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I fancied a change of scene, and a breath of sea air. Struck down with a severe man cold over Xmas and New Year, I needed to get outdoors. Hearing that Storm Eleanor was headed our way, I thought about going over to the west coast to try and get some images. I checked the tide tables and high tide at New Brighton was around 11 am, after a couple of hours drive through Cheshire I made it just as high tide arrived. I'm glad I made the trip, the wind and the high tide made for some great images.
The view out into the sea was just mental, waves crashing into the promenade as high as fifty feet, our weather can be very spectacular. The light was not on my side sadly. I was hoping for some slanting winter sun to highlight the surf, but although we had a fleeting glimpse it stayed pretty much overcast. I got caught out a few times and ended up at one point in 2 foot of salt water, annoyed that I had left my gloves behind, my hands after a couple of hours were pretty cold.
Still it made for an eventful outing, and to witness the power of the ocean and the force of nature, was a real delight. All the images were shot with a Pentax 645Z, using the 35mm 45-85mm and the 80-160mm, all the shots were handheld, to breezy for the tripod. Hope you enjoy the images.
A year ago today, I arrived in the Falklands. This visit came about purely from a visitor to our Gallery in Ashbourne several months earlier. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Allan White and partner Jacqui Jennings and Bosun the dog, they were on a UK holiday and had stopped by chance in Ashbourne, one thing led to another and I was on my way back to the Falkland Islands. Full of trepidation I boarded the flight that was to last around 19 hours. Have to say that the flight was great and we were well looked after by the cabin crew.
I was met by Jacqui at Mount Pleasant Airport some 40 miles away from Stanley. Jacqui was preparing for her daughters wedding and was buying mountains of food, for the day. The wedding was taking place at Fox Bay on West Falkland, we would be driving over via the ferry MV Concordia, which runs from New Haven on East Falkland to Port Howard on West Falkland.
The following day found Allan and I driving out to New Haven, we had a small detour via Darwin, I wanted to stop and visit the memorial that lies on top of Darwin Hill, and overlooks Goose Green. I wanted pay my respects to those that died, during the Battle of Darwin and Goose Green. As I walked up the small rise to the monument I was struck with uncontrollable sadness, and spent the next half an hour pouring out my heart. It had been 35 years since I was on the islands, and those 35 years came tumbling out as my eyes filled with tears as I remembered events from that time.
I had carried this sadness around with me for all this time and I guess this was my chance to unburden myself of those memories, When we were on the ferry to Port Howard I had the time to reflect upon those events in 1982, when as part of the 2nd Parachute battalion (2 Para) we landed on the Falklands. This was my chance to see the Islands in a different, and more thoughtful way, and I was so glad that I had made the trip. As a photographer I wanted to capture images of the landscape, which makes this place so special. Reflecting back to 1982 I didn't like the Falklands at all, barely knew where it was. It was wet, windy and pretty cold. A vast barren windswept land which held no allure for a young Paratrooper. I think we all wanted to get the job done, and get back home as quick as possible.
Travelling over West Falkland to Fox Bay the scenery was just epic, The gravel road went on for mile upon mile carving through the vast bleak moorland, finally arriving at the small hamlet of Fox bay which would be home for a couple of days. I was shooting the wedding of Nadia and Justin out at Leicester farm, and I couldn't wait to meet them, and their friends and family on their wedding day.
It's quite amusing even now as I sit here in Derbyshire typing this, having shot hundreds of weddings in the UK at Castles, and Hotels, and other venues. Never have I shot a wedding in the middle of a 55.000 acre farm. The wedding would be held by a little brook over a very rickety bridge, it was quite simply amazing. Watching people turn up carrying plastic chairs in their finery, a walk of several hundered yards for most folk. The view of seeing 50 odd 4x4s perched on the hill overlooking the wedding place, reminded me of film Zulu. It was a simple ceremoney filled with little touches from their friends, and certainly is one wedding that I will think of for the rest of my life. A wedding on New Years eve, boy do these people know how to party, they work hard, and play hard.
