Saturday, 29 December 2012

Looking back on 2012

Without any question 2012 has been a good year for me photographically speaking; a year which had a number of highlights, so please forgive me for some self indulgence in the next few paragraphs.

Let me start by selecting my favourite image of the year. It would be all too easy to pick Sand Waves, as I have enjoyed a lot of success with this image during the year.  However it was actually taken on a course with Bruce Percy in September 2011 and therefore it doesn't qualify. So it has to be this one - Storm approaching East Head (shown below). I just love the sky and the last of the afternoon sun lighting up the dunes before the rain arrived. It's perhaps no coincidence that I decided to use a crop of this image to be the header for my forthcoming website.

Storm approaching East Head
Storm approaching East Head at Wittering

So what happended during the course of the year? Well, at my camera club back in May I was awarded four end of season trophies - Winner of the 'B' league for both Prints and Projected Images, the Most Improved Worker and last but by no means least the Best Projected Image of the Year - Sand Waves. As a result this image appeared on the front of this season's programme. Fame at last! The consequence of this success was to be promoted to the 'A' league for all club competitions and I could now look forward to competing with the 'big boys .... and girls'!

Havant Camera Club Programme

At about this same time I found myself taking, or to be more exact, converting the vast majority of my images into black and white. Did the success of Sand Waves inspire me to take this course or had it been happening sub consciously to me for some time? In truth I don't know but its now very rare that I take and like a colour photo, as entries on this blog will testify. Am I therefore now a black and white photographer? Well I can't answer that one either, but for the moment I have found a branch of photography which I really enjoy and over the next 12 months I want to learn more about what makes a good monochrome image and how to use post processing to produce the best results. I recognise that I have a lot of work to do.

Sand Waves
Sand waves on the Isle of Eigg

June was the month when I embraced technology and more specifically social media. As a relatively private person I was not sure about this at all but at the beginning of the month I decided to start a blog, this blog. I had never done anything like it before but several months later I am pleased that to have made the effort. For me its been a great way of recording what I have been doing, expressing some of my thoughts on this hobby of mine and I guess a way of showcasing some of my work. In the same month I also started uploading images to my Flickr account. Primarily it became an easy way to add images to the blog but inevitably I started to join in with the Flickr community, sharing comments and hoping that someone might think one of my shots as a 'favourite' of theirs. The statistics for both these online sites are readily available but more of this later. I also created a Twitter account - @ar_frost and started tweeting. Not sure what my family thought, but its a bit of fun if tweeted, sorry I mean treated, correctly! I am currently working on the design and content of my own website which I hope will be ready to go live during the early part of 2013. It will incorporate this blog, so effectively be a one stop shop for my photography and ongoing journal. The domain will be so watch this space!

At the end of July I attended a 'People and Places' photography course at West Dean College in West Sussex. It was an excellent week and it definitely cemented my committment to black and white. It also gave me a reason to finally bite the bullit and buy the Olympus OMD EM5 micro four thirds camera. I had already bought the Olympus E-PL3 and one or two prime lenses earler in the year. I was so attracted to this format that the OMD had to be added to the kit bag. Its a great camera. Sadly the Nikon D90 DSLR which was my first serious camera purchased about 3 years ago is not getting much use and I need to decide whether or not it should be exchanged for other micro four thirds lenses. The temptation to go full frame is also there, but I'm not sure the capital outlay can be warranted. We shall see.

Olympus OMD EM5 with one part of the battery grip, Lumix 20mm f1.7 prime lens and Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime lens

One of my favourite images taken on the course - Fork or Fingers?
Fork or fingers?

In August I had my first and very modest public exhibition of my work at the Bizzare Bazaar, a local  event to raise funds for a new Church Hall in my local village. When I volunteered it was to give visitors something else to look at, never dreaming that I would sell any of my prints. Shock, horror(!) - I sold five prints and I was delighted to donate the proceeds to a good cause - The St Peter Project.

September soon arrived and the camera club season was underway again. At around this time I thought I would enquire about seeking a distinction either through the Royal Photographic Society or the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. I opted for the RPS Licentiate Distinction and on 2nd December I went up to London for my panel of ten images to be assessed. I passed! I was and still am delighted. My aim is now to work towards the ARPS (Associate) distinction in 2013.

