Sunday, 31 July 2011

Arty Drip

I spotted this rather artistic drip of paint on some woodwork here at Snaar Towers recently. This is probably the result of some careless DIY project or other. 

That's the problem with paint: It's is not so much a matter of putting the paint where it's supposed to go, more a matter of preventing it ending up where it isn't supposed to go.

A close up texture shot of 40mm of woodwork using the excellent Zuiko 50mm macro lens.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Half Buried

Another feature of Kingsclere church is the open graveyard. It is not littered with gravestones, there are a few, but there is also a pleasing sweep of green to delight the eye.

Look closer and you find that the grass is held back from the path by - old grave stones half buried in the ground. I suppose this is simply recycling in action, but who will remember Catharine, daughter of Robert somebody, now that half the stone is buried.

There are further examples of graveyard neglect and gravestone recycling to be found in this blog.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Grip of Iron

During some fleeting spare moments on the way to work, I called in at the church in Kingsclere, North Hampshire. It is a plain but pleasant building in a nice country village. In fact Kingclere is much improved in the recent decades since the main Newbury to Basingstoke road bypass was built. In exchange for a couple of fields and a short stretch of dual carriageway, the village no longer has constant traffic threading it's way through the high street.

Churches and architecture are favourite  subjects, unless I am photographing something weird (or something else weird) This church features thick walls with small windows and is not over endowed with stained glass, but is very nice none the less. I assume a small country village would not be able to afford large and showy windows like Catherdal Cities can. Here is a view from the crossing point deliberately under exposed to give a feeling of the dark interior on a weekday morning.

Here is a view of a side chapel with the tomb of some local worthy. He clearly merits some stained glass. This very dark area required a hand held exposure of one third of a second, and the result is still sharp enough to read the inscription on the tomb. Thank goodness for Image Stabilised cameras, eh?

But you still need a grip of iron even with I.S. in the camera... :-) I managed this shot without I.S. a few years ago...

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Here's something that shouldn't be there. Hidden in the monoculture of the wheat field is this interloper...

I would keep my head down if I were you, mate. That crop looks almost ready for the combine harvester.

No deep message here, just a shot taken for a laugh...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Amateur Hour

Well, I was asked to do a load of portraits for our church PCC recently. This involves creating mug shots for all committee members quickly and efficiently before one of the meetings. This sounds like a job for Strobist Man, so I took along my three old Sunpak flashes, a home made lighting stand, two home made lighting modifiers and a light tripod to act as a second lighting stand.

The home made modifiers are folded matt mylar with velcro, as shown below. They spread the light a bit more, they fold flat and they make it look like you know what you are doing...

OK, so I do use flash occasionally for set piece images like these two: I have a set of cheap radio triggers already, and I have read portrait lighting theory carefully :-)

However I don't generally photograph people, and portraits shots are even more challenging. Astute readers will know I have done a fashion shoot a few months ago. The outdoor shots with key and fill flash were OK, but the indoor shots suffered from poor planning, poor lighting and a bad background.

So I applied all this experience gained from failure to the recent  mug shots, and the results were, I think, rather better. I managed to find a fairly presentable white wall as a background. However the grey to white transition is inserted with Photoshop as the flashed white background looked too stark.

There is clearly room for improvement, but there were some happy accidents at work in this shot:

Here I have the key flash at 1/8th power top left of camera with its small diffuser on the lighting stand. There is a second flash using 1/16th power positioned at shoulder height pointing at the white wall background, but with a business card acting as a mini barn door to stop light falling directly on the subject. Finally I had a hand held fill flash at 1/16th power to lift the shadows. There was no convenient ceiling to use with bounce so we are stuck with the basic flash and diffuser setup. 

The happy accident is that the reflected light from the white wall acted as a kicker or seperator light on the cheek. This comes from placing the subject only half a meter from the wall and is a useful trick to remember for the future. I shall claim I planned it that way all along.

I have assembled a home made white background but time and space dictated I couldn't use it for this shoot. It looks like I need to buy a white umbrella if I am going to do this again, as the key lighting is too hard. A big white umprella: Now that would look professional..

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Apparently photography as we know it is dead. A lightfield camera has been announced that allows you to focus the image after you have taken it. One snag is that the inventor is marketing the camera himself rather than licencing the technology to camera makers. Hmm. We shall see.

