What a busy few days! First, another National Trust venue, then a medieval joust, and lastly a tour inside the seat of government of the oldest functional democracy on Earth, each on consecutive days.Well, first was Waddesdon Manor, another lavish mansion maintained by the National Trust. I am running out of superlatives to describe how opulent and wondrous these stately and historical homes are. The Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to display his art collection and for entertaining. Inside there seemed to be no end of bedrooms, dining rooms and lounge rooms, all filled with incredible furniture. Interestingly, each room or space seem to have its own antique clock, each of which was uniquely ornate. The building and interiors were reminiscent of Versailles, outside Paris, and indeed some of the silverware (made for George III) in the dining room was apparently being shared by Versailles too. There some fantastic collections of furniture, tapestries, and a stunning collection of tin-glazed Earthenware known as maiolica that has to been seen.Many of my shots were taken to capture a feel for the place, and perhaps entice people into making their own visit. I hope you enjoy them.
You will deduce from the posts on my blog that I am more interested in taking photos and building up a body of work than waxing lyrical about gear and gadgets. There are plenty of sites that do the latter and yet have very little photographic creativity to show for it. I have taken photos using my phone, a 7-year old DSLR, and the latest full frame camera. With digital photography, many people simply use the freedom to ‘spray and pray’, or take multiple images of the same thing, checking the LCD and deleting as they go along. Obviously, this approach negates the use of actual photographic knowledge, or any sense of timing or judgement about composition and exposure. With this in mind, my good friend Bizhan and myself decided the test ourselves this weekend by putting our money where our mouth is. Essentially pretending that we were shooting film, we decided to take up to a maximum of 36 exposures without using the LCD review. We could set the maximum ISO and adjust the aperture and shutter speed manually, and use any lens or tripod we wanted. Any misfires or mistakes counted towards the maximum 36. We thus had to time our shots carefully, trying to achieve the correct exposure and interesting compositions just by using our EYES! We would then review the shots we had taken over dinner later on. I used only the 35mm F/2 AF-D and the 50mm F/1.8G on a D600, and Bizhan used an 18-55mm on his Sony NEX-7. I took 35 shots, 4 of which were misfires (hitting the shutter prematurely or accidentally), 3 were out of focus (tracking skateboarders), and 10 that I simply decided I didn’t like once I had seen them. This left me with 18 exposures that I have presented here. I knew I wanted to render them in black and white, so this influenced my judgement of composition and exposure. Bizhan was even more selective than I, taking around 16 total exposures. It was an interesting exercise, similar to one I had done before with Jena, and reinforced the simple truth that whenever you’re out and about shooting for pleasure, careful consideration of your shots and opportunity will yield fewer, but far better, images than simply hitting the shutter aimlessly and hoping. And it is far better to have a few great images to your name than a ton of mediocrity clogging up your hard drives.
My friends Jena and Natalia and I ventured down to Winkworth Arboretum to witness the spectacular carpets of bluebells in full bloom. It really was an amazing sight, and I do not believe any photo can do it enough justice. We had been to the arboretum before during the autumn, and I was most gratified to find that they had used some of my autumn photos in their current leaflet. This time, there were plenty of spring colours, and as we ambled through the beautiful grounds we were treated on every side to colourful blossom, bluebells and magnolias. We also took in the spectacular views over the Surrey countryside. I have tried to depict the variety below, helped also with some photos of Jena and Natalia.A big thank you must go out to all the amazing gardeners and volunteers who make Winkworth Arboretum such a wonderful experience. I hope you enjoy these photos and hopefully make your own way down to the Arboretum to enjoy the magnificent flora and foliage.
After Cliveden, we drove to nearby Hughenden Manor, once owned and lived in by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Although not as externally grandiose as Cliveden, Hughenden had some fabulous interiors and fascinating history. Visitors to the Manor included Queen Victoria and George VI. I was especially taken with the library, which reminded me of my father’s library. The figure of Mr Disraeli provided some neat compositions against the backdrop of his books, and it was amazing to think that here was the desk where he sat and worked. Below the house in the basement was essentially a wartime bunker, with an operations room to plan bombing raids during the Second World War, as well as a cosy lounge and a wine cellar. Some of the images were captured with either the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 or the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G, but the rest were captured with my phone, the Nokia N8, and then rendered in black and white. I hope you like the images below and perhaps make your own visit to Hughenden and even join the National Trust. We are grateful to all the kind and informative volunteers who made our visit so interesting.
