Friday, 30 August 2013

A 100 mile walk along the South Downs Way

For the past few months I been exploring the South Downs countryside near our home for two principal reasons. Firstly for my photography and secondly because in a few days time I will be starting on a challenge to walk the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne; a total of 100 miles.

Boots made for walking

The walk is in memory of my sister who died from cancer at Easter at the age of 59 and I am raising funds for a community project to build a new church hall near to where we live - The St Peter Project. My companion and fellow walker will be my sister's son Ian.

Ian and I

Donations have already exceeded all expectations and today have reached the landmark total of just over £4,000 including Gift Aid. I am truly grateful to everyone who has generously sponsored me and offered so much support.  For more information please see my Virgin Giving Money page.

Although I am a keen walker I have never done anything like this before, so hopefully I will complete the challenge without too many blisters! It will be a wonderful opportunity for me to spend more time with Ian, and to visit and photograph parts of Sussex I have not been to previously. It should provide me with plenty of material for this blog and my website

Inevitably though this blog will go a little quiet for the next two or three weeks but it's all for a good cause, and I am already looking forward to sharing with you many more images from this particular adventure.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Coming up - Goodwood Revival

In less than three weeks time one the best motor sport events in the world takes place at Goodwood in West Sussex. The Revival Meeting.

Ferrari 250 GTO
Ferrari 250GTO at Goodwood Revival in 2010

The car which is almost certainly destined for an appearance is the Ferrari 250 GTO as shown in the above shot. This car is owned by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, a true 'petrol head' and car enthusiast. If  you are ever in doubt as to whether or not the GTO you are looking at belongs to him, then just take a look at the number plate....... '250GTO' and you will know instantly.

I shall be attending this year's event on two of the three days. I had wondered whether or not I would have sufficient images from past meetings together with the one coming up, to put together fifteen photographs for my 'A' panel submission to the Royal Photography Society. I will have to wait and see. If I thought I had sufficient numbers of the desired quality then I would definitely consider processing the images in a way which harks back to the black and white films which would have been used in the 1950's and 60's. So by way of an experiment I downloaded a 30 day trial version of DxO FilmPack 4. It differs from Silver Efex Pro2, which I have used for many black and white conversions, so I find it quite interesting to compare the results from both pieces of software.

One of the highly regarded black and white films of the post war era was made by Kodak and called Tri-X 400. I used the DxO FilmPack 4 preset for this film type as the starting point for processing the above photograph, which was taken on a Nikon D90 back in 2010. I like the grain and contrast this preset provides but I will try others as well.

I also need to experiment more with this software on a variety of different images before deciding whether or not to buy the full version. With days now running out I expect I will, if only to add this piece of software to my growing armoury of processing techniques.

What I can be sure of is that in a few weeks time there will be a number of entries relating to the Goodwood Revival Meeting. Quite simply if offers so many photographic opportunities, not just of the cars but also the characters, both drivers and spectators alike.  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Three Crosses - the meaning behind the image.

It's probably fair to say that the vast majority of my pictures are taken and processed to produce a final image which is pleasing to my eye, and hopefully to others as well, as opposed to trying to reveal some special meaning or storyline.  It is not very often that when taking the shot itself that I am consciously aware of why I might be taking the picture and any feelings I may have which lie hidden within the image.

With this photograph of my local parish church, St Peter and St Mary, Fishbourne near Chichester in West Sussex, it was different. Perhaps I should explain.

Three Crosses
Three Crosses - Fishbourne

Let me begin by saying that this shot was taken late in the afternoon on the 22nd August. In the morning of the very same day we had said 'goodbye' to my father in law at a Funeral Service at a nearby crematorium. He had peacefully passed away the previous week having suffered from cancer for five years. That afternoon I simply felt I wanted to be outside, alone with my camera, in a place which is close to my heart.

As I started to work my way around the churchyard looking for a good angle from which I could photograph the church itself, I became very aware of the tombstones in the churchyard and how the dappled light was shining through the trees and falling on the the stone crosses in the foreground. Initially only one cross formed part of the shot, but as I moved around a second cross entered the frame and this gave added depth to the image. It was then that I was reminded of my late sister who also died at Easter of cancer this year.

The final composition was beginning to take shape. I was very low to the ground and the tilting screen of the Olympus OMD EM5 was essential to making the image. With such a low point of view I could not have used the built in viewfinder without my body adopting some contorted and very uncomfortable position!

I had previously concentrated on the two main crosses on the left hand side but as my eye scanned the frame I saw a third cross on the far right hand side. Although much smaller is size it had to form part of the final image and should not be cropped or cut in half. Whilst arguably less significant than the two other crosses, this third cross also had an affect upon me. It reminded me of our dog, a merry cocker spaniel, who we lost this year, again to cancer, only a few days before my sister passed away.

And so the final image - 'Three crosses' was made. Each element an important part of the photograph but a representation of how life, through death, has changed for me and my family this year.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Harvest time

The time to harvest the crops is upon us. It's the season when farmers have to make the sometimes difficult decision as is to when is the optimum time to roll out the combine harvester, maximise the yield and not to risk a change in the weather, as this has the potential to do untold damage to the crop, not to mention their bank balances.

The South Downs are covered in fields of wheat and on a recent walk the threatening shower clouds started to form, although the rain never fell one me fotunately.

This post of just four entries captures for me something of the beautiful downland scenery at this time of year.

Harvest shower
Harvest shower

I was drawn to the scene below of the old tree and the flowing lines of the field which had recently been harvested. A week later I returned to the same spot and these distinct lines were no longer so clearly defined. The 'decisive moment' of landscape photography.

The harvest tree
The harvest tree

In the next image, which I have called 'Harvest Enemy', I have tried to capture the mood of a brewing storm which threatens the crop of wheat in the field below.