In November our club hosted its National Exhibition and three of my images were selected. Sand Waves (yet again) recieved a Highly Commended from the judges. This and Sea Swirl have also been chosen for the annual Southern Photographic Federation exhibition in Salisbury which starts on the 5th January, but that's 2013 I hear you say. Yes, but the selection was made in 2012 ;o)

Back to statistics. I mentioned in an earlier entry entilted 'Early Thoughts' that it would be all too easy to get addicted to stats, how many views, how many hits etc, but it is a way of measuring traffic and I guess, interest and popularity in my work. As I intend continuing this blog I would like to be able to look back in 12 months times and see how the figures compare. So I have noted down the figures and will look at how they compare in a year from now.

As at today the most popular image on Flickr is 'Full moon over Swanage Pier'. It's also the first photograph to appear on Flickr in 'Explore'.
Full moon over Swanage Pier

Thanks to all of you who have visited this site or looked at any of my images on Flickr, particularly if you have added a constructive comment which is always welcome.

With my very best wishes for a peaceful and healthy New Year.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Swanage Pier - a photo opportunity

Swanage is a small seaside town on the Purbeck coastline of Dorset. Although I had been to the town before I had not seen the pier, so a quick detour to our journey seemed like a good idea, despite the fact that we would arrive mid afternoon and the light would be fading fast. There wouldn't be a great deal of time for photography but in many ways the short stop was to see whether or not another visit would be worthwhile when I had more time. As we parked the car I noticed a 'Trompe L'oiel' on a derelict building opposite the pier. In the bottom right hand corner was this inscription. An omen perhaps?

All the photos were taken using the Olympus OMD EM5 and Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime lens.

A photo opportunity

There are in fact two piers at Swanage. The remains of the original pier which was built in 1859 and the 'new' pier, which was built in 1895, the latter having undergone considerable restoration in recent years.
Swanage Pier

The original pier
The Original Pier

As I walked along the pier I noticed that the vast majority of the wooden planks included a small brass plate with an inscription. In one or two cases a floral tribute had been left, probably on Christmas Day which only adds to the poignancy of the next two images.
Floral tribute on Swanage Pier

Another floral tribute
Floral tribute on Swanage Pier (2)

There are many benches along the promenade looking out to the sea. On this particular bench was a pair of shoes and a single sock. I only hope the owner returned from his paddle, together with the missing sock, on what was a particularly cold day.
Shoes and a sock

The magnificent trompe l'oiel I referred to at the beginning of this entry. The 'photo opportunity' inscription can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.
Trompe l'oeil on derelict building in Swanage

Another trompe l'oiel which has been painted on a shutter board in a window
Trompe l'oell near Swanage Pier

As the light faded the full moon joined the sea gulls in the sky
Full moon over Swanage Pier

Swanage Pier is definitely a 'photo opportunity' and one I hope to return to in the not too distant future.

Monday, 24 December 2012

A little Christmas cheer

My last entry was largely about a Cathedral, a place of worship, which is only appropriate at this time of year, after all today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow will be Christmas Day. Across the country there are lights adorning many houses and inside these homes there are beautifully decorated Christmas trees, with presents underneath, all wrapped, ready to be opened in anticipation and excitement.

I thought it might be a bit of fun if I took a few 'close ups' of some of the decorations on our tree. 

They bring a little colour, light and cheer into our lives.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!






All images taken with the Olympus OMD EM5 on a tripod, with the 12 - 50mm kit lens on the macro setting.

The Cathedral City of Chichester

I am very fortunate to be able to call the ancient city of Chichester my home. Whilst our house is not in centre of the city, its not far from where I live, so its a place my family and I frequently visit. From a photographic point of view it has so much to offer but because it's on my doorstep its all too easy to take for granted the splendour of it's buildings, the Cathedral in particular.

I had a couple of hours spare about a week ago, and as it was reasonably dry and bright, I decided to walk around and take a few photographs. I concentrated my time on the Cathedral and in Priory Park which is still within the Roman City Walls but over to the North East corner. As well as taking some well known 'tourist views' I also took one or two more close up shots which also say something about the place.

