Sunday, 27 October 2013

Windmills on the Way

Jill Windmill
Windmill 'Jill' at Clayton

The South Downs is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but in addition to the glorious rolling downland landscape it is enhanced by man made structures, in particular the windmills which shine like beacons when the sun lights up their sails and the 'smock' or mill itself.

Walking the South Downs Way provides a great opportunity to see these charming buildings from near and far. At the top of this page is an image of one of a pair of windmills at Clayton to the north of Brighton. This one is fondly called 'Jill' and there are no prizes for guessing the other one is called 'Jack'. Of the two 'Jill' is the one that stands out and is very visible from a distance. Its white smock and four sails is in stark contrast to 'Jack', which is painted black and has no sails. The next two images were taken from West Hill to the east of Pyecombe.

Windmill Jill
'Jill' in the distance

Distant windmill
Afternoon light on 'Jill' 

The other windmill which regularly appears in the landscape is Ashcombe Mill at Kingston, near Lewes in East Sussex. Like 'Jill' it has a white smock and currently only has two sails. Originally built in 1828 it was destroyed by a gale in 1916. Since 2009 work started to rebuild this windmill and when completed will have six sails. The two images below show Ashcombe Mill in its downland setting.

Towards Ashcombe Mill
Ashcombe Mill in the far distance, surrounded by the downland landscape

Ashcombe Mill
Ashcombe Mill at Kingston near Lewes

One day I will return and visit Ashcombe Mill itself, when the restoration is complete and the windmill has been returned to its former glory.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at Cowdray Ruins

Cowdray Ruins
Cowdray Ruins

Faced with the choice of having just one lens what would it be? A prime lens or a zoom lens? If it had to be a prime lens then the vast majority of photographers would choose a focal length of either 35mm or 50mm. The latter is closest to the same field of vision as the naked eye, whereas a 35mm lens is a moderate wide angle. Both are very versatile but of the two my personal choice would be a 35mm lens.

I use a micro four thirds camera, the Olympus OMD EM5, which has a crop factor of x2, so the equivalent focal length for this camera format is 17.5mm. Although I can cover both 35mm and 50mm full frame focal lengths using the Panasonic 12 to 35 f2.8 zoom lens, there is nothing quite like having a compact, fast and sharp prime lens attached to the camera. Any prime lens encourages a more creative approach to photography. You have to frame your shot by moving your feet as opposed to twisting a barrel on the lens. A wide aperture can give a more limited depth of field, throwing backgrounds out of focus. In this respect it will never be a match for a full frame camera, but for my requirements this lens more than serves its purpose.

The Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime lens

So in the past few days I decided to buy the Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens. In no way is this a review, but the all metal lens in black looks wonderful on the camera, is very fast to auto focus and has a ring which can be pulled back for manual focusing. It also reveals a distance scale which combined with the Depth of Field markings allow 'zone focusing', a technique often used by street photographers.

The 17mm on the Olympus OMD EM5

Having only had the lens for a few days I have not yet had the chance to put it through its paces but I already think it could well become my default choice when I want to travel light with just the camera and a single lens.

I did though have the opportunity to take a couple of shots of Cowdray Ruins in Midhurst. I set the camera to take both RAW and JPEG (Fine). Set to f8, ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, the JPEG straight out of the camera is I think very pleasing. Sharp across the frame and good colours from the Olympus processor.

Cowdray Ruins - JPEG straight out of the camera

The RAW version was of course just asking to be converted to black and white.......

Cowdray Ruins 1.jpg
The first mono version

20131023-Cowdray Ruins 2-2.jpg
This is the same image as the one at the top of this post
but with a 'coffee' tint added in Silver Efex Pro2

Of the four versions I have my own personal favourite (it's at the top for a reason) however this post was intended to be about a superb lens which I know will give me many hours of pleasure in time to come. With luck I will get out and about in the next few days to see just how capable it is in different conditions.

As an aside the Ruins at Cowdray in Midhurst, West Sussex are truly magnificent and I will definitely be returning to explore the photographic opportunites at some point in the future. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Last leg first - Walking the South Downs Way

Whist this blog is about my photography, there has to be an inextricable link between taking pictures with the things I do, the places I go and the people I meet. I don't 'set up' my photographs or continually 'pixel peep' by testing cameras, lenses or other equipment. I may from time to time comment on my gear, but for me this blog is more about my experiences and trying to capture those moments with a camera. Nor may I finish processing the images in the strict order they were taken. I will be drawn to a shot, work on it and then return to it later on, and in the interim start processing another image which could have be taken earlier or later.

