Ok, so I know there's a lot of shots of the skyline here and it goes without saying that I was somewhat enamoured, not just with the skyline itself, but also with the experience of shooting it. These shots are intended to show the beauty of the skyline over the course of the 75 minutes I spent shooting it, in varying light and positions. Reflections in the water and the colour of the sky varied over the course of that time owing to both the stillness of the water, the presence of mist and the changing light through twilight to dusk. My original plan was to shoot it from Polson Street but at the last minute I changed my mind and took a ferry to the Toronto Islands. I timed my arrival to be before sunset so that I would have the time to set up and get the shots I wanted. I found myself completely alone on the shore of one of the smaller islands; just myself and my tripod and camera. The solitude and silence, but for the water lapping at the shore, was a truly serene experience. Before sunset there was too much light for a long exposure so I attached a 10 stop ND grad filter to my lens. This enabled me to use a slower shutter speed without resorting to too narrower an aperture where diffraction would kick in. I also set the ISO to the default 200. As the light waned I removed the filter and was still able to use slower shutter speeds. The cloud cover precluded either a rich sunset or my preferred cobalt blue dusk but there emerged instead a pleasing fusion or magenta and pink clouds against the bluish dusk sky. I was soon able to resort to using the LIVE TIME feature on my Olympus, a great way of seeing the exposure progress and enabling one to stop it at any time. The Anit-Shock feature (1 second delay) was also engaged to prevent movement from depression of the shutter button. My preference when shooting city lights is always to err on the side of slight over exposure, just to catch a little more dazzle. Highlights can always be toned down in post. In the water in front of me was bench (I didn't put it there!) that I used in a few shots as a focal point in the composition, particularly to slow the movement of water around it and achieve a more ethereal look. Eventually the dusk blue surrender to the black of night, although the city lights in the skyline still created a haze of red and yellow colour around them.Some images were taken from the ferry and also from Casa Loma but most were shot from the islands. These were all shot with either the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 or 40-150mm F/2.8 on the EM-5 body. Some of the images may seem a little bright and colourful but to me the beauty of a skyline is in its vivid colour and light against the sky. And my postcard style always calls for a little 'pop'.
Well, not really postcards since the inclement weather didn't allow for the most picturesque shots but I did what I could in the brief time that I drove around this spectacular part of the country. Visiting friends was my primary objective during the Easter weekend and with that accomplished I decided to navigate my way through Snowdonia National Park, an understandably popular and stunning part of Wales. Having lived in Wales for a time it is a beloved second home to me and after they put Alpha Whiskey out to pasture (not long now) I hope they sprinkle my ashes liberally over this magnificent land of the red dragon. Thus this excursion was really about the photos but to soak in, enjoy and experience the environment. My friend Natalia accompanied me and we started our journey with a stay at the grand Castle Deudraeth next to the colourful town of Portmeirion. A vibrant, if slightly surreal place Portmeirion as designed and built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. A walk through the surrounding woods and along the beach treated us to some pleasing views.The following day, besieged with rain and mist, Natalia suggested we do what any sensible person would do in those conditions; hike up a mountain. After wandering through the Mawddwy valley we found ourselves at the foot of Cadair Idris. The late Sir George Mallory (who died on Mount Everest) said that the best reason to climb a mountain is because it is there. And while Cadair Idris is no Everest it was only courteous to accept her invitation to ascend her steep, stepped incline into the dense shroud of mist above. Our hike rewarded us with waterfalls rushing down through her wooded aspect until we finally reached Llyn Cau, the canopy of mist nestled within her crater just floating up in time for our arrival. Some food and rest later we picked the coastal town of Criccieth to see at dusk, with its beach leading the eye to her castle ruins atop a hill.The last day time was on a budget so we judiciously picked a few scenic views to take in. A quick stop at the small village of Beddgelert was a prelude to a drive though Snowdonia, viewing Llyn Gwynant from the mountain side before finding the beautiful Swallow Falls by the side of the road. Speaking of roads, Wales has the best I've experienced this side of the Isle Of Man and it was a real pleasure to drive along her undulating hills and valleys, often completely alone for miles on end but for the ubiquitous sheep. In many ways, with it numerous waterfalls and glacial valleys and lakes, it reminded me of Iceland. We finally made our way to Llyn Padarn, our satnav taking us on a rather agricultural route through skeletal tracks but offering up some terrific viewpoints. Before the obligatory sunset shot over the lake we stopped at the eerie Vivian Quarry, now an apparent training facility for divers. It was, of course, wonderful seeing and reminiscing with old friends and as ever I am grateful for their warmth, hospitality and love. I am also extremely grateful to the group of drivers in customised racers who stopped to pull Alpha Whiskey's car out of a hole. Without their miraculous help I would probably sill be there now. Well, I hope these images offer a fleeting glimpse of this wonderful place and prove that one doesn't need to travel far to see great beauty on this planet. I hope to revisit Snowdonia again with more time to capture more of it. All images processed to my taste and shot with Olympus gear.
