Thursday, 31 May 2012

Lakes and Rain

Our run of good luck came to and end, and the skies over the Lakes turned to their more traditional grey yesterday. Furthermore it started raining today, so here's a standard walkers on a hilltop picture.

This is the peak just below Catbells looking over Derwent Water. Click on it for a larger version.

Here is a stone Stoup. It seems these were made to take wooden gates that slid into the holes. The advantage is that the stone gateposts don't rot away and you don't have to make hinges either. The practice seems to have fallen out of use and individual Stoups stand here and there to puzzle the passing stranger.

More rain pictures tomorrow I suspect...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Landscape photography

Landscape Photography is the art of capturing the look and feel of a place in an image.

Caught in the act: A landscape photographer waiting for the right lighting to create a masterpiece. A potentially classic picture: A small flock of sheep and lambs, a wooden gate and stone wall, and the beautiful Lakes scenery in the background.

Clearly I couldn't go and copy his shot, so I thought I would document the process in action.

Down on the floor of a glaciated valley, the mountain in  shadow contrasts with the fence and hedge in sunlight.

In the same location a little later, the shadow cast by Causey Pike has removed most of the light from these trees. This effect is very short lived. You only have a minute or so to catch it as the shadow creeps across the valley.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lakeland Discoveries

A nice moment discovered on a walk in the Lake District. This little beck was peaceful and acted as a mirror for me, but the extensive and recent embankment makes you realise they get a lot of rain here. It's not called the Lake District for nothing.

Here's another little discovery. 

Found covered in dust in a farmer's barn: This is an old Morris 1000 Traveller. If you think you could buy it off the owner for fifty quid, restore it and have a classic bargain then think again. Farmers are much more canny than that.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Ant, Hill

We thought we had walked enough this morning and called a halt at a pub. So we are sitting with a beer, walking poles and a good lunch. 

But wait. Right up there on the sky line is an ant on the hill. Someone has trekked up four hundred meters of mountain before lunch.

That is very impressive. Now I need to sit down and relax for a bit.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Wider still

The reward for the four mile walk around Buttermere Lake is this excellent view to the South. Generally landscape pictures taken near mid day are poor, flat and best avoided. However if nature throws some mountains into the mix with imposing shadows, then I am prepared to make an exception to my rule.

This is a three picture pano taken with a telephoto lens. Click on it to get the full impact..

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Off Grid

The new phrase for "away from it all" seems to be Off Grid. Well that s where we find ourselves: Away from it all in a valley in the Lake District.

Oh yes, this is life on the edge, I tell you:

Of course "away from it all" is a relative term. In this case it means there are no street lights, no local shop and the Digital TV reception is a bit poor. However we still have broadband and Tesco will deliver your internet food order.

Thursday, 24 May 2012


D as in MDXXIV for example, meaning five hundred.

Yes, this is my 500th blog entry. Remarkable!

Many thanks to my faithful reader for putting up with such an aimless collection of Quantum Physics, Meteorology, misleading information and curmudgeonly rants...

So here by way of a reward, is a burnt twig..

.. a study in yellow...

.. and an old door.

Now after all this effort, I feel the need for a lie down

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Anti Dust

Apparently they have had a hard time finding the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Well they are clearly looking in the wrong places.

I spotted a whole box of Cosmic Anti-Dust hidden in a shed recently. Looks like the Government have hidden it here for some bizarre strategic reason. I would have looked inside but the danger of an antimatter explosion is just too great so I left well alone.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Decor 2

Left uninhabited for four years, this stone cottage backs on to a Norman castle mound. No designer interior here, just a lot of hard work....

This is a challenge I could certainly walk away from. Perhaps it's a good thing we are all different....

However, you do get your very own meat salting cave...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Decor 1

A stylish interior courtesy of the mid Wales Georgian bed and breakfast we used at the weekend.

This nice symmetrical arrangement was framed by the window at the end of the passage: Very pleasing to behold.

