Thursday, 28 August 2014

St Albans Cathedral - a quick visit

South Aisle of Nave, St Albans Cathedral
Vaulted ceiling of the South Aisle of Nave 

A couple of weeks ago I needed to make a round day trip to Chelmsford in Essex, a journey which is almost impossible to do from my home without joining the M25 at some point or an other. On the way up from the south coast I headed east knowing that I would have to wait in a long queue of traffic to go through the Dartford tunnel. True to form the cars moved at a snails pace, but the queue coming back the other way looked even worse, so my return journey would take me along the northern section round the M25 in a westerly direction and through Hertfordshire. A longer route home but hopefully I would keep moving.

Journey sorted, I took a detour to the rather attractive town of St Albans, specifically to look round the Cathedral and take some photographs. Most cathedrals offer a wealth of photographic opportunities. Architectural features are plentiful and the light can be very special. St Albans is no exception. It has a very long history and is thought to be the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain.  According to the official website the cathedral stands in a place where Alban, the first martyr, was buried after giving his life for his faith over 1700 years ago - more than 200 years before St Augustine arrived in Canterbury.

I have never visited St Albans before, so I was looking forward to visiting another of this country's wonderful Cathedrals. Limited for time before driving home, I was able to take a number of images which I hope show the splendour of this great building.

Lady Chapel, St Albans Cathedral
Lady Chapel

High Altar Screen, St Albans Cathedral
High Altar Screen

Chantry, St Albans Cathedral

Presbytery  Door, St Albans Cathedral
Presbytery Door

Looking towards the Lady Chapel, St Albans Cathedral
Looking towards The Lady Chapel

West Door, St Albans Cathedral
One of the three West Doors of St Albans Cathedral
I very much enjoyed my brief visit to St Albans Cathedral. Sadly there wasn't time to explore the town itself but if I find myself in the area again then St Albans will definitely be on the list of places to explore and to photograph of course!

All the photographs in this entry were taken with my recently acquired Leica M Monochrom and 50mm Summilux and 28mm Elmarit lenses.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Quiet as a Mouse - British Flag EP Cover

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At the beginning of June I received an email from Alex Moran, a singer and songwriter, on behalf of his emerging Indie Rock Band - Quiet as a Mouse - who are based in Edinburgh, Scotland and were formed in 2012. He was enquiring as to whether or not they could use one of my images for their first EP which was to be released later in the year. It already had the title - British Flag. Needless to say I was very pleased to have been approached.

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Click here and go to their website.

Over a period of a few weeks there was an exchange of emails between us and I am delighted they chose one of my images - 'Tree in field of snow' - as the cover for their EP which was released earlier this month on 11th August. It has four tracks and based on some of the reviews they have already received for their earlier work, it looks as though it's going to be a great success and I wish them every luck in the future. Here are just a couple of reviews lifted from their website.

The Sun:
“Quiet as a Mouse are fast becoming one of Scotland’s hottest prospects…’Home Is The Hardest Place To Find’ is a soaring anthem packed full of melody…it reminds me of Snow Patrol’s edgier moments.”
The Daily Record:
“Some bands don’t even achieve such a great track as ‘An Accident Waiting To Happen (Awoo Woo Woo)’ let alone give it away for free. It’s a contender for Scottish single of the year”
“There is enough in Alex Moran’s band’s armoury to sink a battleship…New single Casketcase is a heady mix of Weezer and Nirvana, its Goth for the new millennium…I love this band.”

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Click here and listen to British Flag on Soundcloud

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Click here to purchase Brirish Flag EP on iTunes.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Leica M Monochrom - first outing in Kingley Vale

Into the woods
Into the woods

Ever since my photographic style turned away from colour and into black and white, I have been curious to know more about a camera which only takes monochrome images - that camera is the Leica M Monochrom and was announced in May 2012. Ever since its release I have read numerous reviews and downloaded some DNG files just to see what all the fuss was about.

As my appreciation for black and white photography has grown, together with my knowledge of this particular art form, my understanding of the Monochrom and what it might offer has also expanded. So earlier this year I went up to the Leica Akademie in Mayfair for a 'test drive' of both the M240 and the M Mononchrom. You can read about my experience and first thoughts here.

After many weeks of agonising; should I or shouldn't I?… mind was made up when I came across a second hand Monochrom in virtually mint condition being sold by Red Dot Cameras, a specialist Leica dealer situated in Old Street, London. It only had 1,100 actuations and the saving in cost over a new one was quite considerable. I travelled up to the City and returned later in the day with the camera and two lenses - a Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 ASPH - M (6 bit) and a 28mm Elmarit F2.8 ASPH (6 bit). I also bought a spare battery and a second hand 'Thumbs Up' grip which already had a lovely patina.

Having read so much about the M Monochrom I am already aware that this rangefinder camera and its manual focus lenses will take time to master, but with patience and much practice, coupled with my desire to improve my photography, the learning experience should prove worthwhile. Only time will tell.

I took a few test shots in and around the house but last weekend I finally had the opportunity to go out with the camera to see how I would get on. The late afternoon light was excellent so I drove to Kingley Vale Nature Reserve which forms part of the South Downs National Park.

I decided to restrict myself to the use of just one lens - the 50mm Summilux. I did though take a 3 stop ND filter, which would allow me to shoot wide open in the bright light. I also set the exposure compensation to -2/3rds, in the hope that this would prevent any blown highlights, particularly given the lighting conditions.

Here are a selection of the images taken that afternoon. They have all been processed in Lightroom 5 and some have been further worked in Silver Efex Pro2. They may not be the best shots I have ever taken but for a first try I am delighted with the results. Already I am convinced my decision to buy the Leica M Monochrom was the right one. I just ask myself why I took so long to make up my mind?

Light on the crop
Light on the crop

Fence post
Fence post

Evening sun
Evening sun

Summer grasses
Summer grasses

Trunk and ivy
Trunk and ivy

Woodland path
Woodland path

This is definitely not a review but I will just say that the files it produces are astounding in their detail and tonality. They are very malleable in post processing and  I guess are everything I expected them to be from all the reviews I had read, only more so.

The Leica M Monochrom is a very niche and specialist camera - and my photographic journey in black and white continues!