Round, like a circle in a spiral…

I’ve been experimenting recently with some basic iPhone apps to mess around with images. The apps I have mostly been using are Circular and Tiny Planets.

I’ve mostly been using these two apps combined together to create images and videos, sometimes running an image through an editing process more than once in order to create greater or lesser abstracted images.

The thing I like most about these apps is that you don’t really need a great quality image to start with to create something visually interesting.

Here is a small selection of the videos I’ve made. Playing around with images like this can be incredibly addictive! And if I hadn’t recently lost my phone during the creation of this post, I’d have a majorly larger library of these videos by now.

Of course, I’ve also been building an album of the still images on Flickr.

 

 

Take 2: Visibility: Coal Force 5

I took a two and a half hour cruise on my boat this weekend. With my engine newly serviced, and the sun shining, it was a staggeringly beautiful day out on the canals.

This time of year when the sun is so low it can be a bit blinding out there at times. Especially when heading West in the afternoon.

I like to take pictures into the sun. I love the way the light scatters and the possibilities with silhouettes, shadows, and lens flares.

With this picture I wanted to turn it isn’t something it wasn’t. I didn’t want the deep shadows. I wanted the picture to show me what I could have seen had I not been staring into the sun for hours. I wanted to try to create an image that expressed how I felt about the day. The air was still and chilly, but the warm Autumn colours were still out in force. I don’t normally apply such extreme adjustments to an image.

These are the main edits I made using Lightroom:

  • I took the contrast all the way down to flatten out the image and give it a painterly, slightly hazy quality
  • I brought the shadows all the way up to bring out as much detail in the background as possible
  • I took the highlights down to bring out a bit of detail in the sky
  • I pulled the tone curve into a gentle S shape, with the lights and shadows brought up and then highlights and darks very slightly down just to give a bit of definition
  • I very slightly warmed up the white balance

Colours:

  • I raised the orange and yellow saturation and luminance
  • I raised the red saturation slightly
  • I took the green luminance up to give a bit of life to the background
  • I raised the blue saturation slightly and also lowered the luminance to bring out more detail in the sky and balance the warmth a little

 

 

I Love Limehouse

After having been roaming the canals around London for a year now, I’ve seen parts of London I’d never even heard of before. The city looks infinitely fascinating from the water and my journey North East from Slough has been beautiful, horrible, and all things in between. But it’s never too noisy. The roads are never too close. The towpaths come alive in some places and are neglected in others.

Limehouse so far is my favourite spot to moor. It’s not especially pretty, or quiet. [Although it does benefit from being beautifully soundtracked with the quarter hourly chimes of St. Anne’s.] It has a character about it that beckons. I felt instantly at home here.

This is a little ode to Limehouse.

Ahoy, Savoy!

I was asked to take photographs at Roger’s 70th birthday bash a few weeks ago and how could I refuse with such a glamourous setting and glamourous guests? Absolutely smashing evening all round.

The icing on the cake* was my ex boyfriend trusting me to borrow the absolutely amazing new Pentax full frame K1 camera from him for the task. Beautiful camera.

Happy birthday, Roger! Hip hip!

 

*The icing on the cake actually said “Happy Birthday”.

Endeavour, and ever, and ever…

The past five or six weeks have been a srange and busy time. Mostly spent on dry land having various urgent attentions spent on my lovely boat. It felt almost neverending at one stage. It was truly a strange experience to be onboard the same boat with absolutely no movement and climbing a ladder to get in. It’s a slow and tentative sigh of relief to be afloat again now.

I got everything done and fixed that I needed to, except that I haven’t got around to putting the name back on her yet. I’m procrastinating a little over that… But bit by bit, she’s starting to look quite smart.

Flat bottomed girl

I’ve had to put my photography on the back burner for the past few months, whilst attending to issues with my Marvellous new home. But of course there’s always room for both.

I’ve dealt with no running water at all on far too many occasions since moving aboard, had to hand pump gallons of water from leaky plumbing every other evening, but now I’ve seen my boat fly…

I wouldn’t exchange life on the water for anything, and yet I’ve had to be taken onto land in order to get back out there. Some jobs just require it.

Her hull is the most important thing and whilst currently out of the water to have her hull blacked, I’ve finally been in a position to confidently sort my disastrous plumbing situation. Maintenance and sprucing up are well underway now.

Exciting and terrifying times. And more to come. Wonderful.

The gift of Sound and Vision

On 5th February I went ice skating at Alexandra Palace with my mother, one of my brothers, and a wonderful colleague for a David Bowie soundtracked evening of skidding about and falling over, hosted by Feeling Gloomy.

I don’t know anyone who wasn’t saddened by Bowie’s passing, and what better way to blow off the cobwebs than such a ridiculous and fun tribute.

I took my Pentax K-S1 and intended to get lots of fun shots of the inevitably Bowie-emblazoned skaters, but admittedly I spent the vast majority of the time enjoying the skating. It’s over 20 years since I’ve purposefully stepped onto ice and I loved every single minute of it.