Another sunny day, another National Trust venue to visit. Actually, Jena, Natalia and I visited two places yesterday, Cliveden and Hughenden Manor, the latter of which will have its own blog post in due course. Cliveden was a great choice, bursting with colour, people and flora. The tulips in the Long Garden were a particular treat. The House is now a hotel so we didn't venture in, but there was plenty outside to occupy our time.These images were taken with one of 3 lenses: the Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D, 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, and the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 (used as a 16mm wide-angle prime). Some of the images are rendered in black and white. Needless to say, we had a great time and I would implore you to make your own visit and become a member of the National Trust.
Spring must be here because the floral arrangements in Regent’s Park are at their most spectacular. The kaleidoscope of colour simply overwhelms the eyes and provides no end of photographic opportunities. I wanted to travel light into London with my friend Zuzana, so I just took my little Nikon D40 (now 7 years old) and a couple of lenses. To be honest, I could have just used my phone and not had to carry anything extra at all, but there we are. Some of the shots were taken with my phone, the Nokia N8. After the park we crossed the road and sat in Marylebone Church, fairly unassuming from the outside but quite photogenic on the inside. All images were shot RAW and quickly processed in Lightroom. Some of the images are in black and white, simply because I'm going through a B+W phase at the moment. Hopefully the images demonstrate again that old technology is not necessarily bad technology, and the D40 can still hold its own. Don’t waste too much time looking at these images; go down to Regent’s Park and enjoy it for yourself.
Upon the recommendation of a friend, Natalia and I decided to visit the magnificent grounds at Wrest Park. At this English Heritage site, we were treated to beautiful landscaped gardens, lakes, and an opulent mansion reminiscent of The Palace of Versailles outside Paris. The site was owned and occupied by the de Grey family during the 19th century, and has been recently restored to its former glory. The staff were all extremely helpful and friendly and we thank them for a lovely day out.Alas, the blue skies were a little shy this weekend, so I have rendered some of the images in black and white to provide a more classic look. I hope the photos encourage you to make your own visit to this wonderful place and perhaps to become a member of English Heritage.
Another sunny Sunday beckoned myself and friend Natalia to visit another National Trust venue, this time stunning Polesden Lacey, a majestic Edwardian House set in the beautiful Surrey countryside. The grounds are beautifully arranged and tended with seas of tulips and daffodils all over the estate. The house has some quite opulent interiors, with furnishings that are both lavish and of the age. I hope my photos here can do them some justice. Most are in colour, but some are rendered in black and white. Occasionally, I would photograph Natalia in the scene outdoors, to lend the image some scale. All the images were taken with one of the Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D, the 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, or the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 (used as a 16mm prime). There may be one or two below taken with my phone too, the Nokia N8.I hope you enjoy the photos, and perhaps make your own visit to this beautiful place.
A break in the winter weather allowed Natalia and I to visit Scotney Castle in Kent, a beautiful and scenic place managed by the National Trust. Scotney House is preserved to an elegant fascination with ornate bedrooms and furnishings, enlightened by the friendly and helpful guides. The grounds shimmered in the sunlight, and the castle, while small, provided no end of photographic opportunities, particularly of its famous reflections. The recent cold weather probably delayed the spring bloom, but some daffodils were out in force.All the images below were taken with one of the Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D, 50mm F/1.8G, or the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 at 16mm, effectively acting as a prime wide angle lens on the D600. A few images were taken with my phone, the Nokia N8.I hope you enjoy the photos below and perhaps make your own visit to this wonderful place.
