Saturday, 15 November 2014

Deer rut at Richmond Park

Back in mid-October I visited Richmond Park with a few friends with the aim of photographing the red deer rut. We arrived sharp at 7am to coincide with gate opening and within a few minutes we saw a number of stags near the side of the road, before parking up in one of the designated car parks.

The light levels were very low, which gave us time for a coffee before we headed off into the park. Quite by chance, we appeared to be in quite a good location, with a number of groups of hinds being guarded by stags (or harts as they are also known). There was little activity early on, with most animals sitting down, which gave us some opportunities for group shots and to familiarise ourselves with their behaviour.

Red deer and jackdaw

After a while, and as the light improved, I became aware of some activity about 500 metres away in one of the open areas. There was a small group of hinds and a couple of stags in close proximity so we headed off in their direction. As we got within a few hundred yards I took some shots of them in the long, autumn-coloured grasses.

At this point we spotted a couple of young stags posturing and starting to lock horns. It was not a violent interaction - just a couple of 'teenagers' sizing themselves up.

By now the light had improved and there was more activity as other stags made their way into the area. At one point a stag trotted over from the distant woodland but, when it got within 20 metres of one of the dominant males, it turned and ran away.

Despite a lack of real clashes between the stags, there were still lots of photo opportunities.

We spent the next hour or so photographing a stag and a group of about eight hinds as be worked his way around them to ward off others.

My two favourite shots of the day are of the hart bellowing against the autumn colours of the trees.

With the last one I was lucky enough to capture the moment when a pair of starlings decided to settle on the stag's back.

All in all, a great couple of hours photography and something that I would like to repeat.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Nikon D810 – some follow-up thoughts

Juvenile marsh harriers at Elmley: deep crops from the D810/200-400 VRII. See text below. Click on the image to see it at full size.
Just a quick follow up to my previous post on the Nikon D810. I said that the look of the prints would be an important deciding factor. So, I got some 18” x 12” prints made (by Proam, who I think are excellent). Alongside the D810 images, I got some “control” D700 prints made from pictures of similar aircraft taken earlier this year.

The first print out of the pack was the Vulcan shot. It was one of those “Wow!” moments – it looks terrific. And the rest of the D810 shots looked terrific. Then I came to the D700 shots … err … they looked terrific as well. Actually, the differences in quality at that size print are pretty small. I showed them to Phil and asked him to guess which came from the 12MP camera, and which from the 36 MP camera. After a bit of humming and hahing, he got it right, and without any prompting from me.

So, yes, there are discernable differences between D700 and D810 pictures as 18” x 12” prints, but they are very slight. A bit more edge acutance, perhaps, but not much. Better tonality on a dull day, I think. Maybe if I got some bigger prints done, it would be clearer, but for normal pictures, normally framed and not excessively cropped, it is not a big deal.

In any case, that Vulcan picture was taken in portrait orientation as the aircraft banked rapidly: it is cropped on the left and right hand sides, and represents a crop from a full print equivalent to about 27” x 18”. The concept of making a print that size, pin sharp with wonderful tonality is stunning.

On the Sunday I had the camera, I headed off to Elmley Marshes NNR. Not a great time of the year – very much in between seasons. However, Elmley is such a magical place, there’s usually something worth seeing. Trundling in the car slowly along the track, I saw a small shape in the far distance on the ground. I pulled over on to the side of the track; a quick peek though binoculars confirmed it was a raptor, as best I could tell it was a marsh harrier. Before I could get the camera set up, pointing out of the car window, a second bird flew in the direction of the first – another harrier. Here is the full frame of the first shot (at 400mm, 1.2 crop).
Juvenile marsh harrier at Elmley: full frame
Of course, this is just a quick grab – not the right lens, fieldcraft or anything. However….

The new arrival made a beeline for the one on the ground, and they started to play. I grabbed a series of shots, just letting the camera go at 7fps for as long as they kept at it. Fairly quickly, one flew off and I lost sight of the other. I followed the one that flew off with the camera: it kept the focus – never wandered – and kept shooting, without the buffer filling up.

