Anglesey Abbey deconstructed

Deconstruction is a technique which I read about last year on the Warehouse Express Photography Guides page last year.  It appealed to me back then but I didn't have enough images of any one place to make it work.  Today I finally sat down and put together some of the images I've been collecting of Anglesey Abbey, just outside Cambridge.

It took a while to learn how.  I am something of a Photoshop boob/noob, so almost every aspect of the process involved using a new (to me) technique.  What's been surprising is just how much work it is in Photoshop to put this type of image together.  Photogrid for iOS involves nothing more than choosing the source files and selecting a style.  This is really where the power of mobile computing and small single purpose apps comes into its own.  Sure - if you can imagine it, Photoshop can create it - but for the average consumer who just wants to put out something cool, it's an unfriendly behemoth.

Anyway, have a look and do let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Racing silhouettes

So it's the 8th of January, and already we are on to the second post of 2016.  Better slow down before we fall off.  Well don't get too excited, I just wanted to share with you an image from this morning in Newmarket.  Hope you like it - if not I hope you loathe it.  Just don't call it nice! :)

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Great news - I did no better with 2015's resolutions than you did!

What-ho, and welcome to 2016.  I do hope that you've had a good time over the last couple of weeks.

To start the ball rolling for the New Year, a quick review of my 2015 objectives and how I got on.  If you want the short version - the success rate was low.  This time last year I intended to:

  • See my first opera.  Total failure.  Didn't even look into it in the end.
  • Increase frequency and regularity of blog posts.  Six blog posts with gaps between them of between 2 and 6 months.  Hardly prolific.  Audience highly frustrated...:P
  • Learn more about flash photography.  See results for opera.
  • Continue to declutter - actually good success here.  In a society where accumulation is unavoidable, this job will never be over, but I own fewer things now than I did this time last year, and there is more space in the house.

Should one feel bad about these things?  IMHO, no, not in the slightest.  The intent seemed genuine enough at the start of 2015 but on the basis that in general people do what they want to do, I must conclude that perhaps I didn't want these things very much.

From a photographic perspective, 2015 was not an A+ kind of year.  (Although in many other senses it was great.) I had high hopes of significant progress in terms of skill, vision, and output quantity.  In truth, I can claim very little progress on any of these fronts.

Instead the first half of the year was spent deliberating replacements for my ailing Nikon D90.  After disproportionate agonising on the subject, I decided to switch to the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  There's too much to say on this - it needs it's own blog post - but let's say the jury is still out.

Anyway, that meant a lot of time, which could have been spent out shooting, was spent looking at gear reviews.  What a waste.  Oh well - onward and upwards.  In the words of Winston Churchill, we shall "Keep buggering on".  :-o

Wising you and yours every blessing for 2016.

MG Car Club at Snetterton (how did the Olympus OM-D E-M1 hold up?)

Back on the 10th October this year, I was fortunate enough to go to a race meeting held by the MG Car Club at Snetterton race track in Norfolk.

The love and dedication the owners/drivers put into these machines is something to behold, particularly as MG is now a defunct brand from a new car sales perspective.

It must be said that while some of the classes racing had very few modifications, many others were only vaguely recognisable as the cars they claimed to be.  Make no mistake, these are proper racing cars.

The day also offered me another opportunity to try out the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in a high speed action setting.  Fellow E-M1 shooter, Michael Rammell, previously wrote a hugely comprehensive blog post in reply to some questions I sent him on this topic and I was very keen to try out his suggestions.

The key seems to be to use continuous autofocus, but manually select the centre focus point so that the camera doesn't have too much thinking to do.  Coupled with 11fps, the results were pleasing, although the soft light of an overcast day didn't lead to images that "pop".

For reference, the lens was the consumer grade Olympus 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II.  No doubt things would be even better on the 40-150 F2.8 Pro.

In fact most of the blurry photos I took that day were as a result of my own inadequate panning technique.  When set to a 1/1000th second shutter speed, the sharpness was excellent 98% of the time.  So more practice at slow shutter speeds required but things look promising.