When I came to post processing, I converted the images in Silver Efex Pro2 but thought it would be appropriate on this occasion to apply a slight sepia tone, which to me introduced a little warmth and softened the picture. All the shots were taken with Olympus OMD EM5.

As mentioned before Chichester has a wealth of buildings and subjects to photograph. Add in seasonal variations and I am all too aware that I have only scratched the surface, so I am sure there will more entries on Chichester in the future. In the meantime here is a selection of the images I took that day.

Chichester Cathedral from Canon Lane.
Chichester Cathedral from Canon Lane

Chichester Cathedral spire taken from Bishops Palace Garden which is to the west of the Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral from Bishops Palace Gardens

Bishops Palace Garden - a fine place to relax and do The Times crossword perhaps?

The imposing statue of St Richard which greets everyone as they walk up the shallow set of steps from West Street on their way to main west entrance of St Richard's Cathedral
The statue of St Richard

The beautiful arches of The Cloisters
The Cloisters of Chichester Cathedral

A bust of Queen Elizabeth II at the West Entrance to the Cathedral
Queen Elizabeth II

A bust of the Duke of Edinburgh also at the West Entrance
Duke of Edinburgh

Just one of the many attractive rows of houses in a side street near Priory Park
Chichester side street

Priory Park and The Guildhall
The Guildhall, Priory Park

A statue in Priory Park. Some think it is Moses, others Neptune, whilst it is also thought it could b a druid.
Statue in Priory Park

One final image of Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral

Monday, 17 December 2012

Stop, look, wait and observe....

This entry is all about one image, which I have called 'Walking Stick'.

The photograph was taken in the middle of the day just a few days ago. In December the sun is very low in the sky and the pavements are often wet from an early morning shower, but then never dry out as it's too cold and damp.  In strong sunlight this combination can result in a lot of contrast and reflection. Surrounded by Christmas shoppers I looked around me and saw the different textures in the paving stones and back lit people in silhouette. The shot just needed someone to come into the frame. I took three or four shots by way of an experiment to make sure I had the correct exposure. With such extremes of light and dark, it would be very easy to have blown highlights by over exposing the photograph.

I waited a few minutes when a man with a walking stick came into my field of view. The camera was set to 'single shot' even though the Olympus EM5 can take 9 shots per second. I released the shutter at what I thought would be the best moment and the camera with its really fast autofocus did the rest.

The rather intriguing and perhaps mysterious result is shown below.

Walking stick

I quickly looked at the screen on the back of my camera......reviewed the shot and frankly couldn't wait to get home to download the image and find out whether or not the camera was capable of capturing such a wide dynamic range. I used my usual workflow of Lightroom 4 and then Silver Efex Pro2 for the black and white conversion.

I was delighted with the result and it reminded me of the famous and much repeated saying by Henri Cartier-Bresson - 'the decisive moment'. On this occasion I believe I have captured that moment. A few minutes later the sun went behind a cloud and the lighting effect was lost.

It also embraces a saying which I have adopted for my photography -

"Stop, look, wait and observe....then capture the world in a different light"

Saturday, 15 December 2012

LRPS Certificate

I have to say I was highly delighted to achieve my LRPS Distinction earlier this month. I have now received the certificate which makes it official. By way of recognition I thought I would change the header to this blog and incorporate the Royal Photographic Society logo.

.......and here is the certificate itself.

LRPS Certificate

Bognor Regis - just being there.

Through my work and therefore out of necessity, I visit the seaside town of Bognor Regis on a regular basis. Situated on the Sussex Coast I have to say its not the most glamorous of resorts. Nevertheless the very fact that I find myself frequently in the town or driving along its seafront, it does provide some excellent opportunities for photography.

The three images which make up this entry were all taken on different days and at different times of the day.

The first image was an early evening shot taken in September of this year with the Olympus OMD EM5. I had just acquired the Panasonic 45 - 200 zoom lens (second hand from a fellow camera club member) and as I had not used it before, I was keen to see how well it paired with the camera and to see the results it produced. Its not every day that the such a beautiful cloudscape will appear in the sky, so I was fortunate to have chosen a great  evening for its first outing.