This look was obtained by massive deliberate under exposure enhanced by an Orton soft sandwich action and some more work in Photoshop.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Point of View

Photography: Where do you stand? What is your point of view?

Actually your point of view matters. 

Imagine you are walking down a lane and you see a nice patch of daisies looking up at the sun, and you decide to take a picture. The easy was is to point the camera at them (don't forget to zoom in to remove other distractions from the shot) check your composition, focus, camera settings, and then you take the picture.

You will end up with something like this. Frankly this is a rubbish picture of some daisies and some grass. There is no drama or impact and no context in which to place the daisies.

Now look what happens if you zoom out to the wide setting, place the camera on the ground, get in close (using the folding rear screen if you have one) and focus on the daisies with a half press of the shutter. Keep the shutter half pressed and recompose so the  rape seed crop and sky start to be visible. Now you have a picture with some merit. 

Like I say: When it comes to photography, where do you stand?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cottage inflation

Walk round your local village and you will see a small phenomenon. 

Folks buy a block of two or three old houses, they knock through the walls and make one large house.They build extra rooms on the back, add a swimming pool and solar heating, park a pair of expensive 4x4s at the front. This six bedroom pied a terre in attractive rural surroundings is then renamed The Old Gamekeepers Cottage.

Cottage? This is inverted snobbery. A romantic notion. Cottage as in Rather Smart Rural Retreat actually.

We lived in this cottage when I was young in the 1960s. It was down on the farm right next to the cow yard and only ten years earlier it had outside toilets. That was a proper cottage - with rats....

No. I think we should extend this inverted snobbery. Rural bolt holes for the rich should now be named The Old Cowman's Hovel. Now that sounds truly romantic.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Yellow and Black

Contrast can be a good thing. Look at the way this sky and land panorama (click to see the full size scene) is defined by the contrast between the gathering storm and the yellow crop.

It's just another photographer's trick...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Chapel

After a short lunchtime walk yesterday in dull and damp conditions I came away with fifteen pictures. After my usual deleting fest I was left with just three, and here is the best. 

The old Methodist Chapel is over run with ivy and awaits it's fate. It was closed thirty years ago and is too small to conver into a house....

Monday, 14 May 2012

Better Pictures 4

Finally we come to the photographer's standard bag of tricks. Reach for the usual cliche, and it may well save the day.

If you can't work out what to do with an image that almost works, convert it to monochrome or even Sepia tint. This generally adds gravitas or nostalgia to the picture. Put on your serious arty look and nod your head, and everyone will beat a path to your door.

Switch off the camera flash and buy a tripod if needed. Use the available light, no matter how dark. I note that none of my cameras have built in flashes. That's fine by me...

Open that lens up and use narrow depth of field to make your point:

 Get out that wide angle and stretch that perspective:

Don't be put off by bad weather. 

Sometimes a little mist can make an ordinary scene extraordinary. This last shot has a bit of everything: A dark and moody shot on a misty day with a wide angle lens converted to black and white. Lovely!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Better Pictures 3

Now I can reveal the digital post processing tool that offers the greatest improvement to your photography.

This digit is the finger that presses the key that deletes unworthy photos. 

After you have planned the picture, scanned the viewfinder and removed all unwanted elements, and chosen the decisive moment - you still need to edit the results. If you wish to raise your game, there is no substitute for throwing away the second rate shots.

Never show anyone a second rate picture. In this way you will create the impression that all your pictures are good ones.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Better Pictures 2

In part two of this exhaustive examination of Photographic Excellence, having dealt with the Viewfinder, we move to the next piece of equipment that you must master.

This is the Shutter Release. Each time you press this the camera takes a picture. Squeeze it carefully and slowly or you will jerk the camera and blur the image. Don't press it more often than you need to. Just because digital film is free, this doesn't mean you need to take fifteen pictures of each subject.

Get the lighting right, wait for the decisive moment, frame the subject carefully, and take one picture, or perhaps two.

