The “Beast from the East”

Yes, I know we have heard this term from the media over and over in the last few days and yes, we all thought the weather had been exaggerated. However in the end loads, if not piles of it did arrive all over the country and even here in Norfolk . In fact villages in Norfolk were cut off by drifts metres high. It was an unexpected and unprecedented event! Norfolk and Suffolk rarely experience such amounts of snow and freezing temperatures, and this is unlikely to be repeated for another 30 years. Norfolk does not have huge mountains or rivers cascading through deep valleys showcasing winter conditions with full dramatic effect. It does, though, have large expanses of often bleak and bare landscape that can make for some marvelous minimalist photos.

Chedgrave drifts
Chedgrave drifts

I was pleased to find close to home the above scene featuring three telegraph poles and an abandoned piece of farm machinery. The snow blowing around the poles conveyed the atmosphere of the Norfolk farmland. Similarly with the black and white photo below.

Bare
Bare

Later on in the week I managed to make it down to Reedham Ferry. Very few cars were able to and I have to say anyone of thinking of buying a huge four by four, think again and buy a Panda 4 by 4; they make it through all it seems. Perhaps that’s why the Italians  drive them in the mountains? Anyway enough of the car ad and back to the Reedham area.  This area is only 3 feet above sea level in places so has some of the flattest landscapes in Norfolk. The river Yare runs through it and often spills its water over the banks. I found the place quite magical as by Saturday the wind had dropped and all was still. The reeds found their feet in snow and ice and in the distance signs of river life were just visible. The pale and muted colour palette of this photo I think typifies the Norfolk countryside in winter.

River reeds 8450

A slightly more quirky photo of still more reeds is featured below. I particularly like the reeds at the front of the frame of this photo. It reminds me of a pencil sketch.

snow and reeds 8464

All the above were shot hand-held with the Fuji xt2 using either the 16-55mm or 55-200mm lens. Its very unusual for me not to use my tripod but you have to adapt to the environment you are working in so a higher iso and shutter speed made life a lot easier. The heavy Nikon 810 that i love so much was also swapped for a lighter camera.

So for me, the ‘Beast from the East’ provided many opportunities close to home to capture some real winter photography away from the jaw dropping mountainous sense so often posted on social media sites. Looking for small detail and matching tones and colours can create a photo that conveys a sense of emotion about the landscape and I hope I managed to capture this within these photos.

All in a row 8446

The end of another year

It has been a busy year photographically for me with a lot of trips away from my home in Norfolk.  Scotland has been visited a lot and as always, never fails to please and inspire.  However the media coverage and promotion of the North coast route 500 has bought many  visitors and their cars to race around the route in a weekend.  Places  that were once real wildernesses are no longer. Lets hope in 2018 that all visitors will spend time within the landscape appreciating its beauty and its power.

Assynt is one of those places that always puts on a show! Either rain, more rain and then more rain or glorious weather fronts bringing  in changing and dramatic light. The Fuji xt2 is now my second body with three lenses and I have found it excellent to grab and shoot just when one of these weather fronts appears.

Golden rain
Golden rain

I have spent more time in Cumbria’s Lake District and found myself exploring places that are slightly off the beaten track but yet accessible.  The aftermath of the floods is still evident and the people continue to rebuild their homes, hotels and the road network. It takes some tenacity!

Density
Density

Itchen woods in Hampshire was a first for me too. Beautiful beech wood full of flowering bluebells in May.  Many many shots were taken and a few made the grade.

Strong and tall
Strong and tall

I was also lucky to visit a friend and her husband who are now living in the beautiful and understated area of France known as Correz.  Few cars and few people make this area a joy to explore. Perfect French markets towns are surrounded by large areas of countryside and farmland.  It was a change to shoot photos in shorts and a t- shirt, but one that was a welcome change!

Mists in Loubressac
Mists in Loubressac

It was also my first trip to Donegal, Ireland and I was lucky to explore parts of the wild atlantic way including the Dunfanaghy area and Malin.  I loved it and will be back again and again. Beaches were wild and empty and again weather fronts rolled in and out making for exciting weather conditions. I still have many images to process which I really look forward to. Looking back on a trip some months afterwards often inspires me to ‘look again’ at shots and consider how to process.

Ballyhillin blast
Ballyhillin blast

I made another trip to Harris in the outer Hebrides. This time I was staying for 2 weeks and this proved to be a good choice.  I could revisit places in different lights, look again at locations and experiment with different techniques.  It also meant I could rest and enjoy the island without a camera in my hand. I could literally  spend months on Harris and I feel that the short days in the winter months have a lot to offer.  Perhaps my third trip will be in December or February?!  The colours of Harris are spectacular and it is this that for me makes the island so addictive.  I could return again and again and always find something  new to photograph.