Early evening - Bognor Regis Pier

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Kenna, LPOTY and London

Two trips to London in one week and this time to specifically go to a couple of exhibitions that I wanted to visit. For the first time in seven years the world famous photographer Michael Kenna was holding a retrospective exhibition of his work at Chris Beetles Gallery in Piccadilly, London.

Like many other amateur photographers I had always admired Kenna's work. I guess he has inspired me with his square format, black and white images, often reduced to very simple and quite beautiful compositions, full of mood and atmosphere. Having looked at many of his images on a computer screen it was a real treat to actually see his signed limited edition prints. There were fifty on display including some of what must be his finest works. Seeing them for 'real' and I could fully appreciate the quality of the printing and the superb and at times subtle tones. Amateurs like me have a tendency to over sharpen their images but it was clear from Kenna's work that whilst they were pin sharp and full of detail, they had not been over sharpened, but what do you expect from a master photographer who has been practising his fine art for many, many years? It was a superb exhibition and well worth the trip to the capital.

Michael Kenna Exhibition

LRPS Distinction - I made it!

The title of this entry says it all really. After a few weeks of deliberating and getting everything ready, my panel of ten images were finally presented to the judges representing the Royal Photographic Society last Sunday. There were about thirty five entrants seeking a Licentiateship Distintion of the RPS on the day.

The judging started on time at 10.30am but I had to wait until just before lunch before my panel started to appear on the well lit display in front of the three judges and the chairperson. Up until this point the success rate had been about 50/50, so what was left of my finger nails fast disappeared once my photographs were all displayed.

After taking in the overall appearance of the panel the judges were quickly out of their seats to take a closer look. They quietly compared notes before one of the judges gave a brief summary about my work. She seemed enthusiastic so I was quietly optimistic of my chances. They returned to their seats, marked down their scores in the various categories before handing the results to the chairperson. After what seemed like a lifetime but was I am sure just a few seconds she rose from her seat and announced my name and congratulated me on passing. A customary round of applause broke out in the room and I sat back relieved to know my work had reached the desired standard.

At the beginning of the session the Chair had made it clear that any passes were only recommendations and that they needed to be ratified by the RPS Council before certificates would be issued. Until then don't go printing new letterhead she had said! Thankfully my certificate arrived in the post a couple of days its now official - Alan Frost LRPS.

Although many of the images appear elsewhere on this blog here are the final ten. They were not diplayed with titles so I will not include them here. I will just let the images speak for themselves.
Sand waves on the Isle of Eigg

Saturday, 24 November 2012

LRPS Panel workflow

In the previous post I talked about my final selection for the LRPS Assessment day in just over a weeks time, so just for a bit of fun I thought I would capture on camera the workflow from my iMac, using Lightroom 4, to printing on a Canon 9000 and finally to mounting.

From the iMac
Preparing my LRPS panel

Thursday, 22 November 2012

LRPS - The Final Ten

In the last two or three weeks I have been deliberating which ten images should make up my panel for the LRPS assessement day coming up at the beginning of December. The easiest decision was that they should all be black and white photos; colour was never really on the agenda. The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) do look for variety of shot for the Licentiateship Distinction,  as well as technical competence and the panel itself should be a cohesive unit. The eleventh image as it has been termed. With help from a fellow club member the final ten have now been selected and the layout finalised. It only remains for me to print and mount all of them and I will be set for the big day.

I also attended an RPS Distinction advisory day last weekend when two panel judges offered advice on a good number of 'L' and 'A' panels. Some were clearly of the standard required, whilst others fell short of the mark. It made for a most interesting time but fortunately it didn't change my final selection. I did not have the opportunity to show my own panel for critique, so whether or not it will pass I do not know. I understand there are five judges and a Chairperson on the day itself, so when my turn comes it will be quite nerve wracking.

The panel is made up with a mix of people shots and landscapes, many of which have already appeared in this blog. Number one in the panel will be this shot taken of Stefan Majoram drawing one of the Auto Union Silver Arrows at the Goodwood Revival Meeting back in September. I used the Olympus EM5 and Lumix 20mm prime lens at f2.5.

An Artist drawing one of the Silver Arrows

It's the first time I have printed this image and I am really pleased with how it has turned out. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the judges will share the same opinion.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Early thoughts.......

