A small but no less beautifully ornate cathedral in the heart of Newcastle, St Nicholas has all the usual photographic opportunities found in these historic buildings. From the grandeur and scale of the columns to the geometric patterns in the architecture, everything in between is a treasure of statues and ornaments with plenty of interesting lighting upon them. All images shot with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8 or 60mm F/2.8.
Lots of interesting architecture in the heart of Newcastle, particularly around Grainger Town, where the terrific Victorian and Georgian stone and geometry offered plenty of photographic and abstract opportunities. The bright sun cast some pleasing shadows, further helping to accentuate the shapes and spaces under the masonry.And many of the ladies out in town seemed to have a standard dress code of short skirts and high heels; nice to see but somewhat perplexing attire for a Sunday afternoon. Not sure what the owls were doing there either but by then little could surprise us. Most of the people shots were taken by the quayside.All images were made with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8 or 60mm F/2.8.
When Olympus first announced the 300mm F/4 for the m4/3 format there was understandably much enthusiasm for its arrival. After all, it would give users the equivalent field of view of 600mm at F/4 in a far more compact and lighter lens than a DSLR equivalent. I wasn't personally aroused by the prospect but curiosity prompted me to ask Olympus if I could borrow the lens to write up a user experience and they very kindly sent me a copy.
We were incredibly lucky to see the kingfisher, having been told that they had now left the nature reserve. In fact, we had literally just entered the hide and it showed up, perched neatly on a branch right in front of us! And in between waiting for it to fly back into view I had a great time capturing the very many dragonflies swarming around the hide. I have to thank Natalia's eagle eyes for spotting all of them.All of these images were shot with the Olympus 300mm F/4, kindly loaned to me by Olympus and for which I shall be posting a user experience next. The lens was mounted to the E-M5 via the MC-14 teleconverter, offering an equivalent field of view of 840mm.
Not one to easily resist night lights and reflections I spent an evening on the quayside by the River Tyne hoping to capture some decent exposures at sunset and dusk. I usually do this kind of thing alone (after all, who in their right mind would want to shoot with Alpha Whiskey?!), but on this occasion I benefitted greatly from Natalia's company, and in fact it was her enterprise that had me running back and forth across bridges and by the water to best make use of the sunset hues. By dusk I was able to take some long exposures using a gorillapod wrapped around the railings. After dusk the night brought out the lights and colours a little more but I'm not really a fan of black skies, even with long exposures. Dusk blue is best for me. These images were mostly made with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8.
Probably one of the friendliest towns we have visited, the few of us that made the trip to Newcastle Upon Tyne were pleasantly surprised by how nice everyone we met there was. A stark contrast to terminally angry and miserly Londoners. A small and walkable town of less than 300,000 people, Newcastle boasts a beautiful quayside with some stunning bridges, the most imposing of which is the Tyne Bridge, opened in 1928. The River Tyne is also cradled by the beautiful glass Sage Building and the Millennium Bridge, as well as the Baltic Gallery of Contemporary Art. Within the city, Grainger Town is the historical heart of Newcastle Upon Tyne with stunning architecture designed in the 19th century by Richard Grainger. Amongst the Georgian and Victorian buildings are the now familiar array of shops and eateries that make up a typical city centre. But one can still be impressed by the Theatre Royal and Grey's Monument.We made time for some art at the Laing Gallery and Biscuit Factory, the latter of which is mainly contemporary work for domestic ornamental possession. We also enjoyed St Nicholas Cathedral, small but no less ornate.And of course, we had to see the Angel Of The North on our way out. All the images here were taken with my usual travel complement of the Olympus E-M5, 12-40mm F/2.8, 45mm F/1.8 or 60mm F/2.8. They have been composed and processed in my usual postcard style. In the coming days I will post more from Newcastle, including some dusk and sunset shots from the quayside, more from inside the Cathedral and some architecture.
A few hours of sleep after watching the Milky Way we headed back down to Durdle Door to see the sunrise. It wasn't the greatest sunrise but it did give me ample time to run around capturing a few shots. After which we spent the rest of the day lazing on the beach or swimming in the crystal clear water.The images were processed in Lightroom to my personal taste, and mostly shot with the Olympuses E-M5, 12-40mm F/2.8 and 40-150mm F/2.8. A couple were taken with the Nikon DSLR and wide angle lens I had used on the Milky Way.
