Jena and I both happened to have an afternoon free yesterday, so she suggested that we visited Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey. The autumnal colours are just beginning, and look especially vibrant this year compared to the dullness of yesteryear. Winkworth Arboretum is a splendid place to roam around and admire the countless species of trees and plant life, as well as to capture some of the seasonal shades. The weather was a little overcast during our visit, so we focused our compositions on leaves and plants to really study the colours. I also used Jena herself as a subject, as she is very photogenic. These shots below from me were taken with either the Nikkor 18-200mm VR or the 50mm AF-S F/1.8G. You can probably differentiate between them from the quality of background blur, the latter lens giving the smoother result. I hope you enjoy these images and are inspired to seek out and capture some autumnal foliage yourself.
Jena and I went for a stroll one evening this week along the south bank, ending up around St.Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern Gallery. We had dinner at one our favourite restaurants, Tas Pide, next to the Globe Theatre. The food, service and ambience are always excellent there, and we were so stuffed we had to carry our desserts home!These images were all taken with my phone, the now ageing Nokia N8, since I couldn't be bothered to lumber my DSLR and lenses around with me, and it wasn't a meet specifically for shooting. But hopefully these images will again reinforce the point I have made before that the best camera is the one you have with you. The camera, whether a phone or DSLR, is neither a barrier nor excuse for composition or creativity. If I'm just out walking, I simply don't care what camera I use, I'll shoot what I see. The phone obviously has limitations such as night shots, which tested the limits of the sensor, and for serious night shooting I would, of course, use my DSLR. But as a casual snapshot taker, it seems to do alright. Well, I hope you enjoy the images below.
A few more shots of New York rattling around in my hard drive, so I thought I'd share them here. These are from my awesome vacation there with my amazing friend Lisa, when we went for her birthday. Slightly different take in this group of pics, but still capturing the essence of what we saw and where we went. Such a terrific time!There is still a huge library of shots stashed away of which this is a tiny sample. Hopefully they convey the eclectic nature of the city and its energy and vibrance.
Leopards are probably the most resourceful and intelligent of the big cats, demonstrating far greater adaptability to their changing environment than the other cat species. Even though this has enabled them to be relatively numerate around the planet, they are still endangered, threatened by poachers and often seen as a pest. They are also perpetually harassed by other species such as hyenas, baboons and lions. Leopards are smaller than lions and tigers, but have incredible strength, often carrying in their jaws prey that is far heavier than themselves high up into tree canopies. They are extremely shy and weary of most animals, especially Man. They have an uncanny ability to move through their environment unnoticed, slinking away into the background or night. They are, of course, effortlessly beautiful, as these photos have tried to capture. Like my tiger photos, I have captured these leopards in captivity at various locations around the world, albeit trying to exclude any notion of their captive enclosure/surroundings. And like the tigers, I have been more concerned with their photogenic aesthetics, rather than making a statement about their environment. Again, I would gladly give up the privilege of photographing them anywhere if their survival in the wild was protected and guaranteed. The photos below include the African and Amur species, as well as a black ‘panther’ leopard. As with many of my animal portraits, I have tried to obtain eye contact from the subject to capture a more engaging image for the viewer, occasionally irritating the poor cat in the process! Well, anyway, I hope this small tribute engenders greater endearment to this remarkable animal.
Exactly why the Special Air Service use the Brecon Beacons for their training manoeuvres and selection process is now becoming clear to me. This weekend past I embarked on a nearly 10-mile hike around an endlessly undulating and arduous route that rewarded me with several beautiful waterfalls along the way. My industry returned the images you see below, along with copious soakings in mud and water. I didn't manage to see all of the many Brecon falls, so I will return to find the others. For almost all the waterfall images, I aimed for the silky look of running water, achieved through a slow shutter speed. Some of the images were acquired by using a 10-stop ND-Grad filter on my Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, and others by using a shutter speed of around one second and a narrow aperture while focusing with the Live View. Virtually all images were taken on a tripod. I also took images with my Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D and 50mm F/1.8G AF-S. I would like to have gotten closer to the falls to create more dramatic perspectives, but the water spray from them would have smothered the lens. The last few images are of the spectacular sunset that I happened upon while wandering around Abergavenny Castle. Despite all the travelling we do, it is easy to forget what lies in our own backyards, and Wales, a country that I have had a fondness for since I first lived there 10 years ago, is one of the United Kingdom’s most scenic places.