As a result of having a number of other personal commitments, not to mention the pending LRPS assessment day on the 2nd December, I have not been out with my camera of late but that doesn't stop me thinking about other aspects of my photography.

Back in June of this year I started this blog about my photography. Prior to this I had been following a number of other blogs (Steve Huff, Robin Wong, Bruce Percy to name but three) and I guess they inspired me to start my own. I thought this would be a satisfying way for me to document and chart my progress as a keen but very much an amateur photographer with an awful lot to learn. Now several months later I have posted 27 entries (plus this one) and its hard to resist the temptation to look at the 'stats' and see how many page views I have had during this time. When I first looked I was delighted to see various hits from different parts of the world, only to be disappointed when I found out these were 'spam' and not genuine page views. Over time the page views have increased and I now believe the majority are 'true' visits.

About 2 months ago I decided that I would regularly upload some images to Flickr, make contacts with other photographers whose work I admire and in so doing I might be added to someone else's contact list. In a small way this has happened and as my expectations are not that great, its pleasing when someone posts a positive or constructive comment, plus the ego boosting favourite tag!

Rather like the stats for my blog, a Flickr 'pro account' provides details of how many times a particular photo has been viewed or your photostream visited. Again these numbers and the associated graph can make for compulsive viewing in the vain hope that today's figures are greater than those from the day before.

I started to wonder why these 'stats' mattered; if indeed they mattered at all? As these thoughts went around in my mind I came across this blog entry by Eric Kim, a very well known street photographer. I had been following his blog for some time as I enjoy candid 'street and people' shots.  It's entitled 'How many favourites or likes are enough'. Its quite a long entry but I very much enjoyed reading it from beginning to end as it helped to explain many of the thoughts and feelings I had been experiencing myself. Having talked about the addictive quality of 'likes and favs' and how this can impact on the quality of your photography, Eric goes on to write about one or two solutions or alternative approaches. It talks about uploading to Flickr just once a year with the 'best of the best' images taken in the previous twelve months. This is in direct contrast to a daily upload just to satisfy the number of views and comments you might attract.

No sooner had I read Eric's latest post, when I came across a blog entry posted on Nov 6th by Kirk Tuck of The Visual Science Lab called 'What's trending in photography'. This raised more questions than it answered but he considers the impact of the digital world on what is after all still an art form and not an endless discussion about the technological advancement of digital cameras; the proliferation of photos on the net, now that everyone with a mobile phone has a camera 24/7. He goes on to talk about photography blogs which have morphed from being a way of displaying your work, to one review of the latest camera only to be followed by another, and in the process having little discussion about photographic techniques, education and the creation of an image which is a work of art and not just another technically 'very correct' photograph.

The combination of these two thought provoking entries, by two very well respected photographers, has really got me thinking about my own work. How should it be displayed and shared? Do I have a style or does a style develop over time in a natural and unforced way? Twelve months ago I would not have believed that the vast majority of my work would be in black and white, uploaded onto the web and here I am writing about my own blog, not just reading someone elses! I also have a Twitter account to alert my  few followers when I have taken what I think is a half decent image. None of these actions were planned a year ago; its simply how things have developed.

Given another 12 months where will my photography be? I don't want to know the answer, as its fun and inspiring just to be on a path, which I find creative and satisfying. In the process if others take pleasure looking at my images or reading my blog, then thats a bonus. It's important to take stock, to review the past, as it is likely to influence decisions made in the future. What doesn't matter is whether or not I have had 5 or 500 page views today, but its still very tempting to take a quick look and find out!

Monday, 12 November 2012

'To flip or not to flip?' that is the question

In the past couple of weeks it has been suggested by two individuals on two separate occasions that I should consider 'flipping' one of my images. Their comments applied to two different photographs so it set me thinking whether or not I should apply this post production technique, as it's not something I had ever considered doing before.

