At sixes and sevens

A New Year’s Day walk with a ridiculously big film camera.

Kodak Portra 400 120 film that had been kept in the worst place possible for two and a half years… in the kitchen cupboard above the cooker. Oops. Varying temperatures ahoy! I think it survived rather marvellously.

 

 

Film developing and medium resolution scans by the fabulous Ag Photographic. Posted off on a Saturday evening and returned to me on the Wednesday.

It’s the first time in many years that I’ve ordered prints along with the developing and scans. They look gorgeous and it was such a joy to see new photos for the first time in that more tangible way again.

Through the looking glass

It’s been a while since I got my Pentax 6×7 out to play. I had completely forgotten that I had an adapter to use my massive 105mm 6×7 lens on my regular DSLR (Pentax K3).

I love the quality of this lens. Attached to my K3 it does look ridiculous and it’s heavier than the camera itself. Old film camera lenses retain a lot of their character in digital format. This one gives a fair amount of chromatic aberation, as lenses designed for film often do, but that’s easily rectifiable manually in Lightroom. It’s an exrtremely soft lens and wide open, regardless of the cropped sensor on the K3, it just has a really expansive feel to it.

I intend to drag out the 6×7 for some more film fun soon, and this has certainly whetted my appetite.

 

Hunted by Red October

Hurricane Ophelia carried a very spooky sky to the UK two weeks ago. Everything looked orange and the sun turned red in the middle of the day. After ascertaining that it wasn’t in fact the sun dying (that really was my first thought, not that anyone could accuse me of being dramatic…), I thought I should probably take some pictures.

The sunset that evening was also rather beautiful.

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.

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 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.

 

 

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…

A hazy shade of Winter

In winter, the bare trees and low angle of the sun provide infinite opportunities for capturing silhouettes. The light often carries a cool pink undertone that really comes into its own around sunset.

There is a small wood nearby that I’ve been visiting most weekends. Some days I have stayed out for so long that my fingers have stiffened into claws from the cold but still stayed out longer to catch an early sunset on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Old Friends

I spent the end of last week visiting a friend in Bournemouth. We were quite seasonally lazy for the most part but did manage to get ourselves off the sofa for a little trip to Poole Harbour on Friday. It was a beautiful day after a few days of bitter winds and rain (as I suppose you’d expect on the coast this time of year).

I took my very favourite 55mm f1.8 lens. The lens I’ve had the longest, and love the most. I often describe its quality as “buttery”. It’s smooth and soft and warm. It’s clean and sharp even when the aperature is wide open but backgrounds always just melt away beautifully.

It’s a fully manual lens and it’s not the most versatile workhorse I have. I have a fair few lenses to choose from so it really only usually gets brought out when I take portraits as this is when it particularly shines. It’s my favourite for portraits in particular because of its focal length, the soft quality, and the warm and gentle way it renders colours.

I have had this lens for over twenty years and for the vast majority of that time it was the only lens I had. So it’s like an old friend. Comfortable and natural. And he doesn’t mind if I don’t see him all the time. But I think I’ll keep him on the camera for a little bit longer now.

Maybe I like this lens so much because the lens itself is the tool that introduced me to photography. So when I look at the pictures it takes I feel like that’s what photos are somehow *supposed* to look like.

Here are just some of my favourites that I took on Friday. As usual there are more to see on Flickr.

p.s. If you are in the neighbourhood yourself… do go easy with the dazzling array of cider on offer at The Stable pub…!

Exerceyes

Over the past month¬†I’ve been taking¬†my camera out with me a lot more often than I usually do.¬†I’ve also been taking¬†a lot of walks around the local park. It’s a really pretty park and although the evenings are dark, it’s really well lit by a series of bright street lamps along the main path. I’m not much¬†different to¬†the others that I pass there, exercising their dogs and exercising themselves. I’m attempting to keep¬†my critical eye¬†in shape.

On the one hand¬†I’ve amassed¬†a huge number of pictures that I’m pleased with in a very short space of time. But, on the other, I’ve amassed a huge number of¬†pictures in a very short space of time. I’ve got quite a backlog already, the editing of which is not being aided by¬†a rapidly ailing computer which turns even the simplest task into a gargantuan, spluttering mission. I am finally in a position¬†to get around to replacing it which is great as it means I can go back to a place where I’m simply getting annoyed at the process of editing itself, rather than the fact I’m having to go into the battle with a computer throwing a constant strop.