This reminds me of a lecture I attended a decade ago about the use of Fractals in image resizing. Either the inventor was cunningly keeping the inner details to himself, or the process is too complex for mortals to understand, or he was just too intelligent to get the information across. I came away ignorant. The idea eventually became a product, but the World Revolution promised never happened.

As to the technology I used to create today's picture? I'm afraid I can't tell you. I put it into Photoshop and tinkered for five minutes and then stopped when I saw something nice :-)

Monday, 25 July 2011

DIY views

If you avoid using tradesmen, then perhaps you do it yourself? I am the house electrician, carpenter, plumber and painter. Judging by the crowds at the local DIY hardware store, it's a popular money saving gambit these days.

Of course it only saves money if you can do a good job. My colleague was describing his neighbours attempts at DIY. In what should have been the quote of the week he said "I don't think much of his DIY skills. His house is full of corners he has cut"

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Have you ever used a builder? Have you spent time talking to them? Here's an observation and a generalisation to try on for size. When your builder is explaining the job they will be keen to point out how they are going to do it properly. When they get started they will point out all the previous builder's work they have discovered on your job that has been done badly.

When they inevitably express an opinion of other builders they are generally seen as cowboys. So - and this is the observation - all builders regard all other builders a shoddy cowboys. No one else does a proper job.

Imagine how priiviledged you are to be employing the only good builder in the business*
BTW. This picture has nothing to do with the text, I just liked it.

*Another observation. Building is the only business that is regularly described as a game: "What do you do? Oh, I'm in the Building Game..." 

Try that with other professions: 

Actually, I'm in the Law Enforcement Game...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bird on a wire

When I arrived at work these guys were perched on a wire near the office. I realised if I sneaked upstairs I could photograph them from the same level as the wire. This gave me better context to the shot than sky and cloud would.

Not being an orthano- onratholo- wordbotcher, I can't tell you if these are Swifts, House Martins or Swallows but I know they don't spend much time sitting on wires...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Design Icon

Today I return to a favourite subject of mine. The fifty year old Massey Ferguson 35 that lives and works on the farm in the village. We had one of these on the farm when I was young and I learned to drive on something very similar. This one is the later 3 cylinder diesel version.

I think this is an icon of an object made for a purpose, one version even made it to the South Pole in 1958. It has all the bits you need and nothing extra. The fact that they are still seen in operation fifty years later is a testament to their original design. Long may it continue...

Thursday, 21 July 2011


The best camera is the one you have with you... Or in other words, it is foolishness to invest in a shed load of pro-grade camera equipment if the result is too heavy to carry. No matter how good the lens quality, how weatherproof the camera body, if you left it at home you can't snap the moment.

This is a growing sector of the camera market. Manufacturers try to make compact but excellent cameras that an enthusiast would be happy to use, and would no doubt be happy to pay a premium price for...

This picture was snapped years ago with (I think) a nasty little Fuji 2800,  my first digital camera. The current candidates for the quality compact must be the Fuji X100, the Olympus XZ1 and one of the new Olympus Pen cameras.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Here's me thinking I had pictured something rare when I took this close up shot today... The only rare thing here is the close up shot of a bug. Not my normal behaviour.

In fact this seems to be a Harlequin Ladybird, and as such it's an invasive species that we could do without.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Four square

Finally a feast of four images that benefit from a square crop, in my opinion.

Fistly, an avenue of light and shade in a horse paddock on the farm where I work.

Sea defences at picturesque Walberswick in Suffolk. Ignore the nuclear power station on the horizon, ok?

An approaching summer storm in North Hampshire

On the beach at St Ives in Cornwall

Viewers should note that Normal Format will be resumed as soon as possible.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Square Three

Here's another image in my passing square format phase: 

Clearly our Strawberry plants could do better. This tiny 4mm fruit is probably going to vanish before we get our hands on it. The birds seem to peck and damage most of the apples before we get them.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Square Two

Here's another image that benefits from a square format in my opinion. This is a bell in the Tolsey Musem, Burford. This delightful little museum is well worth a visit if you are in Burford. It is also one way of avoiding the crowds.

Burford has become a victim of it's own success and seems to be over run with visitors most of the time, rather like nearby Oxford...