Harvest enemy in mono
Harvest enemy

I rarely process my work in colour but on this occasion I particularly liked the the contrast in colour between the field of wheat and the threatening sky. I also used a 'letterbox' crop instead of a '5x4' crop which was applied to the mono version of the same RAW file.

Harvest enemy
Harvest enemy in colour

I love this time of year as the summer draws to a close and the more changeable weather of autumn starts to appear. Will I be drawn to more colour work to capture the wonderful autumnal colours?, This I don't know, only time will tell. Whatever happens, I will be out with my camera doing what I enjoy most!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Natural History Museum - without any nature!

In my last entry I wrote about the Genesis Exhibition by Sebastiao Salgado at the Natural History Museum in London, which as I have already said, was remarkable and well worth the visit. I have been to this museum on a number of occasions, although not for some years, but I have to say there are only so many times I can be impressed by dinosaur bones and to put it crudely, 'stuffed' animals. I love nature but taxidermy leaves me rather cold. However, apart from the Genesis exhibition, my visit was enhanced by the building itself and in particular, the way the sun light came through the glazed roof panels illuminating the interior architecture and the people as they moved around.

Never one to leave my camera at home I wanted to see if I could capture something of what I saw, as other people enjoyed the reason why most members of the public would come and visit this tourist attraction. So here are the results -

Window arches

These arches are just above the statue of Darwin. As I stood to compose the shot, there were a large number of people photographing Darwin and I just wonder how long I would have had to wait before someone took a similar picture to the one above. I just love the way the light was falling on to the carved columns of the arches.


The museum was quite crowded so I had to wait a while for the staircase to be clear of visitors. My patience was I think rewarded.


These arches were above the cafe and I was attracted to the shaft of sun light as it lit up the columns from the roof lights above.

........and now for some people shots.

The images below were taken from the gallery above the main foyer. Packed with people it was difficult to isolate one individual. The bright light only lasted a few minutes as it threw shadows on the floor but I am pleased with the two images uncluttered by passers by.



.......and lastly the great man himself.

The statue of Charles Darwin, the author of the 'Origin of Species', 
(taken I hope, from the non tourist angle!)


This is a reminder for me that there is so much to see everywhere I go - not just the obvious, as would have been the case here with the animals and other nature subjects etc, but alternative, even unexpected opportunities to add to my ever growing collection of monochrome photographs.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Sebastiao Salgado - Genesis Exhibition

A week or so ago I was reading in Andy Beel's blog about an exhibition called Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado at the Natural History Museum in London. I had already planned to visit the capital for an ARPS Advisory day in Greenwich, so I thought it would make sense and take this opportunity to see for myself why Andy Beel had described the exhibition as follows - 'This is undoubtedly the most stunning photography exhibition in any genre you will see this year or in this decade.' Having been to see the Ansel Adams exhibition some months earlier I thought that this was a pretty bold statement, but it was fully justified. There are over 200 photographs, all in black and white, which were quite superb.

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Genesis Exhibition

On the Natural History Museum website Salgado is quoted as saying - 'Many of us live in cities, cut off completely from the planet. My wish was to experience living with people with real links to nature... For me to back to nature was a huge pleasure. I wished to present the planet in my language, photography. And so came to Genesis.'

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Sebastiao Salgado

The 'Genesis' project spans 8 years of Sebastiao Salgado's life and work. During this time he visited 32 countries and some of the wildest and remotest places imaginable; capturing dramatic landscapes, the wildlife and the indigenous people of these unspoilt areas. Salgado is a Brazilian born social documentary photographer and photojournalist. As well as his photography, he has devoted much of his life to the restoration of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, turning a small area into a nature reserve dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education. The reserve is called Instituto Terra.

This exhibition is a 'tour de force'. Incredible images, some printed very large, many of which just take your breath away. It was hard for me to contemplate the fact that these people and places exist on the same planet as I do. Simply click here or on the image below to see examples of his 'Genesis' work and I hope that you will be inspired and motivated to visit the exhibition for yourself.

© Sebastiao Salgado

As a very keen black and white photographer, I was also interested in how the images were presented, their overall look, how they were processed and printed, and not just to be taken in by the subject matter. The photographs exhibited quite a lot of grain which lead me to think that he worked with film and not digitally. I am no expert and have never developed or printed a roll of film in my life but this seemed to be a reasonable assumption. I decided to undertake some research and found out that Salgado used a black and white film called Kodak Tri X 400, which was first introduced back in the 1950s. More recently though he has switched to the digital environment but to maintain the film like look of his photographs, he uses software called DxO Film pack. There is a testimonial by Salagdo on the DxO website supporting his use of the product. I found this discovery most interesting and it got me think about my own work.

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The Collectors Limited Edition Genesis book

I mentioned earlier that my very reason for visiting London was to attend an ARPS advisory day, as I am still intent on working on a project which would result in a panel of work to give me an Associateship Distinction with the Royal Photographic Society. The combination of the two events gave me some inspiration. Could I prepare a body of work based on the Goodwood Revival, a annual historic motor racing event, and process the images to give them the classical look of black and white photographs of the 1950s and 60s? The event itself is a throw back to this period. So if my images were to reflect this fact, and I tried to emulate the look and feel of the photography of the period, there might be a harmony between the subject matter and the panel of work. I will be going to the Revival Meeting in September and in the meantime I will be giving this idea further consideration. I have already downloaded the trial version of the DxO Film Pack software and I know I will be 'blogging' about this in due course.

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The Exhibition at the Natural History Museum

Enough of my aspirations and back to the 'Genesis' exhibition. Dont miss it! The Natural History Museum has played host to the world premiere of this remarkable exhibition which runs until the 8th September. Do note you need to book online in advance.