They are too far away for exhibition purposes, but at smallish size, suitable crops look great.  The opening image is a compilation from that series of shots.

What was really impressive was the focusing. To lock on to a small moving subject that far away, and never lose it is simply amazing. This is with the group AF, and AF-C setting. The long and short of it is that I could never have got that series on the D700. The focusing would not have been good enough, and the resolution would have been inadequate. A big win for the D810.

Since then, I’ve been to a couple more airshows – the Duxford September show and Shuttleworth Season Finale at Old Warden. I just used the D700 as usual, and I got a bunch of pictures that I really like. Both airshows featured unique opportunities for aviation pictures: the Canadian Lancaster at Dux; two (yes, two) Mew Gulls and the DH88 at OW. The D700 was great to take along because I’m now very familiar with what it can predictably do in my hands. I got some pictures that I’m delighted with. But it hunted for focus once in a while, and I lost most of one series of pictures because the focusing wandered off an aircraft as it accelerated to take off, focusing on the background instead. A low rate of loss, for sure, but I didn’t experience that at all with the D810.

So, for my purposes – and your mileage will definitely vary on this – I think the D810 is the best general purpose camera available.

Is it worth £2400 (roughly the price at present) to me? And what about the D750? Hmm ….

I’ve not shot with the D750, so can’t comment specifically. Before I’d known about the D810, I’d probably have said it was the camera for me. 24MP, 6.5 fps, top of the range AF, tilt screen (excellent for those low down pictures), great low light performance (both the latter being just the job for aircraft nightshoots), about £650 less expensive at the moment: what’s not to like?

Well … Glenn Bloore, an excellent aviation photographer, states the buffer is very small. If he says so, I believe him. Ever since I sat next to Kojak by Derwent Dam as the BBMF Lanc flew over, and he missed the absolute key shot because the buffer was too small, I’ve promised myself I’d never get a camera with a small buffer. I like the idea of the 1.2 crop as well: it turned out so well at Shoreham getting 25 MP on 240-480 mm equivalent. And 36 MP when you need it.

So, if it ever comes to it, the D750/D810 dilemma is quite acute. It is theoretical for the moment, in any case; the piggy bank needs a lot of fattening ;-) .

The trouble with male GAS is that it is never truly rational. I got my LRPS, ARPS and CPAGB with D300 pictures. The D700 is better than the D300.  If I could not get to the next stage of my (extremely slow and intermittent) letter hunt with my current gear, it is not the gear. I don’t doubt that spending £2400 on a trip somewhere exciting would see me closer to the next set of letters. But GAS is like a determined guard dog: once you’re bitten, you stay bitten.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 5


Having booked a cottage in South West Devon for early September, I subsequently discovered that Stage 5 of the Tour Of Britain was passing very close by. Starting in Exmouth and finishing in Exeter, the 110 mile stage crossed large parts of Dartmoor. This was a photo opportunity not to be missed!

I then started planning what type of shots I wanted to take. This was a slow process and over the preceding weeks a clear picture of what I wanted crystalised in my mind - the key aspects being:

  • a wide-angle view of a spread of riders
  • capturing the essence of Dartmoor
  • no distractions (cars, spectators, buildings etc)
I did think about doing a recce a day or two before to find some promising spots but I had no way of predicting which areas would be busy; the last thing I wanted was to identify a great location only to arrive on the day and find 50 other photographers there or lots of spectators on the opposite side of the road. I decided in the end to try and get to the Eastern end of the moor a couple of hours before and pick a spot on the day.

Finding a location on the day (12th September 2014)

The target area I identified was between Widecombe on the Moor and Haytor Vale on the B3387 and Julia and I set off around 9.30 in the morning, with the riders' ETA being about 20 mins after midday.

The first thing that struck us was the sheer number of local cyclists making a pilgrimage to The Moor for a brief glimpse of their heroes as they flashed by. My one regret of the day was not stopping to photography a chap on a penny farthing that we had just passed in the car.

The route as it passes in front of Hay Tor (checkpoint where road and horizon meet) as we arrived.