Anyway, the square format has allowed me to keep the contrast between the lit and the unlit sides of the bell, and gives a sense of mystery as well, because the detail to the left of the subject has been excluded.Nice texture shot perhaps...

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Square images are supposed to be unattractive. 

You are supposed to create your art within a 4:3 or 3:2 rectangle. In fact we should be aiming for images that conform to the Golden Mean of 1.618:1 according to Aristotle. 

Actually, I tend to agree, images in square format do have a certain tension about them...(Film photographers of a certain age will be grumbling and pointing to their 6x6 roll film cameras that served them well for decades. Square is fine: What is this new fangled rectangular world view?)

Well, here is a picture that I cropped to square format, and I feel it has improved with the transformation. A small object of desire, part of an art exhibition in the Jane Austen house last year.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Just a Moment

Just a moment from seven years ago. I caught the walker on a Wiltshire hillside outlined against the sky. Are they composing a pocket book of poetry, inspired by the astonishing view. Or are they heads down, fiddling with their iphone like most people these days?

I wander lonely as a cloud
I feel the peace that silence brings.
Distanced from the madding crowd:
When all at once an iPhone rings..

It speaks of "recent accident"
I don't recall, I feel no pain.
But then I am reminded of -
my long lost compensation claim...

(No it can't be an iphone, it hadn't been invented then. Let's imagine it was a book of poetry shall we..)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Shooting birds

I am hopeless at bird photography. The local Kites laugh at me wandering aimlessly below, always with the wrong lens on the camera, missing the critical moment. I can't even get a decent shot of the Pigeons on our lawn.

Other photographers take fantastic bird images, but then again they spend all day dressed in camouflage gear in a hide somewhere waiting for the momentary appearance of the Lesser Spotted Snoffit.

None of that for me thank you. 

Here's my secret. If you want a fantastic wild Heron picture like this one...

... Just go to Birdworld in the afternoon when they feed the Penguins, and wait for the wild Heron to arrive. 

Snap. Job done. (Just avoid getting the crowds or the penguins in the shot as it ruins the effect)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


That moment between dusk and real dark. The giant daisies in the garden are swaying in a nocturnal breeze, and I am out there with a tripod trying to bring home the moment..

No doubt the neighbours are looking out of the windows saying "what is he doing?"

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Photographers among us know that one of the new measures of lens performance is "Bokeh". This is a vaguely defined quality of the out of focus areas of the image. The lens must now be sharp where it should be sharp and also soft where it should be soft.

Here is an example of lovely creamy Bokeh. The passing tractor has been rendered as a beautifully smooth background that does not distract from the image.

And now here is an example of bad Bokeh, where the background is fussy and distracting, not at all smooth. (There are many that regard bad Bokeh like this as good and would gladly use a lens that did this on a regular basis). 

The problem here is that both of these pictures were taken with the same lens, a 1960's Jupiter 9 engraved proudly with "Made in the USSR" and provided with no lens coating at all...

This just goes to show that Bokeh is a fickle feature of each lens. It depends on distance, background and aperture setting. Perhaps we should all just focus on that....

Monday, 11 July 2011

3 shot trick

What do these two pictures have in Common?

Well. They are in fact the same picture. I tried to take a three shot panorama of St Nic's church in Newbury as an experiment. I used my ultrawide angle lens but I was still far too close really.

I passed the three files to Photoshop and started the autoalignment routine. I cannot imagine the maths involved to make these transformations. I can report that my attempts to do it at 16 bit resolution brought the PC to its knees and I had to abort the process. Photoshop creates various new layers and the image quickly grows to 570Mb. Task manager showed that 2.5Gb of memory was commited at one point.

I guess the attempt to carry out these transformations on that much data proved too much.So, I started again at 8 bit resolution and eventually those two different projections came out.

Here is my attempt at joining the three shots without maths. As you see it is less than optimum...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

What's This?

What's this little thing then eh?  

Well, let me tell you a story...

We changed cars recently. The replacement car is awfully modern and features a USB port. 

A USB port.. really? What is that for, do you charge your phone on it? No, in fact you connect your iPod* to it. However it will also accept a standard memory stick and play mp3 music files from folders directly.