On a bit of a shooting spree lately, with myself, Jena and Kevin all frequenting Tower Bridge and the surrounding area to capture some more shots, especially to exploit the dusk blue sky.I must say, while we were on the apparently privately run, but publicly accessible, docks around Tower Bridge, we were accosted several times and told we couldn't use our tripods. The gentleman informing us was perfectly civil and just doing his job, but I cannot fathom any reason why a tripod cannot be used in an area where the general public and tourists amble through all day every day, to say nothing of the fact that we were photographing landmarks over which no one has a monopoly. It seemed rather pointless and petty to us, and so we defied the odds and still managed a few tripod-mounted shots! For the shots below, I used mainly the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, and my Nikkors 35mm and 50mm primes. I also took a few shots with my phone.
……Is the one you have with you. These images were all taken with my phone, the Nokia N8, which I have had for nearly 2 years now. Its camera produces 12MP images sometimes capable of rivalling a compact camera, with a constant F/2.8 aperture wide angle zoom Carl Zeiss lens. It is capable of macro shots, and reasonable low light shots. Important things like ISO, exposure compensation and white balance are adjustable on the camera (albeit through the touchscreen menu). More and more people are relying on their phones to take photos, and the technology is rapidly meeting the demands of the market. The newest incarnation of the Nokia N8 series has a 41MP sensor! Of course the images will not rival a DSLR for technical quality and detail, but often enough, I cannot be bothered to carry or take out a whole DSLR and lens kit with me, so I’ll happily take the shots with my phone. As you can see below, I have captured some reasonably decent pictures with it. For sure, the images aren't perfectly crisp, and they have been edited and enhanced, but the basic composition and perspectives were taken at location. Often times, I took the image knowing that I could enhance it later in post. Many of these images will easily print to A4 size; if I wanted anything larger than that I would probably unsheathe the DSLR. I hope that this goes a little way to reassuring people that they don’t need the most expensive camera to take the best photos. The best photos are the ones that you take when you see and imagine them, and the best camera to use is simply the one you happen to have with you, even if it is your phone.
You know, it really is a test for a photographer to come up with evermore different or creative shots from a location that you’ve pretty much shot to death. But those shots are there to be found; you simply have to look. So Jena, Kevin and I took advantage of the beautiful clear night and ventured down to the South Bank to claim some more images. Along the way, Jena and I were graced by the tones of a singer wowing the crowds with her voice. As dusk fell, we grabbed some shots of the projections onto the Houses Of Parliament, before eventually calling it a night.
A few weeks ago, just before the Farnborough Airshow, I visited the magnificent RAF Museum in London to practice photographing aircraft on display. I have been to this museum a few times and it never ceases to impress me with its scale and the quality of its exhibits. The fact that it is free to enter is remarkable, given what is on display. Modern and older aircraft are both represented within their huge exhibition halls. And everyone form the nice lady at the entrance gate to the staff inside are friendly, helpful and informative. Even if you are not interested in planes, there is an abundance of history to be learned. Indeed, the history of the United Kingdom would be very different were it not for the amazing Royal Air Force. I would definitely recommend that everyone pay this museum a visit.Below is a selection of my images, shot from a variety of angles, and some rendered black and white, to make them more interesting. I used mainly my Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, and also my 35mm and 50mm primes for some closer shots.
Another shoot around Tower Bridge last night with Jena as the weather was slightly better. We had dinner near Waterloo and took a couple of shots there around the fairground before moving on to Tower Bridge.Having shot the place so often it does become a challenge to find new and interesting compositions, but this is all part of training one’s eye. There are always new ways of looking at something.Partly for this reason, and partly to lend more dynamism to the images, I use a tilted and low angle quite often. This also brings a sense of scale and overhead vastness to some of the shots, more so than a static horizontal shot taken at eye-level.Once again there are a few HDR images in here, mainly because I felt like trying something different, and I have labelled them accordingly.I used my 35mm prime and Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, but I also had my 18-200mm in the bag so I used that for a couple of shots - decent enough lens but it doesn't get used very often. Anyway, I hope these are different enough (some are quite similar!) to previous images that you will enjoy them.
