Choosing BBC Countryfile 2016 Calender Entries

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

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

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

What images do you like? free polls

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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.