Tuesday, 30 July 2013

On the Way

In April 2011 The South Downs became a National Park. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the south coast of England, the Park is spread over three counties, Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex. It covers a total area of 1600km2 and more than 110,000 people live within its boundaries.

The Park is also home to a National Trail or long distance footpath known as the South Downs Way, which is 160km or 100 miles in length. It starts in the city of Winchester in the west and finishes at the western end of the promenade in Eastbourne.

I am fortunate to live just outside the National Park boundary but it only takes a few minutes in the car and I can be in the heart of of this beautiful part of the world.

Whilst I love to travel further afield with my camera and explore areas such as Scotland or The Lake District, there is plenty to see and photograph right on my doorstep. So a few days ago I decided to walk a section of the South Downs Way. Starting in the car park to the south of Cocking Village I headed west to the tiny hamlet of Hooksway and then returned to Cocking. The walk was just under 11 miles and the scenery along the route was typical of the chalk downland which forms the escarpment of the South Downs.

Here are some images from the walk.

Towards Cocking
Heading towards the Village of Cocking

On the Way '2'
On the Way

On the Way
Still heading up hill on the Way

Way post.jpg
A sign post on the Way

All the photographs were taken using the Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 lens. The wonderful clouds made these images what they are. I did not use a polariser but achieved the lovely contrast in the skies in post processing.  

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A reminder of a different Summer

As I type this entry the sun is shining and for once we are enjoying a wonderful summer of dry days and very warm temperatures. This was not the case back in 2010 when we went to Wales for our 'summer' holiday. We were staying in a cottage in Ceredigion, in mid Wales. The countryside all around was very beautiful but it was largely overcast and wet. Certainly very different to the weather we have enjoyed in recent weeks. Nevertheless these conditions can provide some good photographic opportunities, as the picture below illustrates.

Welsh hillside
Three sheep on a Welsh hillside
When this shot was taken (in the first week of August of 2010) I was only just beginning my interest in photography and everything was taken in colour, not black and white. Looking back through the archives I found this image. In colour it really had very little going for it, but when converted to monochrome the three sheep stand out and the rain clouds circling the surrounding hills were typical of the conditions we experienced.

Although I love Scotland, Wales is a little nearer, so I hope it will not be long before I can return and explore the hills and coastline of this unspoilt country.

Friday, 26 July 2013

My first A2 print, mounted and framed

A few weeks ago I invested in a  new printer, the Epson 3880, as it is able to produce exceptional black and white prints. It can print pretty well in colour too! One of the other main advantages of this particular model is that it can also print on A2 paper as well. My previous printer would only print to a maximum paper size of A3.

I knew it wouldn't be long before I would want to test its capability to print large. The timing of my purchase was very fortunate because it coincided with some friends wanting a large print for the study in their house. They selected my image 'Private keep off' a monochrome picture of an old boat near Dell Quay in Chichester Harbour.

Private Keep Off
'Private keep off'

Before I could make a print I had to decide on which photo paper to use. I had been pleased with the results from the Fotospeed test pack but the Platinum Lustre Fine Art paper was going to be a very expensive option. I also very much liked Fotospeed Platinum Matt Fine Art paper, which would not suit all work but for the right image it would be a very good alternative.

Having used Ilford Smooth Pearl paper I decided it would be worth trying a relatively new paper by Ilford - their Galerie Prestige Gold Mono Silk specifically made for black and white prints. I therefore contacted a company called the Online Paper Company to see whether or not they would supply me with an A4 sample sheet which they did. It arrived in the post a couple of days later and I ran a test print and compared the result with some other papers. I decided that in the future this would be my paper of choice so I ordered a pack of A2 and A3 plus, together with an A3 plus pack of Fotospeed Platinum Matt. I believe these papers will serve me well in the future. So will the Online Paper Company - their service was excellent and very efficient.

Ilford Gold Mono Silk 
Fotospeed Platinum Matt

I used the Gold Mono Silk to produce my first A2 print. The timer on my iPhone showed that it had taken just under 21 minutes. The result was in my opinion excellent. I was delighted.

'Private keep off' emerges from the printer in just under 21 minutes.

I had already purchased a frame (80cm x 60cm or 31" x 24") and the mount card. The finished result is shown below. I included the wall light to try and give a sense of scale.

20130706-A2 print.jpg

Our friends collected the framed photograph and sent an email later in the same day.  I quote 'Hung up the photo - it looks excellent!'.  I shall look forward to seeing it for myself in the near future.

Big is not necessarily beautiful but a large print in a suitable frame definitely has impact. I am planning to exhibit some of my work in a local Art Trail next year, so I have now bought four more large frames, if only to generate something of a 'wow' factor. I now can't wait before pressing print again and seeing another A2 image slowly emerge from the Epson 3880. The question is which images shall I choose? Decisions, decisions!

Monday, 22 July 2013

'Just waiting' in Sherborne Abbey

My last two posts have both been about Sherborne Abbey in Dorset. As we left I noticed an elderly lady sitting in the South Porch. It was late afternoon and the sun was still shining; it had been a very hot day.

Just waiting
'Just Waiting'
An elderly lady in the South Porch of Sherborne Abbey

She looked out through the gated entrance and the title for the image 'Just waiting' came into my mind. Waiting for what I don't know, nor will I ever know. She may not have been waiting at all, just taking the weight off her feet and enjoying some shade before she walked to her next destination. Perhaps she had been shopping and her wicker basket was full of delicious items from the local delicatessen, or her daily pills from the pharmacy. In all likelihood a mixture of the two.

