Thursday, 25 April 2013

Flickr stats on the rise.....

I have to admit that I do look at the statistics produced by Flickr for my photostream rather more often than I should, but as I have said before on this blog, there is something strangely addictive about the number of views or favourites you get on the latest upload.

Since I started to use Flickr on a regular basis I have been fortunate enough to have four properties selected for 'Explore' to date. I recognise that this is a tiny number compared to other photographers who have many more followers than I do and have been subscribers for several years.

I am all too aware that being on 'Explore' has a significant effect on the number of people who click through to view the photo. I have found that in the first 24 hours after the photo has been uploaded, one in ten views will lead to the image being marked as a favourite or a comment is made. As a consequence of this increase in traffic, the graph will peak at a much higher level than is usual on a typical day. On a typical day a total of between 100 to 150 'view counts' would be average, so when I checked the stats early one morning this week, I was rather shocked to find they were over the 500 mark and rapidly rising. I had not uploaded anything the night before which could have been selected for Explore. In fact the image which was attracting all the interest was 'Lone Sheep', which I uploaded back in February. How strange I thought. What could explain all the interest in this one photo?

By the end of the day the total view count was well over 2,500 and the same thing repeated itself the next day. I soon found out that there was a very simple reason for the huge increase in the volume of traffic to my photostream. "Lone Sheep' had been selected by Flickr to feature in their own Flickr Blog on a feature called Monochromatic Landscapes. There is only one blog entry each day and this particular entry only featured five photographs. Given the number of black and white landscapes on Flickr; there must be millions and millions; to have an image of mine selected rather felt like winning the lottery, sadly without the prize money of course! Still all publicity is good publicity, so I am definitely not complaining.

Click here for the link to the Flicker Blog Entry - Monochromatic Landscapes - which was published on the 23rd April 2013.

Below is the rather dramatic effect it had to my stats over a two day period .

20130425-Flicker Screen shot 250413.jpg
2,783 per day and rising......

....and finally the image which has caused all the fuss.

Lone sheep

Monday, 22 April 2013

A walk from East Lavant to The Trundle

It was such a beautiful morning on Sunday that I decided to take a circular walk from the West Sussex village of East Lavant to the Trundle at Goodwood and then return to the village via Chalk Pit Lane. Whilst I did not go out specifically for photography, I fully expected to stop and take one or two images in the lovely downland countryside to the north of Chichester.

I wanted to 'travel light' so I simply took the Olympus EM5 and two Panasonic zoom lenses - the 12-35mm and the 35-100mm, both of which have a constant f2.8 aperture. Packed away in my Billingham Hadley bag with a bottle of water and an OS Map (just in case), I had everything I would need to enjoy the walk.

The only other essential was my iPhone; not so that I could make or receive calls or emails but to use an App called Walkmeter. This great exercise App would plot my route on a map, tell me how far I had walked, my pace and also ascent and decent distances. Yes, I admit to liking gadgets but this particular App is going to be an important tool in the weeks and months ahead, as I have decided to walk the length of the South Downs Way later in the year. The Way is approximately 100 miles long, and walking West to East, it starts in Winchester and finishes in Eastbourne. Whilst I enjoy walking I don't consider myself to be that fit, so expect some more blog entries in the future about walking in the South Downs National Park coupled with photographs of my travels. It should be fun!

Hayes Down looking West
Looking west from Hayes Down

Hayes Down post
An old post alongside the footpath which runs across Hayes Down
between the River Lavant to The Trundle

Chalk Pit Lane
A chalk path leading to The Trundle from East Lavant - aptly named Chalk Pit Lane

Hayes Down from Chalk Pit Lane
A view over fields from Chalk Pit Lane 

Church of St Mary East Lavant
The Church of St Mary in East Lavant, close to the start of the walk.

For the record this circular walk is 4.75 miles long and in actual walking time it took about one hour and thirty five minutes. In reality it took quite a bit longer as I did stop from time to time to take some photographs!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Jazz in the Church

The local village church which I attend is trying to raise sufficient funds to build a new hall on land immediately joining the church. There have been many events to date in aid of The St Peter Project and yesterday we staged a jazz concert in the church itself. Somewhat unusual for a very traditional Anglican Church but it was a great event, good fun with really enjoyable music. It was played by three excellent musicians, using a variety of instruments all accompanied by a solo singer providing the vocals - or as they are called the Kenton Budd Jazz Quartet.

It was a good opportunity to take some shots in available light as I didn't want to use flash. I asked permission of the band first, which I am sure is only courteous, as it could be off putting to the performers to have someone moving around with a lens pointing in their direction. I used the Panasonic f2.8 35 to 100mm lens at f2.8 on the Olympus OMD EM5. I pushed the ISO to 3200  and converted the images to black and white; so whilst they have some grain, this quite suits the style of photography. I manually focused in aperture priority which meant that the camera would select the shutter speed. In most cases this turned out between 1/25 and 1/30 of a second. Just fast enough to capture the image without too much blur.

The images are shown below and I hope they capture something of the atmosphere of the event given the venue.

The Saxophonist

The keyboard player
The Keyboard Player

The jazz singer
Kenton Budd provided the vocals to some true jazz classics

The drummer
The Drummer

The saxophonist 3
The Saxophonist, although I doubt he was playing a tune which would have suited Psalm 46!

On the keyboard
A deft touch on the 'old' ivories

The guitarist
The Saxophonist turned electric guitarist

The jazz singer 2
Do I detect a little emotion in the eyes whilst singing this particular song?

Saxophonist 2
Still blowing.......

Glass of wine
.....and with music, a glass of wine. The pew shelf is not just for the hymn book.

Friday, 19 April 2013

London cityscapes

Since November of last year the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London has been staging a retrospective exhibition of work by Ansel Adams called 'From the Mountains to the Sea'. As it was due to finish this month I did not want to miss the opportunity to see original photographs by this inspirational artist. So a day trip to the Capital was planned which also gave me the chance to take in some of the sights of London and of course take a few photographs.

Before heading off to Greenwich I also visited another photographic exhibition at Somerset House called ' Landmark - The Fields of Photography'. From there I walked eastwards along The Embankment towards St Paul's Cathedral, The City of London and the Financial Sector. At Tower Bridge I used the Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark, the nearest station for The Maritime Museum. I very much enjoyed seeing areas of London which I had not visited before and here are a slection of images I took that day.

The Shard
A view of The Shard from The Millenium Bridge

St Pauls Cathedral
A mix of 'old and new' - St Pauls Cathedral and its reflection in the
contemporary buildings of One Change

Lloyds Building in London
The Lloyds Building - home of the Insurance Company LLoyds of London

Gherkin and Lloyds
The Lloyds Building frames another more recent icon in the City -
The Gherkin

The Gherkin
The Gherkin or as it is formally known as 30 St Mary Axe

I also wanted to try my hand at some abstract geometric compositions of the the modern office blocks which are now starting to dominate the London skyline.

Office blocks 1

Office blocks 3

Office blocks 2

........and finally an older couple walked hand in hand up the ramp leading to the Millennium Bridge. I assume they too were enjoying the sights and sounds of this remarkable city.

Hand in hand

Thursday, 18 April 2013

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills....

St Olaf Church is situated in Wasdale Head, a tiny hamlet at the northern end of Wastwater in The Lake District. A wild and remote place, it is surrounded by hills and mountains including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

In one of the leaded light windows of the Church there is an inscription and etching of Napes Needle on Great Gable. The words are from the first verse of Psalm 121, and for various reasons this Psalm holds a special place in my heart.

Inscription and etching in St Olaf Church, Wasdale Head

I first visited Wasdale Head and this Church thirty years ago. It was on the occasion of our first family holiday following the death of my father from Motor Neurone Disease in 1983.

Twenty two years ago I returned with my future wife. It was during our stay in The Lake District that I proposed and we married a year later. Again we made a point of visiting this Church and we bought a postcard of the window and the inscription. To this day this postcard still hangs on the wall of our cloakroom with other mementos of our visit.

Just three years ago my mother passed away and I read Psalm 121 at her funeral service.

Today we celebrated and gave thanks for the life of my sister who died at the end of March from cancer. She was just 59 years of age. Again I read Psalm 121.

I know this particular post is very personal and poignant and arguably has little to do with photography.  To the contrary, my visit to the Lake District thirty years ago, inspired me and instilled in me a love of the countryside and the great outdoors - wild places, where the ever changing light offers so much drama and splendour.

This entry would not be complete without including the full text of Psalm 121 - A Song of Ascents. This is the Revised Standard version and so some of the words used do vary from the inscription.

I lift up my eyes to the hills
From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore.

'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills' and try and and do justice through my photography to the beauty that surrounds us.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Lake District 121 - pre-visualisation and post processing techniques

This is the penultimate entry about my 121 workshop with Paul Gallagher in the Lake District. There will be a final post concerned with 'black and white' printing to complete the series.

When Paul and I first met in the lounge of The Crowpark Hotel in Keswick, one of the things I said I would like to learn more about was how to pre-visualise the finished photograph before releasing the shutter. To start to think of the photographic workflow as one cohesive process, as opposed to a number of separate steps from seeing, to taking, to processing and finally to print or uploading to the web. This one step followed by another had largely been my way of doing things to date, so I wanted to try and link these stages together and change the way I thought about my approach to photography.

Common sense told me that what happens during each stage must have an impact on the next, and so on down the line. I guessed that by pre-visualising the finished image at the outset, decisions could be made at each stage, as the finished image could already be seen in the mind's eye. The skill therefore would be to know what might be possible and to take the photograph with this is mind.

For me this idea of thinking ahead was best demonstrated when Paul and I drove through Newlands Valley. I spotted a small group of trees on the horizon and although when we first arrived at this scene the clouds were universally grey, there was some movement in the sky, so we set up our cameras for the shot in the hope that the sky and light would improve.......and after about 20 minutes it did.

Straight out of the camera the RAW image looked like this; not too inspiring you might think but Paul had already talked me through his pre-visualisation of the 'finished' shot. I used a 1 or may be 2 stop graduated filter just to balance the exposure values between the sky and the foreground.


Back in the digital darkroom and using Lightroom I applied a 'preset' to boost the clarity, remove any chromatic aberration and apply a modest amount of sharpening. The next stage was to adjust the saturation and luminance of the blue channel, knowing that when the image was converted to black and white there would be the opportunity to increase the contrast in the sky. Having made these adjustments the RAW image now looked like this.


An improvement on the first image but hardly a photograph to get excited about. The next stage was to import the RAW file into photoshop and then convert the image to monochrome. Using 'Image' - 'Adjustment' - 'Black and white' a window opens which allows you to make adjustments to a range colour channels. Having boosted the saturation and luminance of the blue sky in Lightroom, I further darkened the blue channel to a value of -80. The resulting image is shown below.

20130223-Tress b&w image adj.jpg

You might be forgiven for thinking this image is now worse than the colour version and I would probably agree but the next stage really brings the photograph to life. A 'levels' adjustment layer was applied and now the image looks like this.

20130223-Trees b&w levels adj.jpg

However  some further fine tuning in photoshop was required. A number of 'curves' adjustment layers were made to selected areas of the image, before finally sharpening the trees and the foreground, but not the sky. The final adjustment was to crop the photo to balance the composition. Paul is a great believer in cropping to suit the image and not be concerned whether or not the end result conforms to one of the common aspect ratios - i.e. 3x2, 4x3, 5x4 or 1x1. Why be constrained by uniformity if a more custom approach is adopted and enhances each individual image? When I went on the workshop to the Isle of Eigg with Bruce Percy he was a very keen advocate of 5x4 or 1x1, couldn't stand 3x2, but rarely I think breaks away from the first two aspect ratios. His choice of course but it was good to hear another view. For now I will keep my options open and simply show the finished image.

Three Trees - the finished photograph
OMD EM5 on a tripod with Panasonic f2.8 35-100mm lens
42mm f13 1/100sec ISO200 

Personally I really like this shot. I love it's simplicity, the shape and size of the three trees and how their alignment echoes the diagonal line of the clouds. The ability to pre-visualise this shot at the outset is a great skill and is at the very heart of the photographic process. It's a skill which I doubt is ever mastered but with practice out in the field my knowledge can only grow with time; after all Paul has been practising his art of fine black and white photography for nearly 30 years.  For me though it has opened my eyes to what is possible and that in my view is a great place from which to start.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Easter inside Fishbourne Church

In a departure from recent entries, I could not miss the opportunity to record the glorious interior of our local parish church at Fishbourne near Chichester in West Sussex, which was decorated with some quite stunningly beautiful flower arrangements this Easter. I wanted to photograph the work of many wonderful and gifted volunteers, as well as having a few images which could be published in the next edition of our Parish Magazine.

All the photographs were taken using the Olympus EM5 and Panasonic f2.8 12-35mm zoom lens, mounted on a Gitzo tripod and ball head.

Fishbourne Church at Easter
The east window behind the altar of Fishbourne Church

All the pillars were decorated with flowers and Easter chicks!

Crosses and primroses beneath the altar

A floral decoration on the font

.....and just because I can't resist the temptation, I have converted a similar image to the first photo in this entry to mono. Although the beautiful colours have been removed there is still something about the black and white version.

Fishbourne Church at Easter - in mono