Bit of a soft spot for aquaria, I must admit, and Ripley's in Toronto certainly didn't disappoint. Undoubtedly more popular with the kids this is nevertheless rightfully a major attraction of the city. I wasn't expecting to spend very long here but the sheer number of sharks, turtles and rays floating by overhead ignited the wonder from my inner child and I spent a good while in the tunnel mesmerised by the aquatic life. I even managed to get a crustacean manicure at the end. With a huge variety of marine species it's a great place to capture some colourful images. I used both Olympus lenses and the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye, which enabled me to capture the wide shots of people gawking at the sharks overhead.Almost all shot at ISO 1600 on the E-M5 and processed to my postcard style. Enjoy.
While there is plenty to post from around various places I visited in Toronto I figured Niagara Falls was probably a more well known landmark and thus decided to post images from there first. A 1 hour and 45 minute coach ride from Toronto, I spent the better part of a day here. Despite being in the winter season (before April) there was still plenty to see and do. I took a helicopter ride first, which while brief, gave me a great view of the falls and the first five shots you see here. Thereafter, rather than go straight down to the falls I visited the Butterfly Conservancy to the north of the Niagara Parkway. Shots from there will be on a separate post.The WeGo settle bus service efficiently delivered me around the park and took me down to the falls for the afternoon. The Falls include the smaller American Falls, flowing over the America side of the Niagara River, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at the end. I was told by friends that the views are better from the Canadian side and I believe that to be true. I have to say that I have seen many more spectacular waterfalls than Niagara, such as Iguacu, and take your pick of any in Iceland, but I suppose Niagara is most famous due to its accessibility. Nevertheless, I wasn't especially wowed or overwhelmed but I did try to capture the falls in a variety of ways and in different lights. The Hornblower Boat Cruise into the falls was not available in March, but I had taken a similar ride into Iguacu so it wasn't a deal-breaker for me. Instead I ventured upwards into the Skylon Tower's observation deck to see the Falls from a height. Well, I hope the images provide a glimpse into this famous landmark and now I can certainly tick it off my bucket list. Each image was processed individually and to my postcard style. I found that capturing birds in flight in front of the waterfall provided a sense of its magnitude. Slow shutter speeds were achieved using ND Grad filters. All images were shot with the Olympus E-M5 and a variety of lenses.
Admittedly not a city high on my list to visit but the opportunity presented itself and it was a chance to see Niagara Falls too. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that Toronto was a charming metropolis with plenty to see, do and discover.Inclement weather on my first day ushered me from my base at Trump International Tower to the Art Gallery Ontario, an abundant collection of both classic and contemporary art, with paintings, sculptures an even a model ship collection. The Museum subway stopped, lined with fantastic pillars carved as ancient Egyptian figures and creatures, led me up to the Royal Ontario Museum, something akin to a natural history museum albeit with collections of oriental art and pottery.Still trying to evade the rain I hurried down to Ripley's Aquarium, where an underwater tunnel resurrected my inner child as I marvelled in wonder at the fearsome sharks floating above me. And to say nothing, of course, of the copious other exotic species, particularly the luminescent jellyfish.The evening cleared up enough to take the ferry to Ward's Island (the only Toronto Island venue on the winter schedule) from where I walked to Snake Island and enjoyed total solitude as I photographed the colourful city skyline. Not a soul found or bothered me as I waited for sunset to flirt with dusk. The following day I ventured up to Casa Loma, apparently North America's only castle. It's a beautiful stately home, built by Sir Heny Pellat, reminiscent of properties managed by the National Trust. Ornate rooms and furnishings area prelude to a collection of classic cars, and high turrets offer terrific views of downtown Toronto. Unsurprising that it has been used as a location for several films such as X-Men and Chicago.Spending the day downtown in the shadow of towering skyscrapers it is easy to see why Toronto doubles as New York and Chicago in many a film and television show. From Yonge-Dundas Square down to Nathan Philips Square and City Hall, I shuffled past the Old City Hall building and towards the Gooderham Building. En route I found the Cathedral Church Of St James, a modest example of Gothic architecture with an equally modest interior. Further on St Lawrence Market hosted some colourful delicatessens and charcuterie.A determined walk further on brought me to the Old Distillery District, once the largest distillery in the world and now converted into quirky bars, shops and restaurants. Finally I ascended the mighty CN Tower, from where I enjoyed the view beneath my feet on the glass floor, as well as magnificent city skyline. On my last day, when the weather was at its best, I journeyed down to Niagara Falls. I shall post images from that day separately but I started the day with a helicopter ride and a visit to the Butterfly Conservancy before enjoying the falls. All in all, a trip that went exactly to plan and an experience made all the more enjoyable by the hospitality of the people there. Canadians thoroughly deserve their global reputation for being incredibly friendly, helpful and polite. They have my sincere gratitude. As usual, everything was processed in my usual postcard style and shot with Olympus equipment.
