I'm not altogether fussed about air shows but I hadn't shot one in a few years and it was rather fun having one's eardrums pummelled by the roar of jet engines shooting past above one's head. The show was much like the last one, and much like all of them, I'm sure, in that I had a sense of deja vu seeing many of the same aircraft performing many of the same manoeuvres as last time. It was also an opportunity to dust off the old DSLR and 70-200mm F/2.8, neither of which were getting much use these days. For comparison I also shot a few images with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 (with the 1.4x TC attached). While the contrast detection focusing of the Olympus body struggled to keep up with fast moving aircraft, whenever it did nail the focus the results were always dead on and sharp, certainly more so than the DSLR. Kinda wish I'd shot a few more with the Olympus but there we are. A lesson for next time, and perhaps by then they will have refined the phase detection system on their bodies.All told a decent enough show and plenty to see. It's the season for air shows so if one is happening near you then get out and see it.
Had a great evening last night meeting up with my good friend and fellow photographer Parrish for some photography in London. Familiar places and images, for sure, but Parrish was kind enough to let me use his Fuji XT-10 for the majority of these shots so that I might try a different system. We chased the light and the lights, finding the sunset over St Paul's before crossing the Millennium Bridge to capture the city's colours from the other side. Not the most original shots but the low tide allowed us to descend onto the exposed river bank. Always something new to try and find on every shoot, it was another enjoyable evening with Parrish and I thank him for his generosity and company. The majority of these images were taken with the Fuji XT-10 and the Fuji 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6. The final three images were taken with the E-M5 and Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye, and the last image demonstrates the difference in size between two Samyang lenses, one for DSLR and one for M4/3.Hopefully these images demonstrate that whatever system one uses images are made by creative composition and the good light.
Not quite the selection offered by Cuba, but another car show this year and not as good as last year's. My compositions and framing here are not up to what I think are my usual standard, in part because I became bored before long and decided to move on. As before, in lieu of the herding masses gathered around, I tried my best to isolate the vehicles or focused on their individual characteristics and details. All shot with the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 and a few with the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 Fisheye.
A small tribute to Iceland's most familiar natives, alas I didn't get to spend much time with them. These were mostly shot while en route to somewhere and I would obviously have preferred better light. But these playful horses are still beautiful, humble, graceful and curious. As soon as they saw me they would typically approach me to investigate further. And they are, of course, overlooked by Iceland's majestic landscape.These were all shot with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8.
The last few weeks and months have seen one of the greatest cities on Earth suffer cruel ordeals that have tested its limits. The capital of one the world's most special nations, it has not been alone in this hardship. Other great cities, other places, have been tested too. But I live in London. It's the place I call home. And like a swallow to Capistrano it's the place to which I always return.There are no political musings under Alpha Whiskey's banner. This blog is about photography and its potential. The extent of my politics is to love life and encourage others to do the same. I figure everything good can fit under that umbrella.So how can Alpha Whiskey pay tribute to this extraordinary rainbow city that boasts citizens from every nation on Earth? With my images, I hope. I have photographed the city's magnificent landmarks many times and never failed to marvel at her stunning splendour. Below is only a tiny, random snapshot of past work.Unless I'm giving someone the Alpha Whiskey tour I usually walk alone in the city. People may push me, swear at me and call me names. They may whisper jokes about this funny looking brown guy with a camera in his clutches. And it's all perfectly all right. Because the people are also incredibly charitable, compassionate and take pride in their city. They work hard and struggle to make ends meet and strive desperately to stay relevant. They need to matter. I walk past them and return a smile. They do matter. Because they make up the city I call home.A home that you are more than welcome to visit. Whether your poison is history or gastronomy, parks or pageantry, theatre or museums, this city has it all. Don't be dissuaded by the news or the internet; don't capitulate to the fear, to the mess, to the doubt, to the stress. Every special place will be tested from time to time but its ability to triumph in the face of any and all adversity is precisely what makes it so special. Believe that when you visit London you will be standing in one of the most beautiful places on your planet, vibrant with colour, culture and faith. It will not fail to enthral and dazzle you for as long as you have gifted it with your presence. So wherever on Earth you hail from make London one of your destinations. It would be the best tribute that one could make. And that would be awfully nice of you.