Looking forward to a new year of photography, I have decided to concentrate on my home turf of Norfolk and Suffolk more .   We miss landscapes that are literally on our door steps.  We sometimes fail to look at what surrounds us on a day to day basis, often looking for the new and the inaccessible.  I also intend to concentrate on taking photos that are good landscape photos not always fashionable or with an obscure bent, but good landscape photographs.   So on that note, Happy Christmas and lets hope 2018 is a year of creativity for all and a year that builds bridges within the divisions that exist.

 

Scotland – The North East Coast

Scotland is a photographer’s playground. Very few of us that love photography have not visited this wonderful country. Many of us head for Western parts e.g Glencoe, Torridon, Skye etc and there is no denying all is very beautiful. However the dreaded midge does plague the West from May right the way through to mid September and it can also be very wet! The North East Coast is often ignored or considered second best. However it has a lot to offer and to photograph and even in the summer, roads are far from busy and often beaches empty or with few folk on. The areas I particularly like are Nairn, Fortrose, Cromarty, Findhorn and the Moray coast. Each have an individual beauty and much to keep the photographer happy even on a damp dull day.  The photo below is of driftwood on the West beach of Nairn taken in August before sunset.  I had the beach to myself !!

Nairn driftwood
Nairn driftwood

Clashach Cove better known as Cove bay, near Hopeman features wonderful sandstone and limestone rock formations.  Intimate landscapes as well as coastal vistas are abundant both with the tide in and out.

Drift gorse at Cove bay
Drift gorse at Cove bay

If you are tired of the coast then head for Cawdor forest near the fairy tale like Cawdor castle. Cawdor Big wood is an ancient woodland site  which combines extensive ancient semi-natural oak woodland habitat with areas of fine mature beech, larch and smaller areas of shade conifers.

Cawdor woods
Cawdor woods

So, ‘west is best’ is not always the case. The east can be equally fascinating.

What the camera sees and what you see.

The majority of photographers take shots in either raw or raw and jpeg and those of us that process and print initially look to the image on the back of the camera to confirm our shot.  Now I am not saying we should not do this, but we have to accept that camera companies have gone to great lengths to make our photos look great on the camera LCD. We all look at an image on the camera screen and fall in love with it or not, as the case may be.  However neither Lightroom nor Camera raw use the camera makers’ software  development kit for rendering the image. The image that we see in both processing programmes is a normalised one that requires processing.   So off we go and process but how do we process?? What do we want to achieve ???  What do we want to portray  about the area we have photographed?  In other words what have we visualised and  what do we want to achieve on screen and in the final output which is or should be the print?

I have increasingly realised that our obsession with processing images quickly without giving any real thought as to what sort of picture {not photo} we want to achieve produces millions of images that are not really owned by the photographer.  Facebook posts and other social  media sites are used by many photographers to show and often advertise their work. However these sites do in many cases influence what we post, as it is clear that some type of photos gain many ‘likes’ because of how they appear to viewers within 2 seconds or less. We all like ‘likes’ but it does not mean that the photo is a good one or a great one. It means  it is liked when viewed for the briefest period of time. Similarly a great photograph can be posted which is not liked.  Again I am not saying we should not use these sites ,but we should think about what we are posting and why.

In relation to black and white photos, visualisation  is key. We more often than not shoot in colour and then process the image.  Many believe that black and white photos need to have a range of  tones in blacks and whites and all tones in between.  This is like saying that a good color photo needs a primary red, a primary blue and a primary yellow and all colours in between!  Again I am not saying that a good black and white photograph should not should not have the above mandate, as long as it matches  the mood of the picture. The photo needs to convey a message to the viewer about what the landscape felt like. It needs to convey some emotion.  If you follow a set mandate when processing, then all your photographs will have a ‘sameness’ about them. Uniformity does not excite viewers if they keep seeing the same thing. In addition it does not challenge the viewer.  Its a bit like food, people eat what they like but we would never say “Don’t try anything new because you only like certain foods” – we would encourage them to be adventurous.

The two photos below show the raw image and the processed one. The raw being the colour one.

