Thursday 29 December 2011

Lighten the land, don't darken the sky

A while back I was teaching someone how to use ND grads and I was explaining how putting the dark area of the grad over the sky has the effect of making the land lighter. They looked at me as though I had gone mad!

Eventually they began to understand that you are not really darkening the sky, you are in staid lightening the land/  The key is to think that you are using the graduated filter to reduce the exposure range into  something the camera can cope with so that you don't end up with blocked shadows or blown out highlights.

I said I would create an example for them to show the effect of using a graduated filter.  The below images show the rather subtle effect of a 0.6nd grad in use.  Moving your mouse over the below should show the effect of inserting the filter:
Mouse over to see before and after
Hopefully you can see that we have slightly darkened the top left corner of the image and brightened the right horizon area by using the graduated filter at a jaunty angle like this.
ND Grad Position
The angle of the grad filter was to match up with the way the early sunrise was lighting the land from one side. Although it is usual to use grads in a more upright position it is important to pay attention to balancing the position as well as the intensity of the light.

Here are the before and after images in case the mouse over doesn't work for you.  Try opening them in seperate tabs of your web browser & switching between them.

Before - No ND Grad
After - With ND Grad

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Can I call you a cab sir ?

The lovely people at are now using my image of Tower Bridge as the header image of their website:

The Original image of tower bridge can be found here.

Tower Bridge

Thursday 1 December 2011

Gary Horner is photographer of the month for December

Our photographer for December is Gary Horner and his website. Gary's work overs a wide range of subjects and shows a great eye for the landscape of his native East Anglia and is well worth a visit.

  Herringfleet Mill
by Gary Horner

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Sunday 27 November 2011

Black and White Photographer of the Year 2011 Comp

Quite a few people who knew that I had 3 pictures that were shortlisted for "Black and White Photographer of the Year" have asked how I got on in the competition.

Well I didn't win,  you can see the winners here.  Congratulations to Binh Trinh and the other winners.

I was pleased however to get one shot recognized in the "Shots we liked but didn't quite make it" section featured in this months magazine and was chosen to go on the welcome page of the magazine.

I'm taking that as pretty much a second place in one of the categories - which is nice. I am also really proud that the shot in question is of my beloved Smudge,  a dog with more personality than a little dog should have, who unfortunately passed away exactly a year ago.

Below are the three shots that were shortlisted:

Gormley Towers



Friday 11 November 2011

A hard case for the LEE Big Stopper

The LEE Big Stopper is fast becoming one of the most popular filters in photography today. The ability to setup the shot with other filters then slide in the 10 stopper at the last moment makes it much easier to use than the screw in filters.

In fact the only real problem I have found with the Big Stopper is the absence of a hard case for it. The soft pouch they come in is great for stopping it getting scratched but if you are as clumsy as me they offer little protection against snapping the thing. The filter is actually as brittle as cinder toffee, so if you are not careful your £100 filter will end up looking like mine:

Luckily when I explained my predicament to the good people at LEE helped me out with a replacement filter really quick.  Fantastic customer service from LEE, I'm never buying filters from anyone else.

So - how to keep my new filter from the same fate?  It was time to investigate a hard case option.   LEE don't make a hard case and a search on the web drew a blank too.  It was time to make my own.

If you are old enough you may remember that before downloads, music used to come on a physical disc called a CD. I happen to have a fair few of these archaic things laying around the house and they are almost exactly the right size to be a Big Stopper case.

Conversion from ancient recording technology to modern filter storage is simple:

  1. Take out that old Steps CD and chuck it in the bin
  2. Pull out the bit the CD was laying in throw it away.
  3. Tape the LEE exposure table to the inside of the case so you can find it easily
  4. Cut two pieces of lens cloth to fit the inside of the case and fix them using double sided tape.
  5. Cut a thin layer of packing foam the to fit the inside of the case.
  6. Cut a filter sized hole in the foam and fix it into the the case with double sided tape
  7. And your done.