What thoughts come to your mind when looking at this image? That's the great thing about people in photographs. They conjure up a story which will have a different interpretation for all that stop to look, wait and see what thoughts come to mind.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sherborne Abbey - Interior details

In the previous entry I wrote about Sherborne Abbey in Dorset and illustrated the post with a number of shots depicting some of the main interior features or views of this wonderful building.

As I walked around the Abbey, as well as the 'wider' view, there were many fine details to be seen and I thought these were also worth recording and would justify an entry of their own.

As I said in the first post about Sherborne Abbey, it is a place I would like to revisit at some point in the future. I shall be armed with my tripod, take my time, observe and make careful compositions before making sure the exposure settings are just right. That's not to say I am in anyway disappointed with the results so far, but what they have done is to inspire me to return, to explore and really do justice to this place of worship. The place which is fondly called the 'Cathedral of Dorset'.

Leweston Tomb
Light on the Leweston Tomb Memorial

Pulpit detail 1
Wood carving on the Pulpit

Pulpit detail 2
Another carving on the Pulpit

Pulpit steps
Pulpit steps

Choir candles
Choir candles

Fan Ceiling in reflection
Reflections in a mirror of the Fan Vault on the main Nave

Fan ceiling roof of Sherborne Abbey
The wonderful symmetry of the Fan Vaulting in the main nave

Sherborne Abbey Hands
The hands of St Aldhem

Sherborne Abbey feet
The feet of St Aldhelm

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sherborne Abbey in Dorset

There is no question that I, like many others, am drawn to Cathedrals and Churches. Ecclesiastical buildings which can be quite magnificent both for their splendid architecture but also for their spiritual atmosphere; the peace and quiet, together with the light as it shines through stained glass windows. Carefully positioned artificial light also adds to the splendour of these wonderful places of worship which have stood for centuries. I will always be in awe as to just how these structures were ever built in the first place. Several generations will have been involved, so the craftsmen who laid the foundations and constructed the first walls, will not have lived to see the building finished.

These thoughts were ever present when I visited Sherborne Abbey in Dorset earlier this month. It was the first time my wife and I had been inside the Abbey and we were immediately struck by its beauty. By way of a brief history I shall simply quote from the home page of their website.

"Founded by St. Aldhelm in AD 705, the Abbey has developed from Saxon cathedral to the worshipping heart of the monastic community, and finally, to on of the most beautiful of England's parish churches. For many it is still the 'cathedral of Dorset', and our Benedictine heritage lives in in the daily offering of prayer and praise."

Whilst I had not planned our visit to be for photography purposes, I spent over an hour very happily taking a variety of images - and here are a selection.

All were shot with my Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 12-35 f2.8 lens - it really is a great combination. I raised the ISO to 800 and shot hand held, as I did not have a tripod with me. I would like to revisit this Abbey, and given more time, carefully compose, expose and take more shots as there was so much to photograph.

Organ in Sherborne Abbey
 The Organ in the North Transcept originally installed in 1858 

Sherborne Abbey Nave
The Nave looking down towards the High Alter

Fan ceiling
Fan vaulting in the Nave

High Altar and Reredos Sherborne Abbey
The High Altar and Reredos in the North Choir

Through to the Choir
Archway in the North Aisle looking through in the Choir

This first entry has concentrated on some of the main features of Sherborne Abbey. My next post will highlight some of the lovely details to be found, seen and captured.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Entries now closed for Landscape Photographer of The Year

The annual Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, or LPOTY for short, is now in it's 7th year and this year I decided to enter a selection of my images in the various categories which include, Classic View, Urban View, Living the View and Your View. The last category allows a little more digital manipulation of the original image. I did enter one image in 2012 but the chances of it being shortlisted, let alone published in the book, were very slim indeed. This year it was time for a more concerted effort and after some head scratching I selected fifteen photographs to enter. Fourteen are black and white there is just the one colour shot. The maximum number of entries per person is 25.

Here are just two of the photographs I have entered. The first is a shot I took quite recently in Lavant in West Sussex. It's a study of a field of barley with an overhanging branch of a beech tree. This has been entered in the 'Your View' category, although conceivably it could have been entered in 'Classic View'. I was not prepared to risk the latter category, so 'Your View' it was.

Barley and beech

The second image is the only colour photograph and it's also the only one which I have entered in the 'Urban View' category. It hardly needs a title as it's a much taken view of St Paul's Cathedral across the River Thames. I can only hope that the wonderful late afternoon light together with the 'iconic' London Bus, sets it apart from some of the other entries. Somehow I don't think it's a strong enough image but who knows?

Late afternoon light on St Paul's - colour version

This is a very well promoted competition. As well as winning images appearing in the book, there is an exhibition of selected photographs at the National Theatre in London, as well as smaller exhibitions which tour the country. The very fact that the competition has now been running a number of years means that it widely known in photographic circles.

It also has a total prize fund of £20,000, with £10,000 going to the lucky winner of the overall competition. So it's definitely worth a go, but given the total number of entries the chances of being selected are pretty small. I will be very pleased if just one of my photographs is shortlisted. At least that will tell me whether or not I am approaching the standard the judges are expecting. Needless to say if I have any success I will be posting an appropriate entry in the weeks and months to come. Complete silence on the subject will tell you I am waiting another year!