So you might be asking yourself what is the meaning of the title to this particular entry? Well quite simply in September I walked 100 miles along the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne and as you might imagine I took many photographs. Although I have now finished processing quite a few of these, there are still others to do. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in the day. However I think I have completed work on the images I took on the last section of the trail as we  walked from Cuckmere Haven, up and down the Seven Sisters, over Beachy Head,  before the final descent into the East Sussex town of Eastbourne. So this entry covers the last leg of our walk and other posts in the future will I am sure cover other sections of the trail which took place in the preceding days.

Sunlight on Eastbourne as rain clouds circle all around.

Beachy Head
Beachy Head lighthouse

Seven Sisters
Seven Sisters with Belle Tout lighthouse on the cliff in the far distance

Cuckmere Haven
Rain approaching the estuary at Cuckmere Haven

All the images in this post were processed in Lightroom 4, converted to black and white in Photoshop CS5 and the grain was added in Silver Efex Pro2 using the Kodak Tri X400 film preset.

Whilst writing this entry I remembered a great line in a Morecambe and Wise sketch from many years ago with the conductor Andre Previn, in which Eric Morecambe was trying to play a piece of Grieg's Piano Concerto.

Andre Previn said to Eric -
"You are playing all the wrong notes"
to which Eric famously replied -
"I'm playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order!"

So until the next leg of the walk, I hope you enjoyed the last one and if you have never seen this wonderfully funny sketch before, then here it is. The section of the sketch referred to above starts at around 10 minutes.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Entries for Open Exhibition - will any be selected?

In about six weeks time my local camera club will be staging its 43rd annual exhibition and in seven days time I will know which of my entries have been selected for display. In essence there are two sections. Firstly one for members only and second an open section for anyone outside of the club who wishes to enter.

I would hope that there would be a reasonable chance that some of my submissions for the members only category will be on show come the 23rd of November when the exhibition is opened to the public. The open section is more of a lottery as I will up against some very capable and experienced photographers.  I have chosen four images for each section and my fate is in the hands of the judges who will consider all the entries next Saturday the 19th October. Last year I went along to witness the judging process and I plan to be there again next weekend.

It's nerve wracking when your own photograph is displayed and rarely do the judges take long to mark the picture out of five. With three judges the maximum mark is fifteen. Twelve or more marks are likely to be needed to secure an entry.

The four images I selected for the open section are:-


.....and the four images for the members section are:-


Trying to decide which photograph went in to which category was quite a challenge in itself but having made up my mind and completed the entry form, I now have to see which ones are selected. With a little good fortune I would like to think that I might get one in the open section, but the standard is very high and whilst my work does well in club competitions I simply do not know how well it will do when competing against some the best images in the country. Well we shall see. Not long to wait now!

All of these images are on my own website -

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The First Reading on Sunday

As much as I enjoy taking candid photographs of people I haven't taken many of late but I really couldn't resist this shot of a vicar reading the Sunday Times prior to breakfast a few weeks ago. I was staying in a very comfortable hotel in Winchester. As I waited in the lounge for the first meal of the day to be served I was joined by a vicar and his wife and they sat down and started to read the newspapers. Not sure why I had taken my camera with me for breakfast but I am glad I did.

First Reading on a Sunday
First Reading on a Sunday
For most of the summer I have largely concentrated on landscapes. Perhaps in the future I will spend a little more time taking shots like this one.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Experimentation and still time for tea!

Although I still have a number of images to process from my walk along the South Downs Way last month, there is always time for a little photographic experimentation and a cup of tea!

Last weekend my wife and I visited Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. It's a place we have been to before and having looked at the excellent variety of artwork on display, followed by a visit to the well stocked book shop, there was still time for a cup of tea.

Table and chairs

It was just warm enough to sit outside but the vast majority of tables were empty. Summer over and Autumn just round the corner some leaves were already falling from the trees. I didn't have a camera with me, other than my iPhone which can of course produce some good results. Many months ago I had downloaded the Flickr App, but never used its camera or choice of effects. I started to have a 'play' as I was drawn to the table a chairs close to where we were sitting. The 'noir' effect looked good to me as it seemed to capture something about the emptiness of the place and the onset of Autumn.

No other processing has been applied which is in complete contrast to the work I have been doing recently. I quite like the result and will probably take more shots using the Flickr App in the future.