Sunday, May 31, 2009


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Looking into an extreme lightsource can sometimes give a chip a hernia, and certainly the viewscreen has difficulty interpretting the volume of light, but the image itself can be a remarkable one. Harsh contrast, of course, but still with plenty of information. I took this shot in May 2009 from Carpark 1 of Flinders University, looking from the hills at Bedford Park across to the sea, with the late afternoon sun framed neatly among high cloud, and though much of the foreground area, here cropped out, was essentially black in comparison, there was enough information in mid tone areas elsewhere to make the image interesting and visually representative of the day. Colour and sharpness were enhanced, and fine rotation was used to square up the horizon line. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Early Evening in London

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This sunset shot was an opportunistic one. I had battled my way back from the East End on a Sunday afternoon when several tube lines were down for service, and finally managed to get a bus from King's Cross Station to Victoria Station, close to which was my hotel. I snapped this while crossing the road from one stop to another. Angling up to frame the tower has created a vanishing-point symmetry in the verticals. It has the feel of coming night, but notice the clock in the tower: it's only 4.40pm! This shot was taken in November 2007, and another month would go by before the days would start to lengthen in the north. This frame was considerably enhanced to bring out the mid-tone areas, with a lot of gamma correction, contrast and colour saturation work. The city lights burned in pleasingly also. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Holly in Fruit

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Holly is an archetype of winter and when settlers from Europe came to South Australia they imported many species with which they were familiar. This shot was taken at Loftier Gardens, east of Adelaide, in April, 2009, and though the day was warm and sunny the forest knew winter was coming. Glorious colours were everywhere, and the holly was in fruit. Bright light allowed a fast shutter speed and this frame was taken on the Macro setting at a distance of 15cm or so. Sharpness, contrast and colour were adjusted for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Captain Cook Memorial

As a citizen of Australia for many years it was something of a pilgrimage to visit the statue commemorating Captain James Cook, who charted the east coast of Australia in the 1770s in preparation for British settlement here. Though not born in Whitby, he spent his early years there and the shop where he worked still exists. I took this photograph in November 2006, a simple frame and shoot, though the alignment is deceptive: it stands close to the edge of the West Cliff and the ground slopes under the footing of the monument, so one's middle ear tries to follow the ground line which would skew the vertical. I managed to get it close enough that the eye is happy with the orientation. I could have corrected it with the custom rotation tool but I have noticed a subtle softening in some images that resharpening will not completely correct, so I avoid it if not absolutely necessary. Colour and sharpness were enhanced slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Native Among the Immigrants

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Only in a colonial land can you see an admixture like this: a wild Australian kangaroo in a landscape of pine trees, therefore a 'tree farm' for the timber industry. These pines may be native to Australia (there are some in the far south) but they are not native to the Adelaide hills, and create a very north-temperate feel to what was a scrub-forest landscape until the coming of Europeans early in the 19th century. I snapped this shot through a car window on a graded track at the Mount Crawford Forest in May, 2008. The roos are not domesticated but they are certainly human-habituated, and will come quite close to the campgrounds. This is a high-telephoto framing, and it has been colour- and sharpness-adjusted. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ships in the Glare

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It's always worth keeping your neck screwed round and your camera on the window when you're flying, you never know quite what you'll see. If you're in the cheap seats, you get a great view of the wing, and it does interesting things, like completely reconfiguring for approach, with spoilers up and truly impressive flaps down. The wing blocks your view forward so the scenary appears below you, and sometimes it can be amazing. I shot a long series of frames on approach to Singapore on my way home in November 2007, and captured several shots of the merchant fleet lying off the islands, mile after mile of ocean scattered with freighters and tankers, a truly spectacular sight. Add in the sun angle, glare from the sea, and the aerospace interest of the wing, and it makes for an image that would have been science fiction fifty years ago. Sharpened and colour-enhanced only; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Medieval Fortifications

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Nowhere in Australia or the US will you see architecture over 700 years old, but in the Old World it's still there. Stone is a durable material, and when these walls and towers were raised (during the wars between William Wallace and Edward I, if I have my history right, though on foundations which in places are Roman) they were the epitome of military tactics. Now, these walls which surround the old city of York, England, and fortify the River Ouse which passes through the city, are lovingly-preserved remainders of a time gone by, and through which the new city has grown up and around. I took this photograph at the beginning of November 2007, to capture the texture of stone and the tonal values in the shadow areas against the water. The chip has done an amazing job of exposing the shadows in such detail, buring out the background in proportion. The juxtaposition of the new and the old is a recuring theme in any study of the Old World, and eternally fascinating. Contrast, colour and sharpness were adjusted fractionally. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

