Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Frost

The hard hoar frost last night provided a photographic opportunity not to be missed. I was restricted to home today but 30 minutes in my garden yielded several very pleasing images. There aren't too many days in the year when we get such an exceptional frost.
Liriodendron Tulipifera on Box
Adiantum
Bird Bath #1
Tulip Tree Leaves
Bird Bath #2
Birches
Tulip Tree
Rhubarb

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Meeting of Minds - On Landscape 2016

I'm just back from attending the 2 excellent days of the second "Meeting of Minds" Landscape Photographers' Conference at Rheged in Cumbria. A most stimulating, informative and, above all, enjoyable time spent with other like-minded photographers. An excellent set of contributors. Thank you to the On Landscape team for all of the arrangements. Looking forward the next one ... will it be another 2 years?
After the conference concluded on Sunday I decided to stay on for a day and see if I could exercise some of the ideas I'd picked up. I ended up on a short walk/hike alongside a stream feeding into Ullswater where I enjoyed seeking out a few moving water images. And enjoyed processing them once back at home.




Friday, 11 November 2016

In Issue 124 of "On Landscape"

Four of my tree photographs from Bredon Hill were publish recently in Issue 124 of "On Landscape" in the 4x4 section. Linked here.

Leaf Litter

Autumn leaves - who can resist? Not me.

Leaf Litter

Thursday, 10 November 2016

To downsize, or not to downsize, that is the question.

This week I committed the worst possible photographer's faux pas. My photo-backpack is always kept fully packed, camera batteries charged, at the ready to pick up without thinking when I head off to do whatever my next photo-outing requires. So, when I arrived for a photo-hike on a cold, frosty and very promising dawn I removed my backpack, boots, tripod and so on from my car boot, got kitted up, then opened my backpack to find no camera!!! After a few moments of panic, I remembered that a couple of days previously I'd removed it to take some shots at home of our grandson - and failed to return it to my backpack.

So, not stolen or lost, but, regretfully, a case of forgetfulness. I could have returned home to collect it, but that would have been a 40 minute round trip meaning I'd miss out totally on the promising sunrise. So, making a virtue out of necessity, my contingency plan swung into action. I always carry a pocket camera (a 6 year old Canon S95) in my backpack as a fallback in the event of equipment failure or for occasions when carrying a lots of kit just isn't practical. So, I left my back pack and tripod in the car and hiked several miles unencumbered. Just my pocket camera for company. What a revelation. Whilst the camera is just 10MP compared with my usual 24MP full frame camera (Sony A7II), it shoots in RAW and is a very capable camera with a 28-105mm equivalent zoom. I quickly found that there's an unexpected freedom and pleasure when hiking light. And equally quickly I found that I was taking the same photographs I imagined I'd be taking with my full frame gear. On return home I processed my images and found to my delight that I'd achieved a similar hit rate to that which I achieve with my full frame equipment.

There are, however, two downsides to this revelation. The dynamic range of the little camera is significantly smaller than I'm used to, and smaller than I often need, and the smaller pixel count means the maximum size of images is smaller than I'd really like. But I must ask myself, what do I really need? Nowadays I produce far fewer prints than I ever did, and those are invariably smaller than in the past. And most of my work is now seen via the web on computer screens and tablets rather than in print form, for which far smaller pixel counts are more than sufficient.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed hiking unencumbered by a load of kit. And, I found that I can achieve (almost) everything required for prints of A4/8x10 size, and at a push A3/12x16 and absolutely everything for posting on the web. And stitching images allows far larger prints. I need to give some more thought to whether my faux pas will give rise to me changing what I carry for my photo-hiking projects. My ageing Canon S95 has shown me once again the pleasures of lighter hiking. I'd already downsized a few years ago from hiking with a 5x4 film camera and all of the weight that entailed. I'm now thinking one of the latest compacts with higher capabilities might be a serious proposition.

But, if I downsize does that stop me being a 'serious photographer'? Hmmm ...


Thursday, 27 October 2016

TED Talk about Clouds - update

Over three years ago (6th August 2013) I wrote the blog post (repeated below) about Gavin Pretor-Pinney's TED Talk about clouds. At the time it had been viewed over 200,000 times. I've just taken a look and the count is now 1,189,793 times.

TED Talk about Clouds

I often photograph the sky - it's always available, often interesting and sometimes fascinating. Gavin Pretor-Pinney founded the Cloud Appreciation Society to which many sky watchers, like me, submit photographs. I've been lucky over the last few years to have several of mine published on the CAS website. Recently Gavin gave a talk about clouds at TED Talks in Edinburgh which, the last time I looked, has been viewed over 200,000 times. Do watch it, linked here, it's well worth all of the 11 minutes. I was delighted that he used one of my cumulonimbus photographs as one of his illustrations.

