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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. 



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

   

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.