Hay Tor is one of the most popular landmarks on the Dartmoor, as it is the first major one that you see when accessing via the town of Bovey Tracey (known as the "Gateway to the Moor"). As we approached it in the car it was clear that this was going to be a key spectator spot. We pulled over onto the verge to weigh up our options and I quickly realised that where we had stopped was actually quite a good spot: it was on a bend, Hay Tor was in the background and there were no distractions in front of us.

The photography starts

The plan was to use two camera/lens combinations on the day. My 1D MkIV would be tripod mounted with the EF 16-35 f/2.8 and a cable release to capture the main action. I would then use my EF 70-200 f/2.8 on the 6D body for a few grab shots of the crowd etc.

So, having chosen our pitch, we then walked up the hill to the checkpoint area to soak up the atmosphere (and grab a much needed coffee).

It's important to bear in mind how far British road cycling has come in the last few years. From what was a minority sport, to domination of the track at the last two Olympic games and successive Tour de France victories. This in turn, has led to a huge uptake of cycling by the British public and it appeared that all of those from the South West had descended upon Dartmoor and the surrounding towns for the day, making for a fantastic and friendly atmosphere, which I've tried to capture in the next few photos.

Four mates discussing the issues of the day

Dreaming of future glory.

The ascent to Hay Tor about an hour before the riders were due

'Crowd control', with the two outcrops that make up Hay Tor as a backdrop

The sponsor's merchandising stand

Final preparation for the main event

Having returned from the top of the hill it was time to set up my gear to capture the main event. It took me about 30 minutes to settle on the exact composition that I was happy with, but even then, a lot of it was going to be guesswork, as I've never done this type of thing before and I had no idea how spread out the riders would be. One thing was sure: I was at the bottom of a hill and they would be going fast!

Once I had set the composition, I locked down the camera on the tripod and attached the remote release cable. The camera settings were: aperture priority; 22mm focal length; f/8; ISO 1600; auto white balance. This would give me shutter speed of 1/4000th and keep both the road and the top or Hay Tor in focus.

While I was setting all of this up a couple and a dog walker stopped opposite for a chat. Still, there was still about 40 mins until the riders were due so they would have moved on by then - or so I thought.

Spectators in my field of view...DISASTER!
As time ticked on, I had to make a decision: walk over an politely ask them if they wouldn't mind spectating out of my field of view or just hope that they would be small enough in the frame and hence dwarfed by the cyclists that it would not really matter. I opted for the latter approach in the end - most unlike me!!

Luckily, Julia had her compact camera with her and surprised me by 'photographing the photographer'. You can see the low viewpoint that I chose, with the camera at about 45 degrees to the direction of travel. I wanted the lead riders to be big in the frame an those behind to appear much smaller.

Bring it on!

The action

There was a succession of police motorbikes and official cars passing by and the atmosphere built as these became more frequent. Before I knew it, the lead riders appeared at the the top of the hill. With the preparation done, all that was needed now was to squeeze the cable release button as they went by and hope for the best!

A group led by three Omega Pharma Quickstep team riders
The next two photos are of the main peleton. The first is taken by Julia from the other side of the road at, what must have been, almost simultaneous to mine, below.

The main peleton sweeps down the hill

Mark Cavendish at the front of the peleton
Two frames after the above shot the buffer (26 images) on my camera filled so I could easily have missed the main men. (Sir Bradley Wiggins is instantly recognisable with the tattoo and union flag on his right arm).

The rear of the peleton
Well, it was all over in a flash. In less than a minute all the riders had swept by, followed closely by the team and event cars.

The Omega Pharma car

The Team Sky Jag

So, after the adrenaline rush, we walked out onto the moor for a picnic and watched the crowd slowly disperse.

It's all over!