If you've not yet come across TED I would encourage you to take a look. The short talks on and about every subject under the sun are splendid, challenging, inspirational, thought provoking, funny, infuriating, ...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Levadas - Maderia

We're just back from our second visit to the Portugese island of Madeira - a steep sided (and hopefully) extinct volcano located about 300 miles from the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The island's agriculture is supported by the capture and distribution of rainwater by well over 1000 miles of levadas or rainwater channels. That's a lot of levadas given that the island is only about 300 square miles (800 square kilometres). They have been built over the last several hundred years and deliver water from around the island to where it's needed for agriculture. Many of the levadas have paths by their side so can be walked, and as they're almost on the level they are mostly very easy. Except that, because they run around the contours of the very steep volcano, in places they have precipitous drops - often without guard rails for protection. And here and there they flow through tunnels, some of which are easily long enough (many 100s of meters or more) to require a good torch. So, not for those a little unsteady on their feet or who don't have a good head for heights, or who would feel claustrophobic hiking through very dark restricted height tunnels.

This is a selection of images from this year's trip plus one from 3 years ago.







Sunday, 10 July 2016

Website Updated - New Images from USA & Bredon Hill

I've just updated my website with images from my recent visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and The Cascade Mountains of Washington State - linked here.
The Rain's Coming
And I've added a few images to my "On Bredon Hill - 2016" - the one image per hike page - linked here. I've now completed 32 Bredon Hill photo-hikes so far this year. My blog of this photography project which contains up to several images from each hike is linked here.
Three Tree Sunrise

Sunday, 12 June 2016

27 hikes on Bredon Hill so far this year ...

I've now completed 27 photohikes on Bredon Hill since starting on 1st January. After each hike I post a few photographs from the day on my Bredon Hill blog - linked here.


Circumhorizon Arc ...

I recently returned from a road trip that took in The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Seattle and the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Whilst staying in Chelan I was lucky to see a spectacular Circumhorizon Arc just above the horizon directly below the sun. I photographed it (of course) and sent it to Les Cowley who runs the superb website Atmospheric Optics. He immediately let me know that it was a particularly good example and that he’d use it for a forthcoming “Optics Picture of the Day (OPOD)”. He posted it this afternoon, here are the links:

Webesite Home Page: www.atoptics.co.uk/index.htm
OPOD - it’s here for the next few days: www.atoptics.co.uk/opod.htm
Permanent location if you miss it as the OPOD during the next few days: www.atoptics.co.uk/fza118.htm

It was spectacular - the first time I’ve ever seen one.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Now on Day 12 of my "On Bredon Hill - 2016" project

Today I completed my 12th hiking and photography outing "On Bredon Hill - 2016" since starting on 1st January this year. By now I must have covered about 80% of the public and permissive path on the hill and have so far published 50 photographs on my project blog: linked here: https://onbredonhill2016.wordpress.com/. So I'm just starting covering some ground for the second time which is where the challenge comes - to find new images from where I've been before. This will be partly facilitated by the changing seasons, by my aiming to walk in 'the other direction' and at different times of the day and of course in different weather and light. In addition to the photographs from each day's hike I select just one from each day and post it on my website here: http://www.virtuallygrey.co.uk/on-bredon-hill-2016 - 12 in all so far.
Reflected Oak

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Image Aspect Ratios and Camera Design

I'm a photographer who is in no way wedded to any particular aspect ratio. I will trim my images to whatever I consider suits them best, whether or not they fall to one of the recognised ratios or some non-integer ratio. But, I resent losing pixels. In particular, square format images have to be sliced out of an already elongated 3:2 ratio image - 1/3 of the sensor's pixels having to be ditched.

Easily selectable aspect ratios of maximum pixel count in digital cameras raises some questions about higher-end camera design. I've been mulling this over for a while and concluded that some fundamental changes to camera design would be enormously beneficial.

First a few statements of the obvious:
  • Sensors are rectangular with width greater than height.
  • One always has to turn a camera through 90 degrees to take a portrait orientated image.
  • All cameras are designed to handle most easily in landscape format orientation.
  • Some alternative image aspect ratios may be available via menu options but they are limited and clumsy to select.
  • All lenses throw a circular image around a rectangular sensor.
It's the last of these statements that suggests a far better approach to camera design and handling. Cameras ought to be able to take advantage of the full image circle by having a circular sensor to capture all of the image data. In-camera software should enable easily selectable aspect ratios (predefined or infinitely variable) via a simple dial option which accordingly masks the EVF and screen. There are many positives to this but there are two of real significance:
  1. Utilising the full image circle means that the maximum possible image size (pixels) would always be available for every selected aspect ratio within the image circle.
  2. Portrait oriented images could be made whilst the camera remains in the comfortable 'horizontal' position.
Clearly this requires a new approach to some significant aspects of camera body design, but not lens design. Larger sensors would be required because they would now need the full image circle to be accommodated rather than the 3:2 rectangle. And consequently the EVF and screen would need to be square so that the selected aspect ratio is shown at its maximum size whilst masked.

Additionally, the in-camera software should offer the photographer the option to save the full circular image raw data along with the crop decision made at the time of capture. This would allow an alternative crop decision to be made later. Amendments to processing software to accommodate this would be required. No doubt, Adobe and the like would oblige!

An innovation such as this would be a huge step forward which, for some (probably many) serious photographers, would be irresistible.