My brother looked utterly fabulous in his golden spacesuit and I at least managed to capture this for prosperity. He drew much adoring attention both on the ice and during the journey there and back. Even the lovely staff at Pizza Express didn’t seem to mind us applying our face painted lightning bolts at the dinner table beforehand.

Farewell, Starman.

 

The Floater

It’s been a really busy month for me moving onto my handsome narrowboat. I’ve not had much time for photography. But I still somehow found myself volunteering to take pictures for a free online magazine for the boating community called The Floater.

 

 

I contributed these two pictures to go with an article about Winter moorings, the first of which I was delighted to see made it onto page one. You can read the December 2015 issue by clicking here.

 

 

Postcards from the edge of the laptop

I have almost accidentally found myself constructing a series of black and white self portraits with my laptop camera. People who know me well will know that I don’t usually have a problem expressing myself verbally, but recently I’ve found this ability somewhat ripped from me. I always try and infuse my pictures with as much emotion as possible, but rarely turn the camera on myself for this purpose. The low quality images seem to create a barrier behind which (conversely) I can comfortably express more of myself.

I’m editing the photographs in Lightroom and I’ve found that another result of the image quality being so poor, is that it is really freeing up my creativity in other elements of the pictures. It’s turning out to be a really interesting way to experiment with and explore and express different visual ideas, a bit like a sketchbook. I think I’ll continue with this from time to time.

The amount of grain in the images has added interesting textures. They could almost be pen and ink, pencil, charcoal, or spray painted images. The huge depth of field and wide angle view bizarrely reminds me of my pinhole images which I find fascinating considering the ridiculous difference in equipment involved.

 

Beyond Beyond Chocolate

There were a lot of ridiculously delicious cakes provided by Abbi’s Pantry at Beyond Chocolate‘s celebration of “no diet day”. I went along to take some photographs of the food and the round table discussions.

 

I took my back up camera for this shoot, my primary camera being out on loan. I’m more than happy with how the relatively humble Pentax KS1 handled the task. I can’t really compare it favourably to the Pentax K3 in performance overall (that thing is a dream machine!), but I can say that the final image can be a hair’s width in difference. The sensors are not significantly different, and I’m using the same lenses, so I’d say the biggest difference is to do with ease of use.

Focussing is slower and sometimes clunky with the KS1. I took most shots focussing manually. Overall it’s probably comparable, in the experience of setting up shots, to using the Pentax k-x. The k-x was my first digital camera and one I used for a good few years with fabulous results but it needed to be bullied a lot in camera and in post.

The key really is understanding and getting to know the equipment, its limitations, and its potential. In general I’d say that the potential for quality images from the KS1 is light years nearer to the K3 than the k-x and I should use it more often to know how best to release its strengths and better circumnavigate its weaknesses.

The best thing about the KS1 is how very light it is. I used my favourite lenses which all seemed to weigh more than the camera. This had a really positive impact on my experience. The slightly more cumbersome handling of settings was more than made up for by the fact that my back wasn’t aching as it would with the chunky K3. For long shoots I think it will even serve well as first choice in that regard.

Pinhole exposure

I recently submitted my pinhole picture of a ukulele to a gallery on The Guardian‘s website and I’m really pleased to see that it was amongst their selection of favourite images. It’s the second time this image has been featured by others online (this was the first).

Ukulele

Without the space for a darkroom at the moment I really miss taking pinhole images, so it’s nice to see my picture out there waving the flag for me, until I have the space to set up a darkroom again.

Take 2: Photosyn… this… is…

So here’s a fun before and after journey.

I took this shot while I was enjoying a very usual evening stroll and the most glorious sunset began to unfold. I only had the very wide 15mm lens with me. I spent a long time trying to catch a similar shot to this with various different foreground objects but this was the most successful by far. It’s a rather sweet shot as it is straight from camera, but it didn’t quite capture the drama of the colourful light as I had experienced it. I sort of thought I’d play with it and then keep it more or less as is, but once I started playing with it, it pretty much edited itself.

It became clear quite quickly that it had a very painting-like quality so I focussed on trying to give the tones and colours a kind of “fairy tale” look. It’s a bit bolder than my usual style and I gave it an overly pink tint to really enhance the dreamy nature of the image.

I feel it actually represents a truer version of the experience of what was the beginning of a very vibrant sunset. Not long after this, the sky went a really deep pinky red. One of the frustrating things about photographing sunsets is that they can’t capture the really magical aspect of a sunset itself – it’s mostly about the process and experience of constantly changing colours over time, the movement of the light as the sun sets. A still image can’t capture that experience, so I tried to merge aspects of my experience together into the image using colours to best describe the sunset as a whole as it felt to me at the time.

Dealing with the colours was actually quite easy with this image, as the sky pretty much has a separate range of colours to the foreground.

