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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.  

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 !

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. 

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.

Sunset At Burnham Overy Staithe

Fuji X-E1 35mm 1.4 with +/- 1 Stop 3 bracketed images. ISO 200 F/16 1/60 Sec 

This image was taken at Burnham Overy Staithe along the North Norfolk Coast on Wednesday 20th May 2015 during a week off work. Typically I focus on a theme for my photography and this time I wanted to focus on sunsets and the night sky and possibly capturing an aurora if there was an opportunity to do so.

Because the sunsets quite late this time of year around 9pm the sky does not get completely dark till midnight which for me it too late especially when I have an hours drive home and ended up just capturing a couple of sunsets during the week.

Keeping an eye on the weather forecast over the week I was looking for sunny spells conditions to see if there were an opportunity of the sun setting and clouds to create an interesting sky with the sun changing the colour of the clouds and possibly breaking through them. Weather that week was perfect for photography with storms creating interesting skies. 

My reasons for choosing this location was for a few reasons. Firstly I had not visited this part of the Norfolk Coastline before so was somewhere new to explore. Secondly it was recommended for night photography. Thirdly I wanted to visit the coast at least once on my week off.

Taken With Nikon D7100 with +/- 2 Stops 5 Images using 35mm 1.8G ISO 100 F/16 1/25 Sec 

Being warned not to park on the dirt/sandy flat further into the quayside as it floods at high tide I parked on the embankment just off the roadside. When visiting coastal areas I typically wear wellies but mine turned out to be useless with one of them being split which meant I had to be more careful to avoiding ending up with wet feet. 

I soon started to walk along the coastal path which I assumes leads to the beach. While walking along I am constantly looking all around to find potential images such as boats and the general shapes and curves of the landscape and taking test shots to see what is possible. At this point the tide was out and all the boats were sitting on the sand, not researching the tide times I had no idea on what the conditions will be once the sun would start to set. 

One thing I have learned in photography is that once you have found something of interest it's best to stay in one spot. Sunrise and sunset is so short you have very little time to set up to be ready for the show which is why I arrived early. It is better to come away with one good image than nothing because you were rushing around.

While waiting for the sun to set I was previewing different angles along the bank of the waterway,moving in either direction avoiding any obstructions such as bushes and signs. In this case there was another smaller craft to the left which I wanted left out of the picture as their is a photographic tip of having "odds". When capturing flowers for example you want 1,3,5 flower heads, it's just one of the many photographic "rules".

Once I had framed the image in the viewfinder I locked down the camera in that position with a tripod to avoid taking a blurry image due to the camera moving. To ensure there was going to be enough information I decided to bracket the images to combine into an HDR file using Lightroom 6 which I will include a YouTube tutorial below. I find using HDR is very useful to landscape images by capturing detail in the sky and the ground. 

Using both a Nikon D7100 and Fuji X-E1 to compare the bracketing features and to see if I could live with just the Fuji to benefit from the lighter weight. The Nikon has much better bracketing features with taking upto 5 images with +/- 2 stops or 3 images with +/- 3 stops in quick succession with the camera in timer mode.

The Fuji can only take 3 images +/- 1 stop which for me limits its use for HDR, however the 35mm lens for the Fuji is the best lens I own over the Nikon and Fuji so I try and use that where I can. Taking bracketed images with the Fuji is certainly possible and I use it all the time but I cannot see why Fuji is less advanced, maybe the newer Fuji cameras are better? 

Using Lightroom 6 I merged the files using the new inbuilt HDR feature which now avoids the interaction with Photoshop which is handy. Using a similar method to the below YouTube tutorial I eventually achieved these results which I think produced interesting images that I am happy with making my trip out worthwhile.

The top image was entered into the Wex Photographic weekly competition held on Twitter by Tweeting an image taken the previous week to #WexMondays which I occasionally participate in with the hope I could win a voucher, most of their entries by other photographers are simply stunning and I have little chance. If anything I enter images to help increase my twitter following and drive traffic to this blog to help promote my work. Wex have requested I write up my experience in taking this image by explaining my process and giving it difficulty rating out of 10. 

Fuji X-E1 35mm 1.4 ISO 200 F/5.6 1/240 Sec, a Single image not HDR to capture the person.

Asking myself on how difficult it was to capture this image and give out difficulty rating seems to be a simple request but It's actually quite difficult. I went out knowing on what I wanted to achieve. I know what combination of setting are needed to capture this type of image and I know the camera's limitations and why an HDR is useful in this situation. After some thought I will rate this picture with a difficulty rating of 6/10 and here is a simple checklist for taking sunset images and landscape images in general.