New Years day turned out to be the warmest day of my whole visit, it was brilliant sunshine with a gorgeous blue sky, Allan, Jacqui and I went on a 4 wheel drive adventure and ended up at a Penguins Rookery high up on a hill a few miles from Fox bay, although the sun was out it was quite breezy (it is rarely calm on the Falklands) we were out a few hours and I actually got quite well sunburned, the lack of ozone and pollution helps. We found beautiful untouched white sand beaches, at times you would think we were in the Bahamas. The Falkland Islands are certainly full of suprises. On the drive back to Stanley, Allan and I went for a drive over to Bodie Bridge, the only suspension bridge in the Falklands, it must have cost a small fortune to build. We crossed over it rather delicately as it is quite a sorry state, and it won't be much longer before some of it will fall into the sea.
So it was back to Stanley for a few days, before Allan departed back to West Point Island, this sounded like a fantastic place to live, and I would join Allan and Jacqui at the end of my visit. Meanwhile I went on a battlefield tour with a wonderful guy from Stanley called Tony Smith. We picked a rather moody day to go, which suited my photography, sunlight danced around the hills and we had the occasional shower to contend with. A great experience and Tony, who is a real affable, and we spent the best part of the day touring around Longdon and Wireless ridge. His Landrover coped admirably with the terrain. Some great images captured, I did make my way back up to Wireless ridge later in the week and spent a few hours up there as dusk fell and witnessed the most spectacular sunset. As the light began to fade and the wind picked up, it felt quite eerie being there, I paid my respects and left them in peace.
Toward the end of my first week, I made my way over to San Carlos where I spent the night at Matthew McMullan's farm, after spending an hour or to on the top of Sussex Mountain. I visited Bllue Beach and the UK Armed Forces Cemetary. Paid my respects to Colonel H and the rest of the lads, the cemetary is in a lovely quite spot overlooking Blue Beach, with nothing to disturb, other than the cry of an Oystercatcher. Following morning I was away back to Darwin and Goose Green, once agian loitered at the top of Sussex mountain, remembering that bloody tab up from San Carlos, loaded up with ammunition and kit, easily carrying over a 100lbs on our backs, a tab I'm never likely to forget.
Having a full day over at Darwin and Goose Green, the light was simply stunning and I was in Landscape heaven, this rather benign landscape I was taking pictures of on this lovely January day,was such a different place 35 years ago. A place where friends and comrades died, where fine and selfless acts of heroism took place amongst the sound and sights of battle. Once again I was brought to a halt by salty tears, not this time ones of sadness, but by a feeling of immense pride in our battalions, and it's endevours during those hours of combat. Over the next few days I really did begin to see how the Falklands had grown and prospered, and what we achieved back in 1982 was so worthwhile.
Finally my visit was coming to an end, but for the last couple of days I would fly out to West Point Island, and join up with Allan and Jacqui. West Point is a truly specatacular place to live, and not for the faint hearted. A certain amount of resiliance is required, and the kelpers have it in abundance. Especially when you think of the cosseted life many of us enjoy in the UK. So it was with a heavy heart that I said my goodbyes to these 2 wonderful people. The flight back to Stanley was rather impressive, Sat in the crew seat with Andrew Azalia the FIGAS pilot, he asked me where i wanted to go, we had a memorable trip back flying over San Carlos and Ajax Bay, Goose Green, Fitzroy, Swan Inlet, finishing with a flypast of the 2 Sisters, Mount Tumbledown and the final views of Mount Longdon and Wireless ridge, before touching down at Stanley Airport, a truly amazing visit, amongst equally amazing friendly people.
For a brief moment in time, the Derbyshire landscape was covered in snow, although it only lasted a few days it certainly brought a smile to my face. I love winter when we get some snow, usually it's wet and quite dour, the colours of dark greys and muddy brown do nothing to lift my spirits.