Lisa and Rich took me to the fantastic Leu Gardens in Florida, a beautiful landscaped garden with sumptuous foliage and vibrantly colourful plant species of all kinds. There was also a lake with abundant wildlife, including egrets and herons, as well as ospreys and turtles. We also had a lovely tour of Leu House Museum, a testament to Harry Leu and his family who founded the gardens and donated them to the city of Orlando in 1961.Lisa and I had a great time snapping the kaleidoscope of plants and flowers. I hope you enjoy the photos and make your own visit there one day.
Had a great time at the Brevard Zoo during my stay in Florida, happily only a few minutes away from Lisa's home. Both Lisa and I made the most of this small but very well kept zoo, with some truly excellent exhibits. A highlight were the incredibly loud Howler Monkeys - I'm certain the entire park could hear them. Lisa and walked around the entire zoo before settling at the jaguar enclosure, waiting for an opportunistic shot. I have presented my efforts below in no particular order, and all images were taken with the Nikon D600 and Nikkor 70-200mm VRII and 1.7x TC.I hope you enjoy the images and perhaps make your own visit one day to this excellent zoo.
Spent a lovely warm day at Daytona with Lisa during my trip, where we drove along the world-famous beach and hung out at the pier. We also checked out the Daytona Speedway, although while we were there it was Bike Week, which meant a kaleidoscope of coloured Harley Davidsons. In amongst all the bikes, bikinis and gift shops, I was feeling a little lethargic with respect to taking photos. I shot with either the 35mm F/2 AF-D or my phone, the Nokia N8, and grabbed shots wherever I could. Sometimes, you just want to take it all in. It’s a great beach with beautiful white sand and Bondi blue water, and it was a great day spent with Lisa. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Had a taste of genuine Americana during my trip to Florida when I attended a couple of baseball games. This was the first time I had ever seen baseball played let alone photographed it. Lisa's partner, Rich, was the umpire at both games, and I really intended to get some shots of him, but I couldn't help indulging myself and photographing other aspects of the game. Because of my position, most of the shots are of the batsmen. The images are from games played at both night and day.All the shots were made with a Nikon D600 and Nikkor 70-200mm VRII with or without a 1.7x Teleconverter, and between ISOs of 6400 and 12,800.Well, I am pleased with these shots from my first ever baseball games, and I hope you enjoy them too.
Just returned from a wonderful vacation in Florida, where I went to visit my dear friend Lisa. She and her boyfriend Rich went out of their way to show me some amazing wildlife to photograph, and I have presented a selection here. Florida is a warm state with an abundance of alligators and birdlife everywhere, almost on Lisa’s doorstep! I managed to capture a variety of wildlife at both the Merritt Island and Ritch Grissom Wetland areas. I didn’t manage to see any manatees, but they’re not a very photogenic species anyway! For the last shot, taken on my camera by Lisa, I got within a few feet of a huge wild alligator basking in the sun. Inside my heart was pounding from the fear of knowing that it had the ability to move in a split second and could run at up to 25 miles per hour. As exhilarating as it was, I was also relieved to be out of there! But I wanted that shot J Other images show egrets, herons, butterflies, otters, turtles and more. All these images were taken with the Nikon D600 and Nikkor 70-200mm VRII + 1.7xTC. While not the longest focal length for it, one can get so close to the wildlife in Florida that it proved ample for my needs. I hope you enjoy the images.
After a big shopping spree this afternoon, my friend Natalia and I decided to chill out at the excellent RAF Museum. I had been here before, of course, but this time I didn't have my camera with me, only my phone, the Nokia N8.What was that about the best camera being the one you have with you? Well, today it was my phone. Others may worry about pixel-level sharpness and noise etc, I simply care about getting a half-decent image. And in the absence of my DSLR, this phone enabled me to do that.Since I have posted shots from both the Museum and my phone before, I thought I would be a little different and render all the images in black and white, something that the subjects actually lend themselves to quite well. The historical significance of many of the exhibits seem to benefit from the slightly aged B+W look. As usual, I try to look for different angles, sometimes following geometry of the aircraft or simply homing in on individual details.I hope you enjoy the images here, and make your own visit to this excellent museum.