Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Night light

The O2, formally the Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, London. Image by Jason Hawkes

Many years ago, my family used to make a journey up to see my grandparents in the North East of England. It was only an hour drive and we would go up on a regular basis. Going home after a great day was sad but during the winter months we would have one last visual treat - the vast expanse of the Seal Sands industrial area would come into view.

During the daytime it was just an ordinary industrial scene but at night the vast refineries and factories at Seal Sands, Teeside were illuminated like something out of a futuristic science fiction film - think the start of Bladerunner and you'll come pretty close. In fact Ridley Scott ,who directed Bladerunner, grew up on Teeside and based those very film scenes on the night time views of Seal Sands. I never did manage to capture the magical sci-fi feel of Seal Sands on film but Ridley certainly did.

It's a similar type of night 'light' landscape that has been captured in all it's beauty by a British photographer based just outside London. Jason Hawkes has some great night time images of the UK capital - all taken from a helicopter with a hire charge of around £1150 per hour ! The problems with vibration from the helicopter and the slowish night time shutter speeds means being careful during a shoot. Jason links his camera to his Macbook Pro so that he can view the photographs as he shoots to check the image sharpness.

The website at http://www.jasonhawkes.com/ is well worth a look and also features some terrific daytime aerial photography of the UK.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Panorama

Panoramic images taken along the canal towpath - Wolverhampton 1997

The two images above were taken using a Halina panoramic camera purchased from a camera shop in Wolverhampton for £16. Cheap and simple, the camera only used the middle section of a 35mm frame to record the image. Exposures had to be made in bright sunlight as the aperture and shutter speed were fixed. As you can imagine image quality is good but not excellent.

I took these as part of an experiment for a project i was doing. The results didn't impress me at the time and i moved onto another idea but after coming back to the negatives, over 11 years later, I've come to rather like the results. The photographs do have quite a lot of 'noise' but i think that adds a little something to the images. I may use the camera when I'm up in Newcastle Upon Tyne next month.... just as a simple experiment in panoramic photography.

The only annoying thing about the camera is the fact that my Mum managed to get an identical Halina panorama camera in a charity shop for £1.00. Grrr...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Back to Mac

Back to Mac - The sublime range of Apple Mac laptops

Over the last few weeks, I've been looking into getting a new computer to be used for photography and online work. I currently have a Dell desktop that still works fine, but it is over four years old and computing moves on at a fast pace. Time for something new. It's with this thought in mind that I've been having a look around for a replacement machine and my conclusions have finally led me towards Apple Mac.

It will be like returning to an old friend. Apple Mac was the first serious computer system i became familar with. Up until around the mid 1990's, Macs were all I'd ever used. I learned to use Photoshop on a Mac and typed up countless essays and dissertations on a Mac too. Every Monday morning at college we would sit down and learn the intricate details of the Photoshop software. I hated it back then but I've since come to realise that i was investing in my creative future. Photoshop has changed little in ten years. More options, more tools and a few cosmetic changes but otherwise Photoshop CS4 is very much the same to use as version 3 way back in 1995. But enough of that.. back to the subject at hand.

After a search around the web and a look at the technology news I've come to the conclusion that, among other things, i really don't like where Microsoft is taking the already bloated Windows operating system. The new Windows 7 beta was demonstrated on the BBC and i came away from the video clip very much underwhelmed - it's not all that different from Vista. Windows 7, due for release in 2010, would probably be the installed operating system on my next computer purchase and this, combined with the seemingly constant stream (or should that be assault) of Windows security alerts, bugs, viruses, trojans, spyware, fix updates, etc, has made my mind up.

Hmm yes. I just like the way they do things at Apple. It's that simple. The current Apple operating system OS X is solid, reliable, stylish, easy to use and not at all bloated. The Mac now has the processing power of Intel - once, long ago, the major selling point over Apple for the PC. Computing changes over the years and so do we. I do have to be honest that my computing needs have changed considerably over the last ten years - less gaming and far more creative work. I purchased my first PC due to price, specifications and flexibility and i will use the same criteria when buying my next computer even though my requirements have altered dramatically. I have remained a PC user for ten years - and i will continue to use my current computers alongside any Mac purchased, but the future looks as being a Mac future, at least for me. So it's back to Mac...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Yes you can !

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States photographed by Peter Yang

The day has come. The pressure on the new President is going to huge. I just hope that people's expectations will be realistic and not on a biblical level. Even here in the UK, the media have gone mad analysing every facet of the inauguration. Rather ironic considering many of the British journalists, this time last year, regarded Obama as having next to no chance of overcoming the Clinton political machine. How wrong they were!

I came across this shot on A Picture's Worth, a great photo blog with some terrific images. The inclusion of the Apple laptop and various techno gadgets captures one of the new President's interests. He does seem to like his gadgets. I especially like the Pacman symbol on the laptop cover. A sense of humour is essential if you have just become President - especially in these turbulent and difficult times.