The day it snowed, we went out for a walk around the local lanes, the light was poor as it was quite late in the afternoon, I just hoped that the following day would be clear, and that I could get to capture a winter landscape in some decent light.
The following day was nothing short of epic, the light was spectacular and had a real alpine feel to it, I headed off to Minninglow Hill resplendent in its white coat. No one had been out before me, and the heavy covering of snow, untouched by human feet. Up on the hilll itself drifts were several feet thick, and I was upto my knees in places. Amazing how the sheep manage to get below the icy layer to get at the grass.
It's kind of special to have an opportunity to shoot in such pristine conditions. I hope you enjoy my images
All the images were taken with a Pentax 645z the lenses used 35mm, 45-85mm, and the 80-160mm.
Autumn is my favourite season, as the nights draw in, and the air chills, we start to think of bonfire night, and dare I say it, Christmas. As a photographer, I love autumns arrival. It's quite remarkable how long the season takes to get really going, as I write this, there is still plenty of colour to be found in the countryside, although this is diminishing rather quickly.
Capturing the colour of the season is all about timing, and of course the weather plays a huge role in this. Early winds can take the leaves off really quickly. A few days of a strong wind can leave you with nothing to admire. We've been quite lucky this year. The colour has remained for quite awhile, this combined with a few frosty mornings, has given me some great opportunities to capture the season at its best.
Some of the images in my blog, were captured after visiting the location on several occasions. Your always competing with the weather, and many times the light is just not there. It's never the case that you just turn up and the picture is just begging to be taken. All the images taken below were captured with the Pentax 645z with a variety of lenses; 35mm, 45-80, and the 80-160mm. Generally I will use an ND grad combined with a polarizer filter, this allows for a more balanced exposure, and deeper colour saturation.
Early morning sunlight at Osmoston ParkOsmaston park near Ashbourne and autumn colour A frosty start to the dayA frosty morning in the Derbyshire dales Autumn sunset Derbyshire dalesSpectacluar skies herald a cold night ahead
One thing I always hope for when taking out a client into the Peak, is moderatly good weather. This gives us both an opportunity to work out the best composition, the best exposure to suit the mood. However when the weather gods go against you. it's always a tough call to sack it off and find a warm spot for a coffee, or persevere and hope the weather improves. Fortunately for us it did perk up a bit, and made for a challenging, but enjoyable day out. Pete my pupil for the day, was very affable and took things in his stride, and I hope learnt a fair bit along the way. A few images from the day. All the images taken with the Mamiya 645DF using a Phase One P21+ digital back.
I was very pleased to learn that 2 of my images from my submission this year, went through to the final round of judging, with one being commended to be in this years winners gallery and the LPOTY 2017 book. The book is a must buy for any landscape photographer, and when I look through it, I am always in awe of the photographers images, they are sublime. Sometimes controversial but by en large you can understand why the judges have picked them.
To judge this competition must be quite hard work, as some 250 thousand images are submitted, it's a nice feeling to know that one or two of your images has hit the right spot and caught the judges eye. When i submit a panel of images, I am very brutal in my choice, and spend quite a few hours looking at the merits of each image before sending my best.
I don't think there is a winning formula, but as long as you feel you've submitted your best work, no one can ask anymore of you. The rest lies with the judges. I personally think it's good to submit, as long as you don't get disappointed with the Dear John email you may get. Remember too that judging is purely what an individual feels about the subject matter, what makes the image standout among the thousands that they have looked at.
This is now the second time in 3 years that I have had an image commended, so I am pleased to think that my photography is going in the right direction, but I shoot for myself first and foremost, I don't shoot for the competition.
My 2 shortlisted entries were 2 very different images, one captured with the drone, and one with my phase one 645 back, 2 very different techniologies, the image of the tractor and the fields was very much a planned image, the other was a fluke. The image of the fields being mowed was the one that made it through to the final round. The fields had been mowed that morning I was lucky enough to drive past as they were doing it, so I figured the best way to try and capture it, would be when the sun was low enough in the sky to produce the shadows and texture. Fortunately for me the weather held and didn't cloud over, without the low sun the image would not have worked.
