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.
A few more shots from this event. There were just too many that I liked. One should always endeavour to place a limited number of only their very best shots but as this is my blog I'm happily indulging myself and I doubt anyone will mind seeing more of the action from the race. Again these were all shot with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 with MC-14 teleconverter attached. I have processed them to my taste, mainly for contrast, but in some cases I have again dialled down the saturation to emphasise the action and the mud. Whatever one shoots one should not just think about capturing the subject but revealing something too. In other words, the images should always try to have artistic merit where possible. Just my view. Enjoy the action!
Natalia and I had an absolutely thrilling weekend in the company of my dear friends Nat and Rob up in mid-Wales, especially at this local demolition derby event. We were joined by Frank, Isobel and of course, young Harry. I haven't been photographing much lately owing to a busy schedule and the necessary rest after intense volume in the gym. But this was a great opportunity to experience and shoot some vehicular carnage.Mud and dust were whipped up and hurled at us in the frenzied race as cars that looked like something The A-Team constructed after being locked in a shed careened around a dirt track, fenders and bumpers flying off all over the place. Wheels detached as axels twisted, and shards of metal and splinters of headlights littered the track. The incessant and glorious revving was matched by the dust clouds in their wake, some so thick that cars smashed and rolled in the fog. Hopefully the pictures below will do more justice than mere words. Most of were taken with my Olympus mirrorless gear, namely the EM-5 with the 40-150mm F/2.8 mounted to it. Some were taken with the DSLR and 70-200m F/2.8 as the phase detection autofocus proved useful in certain moments. Overall, however, the EM-5's contrast detection did a fine job keeping up with the cars. Cameras were set with burst shooting in shutter priority at around 1/500secs, occasionally using 1/80secs for panning shots. The main difficulty was finding decent positions to capture the action in, and a few wooden posts had to be cloned out of the images. I processed the images with simple contrast adjustments, using a desaturated or B+W treatment to emphasise the swirling hurricanes of mud, itself often as much a character as the cars. Tribute must be paid to the excellent drivers and organisers for hosting an excellent and enjoyable event. To be honest, I could have volunteered my own car in the races and it wouldn't have looked much different! Many thanks, too, to Nat and Rob for their kind invitation to see this event.
Hoping to catch sight of a few meteors from the Perseids shower, my friend Natalia and I headed to a dark site in the south of England. Catching any of the falling meteors was always going to be luck of the draw, but I think I managed to register one on the first image. With our own eyes we saw quite a few of them streaming across the sky. We found a barn/distillery of some kind and decided it would make a decent anchor for the images. I wanted to capture the Milky Way with my fish-eye lens, hoping it would show the galactic arm arching across the night sky. Admittedly, it was a trifle difficult shooting at higher ISOs with the micro-four thirds sensor and required some agricultural processing to bring the galaxy out. The nearly full Moon also didn't help with the exposure and changed positions a few times trying to exclude it. But I'm showing what I managed to get below, and I happy I got something. The second image in this series was taken with a DSLR and Toking 11-16mm F/2.8.Before long the clouds started moving in and their invasion concluded our excursion. But not before I took a few shots of the cloud patterns blanketing the sky. Overall, a fun and spontaneous excursion to the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. Although, note to self: perhaps not the best idea to be up all night after spending two hours in the gym.
I'm still plundering my Iceland trip from last October for more images, having seen so much in so many places. This set is from the lower centre part of the island, which I traversed on my penultimate day there, starting with the sunrise at Haifoss and ending with the sunset at Oxarfoss in the Thingvellir National Park.In between the weather wasn't particularly cooperative and thus I only spent a marginal amount of time the much-frequented haunts of Geysir and Gulfoss. Having visited them in the past I wasn't too bothered and will surely visit them again in the future. Bruarfoss was a revelation, hidden away and a bit of a walk to find, but the beautiful cyan rush within its flow was plenty reward. I also visited the Gjain Gorge, but the shadows were too deep and the vegetation a little dead. I imagine it looks better in the summer. En route to the gorge I found an interesting variety of terrain with equally enticing light, including a rainbow, no less.Generally a good day spent but perhaps the images demonstrate that fatigue was catching up with me by this point in the trip. And I still have my final day's images to go through. They'll be posted soon.
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.