One thing I have noticed with the E-M1 is the noise levels at the base ISO of 200 (where everything should be clean) are definitely higher than I used to get with my old Nikon D90.  It is not an ugly kind of noise - some have even suggested it's "film like" - but it is definitely there.

Anyway, here are a few images for your perusal.  Please feel free to leave any comments.

P.S. For you spotters, the Morgan Club were guests at the event, hence the rogue Morgans in the MG gallery.

Autumn sunshine and cold air on Warren Hill, Newmarket

With the bite of autumn now truly in the air, training continues as normal on Warren Hill, Newmarket.

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Street photography in Hong Kong – Chinese New Year

Street photography has never been one of my strong suits. I’ve always felt uncomfortable pointing my camera at strangers. However, if you have a compact camera, you can get away with a little bit more. The public assume you must just be a tourist, whereas someone with a DSLR is clearly either a pervert or a paparazzo!  (As I mentioned in a previous post, the people of the Far East are far more accommodating of those with cameras than we are in the West.)

Recently I bought a new compact camera (thanks in part to a mega load of Amazon vouchers from my credit card reward scheme) – the Sony RX100 Mk3. While I haven’t used it enough to write any kind of a review, I can say one thing – the articulated screen is great! You can stand there head down, like you’re looking your phone, all the while snapping passers by. It’s also brilliant for capturing low angles that would otherwise need you to lie on your belly.

Anyway, the following images are from a recent trip to Hong Kong. Most of them are from the Chinese Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park. Incidentally, 2015 is the year of the goat/sheep. See if you can spot any images which give this away!

An afternoon of golden sunshine in Rio

Barra is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro. It’s also quieter and safer than the trendy tourist spots such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

However this is still Rio – which means that the beach is the place to see and be seen. In the middle of a summer’s day, the heat is almost unbearable and only the super committed (or should that be committable?) sun tanners are out on the beach. Come an hour before sunset though and the sun loses its sting, instead bathing everything in warm golden light.

This is what I hope you get a sense of in these images.

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Hello 2015 - some New Year objectives

"Wow, it's the end of January already. How did that happen?" How often have you heard that? Well, determined not to let the days slip by without achieving anything productive, I thought I'd kick off with a blog post and see if we can't keep this ball rolling.

So, a few objectives for 2015. I won't call them resolutions because resolutions normally involve quitting something you like, or doing more of something you don't......

  • See my first opera. A friend who knows about these things recommended Puccini's Tosca as a good starting point. Apparently for maximum enjoyment, you need to have an idea about the plot, and ideally have a passing familiarity with the music.
  • Blog more regularly - and perhaps more frequently. On the 1st of the month every month for example. Fortnightly would be good but at this point in time is perhaps unrealistic....
  • Continue to declutter. I don't have a vast amount of clutter, but bits and bobs do accumulate over time. The guiding principle behind the 2015 decluttering is going to be, "If you wouldn't bother to replace it following a house fire, then it should go." I really want a nice, tight, lean, streamlined set of quality stuff rather than all kinds of things accumulated in a haphazard manner.
  • Learn more about flash photography. It's something of a black art to me now. I want to be confident how to use it in a variety of situations.

That should do for now. We can reconvene in late December and judge my success! Just to add some visual interest to the post, and because I mentioned flash photography, I leave you with this cat, who did not particularly like being flashed but was too lazy to move......Happy 2015!

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They MADE me shoot him!

An amusing side story to go with the previous post about my photowalk in Yokohama….

I was wandering around with the trusty Nikon D90 atop a tripod – stopping here and there to assess potential shots. I paused to take a couple of shots of the restaurant on the left, which as you can see was almost deserted. Anyway, the staff of the next door restaurant became convinced that I must be a travel photographer shooting for some magazine or other. They definitely wanted in on the action, and were most insistent that I showed them some photo love too. In fact they were not happy until I had made several exposures.

I was of course more than happy to oblige – in the West, people are nowhere near as keen to have their photos taken, so it was a lovely treat to have enthusiastic subjects!