The White House now has a young family living there and this is one of the most appealing aspects of this new presidency. You can imagine the rooms and gardens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being explored by the kids...oh and the new puppy. Wonderful material for a photographer. If i was Pete Souza, the new White House photographer, i think i'd want to capture the family settling into their new White House home first.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Self portrait 09

Self portrait - January 2009

Thought i would have a mess around with a few images using a website recommended by Kat, a good friend whose superb blog i mentioned a few posts ago.

The original image was taken using my laptop's webcam and tweaked slightly in Photoshop. I then put the image through an ageing process at http://labs.wanokoto.jp/olds.

The results are very impressive. Give it a go !

Within the weeds


A headstone in a sea of overgrowth at Blickling church. The church is located just yards from from Blickling Hall, one of the most impressive Jacobean mansions in the UK. Blickling is connected to the story of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, as the estate was purchased in 1450 by the Boleyn family. In 1507, Anne Boleyn's family moved to Hever castle in Kent, and it is due to that relocation of the family, combined with problems identifying Anne's exact year of birth, that historians are uncertain whether she was born at Hever or Blickling. The current Blickling hall was built on the ruins of the old Boleyn residence in 1616 during the reign of James I.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

No means no

Ferrybridge power station cooling towers - West Yorkshire, UK

Lots going on at the moment. The main photography website is being completely redesigned to incorporate new galleries and things. The last site developed complications and needed updating anyway.... so RFP website number 7 was started. As part of the online expansion, a new online store is open (currently linked via the blog only) which i want to update and improve over the year.

Yesterday i get a call. Bloody Yell.com again! I keep getting sales calls from Yell.com ( i cancelled the ad back in 2007) who then go into a selling blitzkrieg as they try to sell me advertising, no matter how much i say no. 'Previous investment with you did not produce anywhere near an equal return' is my usual answer which is a polite way of saying your advertising sucks, but they just don't want to hear anything connected to the word no. You actually have to be rude (not something I'm comfortable with) just to get rid of them. They have an argument for everything.

After five minutes of 'discussion', my final sentence went along the lines of " look, i have no interest in what Yell have to offer".There was a quick, curt and slightly frustrated sounding goodbye - then they were gone. I will just say thanks but no thanks and put the phone down next time.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Author image

Anne Frank

I watched the last episode of the BBC's series about Anne Frank tonight, a series that has been on TV every night this week. It was such a brilliant production and should open the Anne Frank story up to an entirely new generation of people.

Along with the diary writing, it's the photographs of Anne that help bring her story to life. We can see the youth and character behind the writing. The images are just simple family photographs, taken without any knowledge of Anne's future as an author, but even so, the images give a face to the writer whose work resonates with all ages. It's such a young face too.

I rather like the image above. It looks like one of those author photographs that are usually placed on the back or inside of book jackets. I imagine that Anne would have loved that.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Icy light

January 8th 3.30pm - The sun sets over a North Yorkshire field

January's light has a colourful combination of cold and warm tones. The best time of day to see this unique type of light is either early morning, around 9am at the moment here in the UK, or later in the afternoon starting at about 3pm. The light is cold and yet at the same time.... warm.

I set out on a walk along the old railway line and just had enough time to get a few shots before the sun set behind a cloud bank. In about a minute, the light dropped noticeably as the sun descended gradually behind the mass of cloud. It always surprises me how light levels can just drop so quickly - around two or three f/stops vanished in less than a minute. The dark cloud bank slowly crept its way north easterly towards me - ten minutes later you could no longer see any hint of blue sky. I thought it might snow.

I stopped for a second. Should i start heading back now that the light has gone? i thought. No, i decided and then headed on along the mud covered track, a track engraved with a variety of different markings left behind by walkers, runners and riders who use the old railway line. My decision paid off because i came across the image above just before the light dropped down to low levels - the good light had gone. I like the cold bleak look... but there is a hint of warmth there.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

shooting for 2009?

Fishing gear and storage shed - Sheringham, Norfolk, UK

Time for the new Year resolutions regarding what types of photography i want to take in this brand new year ahead of me. Last year i remarked that i wanted to do a lot more studio work. I started 2008 well, doing a nice amount of studio work but gradually, as the year panned out, it dwindled to a trickle and i concentrated on other things. I will make more of an effort in 2009.

Portraiture and architecture are two topics i want to explore further this year too. Will i keep to these promises? Hopefully yes.... but you never can tell where, creatively, you eventually end up.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

6x6 magic

Forty Second Street and Broadway is always a place where something is happening." - Mike Peters

It's the first post of 2009 so let's start with some great photography. This is an image taken from a great photographic project by Mike Peters, a photographer who works for Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, USA. I spotted this image on the B photography blog ( an excellent blog that's well worth a look folks) and instantly loved the framing and composition of the square frame.

Mike's website has several projects to view including the wonderfully gritty Times Square Gym - a serios of images taken in a boxing gym in central New York. Boxing gyms are a favourite haunt for photographers and sometimes the results can be rather predictable. Not so with Mike's images. The photographs have an intense intimate quality to them.

Mike Peters website can be found at http://www.mikepeters.com/
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