White on White

Shooting interiors can be difficult, artificial lighting is always an interesting exercise, but here a white subject is seen against white lighting, and that is a recipe for burnout. But the chip compensated amazingly, as the shadow areas and the yellow parts can be seen to be properly exposed. This is an old British Bloodhound surface to air missile, photographed at the Fast Jets Fighter Museum, Parafield Airport, north of Adelaide, in January 2007. Only sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Trees of Winter

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The skeletal trees of winter always mean the deciduous forests of the north, no matter where in the world such trees may have been transplanted. A momentary blue sky through flying clouds outlined these groping, gothic boughs on a winter's afternoon in December 2006, as I walked through Ropner Park, in Stockton, Yorkshire, UK. This is a 19th century park which has recently been restored to its early form, and it's quite amazing how much has been done with comparitively little land. A lake, a playing field, gardens, forest, a bandstand, a tea room, all very scenic -- and here, with a touch of seasonal melancholy as the leaves were falling and showers went through. The photograph was simply a frame-and-shoot, and was enhanced with tweaks to colour, contrast and sharpness. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stone and Glass

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This is a building in Adelaide, 69 Currie St., a modern business edifice. I was waiting for a bus one Sunday morning in April 2009 and the reflections and symmetry struck me as very art-neuveau (sp?). Note the classical column reflected at lower right, part of a building a hundred years older than this one. I framed and shot several times but without a tripod it was impossible to align the camera with the symmetry of the subject, so this was a case of custom rotation in software later. I used a half-degree rotation to match the alignment of the verticals to the axis of the image, then cropped inside the resulting background wedges. From that point the image was scaled and enhanced as per normal for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Colourful Livery

This is the nose-end of a Transpennine Express, a service/route of one of the rail corporations that sprang up since the denationalisation of British Rail many years ago. Commuters will tell you service has gone to pot since the railways went back to private enterprise, and if the likelihood of actually getting a seat on some journeys (as opposed to standing between cities) is anything to go by, they're probably right. This photograph was taken in November 2007 on the platform of York Station. The exposure control of the chip is quite amazing, given that this is inside a huge building. I was impressed by the way the train's headlights burned in, and the sharpness of the reflections of the skylights in the windows. The colour scheme always reminds me of a roll of Kodak film, about ten years ago, though I'm not sure which grade had the purple in the packaging! Colour, sharpness and contrast were adjusted slightly for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Knight's Helm

This is foremost a study of reflections: the steel is polished, therefore the subject is 'skinned,' in CGI terms, with a mirror image of its surroundings, the sort of things an artist must be keenly aware of to ever realistically paint a shiny object. The helmet was standing on a straw bale in the ready area off the combat arena at the Gumeracha Medieval Fair at the beginning of May, 2009, and offered a perfect still subject in a dynamic environment. I framed and exposed without difficulty, kneeling by the bale, with the sun over my right shoulder, and I'm reflected above the helmet's left eye. Enhancements include sharpness, contrast and colour saturation. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It Wouldn't Be London Without Big Ben

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This is a quintessential holiday snap, and I resisted putting up anything to do with Big Ben for months until I realised that either a) tourist snaps can be good photos, or b) tourist subject matter is still perfectly good fodder for professional technique! Consider the fact it's nicely framed (not at a wierd angle), properly exposed (good lil' camera!) and the composition excludes other structures which would have interefered with the linearity of the images's message (high-falutin' photo-speak...) The fact remains, it's a technically good photograph of a historically and culturally important British icon. And Big Ben is big. This Victorian-era addition to the new Houses of Parliament (the Palace of Westminster) built to replace the original which burned down in 1834, is bigger than you realise from pictures: it stand over 315 feet tall! Still, viewing it, I had to remind myself that the Great Pyramid is well over 100 feet taller still. Whatever, this is not a bad photo and deserves to be seen. Colour and sharpness were tweaked. December, 2006; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Australia in Drought

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Australia looks gray-brown from above. You think of it as a red continent, and sure enough the deserts look red from cruising altitude, but down in the temperate south, where you'd expect some green, given that you're passing over farms, there can be times of year when green is a colour you rarely ever see. This frame was taken over the Adelaide hills, on approach from Melbourne on the last leg back from England, in November 2007, and you can see from the reservoir how dire the water situation is, even at the beginning of the southern summer. The picture needed considerable enhancement as the aircraft window and the sun angle conspired to bleach the image a long way. This was corrected with heavy colour resaturation and three rounds of contrast, and the details were sharpened 5%. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

High and Dry for the Winter

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These yachts have been taken out of the water to over-winter, among many others at the marina just inland of the Harbour office near the railway station in Whitby, UK. I took this shot as evening was gathering in late November, 2006, and the low sun striking under clouds made long shadows and warm colours. The composition was aesthetically pleasing, though boats are both elegantly streamlined and oddly-shaped to fit the frame. Does one concentrate on the hulls and ignore the masts, or fit the whole thing into the frame against some appropriate background? The sunlight on the buildings on the far side of the river made just such a background and the two yachts balanced eachother in the frame. The usual round of minor enhancements were made for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Forward-Looking Architecture