Obviously this technique could not be applied to an image with any writing or symbols, which when reversed, would no longer be legible and it would be clear to the viewer that they were in fact looking at the original image in a 'mirror'. Neither could it apply to a recognisable landmark as it would no longer be a true representation of what the viewer expected to see. However if the image did not fall into either of these categories then what would be wrong with flipping? If the result is more pleasing to the eye, even though it no longer represents reality, then what's the issue? After all the vast majority of my images are converted to monochrome because thats how I want my images to look. No one 'sees' in black and white so this change is applied for visual imapct. If I wanted my photographs to represent what people would actually see with their own eyes then frankly nearly all post production work would be a 'no go' area and even the choice of lens can distort what the eye actually sees, but thats a topic for another day.

Well, the only way to find out would be to try 'flipping' and to then compare and analyse the results.

The example I have chosen for this exercise is a shot taken at East Head in Wittering of wind swept sand dunes. The first image is the original photo followed by the flipped version. No other changes have been made.

Sand dunes at East Head

.....and now the flipped version.
Sand dunes at East Head - version 2 'flipped'

So which one works best? Well in my view the flipped version is the better photograph, it's more visually pleasing. So why should this be?

In my opinion its down to two main factors. Firstly when we look at an image our first inclination is to start from the left hand side and our eyes then move to the right hand side. Our eyes naturally follow this path as we read from left to therefore feels comfortable to look at an image in this way. Our eyes are also drawn to the brightest areas of an image; in this case the sand in the lower half of the picture. So when the image is flipped, the bright area is now on the left and not on the right. The lead in lines of the sand, take our eyes to the right, the grasses are also being 'blown' from the left, and our eyes find it much easier to move around the image. In the original shot this does not happen and our eyes find it difficult to settle, with the result that we see a 'busy' image and one that really doesn't work that well, or not as well as it could when flipped. As there is nothing else in the image which would give the 'flipping' game away, the final result is in my opinion perfectly satisfactory and an acceptable form of post manipulation.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A 'Folly' known as Racton Tower

Standing proud on a hill to the north of Emsworth and to the west of Chichester is Racton Tower in Lordington. This monument is in fact a folly and now a ruined tower. Thought to have been built in the late 1700's, many say it is haunted. Surrounded by trees the place certainly has an eery feeling to it and as I left the site to return to my car, the sun was setting and I for one would not want to be there at night time. Judging by the graffiti it is almost certainly a venue for drunken parties!

Taken at different times but all on the same day, the shots of the monument with dramatic clouds as a backdrop were taken around lunchtime, whilst the 'close up' shots were taken later in the afternoon when there was more cloud cover and as the sun started to set.

All images were shot with my Olympus OMD EM5

The sun lights up the tower itself and I just cant resist photographing these wonderful cloudscapes
Panasonic 45-200mm lens @51mm f8 1/1600 ISO 200
Cloudscape at Racton Tower

Friday, 2 November 2012

LRPS Assessment Day

Having enjoyed some success and recognition at my camera club during the past year, I decided a few weeks ago to set myself the goal of submitting a panel of work to the Royal Photographic Society or RPS, for Licentiateship. I thought six months would be a reasonable length of time in which to prepare.

Another club member, who has the distinction of being an ARPS or Associate, gave me the confidence to believe that my work is worthy of a submission and that he would be prepared to be a mentor and guide me through the process.

Believing there was no rush, as the first available date was not until April 2013, he suggested it would be a good idea to attend an assessment workshop in November. I booked myself a place and I will look forward to the day.

In the meantime I checked the RPS website for their guidelines and what would be required come the big day. This was something of a mistake, as I noticed they had added an extra assessment date to their the beginning of December this year!

Do I or don't I, I asked myself? Believing there is no time like the present I completed an application form, sent it in the post with my entry fee, and the following day received email confirmation that my application had been accepted.

Now the hard work really begins. In the space of the next few weeks I have to select ten images, decide on a layout, print and mount them. The printing and mounting are hopefully fairly straightforward, but before I reach that stage there is plenty of 'dithering' to be done. I have chosen a short list of about 25, images although in truth I think there are only fifteen of the standard they are likely to require.

If the number of entries to this blog reduce in number in the next few weeks then I hope you will understand why!

I have added an image which might just make the final ten.

Sea Swirl taken on the Isle of Eigg last year.