  1. Get there early and find something of interest to include with the sky. It can be a boat, tree or a building for example.
  2. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera as hand holding the camera will make the image blurry, or a flat surface such as a wall and trigger the camera with trigger release or self timer mode.
  3. Take test shots before the sunset to see if you're happy with the general framing and dont forget to look around the edges of the viewfinder for any unwanted branches that you don't immediately notice.
  4. HDR is not always required, a silhouette image is just as effective.
  5. Try manual mode, remember to use your lowest ISO and around F/16 then change the shutter speed to get the sky correctly exposed as auto modes will probably get it wrong.
  6. Take images in RAW mode, this is very important to capture enough information for post processing later.
  7. Practice, taking good images takes time and experience which can only improve by getting out there and taking pictures.
  8. YouTube is a great resource with tutorials on camera settings, technique and image editing to learn from.   

How Hill Wherrys

This Sunday I went along to a meetup organised with a photographic themed Facebook Group dedicated to posting images taken in the county of Norfolk. Initially I initially joined this group for inspiration for my own photography which does help. However attending past meetups I have started to know a few people which only strengthens the desire to attend these which are now becoming more frequent. 

Being at a loose end I decided to attend the organised trip to How Hill which I have been to only by boat while on family boating holidays along the Norfolk Broads. The weather forecast looked a bit grim and I hoped the rain would be intermittent which is what thankfully happened, at least till mid afternoon while we were inside having lunch in Horning. 

The main event at How Hill were three restored Wherry's offering short trips up the River Ant. Wherry's are old pleasure sail craft built around 1900. The group of around 10 people went on the hour and half trip all armed with our cameras varying from mobile phones to professional  Nikon D800 and everything in between including my Fuji X-E1 and Nikon D7100. 

While my Fuji has superior image quality compared to what Nikon equipment I currently own it isn't weather sealed which is where my Nikon D7100 came in handy as it was a wet day. While we were on the boat traveling down the River Ant it was dry enough to use the Fuji so I was using that most of the day. 

For £12 I tagged along with the group for a short boat ride down the River Ant. Initially I wasn't going to go along as I wasn't too keen on spending any money and as I go on holiday here and I will be again in a few week time and it isn't really a novelty. Not wanting to be left behind on my own I went along on Wherry Norada which has plenty of character and being with a friendly group made it worthwhile.

Travelling up the River Ant is always a pleasure with the beautiful scenery of the Norfolk Broads and the stormy sky only added to the experience and added drama to my images. 

My approach to camera settings were to make sure the sky was exposed correctly which when reviewing images on the camera showed everything else as being dark. Because I take all my images in RAW mode and using Lightroom 6 I knew the information would be in the file to create a correctly exposed final picture by altering the highlights, shadows, blacks and whites. Even then I used the graduated filter in Lightroom to darken the sky by -1 stop and using the new Lightroom 6 improvements to alter its effects.

I shall include a couple of favorite YouTube tutorials on these methods I used below. The first video is a general tutorial on how to process images using Lightroom 4 which is still the same for Lightroom 6 and the second video is on how the new updated tool improve the editing process. 


East Somerton - Behind The Photo

In this new weekly feature I will be talking about an images on where it was taken and what I like about it.

Today its East Somerton Church ruins that I visited earlier this year in during a week off work. This was one of many locations I visited that day with Thornham and Horsey as they were close by. This village is located just off the coast near Winterton-on-Sea which I foolishly didn't visit.

The ruins are tucked away down a narrow road between a few houses and could easily pass it if you were not looking for it. Like with all old buildings I am attracted to textures of brick work. To create this image I used a technique called HDR to capture enough information to bring out details in the very bright and dark areas, branches of the trees behind the window for example. 

Making this a black and white image creates an atmosphere to emphasise the emptiness of this ancient building and brings out the texture in the bricks and rendering. 

These ruins are worth exploring if you're in the area but not to keep you busy for too long. While I was here I managed to see snowdrops which was one thing I missed out from last year. 

Thanks for taking the time to read about this picture and I shall raid the archives for next week's image.

 

Behind The Photo: Debenhams Bury

I have had this idea for awhile. To explain why I have taken a particular image, what grabbed my interest and what I did to the image in post production. 

Original Image, no adjustments 

Today I am talking about this Debenhams store in Bury St Edmunds. It truly is a beautiful building. I wasn't working that week and visited Lackford Lakes nearby that morning and popped into Bury on the way home. I wanted to retake an image of the old Abbey Ruins and the cathedral . Parking in the shopping centre I passed this store and had to take a picture of it.

It took a little time to find the right angle to avoid bollards and other distractions 

Starting in the roof we see panels of metal of varying shades of gray, curves and diagonal lines that provides plenty of interest. Same with the panels of glass on the front of the store, not to mention the reflections.

We then get to the pavement with more lines and curves of the smaller brick work.

When editing this type of image, architectural images are often better in black and white, shapes and lines are stronger. Black and white has brought out the different tones of gray on the roof panels.

Final result and lightroom settings are below, click to enlarge. I hope by posting these you will see my approach to photography and maybe you will pick up something useful, or at least have ideas of where to visit.  Tweet me your favorite spots @nealtraf, on my facebook page or  comment below.

Final processed image

Lightroom Adjustments and Camera Settings. Nikon 18-105 Kits lens was used