Please let me know if you decide to make a similar case & if you find a better way of doing it.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Nigel Wilkins is photographer of the month for November

Our photographer for November is Nigel Wilkins. Nigels website has some stunning views of The English Lake District and is worth a visit.

  Striding Edge
by Nigel Wilkins

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Saturday 22 October 2011

Where are we going

The other week I was chatting to a good friend of mine and he started ranting about the photography he sees on many of the photography websites. How many of the popular shots seem to owe little relationship to the real world and seem to suffer from cartonification.

I suggested he put his thoughts down and make a blog out of his thoughts. Below is what my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, came up with.  I hope you enjoy reading his thoughts on the state of popular photography today.

The Basics of Photography

A few years ago I enrolled on a one year course to study photography. One of the first lessons I learnt was that 'photography' meant writing or painting with light, the ability to capture a moment in time with the prevailing light was the essence of photography. Little did I realise then what could be achieved without such illumination.

I feel a photograph should represent what the photographer saw at the time of capture, using the skills he has learnt and fashioned to manipulate the camera by adjusting exposure or shutter speed and balancing light by using filters. Gaining a fundamental knowledge of these tools of the trade, with equal importance to how light interacts with the equipment, will lead to better and more honest results. In a recent internet forum thread, about this very same subject, one photographer alluded to better photography results would be achieved with "patience, planning and understanding in the field in the right conditions" I fully endorse these comments.

I had been trawling my way through various popular photography sites recently with a fairly glum outlook to the future of my beloved hobby. It seems an image has to go through a Photoshop metamorphous before it is appreciated and applauded. One such image so infuriated me it prompted this blog.

The image in question is from a popular photographers spot, shot many times, in fact I had been there recently, what grated me was not so much the photoshop manipulation, (well actually it did) but more the comments and accolades it received.
  • "Lovely colours"
  • "wonderful colours captured"
  • " love the winter colours"
couldn't anyone see what I was seeing? The shot was straight out of a Pixar movie and nothing to do with real colours. It was a cartoon still, a make-believe impression from the time it was taken. No one mentioned manipulation, not one mention of
  • "nice Photoshop work"
  • "good use of the saturation sliders"
  • "love the cartoon effect"

It certainly wasn’t in the photographers' description. It was as if the image had the emperor’s new clothes on and what pains me is this seems to be becoming the norm. With more and more images sent through the Photoshop grinder coming out appearing total unreal from the original "painting with light" concept than ever before.

A photographer I have huge admiration for wrote

I want to recreate the scene that you would have witnessed with your own eyes had you been standing next to me at the moment I fired the camera's shutter.

This is a poignant statement to those in the modern era of photography that the basic concepts of photography should be learnt and not everything should be resolved after the occasion via the PC.

So, what do you think? Have we forgotten the essentials of taking pictures? Has manipulation taken over from craftsmanship or is it all part of a broad church called photography and everything is valid?

Saturday 8 October 2011

Black and White Photographer of the Year Competition 2011

I recently had 3 photos short-listed for the Black and White Photographer of the year competition 2011.  Unfortunately I didn't come anywhere in the final judging, but I am just happy enough to be short-listed.

For those that asked here are the three shots that were shortlisted.

Gormley Towers

Lunch Time


Saturday 1 October 2011

Tm Daniels is photographer of the month for October

Our photographer for October is Norfolk based Tim Daniels. Covering a range of subjects, often in a carefully stylised way, his website is well worth a visit.

  The Underpass
by Tim Daniels

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Sunday 4 September 2011

Summer on The Southbank

This summer London's Southbank centre has held a summer festival to commemorate 60 years since The Festival of Britain.  I managed to get down there a couple of times,  the atmosphere on a hot summers day was fantastic and the picture opportunities nuerous.

Here are a few shots from the festival, I seem to be in a B&W mood at the moment.  I hope you enjoy them.