Looking back

Now that the dust has settled and I've managed to process my images I'm pretty pleased with the results and that all the planning was worthwhile. Luck was of course on my side - I got Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins in the same frame and the spectators opposite me didn't adversely affect the shots.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Shoreham Airshow (UK) with a rented D810

DH90A Dragonfly landing in front of Lancing College Chapel
Last weekend I rented a D810, and on the Saturday spent the day at Shoreham for the airshow. I’ve not seen much aviation photography with the D810, and I wanted to know whether it would be a good practical option for this.  My D700 is great for aircraft, which is one reason why I’ve never been tempted by the D800, but the D810 has so many small improvements, it looked very enticing.

I picked it up on the Friday evening and took it out into central London to set it up and give it a first try. Everyone says how good it feels in the hand, and it really does. Once I’d got used to some of the controls, and customized “My Menu” to have my usual items in there (like battery info) and added crop modes (Image Area) and custom setting A6 to turn on/off frame lines, I felt good to go.

Spitfire N3200
The Vulcan banks

The Shoreham airshow is not particularly taxing on a modern auto-focusing system, as there are mainly vintage prop aircraft on display, and even my D70 was (mostly) OK with them ☺. Nevertheless, I wanted to try out the new group AF.

The pictures I’ve put in this post were all taken with the 200-400mm f/4 VR II, except for the monochrome C-47 (24-120mm f/4). All hand held. Just processed through Lightroom 5.6 (except for the banking Vulcan, which had a little additional help from Topaz Clarity). All images were recorded RAW (14-bit NEF, with lossless compression).
Moody Dakota: B&W with Silver Efex Pro 2
I've put a larger set on Flickr. The images here are larger than on Flickr, so worth clicking on these see the full size.

Slightly to my surprise, I found I was using the 1.2 crop a lot. Exiftool tells me that just about 50% of my selects were with the 1.2 crop. About 15% were in DX crop (which I’d expected to use for small aircraft at a distance, but fairly quickly discovered I didn’t really need). The remaining 35% were in FX mode, which was great for anything on the ground or that was large and in flight.

Matrix metering seems very sensitive to any sky in the picture. It is clearly trying to protect highlights (good!) but I found myself dialing in more exposure compensation that usual – up to +1.67 stops for flying aircraft (not helped by the bright grey clouds during the afternoon), and the highlights were still not blown.

F6F takes off. The Group area AF worked perfectly, following the a/c down the runway and not getting distracted by the background.

Focusing worked great. The 200-400 hunted only twice during the whole day (and I’m pretty sure that was due to user error). It locked nicely on to moving subjects and was not distracted by objects in the background. In fact, I don’t think I got a single grossly out of focus image all day. Having said that, I was pushing the shutter speeds at some points to see if the extra pixels would be less sparing on my hand holding technique. My keeper rate always falls off precipitously with any camera below 1/100 when panning at about 400mm, but as it happened, I found I could get enough sharp pictures at 1/80 to get nicely blurred backgrounds on take off or landing. So, all good.

I’m still trying to work out the best processing in Lightroom. Camera Standard and Adobe Standard are very different profiles for the D810, and I’m still trying to decide how best to employ them. Lightroom also seems to have an odd interpretation of the White Balance data. I set the camera to 5560K fixed WB. Lightroom interprets this at about 5950K and adds a tint of -4. Not sure what’s going on there, but not dissimilar to the way it treats my other Nikon images. Nevertheless, Lightroom handles the NEFs well, without much slowing down relative to D700 images.

I also stitched some panos. The image at the end is a three image stitch from FX (36MP) originals. For this, I exported full size 16-bit Tiffs from Lightroom and used the Batch Stitcher in PTGui. This produced a very good pano with no problem. 
RAF Display Typhon pulls vapour: from a 5 MP crop at ISO 800.

Anyhow, I don’t think the pictures in this post will show much that is particularly informative, in the sense that at web resolution, they won’t look much different to a D700 shot. However, the Typhoon shot is a 2841x1887px crop. That represents about 1/6 of the image area, so on a D700 would be a roughly 2MP image: that’s not really enough to do much with, so  that is one extra image I would have missed with the D700. And it was at ISO 800: not too shabby. I don’t like cropping images on the D300 either at ISO 800, so a double win for the D810.