So these are some of the highlights. There are more to see over in my usual dumping ground of Flickr

 

We’re abseiling, we’re abseiling…

A few weeks’ ago I went to collect¬†my prize for the Avery Hill Winter Garden‘s photography competition¬†and I was briefly interviewed by a lovely chap from SEnine magazine.

There I am on the far left.

There I am on the far left.

A week or so later I got an email from the same lovely chap suggesting I¬†might want to get some photographs of an abseil event being hosted by Wide Horizons at Avery Hill Park this month. Incidentally, that’s the event in the article on the opposite¬†page to my interview.

The abseil was last Saturday so I went up there as it was starting up and just as the sun was starting up too. I got some lovely shots during that morning and I think the early start must have got to me as I ended up agreeing to abseil myself. Interesting choice for 9.15am after being in photography mode for a couple of hours.

I have an extreme fear of heights at the best of times and leaning backwards off a 100ft tower isn’t something my instincts tell me to do. I did have to beg for a supervisor to come down at the same time as me. I was so grateful that he agreed and from there it was fairly easy. The staff there were all so fantastic and for something ¬†that I would have never voluntarily been interested in, it was actually thoroughly enjoyable all round.

Taking these pictures was a very immersive experience¬†in that the action is so immediate and emotive. I think that’s probably the main reason I said yes to abseiling myself. I already felt like I understood the experience and knew the fear was irrational. I’d observed it repeatedly. I’d¬†also been up to the top of the tower to get pictures of the view when I’d got there so I knew how high it was. Plus, of course, everybody else was clearly so safe.

One of the main reasons I love¬†photography is the way you can capture such a fleeting expression of emotion, or an occurrence, that otherwise isn’t held. You can freeze a moment of time in a way that¬†can¬†trigger¬†a very pure form of empathy.

I went back again in the afternoon and got a few more shots. I am really pleased I returned later as there were some very impressive small¬†children showing excellent calm and poise.¬†I can’t say the same for myself. I learnt a new expression: “sewing machine legs”. Due to shaking so violently.

Here are just some of my personal favourites from the day. You can see the whole caboodle over on Flickr.

Lincoln

The weekend before last I took a trip to Lincoln¬†which I’ve never been to¬†before. The train from Peterborough to Lincoln consisted of just one carriage which I’m not sure I’ve¬†come across¬†before either.¬†It’s certainly a city with its charms.

What struck me most about the city was the mixture of old and new. The pretty and shall we say not so pretty. I absolutely adore swans and there were certainly many of the gorgeous creatures to be seen. And of course the cathedral is truly stunning.

It was a gloriously sunny start to September.¬†I didn’t take a vast amount of pictures, but here are some of my favourites.¬†There¬†are¬†a few more in¬†an¬†album over on flickr,¬†which I may yet add to.

 

It’s all about the chemistry

I have a few¬†friends who are very passionate about photography and like to play with it as much as I do. I think getting together with like minded people is¬†one of the best ways of learning¬†and I always find that we¬†can inspire each other to try things in a slightly different way than we might normally think to alone. I’m very lucky to have a good friend who likes using¬†film as much as I do¬†and we¬†spent some time recently shooting loads of film and developing loads of film.

Developing film is so exciting. Unlike developing my pinhole negatives which can be done under a red light because I use photographic paper (and therefore can be watched closely as images appear in the developer), film has¬†to do its work alone in the dark. Well, of course, you¬†do also have to help it along and make your hands¬†work alone in the dark too…!¬†Seeing¬†the¬†strips of film as they¬†hang to¬†dry is just a wonderful thing and often really surprising. Particularly¬†so with the 6×7 negatives which are so large they make for beautiful objects of themselves.¬†Portraits and landscapes alike just look a dream with this¬†wonderful beast of a camera.

Home¬†scans aren’t always perfect, due to some types of film lying rather flatter in the negative holders for the scanner than others, but I’m extremely pleased with how these¬†have turned out nonetheless. I’m very new to developing film myself and I got a¬†slight¬†light leak in one roll during the process but hey ho,¬†that’s how you learn not to make the same mistakes again of course. Some have a particularly gorgeous tone due to scanning them in colour rather than monochrome.¬†Here are some of my favourites from the 6×7.

 

I also had a little cross processing fun with some 35mm. I had some C41 black and white film which really requires different processing to a standard black and white film, but I developed it as a regular black and white film anyway just to see what would happen. Some of them were totally bonkers, but I rather like them.

