Tag Archives: architecture

An hour in Newbury

Encouraged by my hour in Wantage I set myself the challenge of repeating the exercise in Newbury. 60 minutes, one camera, one lens to do a shoot in the travel genre.

shop front

reflecting facades

Coming out of the car park, this was my first impression. Modern and reflective shop fronts presenting interesting angles, shadows and colours. But Newbury isn’t new…

Weavers walk, Newbury

a sign of history

…and this shot gives a clue to a possible traditional trade.

Distances from Newbury

distances

Newbury seems happy to tell people how far it is to both Oxford and Bath. Both interesting places- perhaps a 60 min shoot in them sometime?

Corn exchange building

Corn exchange

Continuing the sense of history, the corn exchange building is a strong hint to an agricultural past. Sadly this building no longer carries out this function but accommodates more modern facilities including the obligatory cafe.

Old frontage

Old meets new

And right here, past meets present in a building displaying old rooftop signage and accommodating a rather more modern business.

Running through Newbury is the Kennet and Avon canal.

The Kennet and Avon canal, Newbury

passing through

Once carrying goods, the canal now caters for the leisure user and is home to swans with this year’s cygnets.

family of swans

swan and cygnets

And finally this traditional looking advertising on the side of the butchers beside the canal was really eye-catching.

traditional advertising

the writing’s on the wall

 

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Waddesdon Manor shoot

Another day, another stately pile. This time the shoot was with another friend at Waddesdon Manor, managed by the Rothschild Foundation on behalf of the National Trust.

The point of the shoot was to gather a variety of photos which would form the basis of time with my friend the next day demonstrating how to get the best out of them using Lightroom and Photoshop. The beauty of this location is that it does offer variety. There are extensive grounds, providing good outdoor options and it’s permissible to photograph inside provided there’s no use of flash. So, a nice mix of technical challenges.

These are some of the photos I shot along with a brief explanation. To see more of the shoot visit my portfolio site where there’s a Waddesdon Manor gallery. I shot all of these in RAW and processed using both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Photographing Waddesdon Manor

Photographer at work

While my friend got on with the business of taking some shots of the Manor, I naturally took some shots of him. The challenge here was to balance the exposure between the well lit background and the shade. To achieve the result I wanted, this needed some treatment in processing to lift the shadows. To be able to achieve this it was important on the shoot to make sure there was detail across the range, so I carefully checked the histogram on camera to make sure I had nothing blown out or totally black.

fountain statues

Supporting cast

Another exterior challenge was presented by the fountain which features a number of sculptures. I liked the shape of these two figures from this particular angle – it’s always worth checking out different shooting positions) and the vertical fountain to the side matched the lines and really called out for a portrait format. For this shot I wanted to have a slightly shallow depth of field; just enough to put the trees out of focus. I also wanted a shutter speed that wouldn’t freeze the water jet – I wanted some sense of movement in it but without being totally soft. The compromise I settled on was to shoot at 1/200sec at f7 on ISO 200. The processing I did was to give the image some punch and sharpness. If you look carefully, the female has a missing finger. I only spotted that in processing.

table set with silver pieces

Silverware table set

Moving indoors the challenges were to operate hand-held (no tripods and no flash permitted) and this included carefully managing white balance, and the holy trinity of ISO, shutter speed and aperture. While other people are wandering around quite rightfully looking at the displays it can be difficult to get wide shots. Such was the case here so I opted for detail and wanted to give an impression of the length of the table. I therefore prioritised a wide aperture to go for shallow depth of field. There was a lot of natural light coming from a window, so I opted for a daylight white balance and made a minor adjustment in post. This was shot at 1/125sec (well fast enough to eliminate camera shake with a 55mm lens) at f5.6 on an ISO of 1600. So, while I say there was a lot of natural light, it wasn’t by the bucket load and a fast ISO was necessary for the result I wanted. This resulted in processing to gain sharpness and minimise grain (I’m old school – it might be noise to you, but it’s grain to me).

highlights

Wine glasses

The shop provided other little technical challenges. Again, due to the press of people it was necessary to shoot hand-held so there was a need to go for detail and work the same compromises of exposure. My eyes was caught by these wine glasses, particularly the way the light was playing around the surfaces giving them a translucent quality which seemed to help with the sense of depth. I also liked the small hints of colour adding spots of interest. To capture this I shot at 1/60 sec at f5 using an ISO of 1000. In processing I wanted to emphasise the aspects of the image I saw and gain as much sharpness as possible while minimising grain. A close look at the glasses will reveal the engraving which carries the words “Domaines Barons De Rothschild” recognising the heritage of the Manor. The Manor was built in the 1870’s for Baron Ferdinand De Rothschild for him to display his art and other collections and to entertain guests.

If you’ve never been, it is well worth a visit.

Dunham Massey shoot

I recently went on a photo shoot with an old friend of mine. He had the choice of location and opted for Dunham Massey, a National Trust property with a garden, ancient deer park and house. Here’s a selection of my shots with explanations of each one.