Standing in the Rain

Mine all Mine
A snack on the steps

Monsoon Season
Prisoner of Love

Run from the Rain
Life Stories

Thursday 1 September 2011

Cathy Taylor is photographer of the month for September

Our photographer for September is Dorset based Cathy Taylor, covering a range of subjects her website is well worth a visit.

by Cathy Taylor

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Monday 1 August 2011

Dennis Bromage is photographer of the month for August

Dennis Bromage is a Teeside based photographer that produces some breath taking images.  His website features many great images but I just couldn't resist these cute Polar Bears.

by Dennis Bromage

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Saturday 2 July 2011

Vision and Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - a book review

I have just finished reading Vision and Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by David DuChemin and found it to be a generally excellent book.

The book is not a full blown guide to Lightroom, you won't find any thing about the library module, printing or slideshow.  Tthis is a book dedicated to getting the best out of your pictures using the development module. The book begins with some text which basically boils down to "develop a view of the world you want to communicate" and then it is straight into an overview of the development module.

The overview is then followed by the real meat of the book, where David takes 20 images and explores how to develop them in Lightroom. Each image starts with a zeroed raw file of one of David's shots,which you can download from the web so you can try the instructions out yourself. Once you have the raw file it then shows each of the steps David goes through to achieve his desired result. The style is always to talk about what it is he is try to achieve in visual terms and how to achieve it rather than to get obsessed with the options. It gives you a pretty good idea of what a slider does and why he decided to move a particular slider at that particular time.

What I really liked is the way he takes a raw file, which is already pretty good, and just tries to get the best out of it. There is no manipulation just for the sake of it or rescuing a poor image here, just the digital equivalent of developing a shot in the darkroom. As the lessons progress, he gives the Develop module a pretty good workout and took me in to areas like HSL & split toning where I had never really seen much point in going to before.

The only downside I could find with the book was that the lessons can get slightly repetitive as most pictures need the same beginning adjustments. But if you work along with each picture or try them out on your own images this is needed (and helpful) to make sense of the process.

Overall this is an excellent book and recommended for all those Lightroom users who want to get the best out of their images.

Friday 1 July 2011

Sunday 26 June 2011

Bye bye my little boy

I have just got back from a week in The Lake District,  so normally I would be posting a few of the many shots I took from the shores of Derwent Water. Unfortunately this post is tinged with a huge amount of sadness instead.

We had a good week, my wife, my little black cocker-spaniel "Boysie" and myself.   Boysie came to us as a rescue dog 8 years and 4 months ago, he was reckoned to be about 5 and a half when we got him which makes him about 14 or 98 in dog years! Days were spent walking the beautiful landscape and evenings were spent photographing it. For an old boy he was doing spectacularly well,  walking 5 miles a day over fell and dale yet still he was keen to go out with me of an evening.  He was always excited going out and just as excited to come home again.

On Friday we were on the last walk of the week in Borrowdale when suddenly Boysie screamed and held his back leg up. It soon became obvious that he couldn't walk on it, so we carried him the half mile to the car and took him to the vets.

The vet x-rayed him and said he had broken his femur (which would normally be the result of a car crash not slipping when walking). The vets gave him some pain killers and we agreed to take him to our vets on the following day as we were due to go home. We went back to our holiday cottage and as he kept waking up distressed I decided to spend the night sleeping next to him so that he wouldn't be alone and scared.  All through the night whenever he seemed distressed I stroked him and he settled down again.  In the morning my wife came down stairs to find us both fast asleep next to each other.

We undertook the long drive home to Essex on Saturday morning & then straight to our vets.  The news from our vets was not so good,  It turns out that he was riddled with bone cancer.  We had no choice but to put him to sleep. We have now lost 2 dogs in 7 months - I am just devastated.

