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.
It caught me almost completely by surprise (although my app did suggest some aurora activity that evening) but the display turned out to be a consoling reward after an epic journey to find a remote waterfall. I had just driven for most of the day to reach Godafoss, only to be prevented from capturing it that evening by unrelenting wind and mist. So, I decided to pop over to the next stop on my list, Alderyarfoss, gullibly believing my satellite navigation's assertion that it was a mere 45-minute drive away.Alas, what my navigation didn't tell me was that it probably determined that time over an aerial distance in a straight line. On the ground I had to take what I assumed was a road but seemingly more crevassed and cratered that a beaten up asteroid. Consequently, 45 minutes was something of a fantasy, taking more than double that time along a route that evidently no one else was stupid enough to travel. But there I was, utterly alone in the dark with my poor vehicle trying not to flip over on this rodeo ride of gravel and rock, not a single solitary droplet of life anywhere to be seen or heard and evermore committed with each passing metre. Finally, I had managed to scale the vertical cliff to the car park where I found myself, unsurprisingly by now, completely isolated but within earshot of running water. The waterfall. But that subtle scent of relief quickly evaporated when I realised I still had to walk a few hundred metres downhill through muddy rocks. Telling myself I was committed by now was no consolation for carrying my camera bag and tripod, grumbling frustration under my breath with each precarious step. At least I could see the ground clearly with a full moon at my back and a Brubaker-supplied headlamp strapped around my temples.I paused for a moment to contemplate my frustration and fatigue, looking up at the moon-lit sky where I saw two pale strips of cloud reaching over me from behind the hills in the distance. Hang on a second. Those can't be clouds. I set up the camera on the tripod and took a ten second exposure.The strips were green. The aurora borealis was about to display. This was my reward. Ribbons of light began swirling through the sky, as if someone on the other side of the hills from where they emerged was holding them in their hands and gesticulating wildly. The lights became brighter and larger and more saturated with hues of green, yellow and pink.So there I was, exhausted and alone on the side of hill under a spectacular aurora display, Alderyarfoss a few metres away. It would have been great to capture the lights over the waterfall, or any other landmark for that matter, but they were firing in the opposite direction and the full moon would have challenged my exposure.Once the peak of the display seemed to be over, I quickly walked down to snap the waterfall before trudging back up the car park and enjoying the fading glimmer of the display.The following night I was also graced with the lights while driving east so naturally I pulled over and shot what I could before the lights faded once again.These are by no means great aurora images and would have been far better over a mountain peak or reflected in a lake, but I consider myself fortunate to have seen the display twice on two consecutive nights and they were certainly a prize for my efforts. The last image is actually from my last night in Iceland when a momentary break in the clouds allowed me to quickly capture a mild aurora by the Milky Way. Sorry to take you on this epic journey of prose but I wanted to share the experience. These were virtually all taken with a Nikon-something-or-other-who-cares-DSLR and wide angle lens between ISOs of 1600-3200 for around 8-13 seconds, manually focused to around infinity at F/2.8.
As well as the seasonal lights Gothenburg is a beautiful city in its own right at any time of the day. These images are a glance around the city from day to night and many of her landmarks become stunningly embraced by the fiery sunset reds and cobalt dusk blues. I have been to this city a few times now and many of the shots and views are very similar to previous occasions, but these views are so photogenic that it is hard to resist taking them. The last image was taken by the aquarium in the Universeum.All photos were made with the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 or the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 mounted on the E-M5.
Spent a lovely long weekend in Gothenburg, at the invitation of my friend Christina, enjoying the coruscating Christmas lights draped around the city. Gothenburg is rightly very proud of its vibrant seasonal decorations and they have become a big attraction for visitors, adding both colour and sparkle to an already luminescent city. While I felt bathed in the warm glow of the lights my friend's company and hospitality were warmer still, a needed contrast to the winter chill.Anyway, I hope you enjoy these images. I will post some more of Gothenburg in the daytime and sunset in another post. These were all taken with the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 and Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 mounted on the E-M5.
I didn't see these two places together on my second day in Iceland, and indeed the Grabrok volcano crater wasn't even on my itinerary but merely along the way during a day of mostly driving. I started at Hraunfossar waterfall, which wasn't overly spectacular, and then drove towards Godafoss, a mere 6 hours away. I was meant to go and see Hvitsekur in the north en route but I was running late and wasn't fussed about missing a big rock in the sea. I stopped to trek along the volcano and take in the views, and also met some horses whom I shall present in a separate post. In the evening I drove through Akureyri and stopped again to photograph its lights against the dusk. All shot with the Olympus E-M5 and 12-40mm F/2.8.
Not exactly the most original images Alpha Whiskey has ever made but I had company the other night and tried to steal some shots where I could. The luminous colours and brilliance of London's lights are hard to resist, regardless of how often I have shot them. The impending winter and shorter nights also means that my preferred dusk light doesn't last as long. So these were shot and edited to be ever so slightly over-exposed and as vibrant as possible. All shot on the Olympus E-M5 with either the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 or the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5.