Swirling sea on the Isle of Eigg

Thursday, 1 November 2012

South coast seafront

I am very fortunate to live and work close to the sea, so the opportunity to take some coastal shots when I have a few minutes to spare are most welcome. A few days ago I took some photos of Bognor Regis seafront, although on this occassion I mainly concentrated on the Pier. Like many in this country the pier is always in need of repair. The constant ravages of the salt water, wind, rain and even the sun, all take their toll as the seasons pass by. From a photographic point of view  they also make good black and white subjects.

When I have more time I will take some images of other piers along the South Coast. They are a relic of a bygone era, and whilst many still survive others have sadly been lost forever.

Here are a few shots all taken with the Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 20mm f1.7 prime lens. On this occasion the mono conversion was carried out in Lightroom 4 and not in Silver Efex Pro 2. I have also set up a preset in Lightroom which allows me to quickly batch process a series of images into black and white, using my preferred settings. These are mainly, adding contrast, clarity and sharpening, as I always shoot in RAW.

As it's the end of October I suspect this may be the last time the 'Bouncy Castle' will be inflated this year.

Bognor Regis seafront

Monday, 29 October 2012

Aston Martin DB9 driving experience

This was not really a photo opportunity, but a chance to drive an Aston Marin DB9 on a test track at Longcross in Surrey, courtesy of a belated Christmas present and 6th Gear Driving Experience. I was booked in for three quick laps; me at the wheel and a trained racing driver instructor in the passenger seat. No speed limit, no speed cameras, no traffic police but some nerves which would prevent me from doing anything too dangerous, particularly as it had not stopped raining all day and the track was very wet.

I was unsure what to expect when I arrived at Longcross. There were a lot of people waiting their for turn to drive a range of supercars. Audi R8, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Ariel Atom and of course the Aston Martin amongst the marques. I was scheuled to drive at 3.30pm but after a long wait under an umbrella my name was finally called, about an hour later. I was introduced to my instructor and shown the basic controls, including the 'flappy paddles' for changing gear. He told me he would instruct me when to accelerate, brake, change up or down and where to position the car on the track. It felt a very controlled situation but perhaps it had to me given how powerful the car was, the track conditions and the fact there was very little run off. Most of the track was enclosed by unforgiving trees so a small mistake could be costly to both man and beast.....not that the DB9 could be called a beast......more the beauty then the beast.

I soon overcame any nerves and it was not long before a Lamborghin Gallardo appeared ahead of us on the track going more slowly. I was delighted when we reached a section of straight.....the instructor checked the mirrors, no one close behend, so he gave me the word to plant my foot on the accelerator and overtake. The sound of the V12 engine came to life as the revs increased. In no time at all, I had hit nearly 90 miles an hours, passsed the Gallardo, only to be told it was time to brake before the next corner. An experience to remember.

The three laps were thrilling but over all too quickly, so out came the Olympus OMD and the 45mm to 200mm Panasonic Lumix zoom lens to record the event. The rain still came down so whilst the light was terrible, the reflections off the tarmac surface made for some interesting reflections.

Aston Martin DB9....ready and waiting
Olympus OMD 45-200mm @ 109mm f9 1/20 ISO 1250
Aston Martin DB9 preparing for a few more laps

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Changing light - an exercise

One of the 'mini' tasks we were set during the 'People and Places' course at West Dean College was to photograph the same scene at different times of the day to see how the light changed and how this would affect the final image. It's a common thing to be asked to do but as I had never done it before I was keen to see the results and to try and learn something from them. I chose to photograph the River Lavant which runs through West Dean Gardens.

The first shot was taken at 4.40 pm. Keep in mind all these photos were taken at the beginning of August, so the sun was still quite high even at this time of day. Whist this a pleasant shot of the scene the quality of the light is very even and quite poor.


Friday, 26 October 2012

'People and Places' course at West Dean - the last entry

Back in the Summer I attended an excellent photography course at West Dean College in Sussex - People and Places with Jacqui Hurst. It now seems like a long time ago, so I ought to wrap it up with one last and very overdue entry. The two previous posts realting to this course can be found by clicking on these links - Glorious Goodwood and Littlehampton Seafront.

I have mentioned it before but at the beginning of the course all the participants were asked what they wanted to get out of the week. My reply was quite simply to see in 'black and white' and to produce a selection of images all in monochrome. I was certainly true to my word as the images below and on the two previous posts will testify.

