After a short drive we arrived at Marstrand on the west coast, a picturesque little island town whose aesthetic was somewhat subdued by the wet, overcast weather. The colours still reminded us how vibrant and busy this town could be in the summer and the large fortress presiding over it was due our visit. During December the island was essentially in hibernation with barely a soul to be found on its cobbled streets. But Christina had a surprise for me. And after a short fika she led me to the harbour to reveal it.We met our skipper, Mathias, from Havsservice, whose strong fisherman's grip welcomed us aboard his charming English vessel. A fine mist saturated the billowing wind but both he and his vessel were veteran sailors, indifferent to the weather. The sturdy deck, polished by rain, greeted our boots in a symphony of thuds. We were not so hardened, Christina and I, our bodies shivering and our teeth chattering as we took our seats inside the cabin.As the engine spluttered into life the surprise dawned on me. It was just the two of us. The only passengers on this boat, a private charter arranged well out of season by a resourceful Christina.The boat retreated from the harbour and began to carefully slice through the icy water. Casual observers gorging on their fikas could only watch from the colourful buildings planted at the water's edge. They may have wondered if it was just one person or in fact two, tightly pressed against each other, both crazy enough to brave a lake in the dead of winter. They were super curious, Christina would say, only her adorable accent would call them 'super couriers.'Ripples rolled out into the sheet of water before us, our boat the only disturbance upon it. But the water would not forgive the intrusion. Wind and rain lashed at the vessel and the livid sea threw a tantrum, smacking us with powerful waves that finished as foaming crests on the rocks behind us. Mathias and his boat were utterly unfazed, confidently bobbing through the turbulence like weightless flotsam. Photography was now beyond a luxury; staying vertical was the priority.Mathias invited unto the see-sawing deck to reel in the cage that was dragging the sea under the boat. He introduced us to the trio of creatures in our catch. A small jet black lobster, a large crab, and then something quite exquisite; a magnificent electric blue lobster with giant claws, its long tentacles probing our jackets as Mathias ran his fingers overs its orange segmented underside. A female, he said, with two mouths like a cinematic alien and small white horns projecting from all over her body. Even he was amazed to find such a rare catch that looked like a CGI concoction newly escaped from a Jurassic Island. After a futile attempt at some photos we laid our catch down and braced the churning sea as it hurled our boat onto its port and starboard sides. Both Christina and I had to hold onto the rails at the side of the deck and focus on the horizon. She was expecting to gift me with a pleasant, tranquil cruise around Marstrand Island and yet here we both were trying to stay alive on this bucking bronco with a our guts reaching for the nearest exit. I guess it was a surprise for her too.But despite the nausea each of us relished the exhilaration and we couldn't be more grateful to our captain for his skilled stewardship and hospitality on this unexpected adventure. There's probably a reason why he doesn't normally provide this service so late in the year and now Christina and I are somewhat the wiser.During a calmer season this would be a terrific excursion but even in a cold and wet December, and in addition to our stunning catch, we still collected some exciting memories.
I know I’ve sent you postcards from this city before but I thought I would use this post as an excuse to wish everyone some seasonal cheer from a city that loves Christmas. And the invitation from my friend Christina was too good to refuse.Every city likes to imagine that it has the monopoly on festive glamour. My very own London is a gaudy glitter fest of massive baubles swinging in the gusts funnelling through the annals of seasonal markets. The Christmas tree, donated to The United Kingdom as usual by Norway, stands erect and gleaming like a proudly decorated sentry in Trafalgar Square, subservient only to Lord Nelson towering above. But Gothenburg is nowhere near as ostentatious. Her decorations are a tastefully understated celebration.Streets were cosily wrapped in coruscating Christmas lights, lending greater vibrancy to an already luminescent city. The Burgers (Gothenburgers) were even more tightly packaged in fur and wool as they skittered from one freezing alley to another. The bitingly brisk air, perfumed with chocolate and chestnuts, seared into lungs and escaped to a dancing mist of pale breath. A snowman floating in front of a waterfall distracted patient queues outside Liseberg Amusement Park from the chill as they snaked around the block all the way to the Universeum. A choir of young singers regaled an engrossed audience with familiar carols.The sea god, Poseidon, guards the plaza at the summit of main boulevard Avenyn. His lithe, naked form was a defiant rebuke to the bitter cold as he watched his meeker subjects weave in and out of shops and restaurants looking for shelter.At the other end of town, Brunnsparken was a busy hub of numb commuters jostling for room on numerous trams undulating past each other like giant blue eels. The famous lion sentinels watched the sheet of ice forming on the canal, undoubtedly knowing that the temptation to skate across it was far outweighed by the fear of drowning with a crushing hypothermia.The statuesque Barken Viking, gently rocked in the bay, her reflected lights shimmering through the marina in front of her. Tall masts poked into the morning sky, sampling the passing breeze on its way to meet the Lipstick Building (Lilla Bommen) behind her. Across the marina the sharp angles of the grand Opera House knifed through the chill. Christina and I spent another morning in the suburb of Molndal, where she introduced me to the incredible Molndal Falls emptying out of old industrial buildings. On occasion, and when cold enough for long enough, they freeze over into a stunning array of icicles. But on this occasion they were merely engorged and rumbling towards us with a deafening roar.Another day was spent in the coastal town of Marstrand where we embarked on a lobster safari. But that was an unique adventure that deserves its own post and I will write about that soon. My final day was spent ambling around Gothenburg, a city I’m so familiar with and yet still surprises me. After a delicious salad lunch with Christina I took the ferry to Eriksberg where I sat on the edge of the dock to watch the sunset over my favourite bridge. I must thank Christina for her typically kind help and resourcefulness, chaperoning me around and sharing the seasonal fun. Merry Christmas.