Anyhow, the real test is whether or not the prints look good. I’m going to try to get some images sent off for printing this weekend, so I’ll post a follow up when I have them back.

Two Mustangs and a Spitfire await departure. A three image stitch from FX (36MP) originals. Stitched in the PTGui Batch Stitcher, which handled this with no problem.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

One beach, three interpretations

Martin's version
You may have seen in Martin's last blog piece his lovely picture from Porth Nanven beach in Cornwall, shown again, above. It was made when Wonky Horizons took a few days break down in Cornwall in March. There is a warm and very peaceful atmosphere to Martin's picture that I think is wonderful, especially as the weather that day was much worse than it looks.

Porth Nanven beach is well-known for its large rounded boulders which are likened to dragons eggs. When we got there it was particularly cold, and a strong wind from off the sea was driving rain in our faces. Undeterred, Martin and I set up our tripods to take some landscapes, while Phil clambered around after more unusual angles.

Anthony's colour version
 Martin was trying out his Big Stopper, and succeeded in getting a beautiful milky appearance in the water. For a different look, I just used a Lee 0.9 (three stop) standard neutral density filter so as to keep some texture and movement in the waves; this was stacked with a 0.6 ND hard grad. Martin also chose a better position than me, so his composition is better balanced with the far away islands over to the right balancing the heavy area towards the left. My version has the island in the centre, so the composition is not so well balanced, although the weight of the big dragon's egg in the foreground helps – I might move those islands sometime :-). I'm still a bit conflicted about the sky too: I'm not sure that the big expanse is really needed, but when I've cropped the sky down, that big boulder becomes just too dominant. Nevertheless, I'm pretty happy with my version because I like the colours,  the comparatively forbidding atmosphere, and especially the movement in the sea. I've made a print from this that I think looks great.

Monochrome version by Anthony.
Going over the raw files more recently, I thought I would give another of them a go. This one has a more balanced composition with the far away islands over to the right, and I thought I would try a black-and-white version. This was a very simple conversion – I got the colours the way I like them in Lightroom, and then simply used a yellow filter black and white conversion for the image. I thought the sky needed a bit of perking up as well, so I moved a bright patch of cloud further down into the image, and added some beams of light. To make the beams, I used a method I had only just discovered in a video by Glyn Dewis. I think it adds a bit of drama to the image.

I don't really have a favourite here – I think they're all valid interpretations of the scene, although I think the far away islands in my colour version are definitely going to get moved at some point!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Lee Big Stopper: First impressions


I've been using the Lee 100mm filter system for a few years now, beginning with a Lee starter kit, a set of Soft ND graduated filters and a pair of (77mm and 82mm) adapter rings to attach onto the three main lenses I use (16-35mm; 24-105mm; 70-200mm). I then added a set of Hard ND grads for seascapes (and landscapes with flat horizons) and then a 3-stop ND filter for some long exposure work.

The great thing about purchasing such a filter system is that one can start small, and relatively cheaply, and then add new filters when the need arises and funds permit! In the field, the Lee filter system allows one to attach two or more filters at one time, such that different combinations may be used to control exposures accurately.

Up until recently, all the filters I have bought have been the resin ones; probably just as well as I have dropped a few on a number of occasions, resulting in chipping of the edges. This is no real issue, as long as the main surfaces do not become scratched.

Wonky Horizons visited Cornwall at the end of March this year and I fancied doing some seascapes with long exposures. Although my 3-stop ND filter does quite a good job for exposures of a few seconds, I wanted to expose scenes for a few minutes: enter the Lee Big Stopper.

This latter piece of kit is notoriously difficult to procure, as over recent years, consumer demand has outstripped Lee's ability to supply. A friend of mine kindly agreed to lend me his Canon 5D MkII for the trip (so that I could shoot full-frame - my 1D MkIV being a 1.3x crop) and, when I went to pick it up, he said I could borrow his Big Stopper as well. Result - thank you George!