Since the course I have almost exclusively shot black and white. My starting point is to shoot in RAW and then convert to Black and White. I did go through a short period when I set the camera to shoot RAW and a B&W jpeg, but this just filled up space on my hard drive. There were more photos to sort and delete, which I am not that good at doing in the first place.

If the shot is poorly composed, not a good subject or the lighting is poor.....I could go on; then whether or not it's in colour or black and white is not going to make that much difference. In my view I should still be htting the delete key and only processing something which is really worth the time and effort of looking at a computer screen.

I did not take my DSLR on the course, so all the photographs were taken using the Olympus OMD EM5 and a variety of prime lenses. Although I had only purchased the camera a week or two before the course, by the end of the week I was reasonably familiar with its functions and menu systems. Some reviews have said the menu system is quite complicated and not that intuitive. I cant agree, with a little time the camera settings can readily be changed to whatever suits your style.

The trombone clown
Olympus OMD EM5 12-50mm @ 26mm f5.2 1/160 ISO 1600
The trombone clown

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Early morning walk by Chichester Harbour

Having really enjoyed the results of my visit to East Head last Friday, the next morning my wife and I walked our dog from Dell Quay to Birdham Pool along the footpath which adjoins Chichester Harbour.

When we arrived we immediately enjoyed the early morning light coupled with similar cloud formations to the previous day. The temptation was just too great - the little Olympus E-PL3 with its standard kit lens, had to come out of my jacket pocket and be fired up. A few quick shots later and the pick of the bunch is shown below. It works well in colour but the black and white conversion is my preferred choice.

By the time we had finished our walk and returned to the car, the clouds had lifted to be replaced by clear blue skies and the opportunity to photo the quiet stillness of the early morning had gone. "Win the morning and win the day" as my uncle used to say.

Chichester Harbour at Dell Quay
Olympus E-PL3 14-42mm kit lens @ 27mm f5.6 1/400 ISO200Early morning at Dell Quay

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gathering storm at East Head

Last Friday was the second time I didn't need to go into the office. It's still a strange feeling working a four day week, but a very pleasant one all the same!  Having decided that I would try and devote some of my time every Friday to my photography, I thought that I should rekindle the Nikon D90 DSLR and perhaps visit the coast - attach a wide angle lens and see what I can produce.

Breakfast over, I packed everything I thought I might need in my camera bag and headed down to West Wittering, with the specific intention of exploring East Head. The sky was blue and completely void of clouds. A beautiful morning but as I drove to my destination I thought the weather was just too fine for the type of images I had envisaged taking. The weather forecast had indicated that by lunchtime clouds and maybe the odd the shower, would arrive from the west. I thought better of a morning shoot, turned the car round and headed home to do some gardening!

By lunchtime the weather forecast proved to be accurate; so back in the car and I headed south. As I parked up, the cloud formations were taking shape and I knew the decision I had made earlier to postpone my 'shutter therapy' (a phrase coined by Robin Wong - read his blog here) had been the right one.

By late afternoon the rain clouds appeared to the north and the wind moved them swiftly across the South Downs from west to east. In the meantime East Head itself was still bathed in glorious autumnal sun, which resulted in the three images below.

I returned home, downloaded the images using Lightroom and converted to monochrome in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Storm approaching.
Nikon D90 with 16-85mm @ 19mm f18 1/80 ISO200 hand heldStorm clouds at East Head

Friday, 12 October 2012

Goodwood Revival Meeting - the last entry

Its a month since I enjoyed a wonderful weekend at the Goodwood Revival Meeting in September. This is the last entry following on from 'The Silver Arrows' and 'The Characters' and is a final selection of images. It features the motor cars themselves, the shops, some more characters and the aircraft which was on dsiplay. Its an eclectic mix, but all in black and white and hopefully they capture something of the atmosphere of the great event which never fails to impress through its marvellous attention to detail. Provisional dates for 2013 have recently been announced - 13th to 15th September. For more information visit the Goodwood website.

With the exception of the first image which was taken with a Nikon D90, all the other photographs were taken using the Olympus OMD  - EM5.

The Race Starts
Nikon D90 - 70-300mm @122mm f8 1/100 ISO800
The race starts