Don't worry, Alpha Whiskey isn't advertising anything. As Christmas will be upon us soon I wanted to make some canvas prints for friends and this seems like a convenient way for them to choose from a selection.I have selected these images from my abundant archives to satisfy a variety of tastes, from wildlife and street scenes to skylines and landscapes. It is subjective, of course, but any image can theoretically be made into a canvas print. However, not every image necessarily works. There has to be some artistic merit to the image to make it viable as a large print. It may the particular colour content or plethora of details; or it may be the simplicity or abstract forms; or it may simply draw the eye into the depth of a scene. Of course the choice of print will also be influenced by the recipient home's colour scheme.I have pasted each image onto a generic background of a sofa and side table to provide a semblance of what it might look like on a wall. But they would work equally well in a bedroom above a bed or on a naked wall. Of course, they would also work in the reception areas of offices, hotels and medical practices.
I thought I'd take a leaf out my friend Parrish's book and try a few long exposures in the city. It's fair to say he's a billion times better at these than I am but I had a go. Not many images in this set owing to several considerations. Firstly, I was looking to use the light around sunset and twilight and that was a limited window and I was skitting between different locations on the South Bank. Secondly, long exposures take longer to execute and there was some trial and error. And thirdly, these were taken with a DSLR, which I haven't used in a while being a micro four-thirds fiend, and reacquainting myself with the camera took time too. So these were shot with a full frame DSLR and a wide angle lens at 16mm, and also with a 35mm prime. I used a 10 stop ND filter on the lens to achieve exposures of 30 seconds or more. Focusing was done with the Live View function which uses contrast detection (like most micro-four thirds cameras) and is therefore more accurate.
As the last clusters of colour are shed from arboreal heights to leave denuded forests in a fading landscape I thought I would post a final hurrah for my favourite season. Avenues briefly gilded with golden leaves are now pale and unwelcoming. Iridescent fallen foliage clears away for the new season of monochrome and the air is cooler and brisk. The sun, fatigued with the task of diffusing through gathering clouds, cascades all too soon behind a lifeless horizon. Winter is upon us.And so I present a humble reminder of the autumn that now departs. These were all taken at Plitvice National Park, where pockets of seasonal hues were still radiant under the sun. The gentle breeze would nudge at trees ablaze with brilliance and bring leaves gracefully tumbling and fluttering around us. The clear, still lakes mirrored even more Technicolor dreamcoats of golden shades into our viewfinders and screens, and pockets of sunlight would kindle flaming spirals of red, orange and yellow on their way to the ground. Enjoy.
Before our visit to Plitvice, we stopped at this rather enchanting little town nestled in the company of several beautiful waterfalls flowing into a gorge. The waning afternoon sun filtered through the autumnal foliage to cast its rays upon the water, itself decorated with surrounding tinges of yellow and green. Curtains of silky smooth water draped themselves over rocks and rapids to find a gentle landing in the adjacent canyon where a delicate mist floated just enough above the bottom to glisten in the light. It proved to be a sumptuous appetiser for our main course at Plitvice. Enjoy.