Dunham Massey-3992First up is the house itself. Pretty standard fare photographically with a full-frontal square on view of the property, but there’s nothing wrong with that and it gives a good context. Although this was out of season and I waited patiently for there to be no people walking across the shot, it proved impossible and this was the least populated shot I could get. I thought about removing the people in Photoshop but in the end felt that their inclusion added something to the image. This was shot hand held at 1/500 sec at f5 on ISO 200. As ever, I shot in RAW and did my own processing in Lightroom. In addition to the usual light touches I added a graduated filter to decrease the exposure in the sky to balance up the overall image a little more.

We spent some time in the gardens which featured children’s welly-boots in random places and uses – a dream for a photographer.

Dunham Massey-3997I was particularly taken with these RNLI branded boots hanging in a tree; that’s taking out of context to a whole new level. I decided to focus in quite tightly on the boots but leave enough space to reveal the context, though with a wide aperture to give a shallow depth of field throwing the tree out of focus and concentrating on the boots. This was shot hand held at 1/250 sec at f5.6 on ISO 200. The focal length on the shot was 55mm and this had only the usual light touch processing in Lightroom.

Dunham Massey-4010Continuing the welly-boot theme, I spotted this pair hanging from a wooden bridge. At the time of taking the shot I already knew that I wanted to render this in monochrome with the boots retaining their colour, so shot it with that in mind. As there was enough tonal range to clearly depict the bridge in it’s context, I opted for a wider shot to include the whole bridge, knowing that the colour in the boots would make them easily visible in the final image. This was shot hand held at 1/100 sec at f5.6 on ISO 200. To retain the boots in colour I opted to simply desaturate the colours individually as the boots were the only things that colour! That was a simpler approach than going into Photoshop to use layers and masks.

Dunham Massey-4005One of the things I like doing is getting in close to some detail. In the garden there was a border of bushes in bloom with small flowers and the obvious thing was to capture them in a wide shot (which I did, eventually) but first I decided to close in on some detail. In doing so I spotted a bee going about it’s business and stuck with it to get the photo above. It’s one of those things that would be so easily missed. This was also shot hand-held at 1/500 sec at f5.6 on an ISO of 200.

Dunham Massey-4044Back at the house I went in close again for this shot of the stonework by the door. I love the feeling of texture in it and opted to convert the image to mono in order to make this more apparent. Again, apart from the mono conversion, there was minimal processing within Lightroom. Although there’s not much physical depth to the subject here, I wanted to make sure everything was in focus, so opted for an aperture of f10. Keeping the ISO at 200, I was able to shoot this at 1/125 sec and given a focal length of 51mm that was easily good enough to be hand-held.

Dunham Massey-3996And finally one of my favourite things – using something as a natural frame to gain high contrast. These can be challenging as it’s good to retain some detail in the shadows which adds to the feeling of depth and avoids having a black interestingly shaped border. The challenge is to make sure that the highlights don’t blow out, so I was careful to check the on-camera histogram before deciding I probably had the shot I wanted. There was just enough light spilling into the foliage inside the gate to show up, so I metered for the outside and set my white balance for that too. This was shot at 1/200 sec at f5.6 on an ISO of 640. Within Lightroom I only had to pull back the highights a little to make sure there was detail in the bright areas.

Throughout this shoot I operated in full manual mode on the camera, taking full control of white balance, metering and exposure.

 

Light and time

colour on stone

cast colours

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.  John Berger

 

Light and time are ever present, yet also fleeting, passing and constantly changing. As John Berger says, they are the essential raw materials of photography. As the shutter opens and closes the light present at that moment in time is captured and recorded.

Both concepts of light and time speak to me in this photograph taken in Gloucester Cathedral. The direct light of a low February sun was shining through the stained glass windows casting this collage of colour onto the stone pillars of the Cathedral. I was drawn much more to this casting of light than I was to the window itself. The pillars provide a sense of permanence, stability and strength, almost challenging time itself. In contrast, the cast of colours suggest the fleeting nature of light washing lightly and gently over the hardness of stone. Those particular patterns might never appear again in exactly the same way and the magic of photography lies in capturing this moment of interaction between light and time.

I’ll probably keep coming back to this image as it’s just one of those that I can look at time after time and be inspired to different thoughts and emotions.

The photo was shot on a Canon EOS 70D at 1/40 sec with an aperture of f8 at ISO 800. The focal length was 29mm. It was shot in portrait format and I made slight adjustments to tone and colour in Lightroom as well as cropping for composition.

A personal reflection

Landscape and sculpture composite

Sculpture composite

This composite shot is a personal reflection on Scotland, so I’ll explain the different elements.