We were meant to go down to the Jurassic Coast for just the day one day last week at my friend Natalia's request. But the evening before the weather report said there would be a chance of a clear sky. Knowing that there would be minimal light pollution I suggested we venture down that night to perhaps capture the Milky Way over Durdle Door and happily the gamble paid off. Well, sort of. The clouds did eventually move in.But before they did we hurried down to the beach, seemingly the only ones there, and beheld the magnificent Milky Way above us. As I had the car, I took my Nikon DSLR as well as my mirrorless Olympus gear. For the Nikon I took the only wide angle lens I had for it, the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8. The DSLR is a full frame model and the Tokina is a DX lens but, as I have noted in the past, it will work as a 16mm prime on the camera without vignetting. Having a larger sensor, the Nikon was more sensitive at picking up the stars than my Olympus. So how did I get these shots? I mounted the DSLR and Tokina onto a small Slik Pro III tripod on the pebble beach, set the focus manually to infinity at F/2.8 and ISO 5000. As I couldn't see anything through the viewfinder I took a couple of test shots to establish a correct horizon and then I took some exposures at 20 seconds. For the first shot with Natalia, I positioned her in the centre of the arch, asked her to look up in wonder and remain still for a count of 20 while I light-painted Durdle Door with an LED torch for a few seconds. The clouds had started moving in but we managed to get the Milky Way in the shot.For the other Milky Way shots I simply repositioned the camera along its trajectory, easily visible with the naked eye. The images were processed in Lightroom, mainly with adjustments to contrast to accentuate the Milky Way. After making these shots we slept for a few hours overnight in the car before enjoying the sunrise and spending the day, as intended, on the beach under a hot sun. I will present some photos from the daytime there in a separate post. For now, I hope you enjoy these shots of our galaxy as a reminder of how small, insignificant and yet special we are.
Not to waste a sunny day we ventured up to Stow in Buckinghamshire, a beautiful landscape designed by Capability Brown, populated by numerous temples and monuments in the company of serene lakes and ornate bridges. We had been here before over two years ago and much was still fresh in the memory but it was still a terrific way to amble through the summer heat and enjoy the scenery. As well the numerous temples the Palladian Bridge is a popular subject for photographers, of course, but I found the lighting on the white wooden bridge to be more appealing and spent a few minutes trying to eke out shots from there. Everything was shot with Olympus, between the 12-40mm F/2.8 or the 40-150mm F/2.8 mounted on the E-M5.
Or at least a longer focal length than conventional wisdom suggests. I'm always reading that so-called street photography is best undertaken with a prime lens within the 35-50mm range and I understand the merits of this range for reasons I will elaborate on further down. But convention is naturally a gauntlet that Alpha Whiskey cannot ignore. So before meeting my date I decided to kill an hour in town the other night shooting with a telephoto zoom and mostly at the maximum focal length.