Some more images from this trip to the lakes, arguably some stragglers, but no less picturesque in their own right. I have added a few more reflection shots in this set as well as some attempts at capturing the Milky Way over the lakes. A luminous partial Moon added a little too much light to our sky so bringing the galaxy out was a challenge. Some of the autumnal hues still remained and spotted the park as we walked through on our second day. Again, many thanks to my friend Parrish for his company and patience. These were all shot with Olympus.
Anyone with an aversion to fall colours should probably look away now. Somewhere I had wanted to visit for some time, the famous Plitvice Lakes in Croatia were awash with vibrant autumnal hues reflected in crystal clear emerald waters. My friend and fellow photographer, Parrish, and myself both had the idea to plan and execute this excursion and it proceeded pretty much flawlessly.The Unesco site is comprised of a series of upper lakes connected to some lower lakes through a succession of streams and waterfalls, no less than 90 all told.I'm not sure what it is about waterfalls that draw me to them so much. I have seen some of the largest and most beautiful falls that this planet has to offer in places such as South America, Iceland, Canada and even Wales (still my favourite). Perhaps its the sheer power of the flow or the sound of the rush, or perhaps it's the simple beauty of seeing nature pour water freely over an edge. Many of the waterfalls in Plitvice are, of course, small, trickling affairs, while others have a more interesting aesthetic. The largest, known as The Big Slap, isn't really that large at all and is merely a trap for tourists wishing to capture it as yet another digital friend on their selfie sticks. But the entire national park is a pleasure to roam for a couple of days, hiking through its woods or clapping ones boots on its many boardwalks. While overcast skies are probably better for accentuating seasonal colours and limiting blown highlights the glaring sun, solitary in a cloudless, blue sky, reached its fingers of light through the canopy above and touched the leaves with radiant glows of red, orange and yellow. Tanned and ochre leaves pirouetted down around us, denuding their host branches to leave a ceiling of bare, black dendritic webs. Every corner turned would reveal a new waterfall or stream, the view often obscured by tall yellow reeds or wistful orange spots. As they gurgled into the waiting lakes lush highlights of crimson and gold would interrupt the green foliage at the banks and become twinned by the mirror of still water beneath. Our steps crunched along the caramel carpet of leaves under us, stitched together with patches of rose and amber.Surprisingly, around water, we saw very little wildlife but for the abundant fish and ducks. Fearless coal tits and nuthatches would flutter around us hoping for a morsel and the island in the main lower lake hosted a few cormorants. Branches and tree trunks often crowded our views of the waterfalls but in retrospect this added an authenticity to the unspoiled environment. En route to Plitvice Parrish and I stopped at Rastoke, a picturesque little town also populated by a series of waterfalls flowing into a long canyon. It proved a terrific appetiser for the main course and I shall post some images from there later. We finished our trip in Zagreb, a small but bustling city of trams and colourful cobbled streets. The Croatian people were generally helpful and friendly and we enjoyed driving through the country's vivid autumnal landscape. I thank Parrish for his excellent company and knowledge, and that's two polarising filters I now owe him. Please don't lend me anything else. There's still more to come from this excursion but for now enjoy the images below. All shot with Olympus and mainly the 12-40mm F/2.8.
Having visited this magnificent waterfall in August, courtesy of my dear friends Nat and Rob, I was keen to return to make a decent photographic study of it in the absence of other visitors. So thanks to Nat and Rob's hospitality once more Natalia and I ventured back up to Wales to see Pistyll Rhaeadr once again, this time in the early morning before sunrise. Gale force winds the day before did little to deter us as we braved the relentless bluster and rain to snake our way through pieces of felled trunk and branches. A tree in the road so close to our destination was quickly conquered as we dragged and cajoled it out of the way. Just like a certain starship captain I simply do not believe in the no-win scenario.We found ourselves once again dwarfed and deferential to the majesty of this waterfall, its engorged flow thundering down and punching into the stream below like a stampeding water giant. The howling winds bullied and shoved us, whipping up swirls of red and ochre leaves to swarm us like we were unwelcome visitors.But we would not surrender our solitude to the elements. Not a soul in sight disturbed us as I captured these images, until finally the risen sun would peer through clouds behind us and light the valley in our wake with shards of yellow autumnal light. The wind was too severe, even with my sturdy tripod, to allow for exposures longer than 10 seconds and most of these were between 2 and 5 seconds. A few shots of 1-2 seconds were taken hand-held thanks to Olympus's excellent image stabiliser.The inclement weather also prevented us from scaling the hillside to reach the top of the waterfall as we had done in August.Well I'm happier with these images of the waterfall than the ones I took in August. I hope you enjoy them too.
