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

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Gun Wharf Quay and Spinnaker Tower

Last Friday was a significant day for me. Earlier in the year I had agreed with my business partners that as from the 1st October I would reduce the numbers of days I work each week, from five to four days, electing to take Friday as my day off. The 5th October was therefore the first Friday I didn't go into work, which left me free to do something completely different to what I would normally do on that day of the week. I decided to head on down to Portsmouth and Gun Wharf Quay in particular, to take a few shots of Spinnaker Tower and its immediate surroundings. It was good fun, I didn't go inside any of the shops although I was questioned by a security officer who must have assumed I worked for a terrorist organisation! I can't blame him for questioning me, he was only doing his job. In fact once we got talking he was quite interested and liked some of the shots I had taken.

Here are selection of the images, all taken with the Olympus EM5 and as is usually the case with my workflow, imported into Lightroom and converted into Black and White with Silver Efex Pro2.

Spinnaker Tower - an unusual but symmetrical approach to this very tall structure
12mm f10 1/500 ISO200

Spinnaker Tower