The following day, I headed out to the small town of Trakai, a thirty minute bus journey from Vilnius. Trakai is teeming with history all of its own, having been settled by people from many different nationalities. The town has many individual sites of interest but the most popular to visit is the castle situated on its own island.The castle complex offers a fascinating glimpse into both the history of Trakai and Lithuania, describing how the various settlers came to develop the town. The story is illustrated with abundant collections of artifacts and armaments, porcelain and paintings, and the castle complex itself has been very well restored. This was a great place to visit and learn some interesting history. All images taken with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8, and a couple with the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye.
Had a couple of days to kill last week so decided to spend it in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, a former satellite state of the former USSR. A beautiful, if small, city with resplendent architecture from several periods and colourful rendering typical of buildings in Central and Eastern Europe. Most of the main points of interest were conveniently situated within walking distance of each other in the Old Town and the warren of narrow, cobbled streets were easy to navigate. The focal point of the city has to be the imposing Cathedral with its Bell Tower and statue of the Grand Duke Gediminas outside. From here a walk up Pilles Street would become a detour down a small alley, finding my way to visual treats such as St Anne's and Bernadine Church, a stunning example of both Flamboyant and Brick Gothic architectural styles. Back up Literatu Street, displaying artworks mounted on the walls, and around a corner to find the House of Signatories, where Lithuania's Act Of Independence was signed. The Presidential Palace was fairly ordinary but further down, past several more beautiful churches, is the Town Hall Square, and a short walk past that is the Gate Of Dawn, a city gate and one of the country's most significant cultural and historical monuments. Great views of the city can be had from several viewpoints, the most popular of which is probably Gediminas Hill. Alas it was closed for renovation during my visit and so I soaked in the city skyline under a hazy cloud cover from the Hill Of Three Crosses nearby.Being time limited, I managed to get some dusk shots of Gediminas Hill and Mindaugas Bridge, as well as the Cathedral. The second day was spent at the castle complex at Trakai and I shall present photos from there in another post. Seeking out authentic Lithuanian cuisine meant a farmer's meal of meat accompanied by a lot of potatoes and dumplings, but a tasting menu and several courses at Dublis Restaurant was a touch more sophisticated. Of course there is no shortage of museums to explore, and even catacombs within the Cathedral complex, but having limited time I visited only the Holocaust Exposition, a harrowing account of the murder of the majority of Lithuania's Jewish community during the Second World War. Vilnius is an impressive little city to kill some time in, extremely clean and well kept and presenting its aesthetic in an abundance of colour and style. I enjoyed it.As ever, these images were processed in my usual postcard style and shot with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8.
So I spent the better part of a morning in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon during my week in Iceland, dwarfed and chilled by the massive flotilla of glacial bodies drifting past. While many visitors were busy taking the clichéd long exposures of waves lapping at chunks of ice on the beach (yawn) I wanted to capture the exquisite shapes and forms made by the melting chunks of glacial fragments. The random geometry of their swirls and angles were an exotic beauty too alluring to ignore, entire miniature worlds formed within the glistening icy architecture. Further on from the lagoon one could get closer to the Fjallsarlon Glacier, its enormity only apparent with a person or ship in the foreground to offer scale. These were all shot with the Olympus E-M5 and processed to convey the chill.
Before my friend left I wanted to share with her the magnificence of St Alban's Cathedral, with its mix of Roman, Norman and Gothic architecture. Massive and grand, it easily lured us into the deep well of its architectural beauty, impressing us with the sumptuously carved towering masonry and numerous archipelagos of light and shadow. A real photographic treat with copious geometry to lend to one's composition. Once again, the fisheye lens helped to open up the vast interiors and capture some beautiful symmetry, and in slight contrast to the images from The King's College Chapel I have processed these to reflect the stunning warmth of light lancing through from the outside and nestling into pockets of stone everywhere. All images made with the Olympus E-M5, with either the 12-40mm f/2.8 or the sayang 7.5mm F/3.5.