The second image was taken during a really cold morning with large amounts of mist surrounding our part of Derbyshire, it was one of those mornings when just driving around to various locations I had in my mind was the only thing to do. Lucky for me I caught this image by chance really. It remains on of my favourites, the soft light and the pastel pink rendition along with the mist isolated the small beech copse, combined with a telephoto lens to compress the foreground really made this image standout for me.
My calendar has just been printed, featuring some of my favourite images of the nations favourite national park. It also includes free delivery. and would make a great Christmas present.
Photo abstracts take the viewer away from knowing or recognizing the subject. Instead they invite the viewer to almost ‘feel’ the textures, forms and other elements of the subject.
Often abstract photography makes the object unrecognisable as an object in its own right. Instead it directs attention to the look and feel – the essence of the object.
Very often my work includes an abstraction of a greater view, where the subject matter is not intstantly recogonised, it may include a hard shadow or high contrast scene, or the way a shadow falls, I see it in my eye as a pleasing pattern or shape, sometimes formed by the colour itself. It has to have some harmony for me.
Often as photographers we concentrate all our efforts into the Grand View, when something much more simplistic can be equally as rewarding. I find myself thinking about shooting things more in an abstract fashion. I find buildings Architecture make great abstracts, its easier to see a shape or pattern. With nature the task becomes more confused, trying to find the composition, and the harmony.
Sometimes it can hit you right away, more often than not though it takes some time to figure it out. Whatever the subject abstracts can be a great talking point, the term Marmite can be used often when viewing an Abstract image. I guess alot of viewers just won't get it, but that's not really the point, your not meant to, as it will mean different things to different people. I often just go out to shoot this type of image, it's a great way of spending a few hours with a single subject.
II sometimes find that creating an abstract is actually created due to an image reference that I carry around in my head, the above image is one that I have been wanting to find for many years, quite a few people have commented that I made this up in Photoshop, in truth it was shot as i saw it, the only photoshop element was creating the uber staright line of the horizon. The image was inspired by Mondrain blocks of colour.
This long exsposure seascape with the bands of clouds was taken after a long day out in Wales, shot off the Conwy coast. I was reminded of the Rathko works.
I found myself in Padley Gorge near Grindleford with some really bright light searing through the tree canopy, the River Burbage tumbles dow a steep ravine and is often the place to shoot long exposures. I wanted to shoot something different capturing the power of the river, the reds and oranges are leaves that were trapped underwater and looked like layers of jelly in a trifle. Make of it what you will.
The above images were taking during a late March outing to a Slate quarry in the lake District. I could have spent the whole day there, it was wonderful, amazed by the patterns and colour in the rock. The chance to get some pictures out of this space was compelling. Hard work to find the right images amongst the quarried walls.
A london photographic workshop I took in the winter, let me concentrate on the abstract nature of architecture, the above images were taken with a telephoto lens, which gives you so many options in picking out subjects, the other aspect about using the telephoto is the compression effect of the lens on the subject.
Thanks for taking time to read my blog.
A few months ago I took an ebay punt on a Mamiya 645df with a Phase One P21+ back with assorted lenses 80mm and 45mm. I had been scratching an itch about moving to medium format for quite a while. The heavy case duly arrived, and within a few minutes I was out in the garden shooting some test pictures. I was like a kid with his first bike. I wasn't particularly blown away when I first viewed the raws (Captures raw files only) in Lightroom, all were underexposed by a stop or so. However after a few tweeks I had images in front of me that were wonderful. What do I mean by wonderful, compared to my Fuji files what? never!
Yes they were wonderful with richness in colour and a lovely tonal depth. Different in many ways to my Fuji system. So after only an hour I was absolutely chuffed as a chuffed thing, that my itch had yielded a gem of a camera.