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Yokohama photomooch

mooch - verb (used without object) - to loiter or wander about

The City of Yokohama, Japan. A great place to hang out with a camera and watch life in progress. Despite the astonishing population density in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, the people here are friendly and welcoming.  Unlike westerners, they aren't camera shy either and look with a benevolent eye and people who skulk around with a tripod.  I'd like to share with you a few of the images I made while there, including the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel and the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel.

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©Gavin Hall 2014

Creative use of dull days

It's easy to look out the window on an overcast day and feel uninspired.  However if you wait for sunshine to arrive, your chances of success here in England are poor before you even start.  With this in mind I set out, determined to make the most of a dull day.  While autumn has been gathering her thoughts, summer has been busy putting on a late show. 

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The wonderful gardens at Anglesey Abbey provide a lovely stomping ground for anyone wishing to enjoy this.

Overcast days may lack drama and contrast, but the light is soft and even. Combined with judicious lens selection, I was sure there were interesting photos to be had.

Photographer and author, David duChemin, whose work I admire greatly, is a firm advocate of wielding the camera with vision and intent.  "What is the photographer trying to say here?" he asks. "What do you want to say?"

This is not always easy.  Wandering around snapping any old thing is a path with less resistance.  Also, if you don't state your intention, it's harder for others to judge your work a failure.  No matter - judge away dear viewer.  What I had in mind here, was to create a painterly look in the camera without the use of Photoshop plugins.  

To create this effect, I combined the soft light from the overcast day with an 85mm lens, wide open at F1.8.  Not great for maximum detail such as you might expect in a biology textbook, but just what I was after here. 

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If nothing else, I hope this post inspires you to pick up your camera, get out the door and make the most of what the day has to offer.

No more watermarking for me

Greetings reader(s) and welcome to the first post of 2014.  And as it's a new year, I've decided to make a change.....

Should you watermark the images you post online?  This is a question which has been extensively debated on photography forums all over the internet.

Essentially it boils down to whether you feel the need to protect your work.  Protect it from unscrupulous rapscallions.  Rapscallions who try to pass it off as their own, or use it without giving you any credit.

The other means by which you can protect your work is to only upload low resolution versions, typically with a long edge of no more than 1024 pixels.

I've been through various stages of paranoia on the subject, and have used both of the methods above.

However, as of today I shall do neither.  From now on I am going to upload full resolution unwatermarked files.  Indeed I have begun replacing some of my low res files on Flickr with better ones.

What has brought about this decision?  Basically life is too short.  Too short to be worrying that some tool on the internet is going to rip you off - and too short to export multiple versions for different uses.

Firstly, for aesthetic reasons I have never used a large intrusive watermark, so it would have been a moment's work in Photoshop to remove it.

Secondly, large images make more impact.  In the world of ultra high res screens we now inhabit, small files don't cut it any longer.

I will still embed copyright info and contact details in the image metadata, so finding the image creator will be very easy for those who wish to know.

And for anyone who may wish to rip of MY image, in the vast sea of amazing photography that's out there:

1. Thank you - I'm very flattered
2. What goes around comes around
3. Sleep well tonight

Now on with 2014 - January is more than half way though and you only have 341 days until Christmas!!

If you want a flattering profile picture - don't use a selfie

On social media of all kinds, the selfie is by far and away the most common form profile picture.  Before we leave anyone behind, by "selfie" we mean self portrait.

Selfies are normally taken with a smartphone facing backwards and held at arms length.  Those seeking a full length shot will often resort to a mirror, although this makes the "selfieness" of the shot far more apparent.

The selfie certainly has its merits.  It's quick, easy, you can take one almost anywhere and crucially you don't need help.

However, for those wishing to show themselves off to their best advantage, whether on Facebook, Twitter or an online dating site, the selfie is definitely not to be recommended.

Why? Basically it comes down to the fact that the camera is just too close to your face. If the distance from camera to subject is short, everything becomes stretched out and weird distortions happen. If you want to look like the horse in the photo, go ahead but really, to get a flattering perspective, the camera needs to be further than arms length away.

That's before we consider that you can't look natural while holding an arm out in front of you, or the whole host of other things that go into making a beautiful portrait.

So, no using selfies as profile pics.  Unless you want to look like a comedy horse.