Let’s begin with the main feature, the wooden sculpture. The actual sculpture is a wood carving located in Balbirnie Park near Glenothes in Fife. My wife and I occasionally pushed our first child in her pram through Balbirnie Park when we lived in Glenrothes. The beach is at Leven, Fife and is said to be the location for Jack Vettriano’s paintings which are set on a beach.  On the horizon to the left of the sculpture it’s possible to make out the small bump that is the Bass Rock out in the Forth estuary. The words are from a wall inside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh and speak of hope and equality.

For me one of the defining features of Scotland is it’s vary varied coastline, dramatically different between the east and west coasts, not to mention the many islands of the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. Fife and Edinburgh are important to me. I was born in Fife and lived there until age five when we moved to Edinburgh. Later, I returned to live in Fife for a short time with my wife where we had two of our three children.

The sculpture speaks to me of the Celtic heritage of Scotland as it very much looks like a Celtic eternal knot and there is something about eternity that resonates with a distant horizon which is what prompted me to select a beach scene for the major background. I also liked the idea of taking the sculpture out of context and giving it a different aspect.

On a visit to the Scottish Parliament this year I was impressed by the Great Tapestry of Scotland which was on display and covers the history of Scotland from neolithic times to the present day. It reminded me that Scotland has given so much to the world in terms of inventiveness in many fields of endeavour which has brought good things to the world. Finding the words etched on a wall inside the Parliament building was a discovery that seemed to echo this sense of hope and equality so it was something I felt I needed to include in the composite.

Seemingly hovering above the horizon is what looks like another landscape of bare trees. This is, in fact, an image of one tree which I turned sideways so that the bare winter branches look like trees rising from this mysterious other-worldly landscape. This, I hope, reflects the sometimes mysterious, atmospheric nature of Scotland’s history.

All the original images were shot in colour but I converted the composite to monochrome before adding a slight colour treatment to add to the atmospheric nature I was trying to create.

It’s a personal reflection, and I have tried to give at least a brief account of what inspired it. But photographs, whether straight faithful shots or created composites, should tell a story. I wonder what story this image might relate to you? If you can spare the time, I’d love to know if it speaks to you, so please leave a comment briefly relating whatever story this inspires in you.

The technical aspects of the various components are below, though I honestly can’t recall which tree image I used in the composite, so those details are missing.

The sculpture was shot on 01 April 2005 at 1/400 sec at f2.8 on an ISO of 100.

The beach was shot on 17 June 2013 at 1/400 sec at f8 on an ISO of 100.

The words were shot on 27 August 2014 at 1/30 sec at f5 on an ISO of 800

The composite was constructed in Photoshop using layers with minimal adjustments to the main image elements.

The need to communicate

AA call box

Roadside communcation

I confess I’ve been somewhat neglectful of this blog and haven’t posted for a while. My excuse is that life has been very busy recently although I am now on holiday and will soon be heading to Scotland for a break. Some of that time will be spent in the Kintyre peninsula and I am hoping to be back with some inspiring photographs.

So, planning to be away on holiday and taking some more photographs got me thinking about this blog and the need to communicate, especially as it’s my view that photographs should have a story to tell. The combination of communication and Scotland reminded me of this particular image from my collection so, pending something new from the next couple of weeks, I thought it would be good to say something about this one.

I spent my teenage years in Aberdeen and often travelled along Deeside to Ballater and Glen Muick where Lochnagar was a favourite climb. I had passed this old AA box many times and had long wanted to have a photograph of it. I think it’s the combination of the remote location at Cambus O’ May and the nostalgia that it evokes which I find attractive. So, earlier this year when I was back up there on a visit, I parked up the car and made sure I got this long-wanted photograph (actually, it’s one of a number!).

Reflecting on this old AA box is a reminder of a simpler time long before cars had phones or people carried mobile or cell phones around with them. Every AA member (my dad was one) would have an AA key which would open any AA box in the country and inside was a phone which could be used to summon an AA patrol in an emergency. This was hardly universal coverage and I suppose if you had a breakdown nowhere near such a box you were in some deeper trouble. It was, though, the provision of communication for when it was needed.

Now that we have mobile phones we can make and take calls almost anywhere and, certainly, with my own mobile phone charging in the car on long journeys and blue tooth connected to the car’s radio system I feel secure in being able to summon help from almost anywhere at any time; and that’s got to be a good thing.

What I’m less sure about is the apparent need that many people seem to have to be always talking with someone via their mobile phone. I drive by people alone in their cars who are either talking to themselves or are on a hands-free call. I regularly pass people in the street pushing a pram with one hand and talking on a mobile on the other. What, I wonder, do they have to talk about that I don’t?

As human beings we are natural communicators – it’s something we do well and have refined amazingly. I wonder though about our technology now and I am left with the question: do we control communication or does it now control us?

Finally, let me communicate the technical stuff relating to the photograph of AA Box 472.

It was shot using a Canon 70D on ISO 200 at 1/80 sec on f/7.1 at a focal length of 20mm. Some minor processing adjustments were made using Photoshop.