Another item on Christina's list so naturally Alpha Whiskey delivered. London doesn't have the greatest skyline but it does look beautiful when the lights go on, thus I timed our ascent to coincide with the onset of dusk. Despite the grey, murky weather we still had a good time seeing the city from above. The last few shots are from earlier shenanigans at Madame Tussauds. I had been there a few times before and so didn't take many photos except for the Star Wars exhibit at the end (which was pretty cool). And, of course, Christina had to take a snap of Alpha Whiskey alongside the man of the moment. Most of these were shot with the Olympus EM-5 and 12-40mm F/2.8, with a few from the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye.
My good friend Christina was lucky enough to visit Alpha Whiskey last week so she had the full tour of London, of course, but also on her wish list was a trip to Cambridge. I didn't hesitate to take her, knowing from my previous visits what a beautiful and picturesque town Cambridge is. The weather wasn't at her best for us but where better to take refuge than the King's College Chapel, a spectacular edifice of Gothic architecture with some of the finest stained glass windows anywhere in the world. The magnificent and vast fan vaulted ceiling loomed mightily above us, inviting its tiny visitors to crane our necks up and marvel at it. The imposing central organ shadowed the chequered floor and wooden pews as light flooded in to backlight the stories depicted on the stained glass windows. After the Chapel we explored the town and went punting on the River Cam, where our excellent oarsman regaled us with a fascinating wealth of knowledge about the town and university. Most of these shots were taken manually focused with the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye lens mounted on the Olympus E-M5. The rest were taken with the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8. I found that despite the obvious distortion, the fisheye captured the cavernous interiors rather well, providing a sense of size and scale that makes the viewer feel suitably small. I have tried to process the images to accentuate the geometry and vastness of the Chapel's interiors, as well as allude to its age with a slightly washed out look.
This pair of waterfalls was a great find along my east coast drive, and yet another destination not on my original itinerary. But I was happy to take the time out to hike up the hill to enjoy them.The lower fall poured itself into a small meander decorated on all sides by some remaining autumnal yellows, while the upper fall invited me in behind it from where I could marvel at the fjord in the distance. Taking a photo free of droplets proved a challenge so close to the fall but there was a wonderfully large space behind it to enjoy a solace broken only by sound of rushing water. After this welcome detour I continued south along the eastern side under gathering clouds taking in the scenery until I reached Hofn, a small town by then soaking in the rain and shrouded in the darkness. All images taken with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8, processed to embolden colours and contrast.
The trip that keeps on giving while I'm busy not taking many photos this month. Well, Iceland is a bit like that, a small island with no end of beautiful places to marvel at and reap images from.My time in the east of the country spanned essentially one whole day from sunrise at Hengifoss to a rainy night at Hofn. But these images cover the day up to Seydisfjordur. I actually arrived at Hengifoss the night before but I hadn't realised it was a 2km uphill hike from the car park to the waterfall. And in any case it was dark and the northern lights were displaying. But the following morning I headed out during a vivid sunrise towards Hengifoss, the only person there or en route, allowing me to enjoy the quiet solitude for over an hour. I headed further east towards Seydisfjordur, enjoying a spectacularly colourful drive flanked by stunning autumnal colour. I'll add images from that to a post dedicated to shot taken along roads. Seydisfjordur is a small coastal town with not much going on but for some great views from the hill overlooking it and a small waterfall called Gufufoss.After taking in a few views of the fjord I found Fardagafoss, composed of upper and lower waterfalls but I'll add images from that in a separate post.For now enjoy these shots, processed to bring out bolder colour and contrast and hopefully convey a sense of the beauty of this land. Mostly shot with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8.