These are the main edits I made using Lightroom:

  • I lowered the contrast a lot and actually also slightly lowered the exposure
  • In the top panel of sliders, I slightly lowered the highlights, brought the shadows and blacks up
  • I applied a small amount of clarity
  • In the tone curve I made a gentle but top heavy S shape, with the darks and lights both brought up fairly high, and the shadows and highlights brought down just a touch to balance it out

These are the adjustments I made to the colours:

  • I adjusted the white balance to the cloudy setting and then adjusted the tint a little further over into pink
  • I raised the red saturation and lowered the luminance a small amount to deepen the red in the clouds
  • I did the same with the orange channel although I gave this one moderately more saturation
  • With the yellow channel, I gave it a fair amount of luminance and upped the saturation to counter this
  • In the green channel I raised the luminance as high as it would go to really elevate the foreground, and I lowered the saturation quite a bit to counteract some of the green glow this cast on the image
  • In the aqua and blue colour channels I raised the saturation and lowered the luminance a touch to deepen the sky slightly

Take 2: Willesborough Windmill

I knew I had a nice shot with this one and actually it is pretty much perfect as it is straight from the camera. The sky is so moody and there’s a lot of detail captured in the shadows. I really didn’t *need* to do anything to it. But of course I did.

I really wanted this photo to have a more intense impact. To me it was too depressing in tone. RAW files often look very flat and cold and dull. I wanted to lift the image whilst still retaining that quality of melancholy. I didn’t want it to look sad. I wanted it to look devastating.

Here are the main adjustments I made using Lightroom:

  • I raised the exposure slightly and slightly lowered the contrast.
  • In the tone curve, I upped the lights and highlights a lot to really get a good, bright contrast in the sky and slightly lowered the darks and shadows to a gentler curve, so I didn’t quite lose all of the detail in the silhouetted part of the building walls.
  •  I gave it some very, very gentle split toning. Slightly warm highlights and slightly blue shadows. This gave the sky a luminous quality. I enhanced that by lowering the luminance values in the blue colour channel.
  • I raised the luminance in the green colour channel to brighten the grass in the foreground and really bring out that eerie sunny, but not sunny, stormy quality.

I made a few more detailed tweaks here and there but those were the major changes I made. I’m pretty pleased with my choices in-camera for this picture that make the image so versatile when it comes to editing. I could have edited this shot in many different ways. Perhaps I shall yet…

The Garden of England

Last week I took a week off work to stay with my mother who lives near Ashford in Kent. A friend recently allowed me to borrow some lenses of his to play with so I brought three of them with me – a 15mm f4, a 31mm f1.8, and a 100mm macro f2.8 – and have had a lot of fun trying them out.

I usually shoot with my favourite lenses which are 35mm, 55mm and 77mm so it was an interesting little exercise in seeing things from a slightly different perspective. I preferred the 31mm overall but firstly, it’s an incredibly good quality lens with beautiful bokeh and secondly, it’s not far away from the range of lengths I normally use…

…so I really came away from it thinking as I always have; it’s not about the equipment you have, but understanding how it works and behaves to get the most out of it. I found the 15mm lens the most challenging and fun because I have rarely used wide lenses at all and it is so very wide! I think it has the potential to create some really inventive images.

I also had no idea there were so many windmills in the near vicinity. Beautiful things.

Bathtime

This week I went to Bath for a few days for a course. It is a very beautiful, very friendly town and I was lucky enough to find gloriously warm and sunny weather awaiting me too.

I spent most of my free time prowling about with a new digital camera. I was recently given a Pentax K-S1 as a present to serve as a back up to my usual workhorse (the absolutely superb Pentax K3), so I wanted to give it a good test run. The K3 knocks it out of the park of course, and it’s really not worth comparing them in any kind of detail, but combined with excellent lenses, I’m actually pretty surprised and impressed with what the K-S1 can produce considering it’s an entry level DSLR camera.

Me and the K-S1

Me and my new K-S1

It was a good way of seeing how the lenses used (and of course the photographer behind them!) really do have a larger influence on the final image than the camera used does alone. As a back up, I think it’s perfectly capable of producing good quality pictures. It is also so very light in comparison to any camera I’ve ever used. Weight was important for me to scrimp on because in contrast I also took my 6×7 film camera with me which weighs the same as a small cottage.

As usual you can find a growing album of images over on Flickr too. The 6×7 film shots will get their own post at a later date…

Beyond Chocolate

A couple of weeks ago I took some pictures for Beyond Chocolate, a thriving online community that supports women to ditch yo-yo dieting and have a healthy relationship with food.

I was really inspired by the passion and energy that co-founder Audrey injects into her work. I spent the afternoon capturing a seemingly endless stream of fresh, healthy, indulgent food, glorious food prepared by Audrey and Abbi [of Abbi’s Pantry, who I have had the pleasure of taking photographs for before].

The best way to get mouthwatering pictures of food is to use natural light. With a big wall of glass on one side of the large kitchen, although the day was overcast, there was plenty of soft natural light to play with.