...Something I was determined not to jump onto, hoping in fact to leave the country while the rest of the planet came here and made the city a human zoo. But a decent shot is any photographer's Achille's Heel, so I eventually relented on the opening night of The Olympic Games.I got to Tower Bridge, by way of a short stop in Hays Galleria, and waited eagerly and patiently for a promised fireworks extravaganza. When it finally happened nearly two hours later, it was barely a minute long, and a paltry show! I then traversed over to the Houses Of Parliament, which was being used as a screen receiving projections of images from past Olympic Games. That was actually a lot of fun.Anyway, I'm still mostly indifferent to the entire event, but at least I managed a few shots to post here. Enjoy.
Drove west to see my dear friend Sally this past weekend, with whom I did a spot of hiking through the hills, forests and mud of the beautiful Cotswolds. The annual Berkeley Skirmish was cancelled due to waterlogged fields, so we resolved to have our own adventure instead. The weather was great, the views were stunning, and the hike was exhausting. But the food was rewarding!We found some interesting treasures, like the opening of the Sapperton Canal, the longest canal tunnel in the world, and awaiting restoration since 1972. The Painswick Beacon overlooked the plains of Gloucestershire, as far as the Severn River, and offered some amazing views. The Milky Way was shot from Sal's garden, from where the clear skies are always carpeted in stars.Not many photos taken, and some just snapped quickly with my phone, but I have presented a broad spectrum of our exploits here. Some of the images I chose to bracket and blend to HDR, which I'm not a big fan of, but there we are. Thanks, Sal, for another great adventure!
A couple of days ago, I attended this year's Farnborough Air Show with my friends Jena, Bizhan and his wife Linda. All of us were armed with cameras, and all of us were on our feet all day looking upwards to capture what shots we could of the amazing aerial displays above us. I had been to the Biggin Hill Air Show a few years ago, and the aircraft and their displays here were very similar, so there was a slight sense of deja vu for me. The Red Arrows display, however, was a first for all of us and that was truly sublime.Jena, Bizhan and myself were each armed with a 70-200mm zoom, while Linda had a 70-300mm zoom. I used a 1.7x teleconverter for a few shots, but the autofocus was a little hit and miss so I mainly shot with out it. Jena and myself also used the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 to capture some of the ground-based exhibits.Even though the rain thankfully held off all day, the skies were overcast and the lighting wasn't always great, so for a few shots of the exhibit aircraft, I bracketed some shots into HDR composites. I have indicated below which images are HDR. Despite achy legs I think we all had a good time and managed to get some satisfying images from the day. These are a selection of my own shots, except the very last one of Linda and Jena which was taken by Bizhan. Enjoy!
Just wanted to celebrate the 4th of July holiday for my friends across the pond by way of paying tribute to one of my heroes, a great American, President Ronald Reagan. Last year I had the privilege of seeing a statue of the late President unveiled outside the American Embassy in London, with many dignitaries present. But I have also had the great privilege of visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, a breathtakingly magnificent place overlooking the jaw-droppingly beautiful Simi Valley. In this post are just a few of my photos from the Library, made possible thanks to my wonderful friend Lisa driving me all the way there to help me realise a dream. Why a hero of mine? Well, politics aside, Ronald Reagan was born into poverty in a single rented room above a bank, in a small town with a population of less than a thousand, where people still commuted on horseback; he suffered from poor eyesight and poor hearing, and his father was an alcoholic. During his lifetime he bore witness to the dawn of the automobile and highways, to television and radio, to transatlantic flights, two world wars and Man’s visit to our Moon. He became a radio announcer, actor, corporate spokesman, governor and then, in the sunset of his life, the most powerful man on Earth. As President, he changed his party, changed his country and changed the world. He did so with great humility, and largely with just the power of his words. Some may scoff and mock, but considering his humble beginnings and subsequent rendezvous with destiny, I believe it behoves the rest us to ask of ourselves that given the resources we have available today, what excuse do we have not to change the world? On that note, please enjoy the photos below and maybe make your own visit to this amazing monument to a great man. As President Reagan himself might say: “Go out there and win one for the Gipper!”
A few months back I went on a falconry experience at The Birds Of Prey Centre in Biggleswade. The experience was both enjoyable and educational, and the staff at the centre were really both very helpful and knowledgeable about their birds.As well as having the privilege of holding these magnificent birds, I managed to photograph the wide variety of birds of prey that resided at the centre. The owls were not as boisterous as the hawks, and devoured their lunch (little chicks) whole, while the hawks tore them to pieces. We saw birds in flight and perched, and they brought out a baby Andean Condor, the bird with the largest wingspan. All in all, a great day out with some wonderful experiences. Highly recommended!