To name but two. After Hraunfossar I drove for most of the day towards Godafoss, only to be met there by unrelenting rain, wind and mist making any photography impossible. So, after returning from Alderyarfoss and the aurora display I spent the night at Godafoss hoping for some better luck in the morning. To my relief, the morning brought clear weather and a colourful sunrise.After Godafoss I hurried towards Husavik for a spot of whale watching, images from which I'll probably add in a separate post. Curiosity took me to the Asbyrgi Canyon, another potentially expendable item on my itinerary but one I'm glad I took the time to visit. An eerily empty and tranquil place, full of autumnal colour and embraced on all sides by high canyon walls. At its heart was a serene, silent and still pool, teeming with beautiful rocks. Navigating to Dettifoss, Europe's largest waterfall, my trusty sat nav once again sent me along an apparently short route that belied its rocky and treacherous ride. At least I could enjoy some lovely scenery en route while trying to stay vertical. Before long I could see the plumes of mist from Dettifoss and hear her roar. Dettifoss is mighty indeed, the magnitude of her sound and breadth overwhelming the senses. I hadn't realised that further on was another waterfall, Selfoss. By now the light was fading, the mist was intensifying and I was running out of time. I trudged over to Selfoss only to be stopped by large puddles around slippery rocks. I managed to hop and skip my way over to the edge of the cliff near the waterfall, and I still don't know how I set up a tripod in near darkness on a wet surface next to a steep drop, manually focusing with a 50mm lens to get a shot off. Returning to my vehicle was a blind battle through a chokingly thick fog and it took me a while to locate my vehicle. Driving through the fog was even more challenging but as I headed east towards Hengifoss it cleared up to make way for a beautiful moonlit sky.All in all, a good day.
Well, it hasn't been a boring year.Unfurling with typically merciless speed it brought us chaos, tragedy and abrupt and painful loss, but also celebration, triumph and discovery. New horizons beckon on both sides of the pond and as a compulsive optimist I subscribe to the idea that joy cometh in the morning. Perhaps my optimism is naive and misplaced but the alternative must be far worse.For I can gratefully report another enjoyable year of life on Earth. Being busy with personal and private projects seemed in no way to inhibit my travel, foreign or domestic; to see some old friends, foreign and domestic; and to keep peering through a window on the world from behind the shelter and solace of my camera(s). In terms of photography the beginning of the year was a little quiet until a trip to Central America by way of Costa Rica and Panama. Diverse, exotic wildlife in dense cloud forests, humid mangroves and even a night in the jungle thrilled us before visiting the towering metropolis of Panama City. Hummingbirds, capuchins, iguanas and sloths preceded the gateway between two oceans and two continents. Hot, enlightening and thrilling I relished every moment of it. Historical Colchester was a town I hadn't appreciated until I took the time to do so with Zuzana as my guide. And a little street photography in London was a brief interlude until my next overseas trip to Gothenburg, the first of two visits this year to this beautiful city. A remarkable place with a cosmopolitan culture and some truly magnificent sights, all seasonably clad in vivid springtime blossom. Upon my return from Sweden my good friend and fellow photographer Parrish invited me to join him at the top of the United Kingdom's tallest building for a view of the capital. Down on the street the miserly Londoners can be abrupt and rude and would rather step through you than around you but when the dusk descends the city becomes an irresistibly radiant spectacle of lights and colour. The United Kingdom may be geographically small but I have lost no faith in its ability to continually surprise me with its beauty and the Isle Of Wight was no exception. Much like the Isle Of Man two years ago the Isle of Wight impressed us with its vast range of interests. From history at the stunning Osborne House to its picturesque beaches, from fascinating castles to golden sunsets on the coast, and of course the rare red squirrel, the island has something to offer everyone.The summer had me take a brief trip through Wales, no less scenic or special whatever the weather. Back home I enjoyed a local car show and availed myself of a little National Trust before spending some time in Central/Eastern Europe (depending on your relative location) and driving back. Another trip to Wimpole and to Stowe and a spontaneous drive down to the south coast to capture the Milky Way arching over Durdle Door rounded off the summer. The autumn began with a terrific road trip to Newcastle, yet another pleasant surprise within Her Majesty's Realm, a friendly and vibrant town as abundant in bars and eateries as it is in the grand architecture lining its streets.I had a little time to kill in October so I popped over to Iceland to cover nearly 3000 exhilarating km of its mesmerising landscape, left soaked by its waterfalls, dwarfed by its glaciers and speechless by the Northern Lights.Being my favourite season I naturally had to capture the colours that autumn had gifted us and this year had a prolonged and vibrant display.The end of the autumn saw the annual November fireworks, this time rendered through a great fish-eye lens that also proved useful on a trip to a vast car show in Birmingham.My final trip this year was another visit to Gothenburg to enjoy some Christmas lights and winter nights. Poseidon still presides proudly over his city, surveying its festive radiance under a low crescent Moon.This wonderful pastime called photography has again taken me to new destinations both near and far, enriching my life with new experiences and knowledge. My photographic postcard style hasn't changed much. My emphasis on practice over theory and gear hasn't changed at all. But Alpha Whiskey is thankful to be a year older and wiser with a little more mileage on the clock. My horizons are broader at the end of this year (as indeed are my lats) and I look ahead with confidence that a new year, as quickly as it may unfold, will deliver even more intrigue. And however much more time the future generously gives me I intend to enjoy it.