Using the motor drive like a machine gun at ten frames per second is for sports journalists or war correspondents. If you are aiming to capture the essence of Derwent Water then motor drive is not the right approach. 

Furthermore this will just give you more images to sort through and discard later on. When it comes to multiple pictures of the same subject, less is more (see tomorrow).

Friday, 11 May 2012

Better pictures 1

Pay attention at the back. Here is part one of my guide to becoming a Better Photographer.

I'm assuming that you have planned your picture in some way. Maybe it is a project you have thought through in advance, maybe it is a photo opportunity you just spotted. 

I hope you have already allowed for the fact your image will come out in a two dimensional form. We see in 3D, so a scene that depends heavily on three dimensions will not look so impressive on a photo print. I hope you also thought about lighting. 

So, now we come to composition and here is the first essential item you must master:

This is the viewfinder. If you have a new fangled electric camera it might look different, but this is what defines what's in the picture.

Look carefully at the scene in the viewfinder before you press the shutter. Look at the edges of the picture, try to spot distractions and unwanted elements. It may be that you can move your position slightly to re arrange the scene so the ugly street sign is hidden. You might be able to zoom in slightly (or even walk forwards...) to exclude the electricity pole. If you want an image with impact, less is generally more.

It also shows you what isn't in the picture. Now check to see if you have cut the tops off houses or people's heads. Learn to look at the entire image quickly but efficiently before you take the picture.

Part two tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


It seems to me what this blog needs is a Ning. 

Fortunately I happen to have one.

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

Spike Milligan

Monday, 7 May 2012

The rise of the Kat

Ten years ago no one had heard of the Meerkat. They went about their business and we went about ours. 

Then someone did a wildlife program about them and they became stars.

Now we have long running advert campaigns based entirely on Meerkats. They turn up on all sorts of programs, and you can apparently buy them for your garden instead of Gnomes.


This, dear reader, is progress...

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Oh dear, what is going on here?

John Lewis, an otherwise splendid emporium, has been caught in film* selling Distressed Union Jack tablecloths. 

Perhaps a distressed flag is appropriate for a distressed nation that is no longer the power it pretends to be.

Well, old Blighty will have the last laugh. Just wait until we send King Boris the first abroad of state visits. The prospect of his arrival will surely strike fear into less happier lands...

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This fortress built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;

*What is the modern equivalent of "caught on film"? Caught on file?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The trefoil

This little trefoil would be an Architects Conceit if it were executed in stone somewhere. As it is, I will put it down as a Carpenter's conceit instead.

They adorn the well cover on the green in the village where I work, and I have been meaning to photograph them for some time. I noticed that I could align two of them if I stood in a particulary foolish position, and so I did just that. 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Picture the picture

If you take sponaneous pictures then you simply point and click. Just wait for the decisive moment and click.

If you take landscape pictures or abtracts and details, then each image requires care and construction. Sometimes the path from tripod to frame can be a long one. You need think the image into existance.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Paddock Envy

Our troubled friend here is having a hard time.

Close inspection reveals the truth hidden in the ancient aphorism. Yes, the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Green and pleasant

All this rain! 

The fields are slowly washing away in North Hampshire. The roads have huge potholes full of water, but the countryside is turning a nice shade of green.

My lunchtime walk has become a game of strategy, where the timing is dictated by the rain radar page on the Met Office website.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Leaps + Bounds

A shamelessly technical post for photographers today:

This will probably amuse the Nikon and Canon owners who are used to taking quality pictures in the dark, but I have been most impressed by the new Olympus E-M5. This arrived yesterday and my first real world test was last night in the drizzle after a church service.

How does this picture seem? It's certainly sharp when viewed up close.

Well this used the excellent new 45mm at f1.8, ISO1600 and 1/8th of a second hand held. Now that is dark.. It is also new territory for Olympus 4/3 cameras: A bright lens, clean high ISO performance and astonishing image stabilisation in-camera.

And a similar view but at ISO3200: