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