This is Boysie on the beach Thursday at St.Bees in driving rain. For me this picture sums up his spirit, whatever was happening he always wanted to be part of it and to be by your side.
Miss you so much little fella

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Magic of Steam

There is nothing more likely to bring out the small child from the grown man than a steam train.  I took am not immune from the romance of steam.  Here are some shots from The North Yorkshire Moors railway that I just couldn't resist.

Tea Time

of Gloucester

Freight Train

Driver takes a break

Old Friends
Motive Power

Sunday 12 June 2011

Space the Final Frontier

It happens to us all.  Your shiny new PC, that was equipped with masses of disk space when you bought it, has suddenly started to complain about a lack of disk space.  Where has it all gone?  Well those 1000s of photos could well be taking up stacks of space that you could easily free up by deleting them but there must be something less drastic you can do?

Don't worry, help is at hand in the form of some clever free bits of software that can help you manage your drives:


CCleaner (or crap cleaner) is an excellent product, which when run on your machine will get rid of all those temporary files that applications are so keen on leaving all over your hard drive.  It is worth checking the settings before as you may not want it to remove things like your internet browsing history (or maybe you do).  CCleaner also includes a registry repair process which removes junk from your registry.


WinDirStat will helpfully scan your disk drives and map the files on it and their usage.  The graphical display makes it really easy to see what is hogging your disk space.

WinDirStat maps your disk drives


The PC Decrapifier is for people who have just got a new PC.  running this application will help you get rid of all the junk that PC manufacturers are so keen on hoisting on their customers.  Highly recommended.

If you have any recommendations for useful disk software please add a comment,  I would love to see what people are using.

Saturday 4 June 2011

On Suttton Bank

Last month I spent a fantastic week in North Yorkshire,  staying right near the abbey at Revaux.  As I was not far from the great inland cliff of Sutton Bank and  I managed to get out a few times and this is the result of my evenings spent on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.

Take A Seat

Sunset at High Barn

Sunset over Boltby

Hambleton Down

Windypitt Sunset

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Graham Nobles is photographer of the month for June

This month our photographer is Derbyshire based Graham Nobles.  Grahams work covers a wide range of landscape and wildlife photography and his website is well worth a visit.

Barn Owl
by Graham Nobels

Previous  Photographers of the Month

Sunday 29 May 2011

Black and White in lightroom

2011 so far has been a rubbish year for photography for me.  I was laid up with a really nasty bought of Pneumonia at the beginning of the year  and as soon as I was feeling well the sky became a thick featureless mass of cloud.  I managed to snap my LEE big stopper into 3 bits - even though it has hardly left my bag for months. After managing a decent weeks shooting in Derbyshire I am now suffering with eye problems which make photography difficult and driving anywhere to take shots impossible.

A new collection as virtual copies
In a desperate attempt to produce some pictures, I decided to take a look at last years photos and see if they looked any good in black and white:

In Lightroom I selected every shot I took last year, which is easy enough to do as I have my pictures automatically stored into folders for each year, so it is simply a question of navigating to the correct folder and using ctrl + A to select all the images.

I then decide to create a new collection of these images as virtual copies. Virtual copies are a duplication of your picture but they don’t exist as actual photos, they are simply stored as a new set of settings in the catalog.You can create as many virtual copies of a master photo as you wish so you can have color, sepia, B&W and different crops of the same picture yet all you are storing is a recipy of yur changes to the original file.

So having created my new collection I select all of the images (ctrl+A)  and desaturate them (V).  The I selected Library>Previews>render standard size previews which will speed up the viewing process later.  This takes quite a while with an entire years images, so I left it running overnight.

Now I have a complete collection of last years shots,  so I work my way through them using the arrow key, X to mark as a reject and P for my picks.  I whittled 3,600 images down to 9 I liked in B&W which I then saved as tiffs to give some sort of permanence to the virtual images.

Below are a few of those shots I thought you might like.

Curbar Fence

Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

Dawn in the Meadows

Trebarwith Strand