the flashes of light occur about every 30 seconds, timing the camera to take images at the time the light was visible was an interesting and fun activity which I often missed. 

The above image was taken just as the sun was rising which was directly behind me making the sky a lovely purple colour. HDR in this situation is essential to capture the sky and lighthouse correctly. 

Soon as the sun started to rise I pointed the camera in its direction with a 10 stop filter to create a long exposure to smooth out the sea which has worked out perfectly and I could not be happier with the end result. 

My secondary objective and partially why I chose to visit Happisburgh was to try and see Swallowtail butterflies at nearby Norfolk Wildlife Trust Hickling Broad which just happened to be closed.

It opens at 10am which is no good when I pulled up at 6am with the gate being locked and no nearby place to park elsewhere I went onto Norfolk Wildlife Trust Ranworth. The grounds are accessible 24/7, although Swallowtail butterflies were nowhere to be seen yet again. I just took macro images of water droplets on reeds and a snail. 

The search for Swallowtails is still ongoing, if I am still unsuccessful this year I will have to plan ahead and book a week of work in mid June next year to try again. Might be worth revisiting Happisburgh next year to see if another crop is growing as the classic and more popular scene with the lighthouse is when wheat is growing. 

Quick Update

St Martin's Church, Thompson near Watton

Been a bit busy recently which has left very little time to dedicate to the blog. 

My photographic activities include 

This week I intent to catch up with my blog posts on my recent exploration and photographic activities so stay tuned. 

I have updated my galleries to include my more recent images so please take a look!

My £23 DIY Home Studio

Now that my Epson 1500W A3 printer has arrived to produce greeting cards and prints I decided it would be a good idea to set up a small home studio to take product images of cards to use in my online shop. I went out and purchased the following:

  • 2 Lamps £ 4 each
  • 2 Lightbulbs £2.49 each
  • 2 Frames £1 each
  • Black and White bedsheets £ 3.99 each

Materials I had laying around 

  • Duck Tape
  • White fabric (T shirt)

The frames were to make diffusers to sit in front of the desk lamps to make the light even, I didn't even want the glass or backing being at a £1 each they are tacky and horrible but useful for what I was using them for.

I used an old white t shirt to cover the frames in order to create a more even light produced from the lamps. Using wooden skewers and duck tape I managed to make crude stands to support the frames.

Using a picnic table and tall MDF wood I created a backdrop using the black bedsheet which worked quite well and the result was quite good, once I got the whole thing set up it took little time to photograph 30 cards plus groups to sell as a package. There are tons of different DIY setups online all using the same principles which is a must when taking images of items to sell online and will work well even when using a smartphone.

Using an MDF backing board was essential as the thickness of the fabric was very thin and any light coming from the back will show up.

Wex Entry: Damselflies

This weeks #WexMondays competition was take in a nearby nature reserve of Thompson Common which is owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. I like this reserve mainly for fungi in the Autumn and bugs and insects at this time of year. 

I wanted to see some bigger dragonflies as I have already seen and photographed some Damselflies on the previous day at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. However all I saw were Damselflies on the way back to the car and the odd butterfly which I were expecting to see more of.

The main thing I learned from this photoshoot is that it pays to be patient. It was only after I stood still for awhile till they started to land on the leaves to make it possible to photograph these tiny insects, and on occasions I got very close with the sigma 105mm about 15cm away from them

My technique was to set the camera at around F/16 and shutter speed at least at 1/250 seconds and manual focus with the ISO to create a good exposure being around 800. The idea was to make very slight adjustments to my body position forwards and backwards to achieve an image where I had the correct focus. With the camera set to high speed shooting I could easily take 10 images with the hope one of those would be useful, all taken in RAW mode.

Stay tuned for a video on my editing process from this trip.

Macro Weekend

This last weekend I went out hoping to photograph Swallowtail butterflies which are rare and only appear on the Norfolk Broads. Getting up at 5am to travel to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen just outside of Norwich teamed up with someone from the camera club we spent a few hours walking around the reserve while visiting the various bird hides. I tried out his Sigma 150-500mm super zoom on my Nikon D7100 for a short while capturing a few birds but nothing too interesting or of good quality, not too sure I have the patience to sit around for hours with the keen bird watchers.

Not having any luck seeing swallowtails which we put down to the wind we made our way back to the car, we soon saw a row of wild flowers growing along a hedgerow which were full of Damselflies.

I shall be visiting Ranworth or Hickling Broad in the next few weeks in the hope the Swallowtails will be showing themselves for me to photograph.