They were taken on a soft misty summer’s morning on the Norfolk Broads round about 4am.  There was no wind and the reeds were full of dew-laden spider webs.  The atmosphere was one of calm and tranquility. There are no dramatic mountains in this landscape, no  deep gorges, no sudden weather changes  in fact there is not  even an incline in the terrain ! So to produce images with deep blacks and whites or harsh primary colours would  not  pertain to the East Anglian landscape.  A landscape that is often over looked by photographers because of the lack of drama, both in terrain and weather changes!  The atmosphere was in-fact radiant and free from disturbance of any sort and that included other photographers.  That’s what I felt and that’s what I tried to portray in the mono  photo. when processing.   Hopefully I did – what do you think ?

Fine art cards

Producing fine framed prints has to be the final and satisfying outcome for any photographer.  I particularly like A2 prints framed with light oak. They look good on the right wall  of any a house or apartment.  For those of you that would like such a print please contact for further details, prices and paper details.

If you happen to be in Walberswick Suffolk anytime from the 12th -14th of August please pop in to the village hall http://walberswick.onesuffolk.net/home/village-hall/  where I am exhibiting some of my work along with  other artists.   Framed prints will be on sale.   However not all want to buy prints framed or otherwise, so I now offer fine art cards printed on fine art paper, sized at 15cm by 10 cm, with envelope and in cellophane wrapping .  Each printed card is left blank inside and the back contains a link to my website.

Each card is priced at £3.00 per card plus pp.    Discount of 10% on 5 cards or more .

Cards

Warner brother type photography

Social media, magazines, photography sites etc  are inundated with photos that literally jump off the page and shout “Look at me !!”  It would seem the louder the photo the better, the more absolute clarity in all sections of the photos the better, and the more “pop” the photo has  due to processing the better.  People love them and I am not criticising these people.  I too like images with vibrant colours and a “contrasty” look some of the time, but not all of the time. I ask myself do these photo suit the scene? and if so then so be it.

Not all scenes lend themselves to this look and we as viewers need to think from time to time about the print . What would my photo look like as a large print ??  What would it look like on a wall or in your own home?? Does it convey the mood of the landscape or area?? Recently I reviewed my A2 and A3 prints and ranked them according to preference.  My favourites were clearly the more subtle images with a range of tones and textures and muted colours.  They were prints that had a certain depth and individual personality.  So to end this short blog I am suggesting think about the scene and

Bamburgh blues
Bamburgh blues

the mood of the place before you process and just maybe you will get a better image.

River Chet Morning
River Chet morning

Closer to Home

The urge to travel to far away places and areas that are ever more remote seems to be a constant for many photographers.   The need to explore the new is embedded within it seems. However more recently particular countries such as Iceland, have become saturated with visitors, photographers and their tripods all hustling for the best spot  or the best angle. Last week we were lucky in Norfolk to experience some wonderful weather and this meant that at around 4am  and 9pm there were shots to be had closer to home.  In fact one spot on the River Chet was literally 5 minutes away from my home and yes there was nobody there but me and the wildlife. Mists prevailed over the broad and adjoining fields and the sun rose to light the whole area. It was a blissful time to be out with my camera photographing such scenes. It made me remember to not disregard the landscapes that are literally on our doorsteps but to remember them and perhaps photograph them from a different perspective.

May mist Pyes Mill
May mist Pyes Mill
May cow parsley
May cow parsley

Welcome to my blog page

Over the next few weeks I will be beginning regular blog posts about various aspects of my photography, places visited, techniques used, editing of images, favourite camera equipment etc. I hope you will find these of interest and please feel free to comment on my guestbook page about anything you read.

I like many other photographers, am constantly reminded of just how many photos are posted daily on social media sites and photographers’ websites. It seems we are all striving to visit places that are further afield, more remote or that no one else has seen or been to, in order to create the unique image. While creativity and originality are essential, particularly in times when the arts are being stifled in the UK by ever deeper cuts and the downgrading of school and college curricular, it is important to remember that we as photographers must enjoy our photography and take images of what we really like. The image below is one of my favourite images of all time.

In the Pink
In the Pink

This photo was taken on a warm summer evening on Nairn’s east beach in the highlands of Scotland. The area had seen a few amazing sunsets back in August 16 and this was one of them. The colours are a true rendition of what we experienced that evening. Nairn beach is not difficult to negotiate, it is open to all young and old, but it is the highlands and that does mean you are not surrounded by thousands of people even on a balmy evening such as this. I used a long lens Nikon 70-200 and a 0.6 ND filter to slow all down just as the sunset was reaching its peak. I love the pinks and oranges in the sky and the texture of the water. Loving a particular area makes you want to revisit it again and again and this August (not a well known time for landscape photography) I will be back on the beach seeing what I can create regardless of the weather conditions. We shall see!