To be honest, it's not a deal breaker for me. I'm perfectly happy wherever I sit on a plane, as long as it's not in the cargo hold (although I imagine the luggage could be quite comfortable to lie on). More often than not I'm fast asleep before the plane takes off until after it lands. But every once in a while I'll glance out of the window and marvel at the planet below me. It's not the same view as from space but it does put our one little Earth into a humbling perspective, when mountains and cities become mere points of rock and light.Now if I'm awake on a plane I'm probably reading. I'll have a book or magazine in my lap as opposed to a camera. I'm not holding or keeping my gear on or around my seat. The person sitting next to me is invariably already freaked out by the shifty-looking brown man sitting next to them; the last thing I want to do is agitate them anymore by littering the area with strange pieces of equipment. So all of these images were made with either a phone or a small compact camera and their quality therefore reflects that.Taking a photo from the window seat can be challenging, depending on the light, the cleanliness of the window or the fact that there's a giant wing taking up your view! Getting a sharp shot at night, for instance, is a challenge for any small camera sensor. Obviously a slow shutter speed won't help, primarily because there's nothing to rest the camera on, but even if you could the plane is in motion anyway. So you have to rely on high ISOs to get enough shutter speed. And with high ISOs on small sensors you might as well smear vaseline on the window. I'm not saying it's impossible, and it's a good case for using a larger sensor camera, but it can be tricky. On my phone I'll use the 'Night Mode' if it has one, and on the compact I'll shoot in RAW and clean it up in post. Obviously don't use a flash or you'll get a giant shiny orb reflected back at you.If the window isn't especially clean then opening up to a wider aperture and focusing on something into the distance should render any specks invisible. A wide aperture might sacrifice absolute detail across the image but why would you care at 35,000 feet? And it will allow more light in helping to keep the ISO lower. The lens on the compact camera I used opened to F/2.8 across its zoom range. I've had mixed results using a polariser to cut down reflection, sometimes ending up with a colour cast; I guess it just depends on the type of glass in the window.In terms of subject, if you can't see beneath the clouds then you can always make them your subject. Rendering them in black and white may also accentuate their texture and shapes. Obviously much depends on the altitude of the aircraft. A higher altitude makes it easier to capture mountains and geographical features, whereas a lower altitude brings human structures such as buildings and cities into view. And if you happen to be up there around sunset who can resist the view at the horizon?Well, the next time you fly, if you happen to be at a window seat and you happen to be awake, try taking some shots. They will undoubtedly be better than these.
Before my trip to Europe a friend and I visited the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. I had been here before a couple of years ago but it was a great pleasure to see the estate and the gardens again. The colourful specimens in the Walled Garden were just as spectacular and as radiant as during my previous visit, and I must pay tribute to the excellent and diligent team of gardeners who braved the heat to maintain the beautiful flower beds. These were all shot with the Olympus 60mm F/2.8 mounted on the E-M5.
Well, not really but it was a fun drive from Eastern Slovakia through the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France until finally returning home to the UK. Keeping to our schedule meant little time or opportunity to take photos, but we did stop at a friend's place in Stara Lubovna in Slovakia and in Breclav in the Czech Republic. Most of these are of the High Tatras Mountains in Eastern Slovakia, a beautiful part of the world peppered with castles and fortress ruins. Thus, as much as I would have enjoyed spending more time to see the scenery and in varying light these were all shot on the fly, some from the car.It was a great time and a surprisingly enjoyable drive back, and we made excellent time. All these images were shot with the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 or 60mm F/2.8 mounted on my E-M5.
With the recent fascinating, turbulent and, at times, momentous unfolding of our nation's ongoing political tapestry I decided that being a spectator was not quite enough. So a few days ago I ventured down to the heart of our political capital, Westminster, to spend some time amongst the past masters of human political destiny and enjoy a little historical reflection. There are decades when nothing much happens for weeks and then suddenly a week when a decade's worth of events thunders down in a blurry, breakneck deluge. Instead of trying to keep up with the speed of our evolving future it can be useful to take a moment to revisit the past, to consider how we got here and why, who we are and who we want to be. Gazing up at celebrated figures might offer some perspective and broader philosophical ponderance. Of course, Westminster and its surroundings are a big place with much going on so I couldn't help but capture a few shots along the South Bank and of The Houses Of Parliament themselves. And the bubble guy is always fun.I committed micro-four thirds infidelity on this occasion by using my dusted off DSLR. A Nikon D-something-or-other-blah-blah-who cares? All shot with either a fast 35mm or 50mm lens.
Had a day off last week so at my friend's request I decided to visit Hughenden and West Wycombe. I had been to Hughenden before a few years ago but it was pleasure to be reacquainted with the home of former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. And perhaps even more appropriate to reflect upon some history in the present turbulent times. The favourite room for me was his magnificent and compact library, but there were plenty of mementos and gifts from Queen Victoria who seemed to have a particular fondness for Mr Disraeli. The grounds were immaculate as before and vibrant despite the overcast skies.West Wycombe is a quaint little village overlooked by some beautiful hills, themselves under the watchful eye of gracefully gliding kites. The house is still occupied and thus no photography was allowed inside, but the rooms were typically ornate and adorned with the usual assortment of paintings and ceiling murals. all images were shot on the Olympus E-M5 and the 12-40mm F/2.8.