As I alluded to in my first post about Cuba Havana is a city of fascinating contrasts. Elaborate architecture on magnificent buildings hide the grimy, if colourful, barrios behind them. The roads, teeming with classic American cars, twist and turn off the main streets into a warren of alleys, lined by a laconic populace watching the world drift by. Stringent socialism seems to ensure that while outcomes are equal, opportunities are not. And yet the wonderful Cuban people are always ready to smile, chat and offer their talents to passing tourists. Prado Street, the spine of the city, comes to a head at El Capitolio, the grand building (built by America) in which the government may reside after renovations are complete. The central promenade invites one to amble along, watching dedicated merchants in the archways on either side enjoying respite from the crushing heat. The Old Town is the more interesting part of the city, offering endless avenues to explore, each with its own mix of colour and commerce. From the Cathedral to the Girl On The Cock, each detour brings new surprises. Statues of pioneers and conquerors pop up in random places, reminders of the country and city's rich history. The enormous mural on Mercaderes Street is a prelude to the Ambo Mundo Hotel on the corner that hosted Ernest Hemingway. The city is understandably a magnet for artisans and photographers, inspiring creative fervour with its fusion of bright hues, bustling energy and upbeat music, none so loud as from within the Buena Vista Social Club. Regaled with Latin melodies over a succession of pinà coladas it is the perfect after-dinner entertainment. The entire city has Unesco status, which happily prevents the sale of its attractive aesthetic to a glut of coffee shop and fast food joints. Thus visiting Havana is somewhat akin to a step back in time. While the people may ache for more prosperity over their food rations they at least inhabit a city unmolested by corporate sprawl and with most of its historical charm still intact. One can only hope that welcoming tourists like this one will eventually supplement the people's rationed outcomes with more unfettered opportunities. I hope you enjoy these scenes from around the city. All shot with Olympus.
These barely scratch the surface of the vast variety of species that inhabit Cuba, and certainly I didn't set out to specifically capture wildlife on this trip, but there are so many fascinating and beautiful species flying, crawling or scurrying around that photographing them was unavoidable. Of course these won't win any awards and many were captured on the fly (pardon the pun). Save for the hummingbirds for whom I waited a while in the blistering heat while being devoured by mosquitoes to get my shots. The bats in the cave were very difficult to capture and required manually focusing in the dark and using a slow shutter speed coupled to a high ISO. The lizards were often extremely well camouflaged in the undergrowth and also necessitated manual focusing as the autofocus struggled to pick them out. I have also included some images of plants that I found interesting and photogenic. But hopefully these images demonstrate that there is more to Cuba than just cars and beaches. The country has a rich and spectacular biodiversity too and wildlife enthusiasts will find much to enjoy here. Forgive me for not knowing the exact names of all the species presented here. All of these were shot with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 coupled to the 1.4x TC.
That fact that most of these cars were shot within a couple of hours in Havana is testament not to my photography but to their ubiquity. Some were taken in other parts of Cuba but the greatest concentration is seemingly in the capital Havana where they mostly serve as taxis for tourists. Possibly the greatest collection of classic American cars anywhere on the planet I have tried to capture them in a variety of positions and, where possible, in front of a landmark or with a person in the shot for additional interest. Their lines and forms and colours herald back to a time when car makers perhaps had greater licence in their designs in contrast to the more compact, functional construction of modern vehicles. They are certainly a distinctive characteristic of the city.So much so that with so many irresistible vehicles everywhere I will have to present more in a later post. For now please enjoy these.
A fascinating and beautiful country full of contrasts and colour, Cuba offered me such a welcome respite that I took far fewer images on this trip than I usually do, preferring instead to enjoy the company of friends while killing infinite brain cells with pungent cigars and delicious cocktails. But beauty is beauty and when I could manage a steady hand I attempted to capture a few postcards.We actually started away from the capital, Havana, travelling west through the stunning valley of Vinales and indulging in a brief boat ride through the Indian Caves. We met a gentleman at a small tobacco farm who was kind enough to give me a freshly rolled cigar. Surrounded by endless 'buena vistas' one of the best ways to imbibe the spectacular scenery was a few hours on horseback. Parched and thirsty, we stopped at a coffee farm to sample some alcohol, honey and guava juice; exactly what you need to keep you steady at the reins. A dinner at an eco-fam overlooking the valley at sunset rounded off a beautiful day.I happily forgot about the word for a few hours while frolicking at the lush sandy white beaches at Maria La Gorda, on Cuba's south-west tip. Not one to languish on the sand I absorbed all my rays while floating in the gloriously clear water. The surrounding nature reserve, however, proved too enticing to resist, offering a wealth of species from bee hummingbirds and iguanas to small lizards and herons, and even bats in a cave. It was almost worth serving oneself up as a buffet of blood for the indigenous mosquito population. Repellant is a must.Via a brief stay at the Las Terrazas nature commune we headed back to Havana. A vibrant city resplendent with impressive architecture, anyone with an aversion to colour should definitely stay away. Much of the kaleidoscopic hues were courtesy of the city's famous abundance of classic American cars, their irresistible lines and forms easily forgiving the modern Korean diesel engines under the hoods. They're worthy of their own post and it will be on this blog soon.Havana, baked in heat and humming with ubiquitous air conditioners, is a city with a fascinating history, readily gleaned from a walk through its old town. Statues of conquerors and monuments to pioneers line the busy alleys and squares, walled by magnificent buildings, churches and cathedrals. The seemingly squalid exteriors belie the ornately furnished interiors, often revealed at the summit of a precarious marble staircase. The city's Unesco status inhibits any major development or renovation but also prevents the sacrifice of its distinctive aesthetic to a pervasion of coffee shop and fast food chains.Feasting on a traditional Cuban dish called Ropa Viejo (old clothes), essentially tasty pulled beef, was a fitting prelude to the Buena Vista Social Club where a succession of talented (if rather elderly) singers and dancers regaled us into the night.A great time was had by all in a country that is justifiably attractive to visit and it is little wonder that Hemingway found so much inspiration to write here. The people in Havana, and indeed all over Cuba, are friendly and welcoming, albeit a little too enterprising with their eagerness for your attention. But I found them exceptionally obliging and I will personally be eternally grateful for their kind help. All these images were shot with Olympus, composed and processed in my usual postcard style. While the sweltering heat sweated out my creative juices we were waved off on our departure by thunder and lightning. It made me think of a line from the song Escape by Rupert Holmes. 'If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain' then Cuba is the place to be.