Beauty

When you take time to move about and look at familiar things from a slightly different perspective… Take time to just take a breath and absorb your surroundings… These moments can take your breath away and change how you relate to the world.¬†

Well Hall Pleasaunce

The Well Hall Pleasaunce is only down the road from me and yet after nearly two years of living in Eltham I hadn’t visited it until today. It is specatular. Even though I was there on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon there were not many people around at all. I have no idea why. It was extremely peaceful and beautiful. The various ponds teeming with dragonflies.¬†I think it would make for a stunning location for portraits.

I’ve lived in South East London for the vast majority of my life. It’s not exactly the first place you might think of when picturing beautiful surroundings but it really does have its shining gems. Besides which, there’s beauty in everything of course.

I have no idea where the cat came from.

Time it was and what a time it was, it was…

I spent an¬†evening¬†rediscovering¬†some old digital scans of negatives I think I might have lost. They are photographs from a road trip I took with my best friend in 2008 across the Pacific northwest (America and briefly Canada). I was a little concerned I had lost the digital files too when the¬†CD wouldn’t work via¬†my laptop¬†but then I popped it¬†into another computer and they¬†pinged into life. I hadn’t seen these photos in years. It was a real delight. The scans are a really nice quality too. Here are some of my favourites. The whole kaboodle are over on flickr.

Take 2: Adventures in bokeh

Before and after shots can be¬†quite fun. Every now and then I take a digital photograph¬†that goes on a¬†bigger life changing journey¬†after the shutter fires than most. I’m going to post the more extreme examples of these from time to time just for fun under the heading Take 2.

I’m not always that¬†fond of editing¬†pictures. I consider it mostly a kind of¬†necessary evil when it comes to digital photography. I¬†am not a fan of the amount of time that can pass unnoticed¬†once you venture down an editing wormhole, hunting for some kind of “perfection” with an image, when of course there’s no such thing.¬†Many long hours have I spent making miniature adjustments to images as if my life depended on it, moving sliders backwards and forwards, when really most of the work has already been achieved in camera.

A¬†few weeks ago¬†I took a picture that I was really excited to have a look at properly once I’d got home. I thought it would look a treat with relatively little enhancement. A branch delicately swaying in the breeze, glistening sunlight bouncing off a stream in the background, and gorgeous hazy sunshine. You can’t always judge a picture that accurately when you look at it on the camera screen, and especially if you’re looking at said screen in bright sunshine, but I knew it was going to have potential even if it did look a little washed out.

I got the photo onto the computer and I can’t say I was impressed. It was over exposed, the colours were muddy and cold, and there was a massive big purple blob of light across it. It wasn’t exactly a striking or well balanced image and was pretty far from what I had in my head. However, the focus was pin sharp, the composition really pleasing, and¬†the magical bokeh and sunlight really made me want to try and¬†rescue it. Trying to fix messed up¬†images can often¬†be¬†an exercise in futility, but I think I made the right choice here.

The main adjustments I made (using Lightroom 4):

  • brushed over the purple area and took¬†the tint over¬†the to green side of the spectrum to counteract it (I did this with¬†two separate brushes in different amounts so that it blended well)
  • took the temperature right over to the warm end of the spectrum, and the tint slightly towards the pink end
  • slightly deepened the blacks
  • raised the clarity to a high degree
  • lowered the saturation and vibrance
  • upped the highlights and lowered the shadows
  • slightly raised the orange saturation
  • raised the luminance a little¬†for orange, yellow, and green
  • applied colour noise¬†reduction
  • a very, very slight vignette
  • slight straightening/cropping

Sun, sea, and sloe gin.

Last weekend I took a city break. A break from the city.

I drank some of this amazing homemade sloe gin.

Sloe Gin

Not taken with my new camera. Pink drink shot by my Pinktax [a pink Pentax].

And I took lots of pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I now need to acquaint myself with a very, very nice new digital camera (with a very, very nice new lens). I’m already pretty impressed and excited about it.

I’ll be uploading pictures from my weekend in Dorset to Flickr bit by bit whenever I have the time to go through them and edit some more. It’s very unlike me to take quite so many photos even when I’m prepared for an outing or two.¬†Having more pixels to play with clearly makes Pixietoria pretty happy. Doesn’t hurt that the scenery was stunning, and the weather was perfect.

Here are the highlights so far. One of these went into the Explore section on Flickr for yesterday – which I believe is quite an endorsement, so that’s nice. Enjoy.