Now, it's worth pointing out a couple of things:

  1. The Big Stopper is glass and I was going to be shooting on rocky shorelines
  2. Shooting for longer than 30 seconds requires the use of BULB mode on the camera, together with a cable release and some means of timing your exposures
I was aware of a piece of Canon kit that would take care of point 2 above: The TC-80N3 Timer Remote Control (which can also be used for time lapse - but that's another story for another time). I duly purchased the said control and packed it carefully in my kit bag for the trip.

Shooting at Porth Nanven, Cornwall

This is a location that we had decided to visit during our trip to Cornwall, with round granite boulders on the beach, other sea-weathered rock formations and an off-shore island. We arrived in the rain but persevered for a couple of hours until conditions were favourable. I spent some time finding a few potential compositions and assembling my gear, only to find that I had left my timer control back at the bungalow in Rock - over an hour's drive away - thus I would be limited to 30-second exposures maximum! A few expletives later, the photography was under way, and my favourite image from this location is shown below.

Canon 5D MkII; Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 at 35mm; 30 seconds at f/10; ISO 200; Lee Big Stopper

Learning points

The trip was not a complete disaster, but I would liked to have been able to have made the sea even more 'dreamy'. There was plenty of scope as I was only shooting at f/10, ISO 200 and thus had many more 'stops' up my sleeve. Note to self: Check your kit bag before you leave!

Handling a friends £100 glass filter over rocks is a bit scary. Buy your own filter!

Furthermore, one of the first things that is apparent when you look at the rear LCD when using the Big Stopper is the profound blue colour-cast. This needed addressing.


So, I bought my own filter and based on the experience gained, I decided to calibrate it for the colour temperature and exposure before I used it.

For the colour temperature, I did some digging around on the 'net and the general consensus is to set your camera to between 8000 and 9000 Kelvin. I opted for the mid-point, and set mine to 8500K.

For the exposure, I did some test shots in the garden without the filter, stopped down 10 stops, applied the filter and took another test shot. The my pleasure, the white balance looked really good, but the image was slightly underexposed. A little tweaking and I was there, ascertaining that my filter gives a reduction in light of around 11 stops.

Next shoot

My next shoot was last weekend, when Phil and I visited the Turner Contemporary in Margate. It's not the most exciting of images but it was a valuable real world test of my technique. The shot below was processed in Lightroom, needing virtually no white balance or exposure correction. Apologies to Phil for making him wait 40 mins for a suitable cloud to drift over.

Canon 1D MkIV; Canon 24-105mm f/4 at 24mm; 148 seconds at f/20; ISO 50; Polarising filter; Lee Big Stopper; WB 8500k
As you can see from the settings I used, it was a very bright day. The polariser helped to darken the sky, increased the contrast between sky and cloud and give me 2-3 stops less light to help get to the length of exposure I was after.

I feel a lot more confident in using the filter now and there are no excuses for getting it wrong. I've got a few ideas of shots that I want to take with it, including revisiting Porth Nanven when down in Cornwall again this coming September.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Elmley RSPB

I always enjoy visiting the Elmley RSPB reserve on the Isle of Sheppey. It's one of those places that has something to offer all year round.

I left the house around 5.30am last Saturday and arrived to a fantastic sunrise.

Sunrise over Elmley

It was a shame however that I could not gain access to the reserve as, owing to some overnight thefts, it does not now open until 7am. It did give me a chance to check out the gun club area, where I spent a very pleasant time talking to Brian, who is researching short eared owls for a book he is writing.

Once the gates were open I worked my way up the track, where lapwing and redshank were abundant. I was hoping to photograph one of my favourite birds - yellow wagtail - but the single male I located remained too distant for me to get any good photographs.

I spotted a drake shoveler swimming up one of the channels, so I positioned myself ahead of it and waited for it to come into range. I was pleased to capture an image of it in its natural environment and chose to 'letterbox' it for more impact.

Drake shoveler
Drake shoveler
My favourite shot of the day came from an encounter I had with a redshank just as I was leaving the reserve. It posed for just a second before scuttling off; enough time for me to capture the image below. It looked good on the camera's rear LCD screen and I was pleased that it looked just as good when I opened it in Lightroom. It was one of those shots that needed virtually no post-processing and all the more pleasing for that.

