Articals

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 

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

 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

 

My Week Off

My photographic activities for last week were based around a self imposed theme of sunsets, the idea was leave in the afternoons to capture sunsets and then the night sky.

This time of year the sky doesn't get completely dark till around midnight and after all the walking to locations I weren't in the mood to wait around too long and I try and avoid driving when tired.  

With Norfolk i'm spoilt for choice when it comes to locations with the Norfolk Broads and the North Norfolk Coast providing ideal scenery which I were rewarded with the effort in traveling to Berney Arms and Burnham Overy Staithe.

The online shop is now open for business which is still being improved and I intend to expand my product range to blank greeting cards once I have a sourced the materials I require to create a high quality product.

My next holiday won't be till the end of July for a week on the Norfolk Broads with family. In a couple of weeks butterflies should be in big supply to photography which I am looking forward to, Swallowtails in particular which only appear on the Norfolk Broads. 

 

 

 

Berney Arms Windmill

Not being at work this week allows me to travel and living in Norfolk there are plenty of places I have yet to visit. Berney Arms windmill has been one of them since seeing pictures of these on facebook by other photographers.

Reaching this windmill isn't the easiest or quickest of places to get to,  Parking at Wickhampton: St Andrew Church NR13 3PD and following the paths down to the river which is quite a distance and I am unsure if all of these paths are public access. I believe you can walk from Great Yarmouth or Reedham. The easiest way would be to travel by boat.

The forecast for this week is to be unsettled which potentially creates interesting skies for landscape photography if you don't mind the risk of getting wet. When I have weeks off I try and make my photography interesting by having a focus with long exposures being the last theme and sunset & night time this time round. Leaving later in the day paid off as I had a great time seeing the sunset over the River Yare and the clouds soaking up the colour of the sun as it disappeared.

Rest of the week is going to be spent setting up my online shop using ESTY as the platform to sell my images which I aim to have ready for Friday this week.


EDP May Magazine Publication

Seeing my images in publications is still a novelty and gives me a sense of achievement. Taken last year in Wayland Wood is just outside of Watton which is where I live and naturally is one of my most visited locations simply because I can walk to it.

In 2014 I made the effort to explore Wayland Wood to capture the Bluebells on a number of occasions as they progress throughout the season visiting at different times of the day. Going into woodland at the beginning or end of the day when the sun is at a low angle will produce images with interesting side light and shadows from trees which adds depth to images, the image used was taken around 8am. 

Because cameras do not currently capture what they human eye sees I use a technique called HDR or High Dynamic Range to capture enough detail to create a picture I would be happy with. Most of my landscape images are taken using the HDR technique, watch this YouTube video for HDR is action. 

 

Bluebells are now coming to an end for the 2015 showing and I shall be moving onto butterflies in the coming weeks building on last years experience, hopefully my newly acquired 80-200 lens will do a better job. Next year will be a challenge as I need to try something new with bluebells to avoid taking the same image over and over.

 

Castle Acre & New Toy

Recently I purchased a "Joby Gorillapod" tripod designed for a lightweight camera like my Fuji. The idea is to replace much heavier and larger tripod for urban exploring as it can fit all in one bag.

The way its used is by attaching the tripod on railings, lamp posts or just simply walls to add stability to the camera which is essential for photographing sunsets and city skylines. 

A few days ago I was out exploring a nearby field which reportedly was growing yellow and red flowers but it turned out to be too far away from the roadside to be any good.

I then decided to travel to Castle Acre to capture the sunset from a viewpoint I discovered a couple weeks earlier and made a point to use my new "toy" which worked well and kept its position while I changed the dials to manually take images with different exposures to merge into HDR later. 

When I next visit London I shall only be taking this smaller tripod. It should also work well in woodland, however in the countryside I can see it being less useful for landscapes. 

The Yellow Star of Bethlehem

During the last week I have been spending time in Wayland Wood as it has started to wake up from winter. 

I have been focusing too much on bluebells which isn't a bad thing but it would be too easy to miss other beautiful flowers that are currently in bloom such as The Yellow Star of Bethlehem which was pointed being a rare plant and only appears in a small number of locations in the UK and Wayland Wood is one of those places.

Macro photography to me is very rewarding as I find a sense of achievement when I can capture something beautiful that you would otherwise not even notice.

Using a Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 105mm lens I was sitting down on a bin bag and using a tripod to get a rough position. With the wind and the size of the flower being not much bigger than a 5p coin taking a picture that was usable was very difficult. I carry a small water bottle to create water droplets on flowers to create a more interesting picture.

I often see small insects around flowers which I find fascinating and fun to watch and getting any detail from them is even more of a challenge.

As spring is well on its way im sure many more will popup on here, so please visit often to see the results.