Natalia and I spent a lovely day at Hinton Ampner, a property managed by the National Trust. Although surrounded by beautiful and bountiful gardens and views, the house was the main attraction, comprised of lavishly decorated rooms and furnishings and exquisite ornaments. All images shot with Olympus gear.
Just a few from the archives. Of course Berlin is a fantastic city with much to see and do and I certainly enjoyed my time there. But that time also allowed me to visit the city's two zoos, Tierpark and Hauptstadt, the latter having an impressive aquarium. Both zoos are known for their polar bears and cats and had ample numbers of each. I am increasingly on the fence about zoos, erring on the side of antipathy, as I do not like seeing sentient animals cooped up, caged or restricted in their movements. Some zoological parks do a decent job of allocating plenty of space for their species to roam but in a big city that space must surely be limited.To that end, simply think of these images as portraits, celebrating the beauty of species we have on our planet and reinforcing our responsibility towards them, their freedom and their survival. All these were taken with a DSLR and 70-200mm F/2.8 zoom.
The United Kingdom has one of the largest (if not the largest) populations of grey seals along its coastline and this weekend past Natalia and I decided to visit them again on the east coast. And as ever, they were playful and expressive, almost anthropomorphic in their gestures and postures. Despite their grunting and passing wind it was a great joy to spend an afternoon in their vicinity on a warm, sun-blessed beach.It was difficult to isolate individuals or pairs from their colony but I have no regrets about failing in that regard as I was trying to maintain a respectful distance from them, allowing them to behave naturally in their own habitat. We were merely guests.These were all taken with the excellent Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 and MC-14 TC attached.
As well as all the beautiful waterfalls and glaciers and mountains Iceland also had wonderful views just driving along its roads. Often empty for ages at a time, always long and winding, they led to views of mountains and lakes and great vistas in the distance, too attractive to resist but too many to stop and shoot individually.So, whenever I was in the vehicle, I mounted my camera (EM-5) onto the dash in front of the steering wheel close to the window, with a polarising filter on the glass to cut out reflections. I set the vehicle in cruise control so that I would have only the steering to focus on and whenever a pleasing scene came into view I would hit the touchscreen on the camera to take a photo. Sometimes I would zoom in or out but usually I would simply wait until I was the appropriate distance. Instead of zooming with my feet I would zoom with the vehicle. The last shot was taken by the roadside; I couldn't ignore the aurora, after all. Virtually all the rest were shot from the car travelling along the roads. All images were shot with Olympus gear.
On my final day in Iceland I cruised around the north-west of the island in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Perhaps it's a testament to how much I saw and shot during my circumnavigation that I'm still posting images from the trip almost a year later. It's also a testament to how quickly a year flies by these days. I still have a few more images left from the road which I may put into another post. Anyway, this part of Iceland was rocky and windy, especially on the coast, with volcanic rocks strewn over the land at the foot of high cliffs and mountains. I had started my day watching some Icelandic horses walk home along the highway after sunrise. That was a truly eerie and bizarre sight. The weather wasn't great during my time there, mostly overcast and gloomy which an occasional intermission of blue sky. The coast offered some interesting rock formations as well as some wildlife such as seals and birds. One highlight of the day was the Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, with its small closeted waterfalls and shafts of light. I finished the day, and indeed my trip, where had I started it at Kirkjufellsfoss. I spent a couple hours here in the evening, hoping the clouds would clear to reveal some aurora, but it wasn't to be. So I finally headed back to Reykjavik in the early hours of the morning to return my vehicle and fly home. Eight long days and a ton of photos later I was ready to hang up the camera, eat some wholesome food and sleep in my own bed. It was both an exhausting and exhilarating trip and one I intend to repeat, albeit with wiser and even more selective choices about the places I visit. Almost all the images were shot with Olympus.
This was a lovely surprise suggested to us by our friends and a stunning location to visit. Natalia and I had a great time exploring around the waterfall and hiking to the top to soak in the spectacular views. Photographically, however, these images demonstrate why light and being able to control it with filters is so important, in that the sun was behind the falls during our visit in the afternoon and I had left my filters at home. I tried to capture the water slow shutter speeds (necessitating higher apertures) while not having too many blown highlights but these are not the greatest shots taken in the greatest light. I imagine that I will return here someday soon to shoot it in better light.However, I'm ever so grateful to my friends, Nat and Rob, for bringing us to Wales's highest waterfall and to Natalia for insisting we hike to the top.All images taken with the Olympus, except the two of the Milky Way at the end, shot behind our friends' home with a DSLR and wide angle lens.