I plan to visit again over the Easter break where I hope that more yellow wagtails may have made their way over from Europe.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Off-camera flash portrait session


I spent a very enjoyable morning with Jason Dodd in Canterbury on an off-camera flash portrait workshop last weekend. Our models were Helen and Natalie and all photos were taken outdoors, either in woodland or around the Canterbury Innovation Centre.

The weather conditions were great, with blue sky and strong sunshine, but not ideal for photography. The challenge being to photograph your subjects back-lit by the sun and adjust the power of the off-camera flash to balance the exposure of the model's face.


We started in the small wooded area adjacent to the centre and worked with our camera settings and flash power to get the technical aspects under control before proceeding take some shots. There were three of us in the group so we took turns taking pictures and holding the flash gun.

My favourite from this set is of Helen, below. Note how the sun is lifting the highlights in her hair and the flash rendering skin tones and giving a catch light in the eyes.

Helen in woodland area
Helen: Manual mode; 1/250th; f/5; ISO 100; manual flash 1/16th power at ~3 meters
After some time in the woods we returned to the steps of the Innovation Centre and I used some of the architectural features of the building to add to compositions.

Natalie in front of the Innovation Centre #1
Natalie in front of the Innovation Centre #2
My favourite from this set was taken from a low viewpoint, just using the sky as background. We upped the power of the flash to 1/8th and held a diffuser in front to soften the effect. I was very happy with the exposure now: the extra power from the flash kept the hair from burning out and the diffuser softened the shadows and skin tones more effectively.

Natalie on the steps
As we got towards lunchtime, the sun was quite fierce, so we opted to move into the shadow of the Innovation Centre to do a few shots without flash, just using natural light and a reflector to balance the light across the models' faces.

Here's a mono of Natalie outside Unit 8.

Natalie outside Unit 8
As you can see, exposure control here was far simpler, with very even tones across the whole frame from the low contrast light.

By now, Helen had changed outfits and had applied some red lipstick. Using her black scarf to frame her faced and a diffuser positioned very carefully, I was able to get what I thought was my best image of the day.

Helen: The 'Scottish Widows' look


A big thank you to Jason for organising and hosting the day, to Natalie and Helen for their patience and contribution to the photography and to Steve Baker and Paul Spree for the teamwork, flash control and banter!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Wettest Winter

This entry is just to record that we are having the most appallingly weather this winter. Us Brits (especially me) like to spend our winters complaining about how the weather is miserable, but this year really is something else. The people of the south west of England have been the worst affected by floods and storms: villages in the Somerset levels have been completely cut off by floods that cover thousands of acres; many people have been flooded out of their homes. The main rail line to Cornwall has been severed at Dawlish. The floods have spread widely over the whole of southern England.

Here in East Kent, we’ve been less badly affected, but the Elham valley, and in particular the villages of Bridge and Patrixbourne have been dreadfully affected with flood water simply rising up through the ground.

I have a regular walk that passes though some playing fields. We're nowhere near the worst affected areas, but even so, the two pictures above (taken on my phone) illustrate the flooding of a local football pitch. Nothing in comparison to the experience of many (and you can see that the nearby houses are perfectly safe), but I don’t remember this kind of flooding of these pitches before.


One more from this afternoon. This was the view over the vallery of the Great Stour near Chilham. The Great Stour belies its name, and it is litle more than a stream at this point. But the fields are now entirely flooded. Some flooding happens every year, but this really is more than I can remember.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Anthony's Aviation Favourites, 2013

In what has become an annual tradition, here's my aviation favorites from this year. Rather a lot for one post, but then who's counting!

These are very approximately in chronological order, although where it is useful, they're grouped by subject. I'll also put these into a set on Flickr (eventually!)  so that you can see the details of each if you're interested.

Anyhow, in keeping with the spirit of Wonky Horizons, you can probably tell I had a huge amount of fun with aviation photography this year. Here's hoping for as much again in 2014!

Happy New Year!