Not to waste a sunny day we ventured down to Wakehurst Place again, a splendidly vibrant botanical garden with a diverse range of plant species from around the globe. We had hoped to see the elusive kingfishers in the Loder Valley Nature Reserve but alas we were not as lucky as our previous visit. Still, there were plenty of other floral and botanical delights to enjoy in the gardens and were happily ambled our way through them. My images here are probably not as good as the ones I accrued on my previous visit but I wished to enjoy the day without being a slave to the photography. Infidelity to my usual micro-four thirds format again, these were all shot with a Nikon DSLR (as indeed were the images from my previous visit here).
One of the more obvious ways of rendering images from inclement weather is to make them black and white. The glass is always half full with me so despite the relentless persecution by the weather I considered myself fortunate that I had seen these sites before (in better weather) and wasn't too disappointed to get a soaking. It thus didn't take me long to navigate through the mist from place to place, starting at Vik and ending at the hidden waterfall near Seljalandfoss. The black sand beaches at Vik and Reynisfyara made monochrome conversions easy, of course, and for the waterfalls at Skogafoss and Kvernufoss I used a long (1-2second) exposure to blur the water.
If you enjoy seeing vast city skylines from above then I suppose you could do worse than visiting the top of CN Tower in Toronto, probably the tallest structure in Canada. I timed my visit to be there before sunset so that I could enjoy the changing light through to dusk and beyond.It was a trifle challenging shooting through the glass but a good polariser helped out on my lenses. The best light came at dusk with its cobalt blue but unfortunately didn't last very long. Since the colour and lights of a city skyline appeal to me most I have processed these with that in mind, even rendering a slight pop-art look to some of the images.All shot hand-held with the Olympus E-M5.
It was more about the walk than the photography, to be honest. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a breezy and bright Sunday afternoon.But I still took my camera along in order to prove that even in the most ordinary of environments interesting compositions and lighting can be found, from the canopy above and right down to the ground.Our host, Epping Forest, allowed the overhead sun to provide shadows, backlighting and pockets of lit trees and leaves. The tree trunks themselves provide directional lines, guiding the eye into their upper echelons and creating a sense of height and scale. Their branches, when not taking on fantastical shapes, create frame edges and pervade the canopy with a dendritic, arterial scaffolding.Individual details are just as representative as grand scale, with bluebells, dandelions and ladybirds all gracefully posing for portraits. With the primes lenses I was using (35mm and 50mm) getting close enough meant some elaborate contortions but shooting wide open helped to blur the backgrounds and isolate the subject. I decided on this occasion to commit infidelity to my usual mirrorless system and shot everything with a DSLR, and without a touchscreen to help preclude crouching for low angles. Still, it's good to be kept on one's toes every now and then and remind oneself that ultimately the most important gear you can use is the trifecta of your brain, eyes and legs.
I decided to kill some time here during my visit to Niagara Falls, having a bit of a soft spot for butterflies. Much like the aquarium it tapped into my inner child's sense of wonder; I still find it extraordinary that these have metamorphosised from caterpillars. Coupled to that their colours and lighting made them a good photographic subject, lending themselves to isolated portraits.A fairly typical butterfly conservatory, there was no shortage of species fluttering about and it was an enjoyable, albeit brief, diversion. With some species on the decline in the wild I imagine it is evermore important for places like this to safeguard their continued existence.All shot with the Olympus E-M5 and either the 60mm F/2.8 or the 40-150mm F/2.8 with 1.4xTC attached, the zoom providing as much background separation as the excellent macro lens.
Well, maybe not all of it was towering but it was still a jungle of steel and glass, a testament to human endeavour and achievement to which I would often look up and casually snap while walking through it. Photographing buildings and architecture, especially the grand structures of an urban metropolis, is an easy photographic subject, in the sense that they offer plenty of leading lines and geometry to furnish one's compositions. After a while you just disconnect from the actual building and focus on the structure and the angles, rendering the images a little more abstract and (hopefully!) more creative than simply documenting individual buildings. Well, Toronto provided no end of subject matter to play with and from the ground the perspective upwards was truly impressive. These are all shot with the Olympus E-M5 and mostly with 12-40mm F/2.8. A couple were taken with the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye and with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8. Having the flip-out touchscreen on the E-M5 made composing the shots easy without suffering the neck cramps or vertigo of constantly looking up.
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