Now that is a cute trick, as I don't own an iPod*. However, I wouldn't want a conventional memory stick poking out of the car for all to see, so I set off in search of the smallest stick I can find.

Here it is, a Busbi Mini 4GB stick. In the background are just some of the CDs and tapes I transferred to it. Even this version looks like it will hold about 40 albums, which is all we will need in the car.

So, this leads me to a nostalgic moment.

In order to convert the tapes to mp3, I had to record them on the PC, cut 25 minutes of audio into individual tracks and export as WAV files. Each file gets converted to mp3. Repeat for the other side of the cassette and the job is done. The novelty was the time it takes.

Remember when you taped your vinyl albums? It had to be done in real time. It took over an hour. We have become used to the speed and accuracy of digital media transfer and copy.

When was the last time it took you an hour to rip a CD to disk? If it takes 5 minutes we get cross. It is so easy to copy your CD and use it elsewhere these days. I suppose this is at the core of the Digital Rights Management business.

*I am a resolute non iPod owner. I don't have an iPod or iPad or iMac or an iPhone, and I don't wish to become an iPerson.. More on this particular rant in the future. Watch this iSpace...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Local sunshine

Here's a mean and moody shot of a storm threatened crop. 

Well, all is not quite what it seems, as I took my portable sunshine with me and created the mood myself. It was an overcast day, but I felt the look needed enhancing.

This is a standard strobist trick. I used an off camera flash to put light down onto the corn from overhead, giving the look of a shaft of sunlight. It is then just a matter of adjusting the flash power and the camera exposure so that the background goes dark while the foreground is over-lit.

The trick can also be used in a more subtle manner. In this case the post box has a small splash of light to lift it, while the background is once again allowed to be dark and brooding.

In addition to the lighting trick, narrow depth of field also separates the post box from it's background.

Friday, 8 July 2011


The generic term for cereals here in the UK. This is wheat, I think. here in the South, there has been enough rain for a decent harvest. I guess the farmers will now be in search of dry weather to ripen everything, then more dry weather to be able to harvest it.

This constant worry about the weather and the fluctuations in prices and Government policy probably explain why farmers are rarely happy...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Today's Post

Today's is an important post, as you can see. This post marks a watershed, a boundary. It draws a line in the sand and ringfences the subject.

It doesn't matter if you work in this field or not. Remember, don't follow the herd, but make yourself aware of this post. Yes, the grass is always greener elsewhere and it might be this post that could show you the way.

So, don't ignore today's post. You may come to lean on it in months to come.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Not Wisley 3

Some more secret corners from Wisley Gardens: The Paleolithic comes to Surrey.

I thought I would give this an enigmatic look with the selective monochrome. See how it changes the spatial dynamic and provides emotional linkage between the "Now" and the "Other".

There:  I can talk pretentious artistic rubbish with the best of them...

Scarey primordial Tree Fern thing.

Odd stone art...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Not Wisley2

This was probably my Shot of the Day.

Very Monet...  Once again I gave this the Orton treatment as I felt it added a dreamy quality to it. This also illustrates my theory, if you have something red in the shot, make sure its near the front, not in the background :-)

Here's a little detail from the Pagoda in the grounds. It proved impossible to photograph the building clear of visitors (short of shouting "Fire!" and there's only so many times that trick will work...)

The Tropical Glasshouse makes some nice shapes, but I bet this looks better at dawn with mist on the water.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Not Wisley

RHS Wisley - the unseen corners:  So here are a few of my pictures from the odd parts of Wisley. Fear not dear reader, there are things to see at Wisley even if you don't care for plants (pun intended)

Mmmm. Nice tactile sign.

Aha. Behind the waterfall.

Given in Excess. A confusion of names.


Excellent* reflection!

* I.e. Well gnarly, dude - if you are a young person.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Yes. We have been to RHS Wisley today. Here is the standard shot that I guess everyone takes.

Tomorrow I hope to show you my non standard Wisley shots...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Not Artex

A short sturdy of other people's ceilings: 

Firstly: Canterbury Cathedral at the crossing point. Rather high, but well lit don't you think?

Bath Cathedral: Extensive fan vaulting in the nave. Lovely details, light and airy

Finally, the Baptistry at Florence. Almost more Gold leaf than paint... An impressive sight.