A little backstory here, for several months I had been thinking of upgrading my Fuji XT1 don't get me wrong here I love the Fuji, and its lenses. I have wrote several blog posts waxing lyrical about the fantastic quality of both image and lenses. As an all round picture taking tool it is possibly the best systemm I have owned. However for me personally the whole issue of menu systems and the plethora of Af modes and other modes that are being engineered into idgital cameras seem to me to be taking away the actual craft of photography. I have noticed this for several years now, it's called dumbing down, where the machine takes over, thanks to a software developer, design engineer, seemingly wanting to make our lives easier.
So the search for something pure and simple became a quest. Should I go back to film? maybe that's was the answer. Then I thought that my audience are pretty much all internet based, what seems the point of shooting film gettting it developed and printed, then scanning and digitizing the images. It really didn't make sense to me. So the only option to find that purity of picture taking and simple operation, was to choose a film camera that can accept a digital back.
Once I had made up my mind I scoured the net (as you do) to research my camera. I found a good resource in the GetDpi site as well as the usual Luminous landscape site. I aslo discovered during my research a thread called Fat Pixels, I won't go into the detail here but it's an interesting theory and involves some subjectivity about what is considered to be "magic colour", but from my months of shooting with the Phase One P21+ I do agree that the colour files it produces are more akin to Chrome films we used to shoot back in the day. Sorry for the digression, but it was discovering these snippets that led me to pick a back with the magic 9 pixel count.
So what are the drawbacks, and how does it perform in the filed?
First and foremost It's heavy,, in fact compared to the Fuji X series, it's a beast. Compared to a Nikon D3 not so much. My F Stop pack with the camera and associated lenses, batteries and tripod weighs a fair bit, out in the field all day you will notice it.
You need a Tripod, yep it's a must have, along with an associated electronic release.
The back I purchased came with 4 batteries, on a long day out you will use most of them.
The Camera itself comes with a AA battery holder (6 needed) I binned that off for the LIPO battery, it lasts forever (unless you leave the camera turned on) as I did a few weeks ago, and forgot until I got to my shooting destination.
Focus on AF is adequate but its limited to the centre focus point, so I usually focus on my subject then flick the lens to MF then shoot.
You need to use mirror lockup on anything under 1/200th of a second, the massive mirror has some slap, even on a sturdy tripod so I use mirror lock up all the time.
Auto WB is pretty good, with on average a cool tone (blue) but easily remedied in LR or Pshop.
ISO I leave it on base ISO 100, it usuable upto 800 ISO, but is pushing the sensor tbh, and shooting Landsacapes on a tripod is not really difficult, so upping the ISO gains you nothing.
How does the Camera and back perform in the field?
Very easy to use, the back itself is rather uncomplicated as seen in the above image
The 4 chrome buttons are so simple
Button1 top left, access the play review and delets images
Button 2 bottom left, Menu to set time and date, format card, set camera shutter latency, Size of the raw file, WB and ISO a few other things like LCD brightness etc.
Button 3, top right sets the ISO on the fly, you can do this in the main menui but takes a few more presses to get to the ISO.
Button 4, bottom right, similar to the ISO button, just gives a faster route to set the WB quickly, you can alos choose to set a custom white balance very quickly.
If you compared this back and its features to the latest iterations from Fuji, the menu syetem is so simple a child could operate it. This was the main reason for purchase simplicity.
The Camera functions are simple to, yes there are some memory parameters that you can set, you can do this and apply them to either C!, C2 or C3 on the top dial, you get a cheat sheet with the camera which gives you the programming instructions, TBH I've never bothered with it.
I tend to shoot in manual mode most of the time.
The viewfinder is epic, bright with easy to read digital display, dioptre adjustment via a wheel. Point to note the rubber eyecup can easliy come off, and are as rare as hens teeth ergo quite expensive to replace, I lost mine within a few weeks, the new one is firmly in place with a drop of sugru.
Image review is not stellar, the viewing screen on the back is pretty small, and is a bugger to see in bright light, so I rarely chimp, I prefer to discover the results when I get back.
The meter is pretty accurate, I usually use spot mode, has a tendancy to be a slighly underexposed by about 1/2 a stop.
You can push the file over quite a bit, recovery in Lightroom is easy, but it will start to blow the highlights at a about 1.5 stops over. The dynamic range is pretty good even by todays standard, but it will punish you for sloppy technique. Which is a good thing in my view !!!
You can shoot film on it :) with the appropriate back.
You can upgrade the back, without buying a new camera :)
Thje P21+ will shoot exposures for an hour, some other backs do not.
It does have the usual features found on todays cameras AFL and AEL lock, multispot metering etc, but for me, and I say this with all the caveats, thay this is my personal view, some may differ, which is fine by me, this review is purely subjective. This Camera and back set up, suit my work, I no longer have to worry about settings or firmware updates. This is an honest workhorse which takes great pictures if used and treated correctly, using it you must be familiar with the techniques of exposure, as it will punish you if you get it wrong, get it right and it delivers great files that print superbly well.
The lenses available are pretty damn good, and you can use the older film lenses on the 645, however you have to use stop down metering, the new Mamiya/Phase One lenses are seriously expensive :( I tend to use the 35mm AF, 210mm and the 80 mm this suits my landscape needs perfectly, although a lens with a longer throw would be most welcome. The Phase One P21+ (18mp) has a crop facotor of 1:3 so a 35mm lens has a 35mm full frame equivalent of a 26mm. (Crop factor divided into focal length). Ultra wides are not available.
The one great thing that using this Camera and back combination does, is that it forces you to slow down, makes you take time to look at your composition and lighting. When using my Fuji equipment I would rarely use a tripod unless it was for some slow exposure work. The Mamiya is totally different in this respect, using this certainly has made me think more about my photography.
My very first medium format image, Mamiya 645Df with Phase One P21+ back and 80mm lens.
Whenever I plan to go out, one thing that cannot be relied upon is the weather, ofter it will just throw a massive spanner into the works. Last week we had some stunning summer weather, tempretures on par with Spain I decided to get out and shoot a sunset. I hadn't been out in several weeks, and was itching to get out of the office. So grabbed my gear and headed out to Winnats pass near Castleton. Bearing in mind this is a round trip of 70 miles, I hoped the weather would play its part. The nearer I got the lower my heart sank, cloud had moved in and turned what was to be a cracking sunset into nothing. Hey ho I thought I will still give it a go, planning on setting up and waiting to see if the cloud parted.
One thing I have always done in my years as a photographer is to always check my kit before I go on a venture, so imagine my anger and dismay when I got the camera out of the bag with a flat battery, and no spare. The mamiya 645 takes a lithium battery good enough for several months use when fully charged. To say i was annoyed would be an understatement. As it was the cloud never shifted. Whilst at the location I chose several points to check my compass readings and started planning a sunrise shot for later in the week.
Two days later and I was up at 3:15 am, and out the house within fifteen minutes, batteries fully charged ready to roll, dawn was breaking and I knew it would be a good one, very little cloud on the eastern horizon. On the way I noticed several areas along the A515 were really misty, now that would be the icing on the cake to get an inversion as well. I was also going to give the drone an airing as I hadn't flown for awhile. Parking up at the spot, my excitement hit new levels, the weather was fantastic, and no other photographers were about. I just love shooting at dawn, watching the world come awake, for that first hour the light and atmosphere are just magical. As the sun rose the inversion grew, and within half an hour of first light the whole of the Hope valley was covered. The sight was quite ethereal. Images were taken using the Mamiya 645df with Phase 1 P21+ back, using 35mm and 210 mm lenses. Drone used was the DJI Inspire pro X5 with 12mm zuiko lens.
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