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This building tends to look like a pile of boxes, but maybe that's what the future looks like. It's angular, geometric, and the upper floors overhang the lower as if they are a box balanced atop smaller boxes below. It's dynamically clever, and will doubtless command the view from the lowest corner of Flinders University, south of Adelaide, for generations to come. This is the brand new Medical Sciences building, not yet open, and when I took this photograph, in April 2009, work was just commencing on the companion lecture theatre which will stand below it on the slope. The composition begged to be captured, especially as the completed building was framed against that hot Australian sky, and the vehicle in the foreground gave a strong perspective effect. Sharpness, colour and contrast were adjusted for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sheen on Metal

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This, I believe, is what a Jaguar looks like these days, since the revitalisation of the classic British brand. I passed this aerodynamic beauty on the seafront in Scarborough, UK, in November, 2007, just before climbing the cliff trail to the castle, and couldn't resist the elegant lines and the fascinating things the afternoon sun did with reflections from metal and paintwork. Look at the tonal variance between the sun highlights on the flank and the reflections of the sky in the hood: that's subtle, the kind of things it takes a student of reflection dynamics to understand and reproduce correctly in artwork (I'm thinking Syd Mead's classic work for Ford and US Steel). Enhancements include 5% sharpening and colour saturation, but contrast was not adjusted as the image contains true black and true white, and the highlights are already burned out. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fern Gully

That's really what this place is called -- a cleft in the hills in the Botanic Gardens just below the summit of Mount Lofty, east of Adelaide. It's a slice of cool rainforest that exists in this somehow sheltered spot, where ferns grow in abundance, both ground-living and massive tree-ferns. It's like walking into the Jurassic, you're waiting for the dinosaurs to go by! The shot was a technical no-brainer: composition was the important part, the chip would do the rest. It did a good job capturing everything from densest shadow to burned-out highlights. The layering of light, colour and depth have almost a sense of classic artwork composition. Sharpness and colour were enhanced slightly. April, 2009; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


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The interactions of water always offer such prismatic fascinations, and teamed with the reflectivity of stainless steel and a sunny day, how can you go wrong? The figures provide scale and a human element that counterpoints the interactions of physics in the background. This is the waterwall and fountains at Sheffield Railway Station, which I photographed on a sunny afternoon in November 2007. The image was sharpened 5% and colour was enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chivalry in the Hills

This is another frame from the medieval Fair at Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills in early May 2009, one of The King's Horses demonstrating ancient equestrian skills and the great Middle Ages sport of jousting. The field set aside for galloping at eachother with sharp objects was at the foot of a steep hill over which the sun was sinking in the afternoon, creating an amazing lighting situation as the viewing area was on the east side. Thus the dark background of hillside in shade, but full backlight on the subjects, resulting in various lensflare effects due both to shooting into the sun quadrant and reflections from polished metal. This frame is medium telephoto and automatic exposure, with the sport setting selected for fastest possible shutter speed. Sharpened and colour-enhanced only; Fuji FinePix S5600. Image by Mike.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Greenwich Reach

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Supercities of the future are a reality today: one look at Tokyo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles or London confirms that. This is the latter, a long telephoto shot over the river seen from the Royal Observatory on the hill at Greenwich in November 2007, a place from which, in one glance the eye can scan from the Millenium Dome, over Christopher Wren's hospital buildings begun before 1700, to the new organic tower Londeners christened "The Pickle" for its oblate shape. How many cranes can you count? It's always a game, counting tower cranes on the skyline: London will be a nice town if they ever get it finished. Note the "Thames Clipper" at a landing stage on the river.

The image was sharpened and colour-enhanced, and contrast was brought up somewhat, but the most interesting digital modification was rotation. The frame when taken was off-true, the horizon line was down on the left (a symptom of pressing a shutter release on the right of the camera and most often found in either reflex shooting or subject matter whose outline biases the brain's orientation system to its shape, rather than to what's perpendicular. The arc of the river had such an effect.) It was corrected using Irfanview, a very powerful (free) image manipulation program which includes an incremental rotation routine allowing fractions of a degree. I rotated the image one degree to square up the edges of towers to the vertical. This resulted in a matted area, a series of wedges at the edges of the frame where the image has shrunk slightly within its own boundaries to accommodate the rotation without area loss. I cropped inside these wedges, then proceeded as normal. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Designed to Impress

The scale of even a modest city can be massive, and architecture reflects stature: the bigger it is, the more magnificent the impression -- at least that's the intention of the designers. This is the view across the Festival Plaza, behind Parliament House, Adelaide, looking toward the Roma Mitchell building, an administrative block named for the first woman judge in the state. The block is framed by the preserved first Parliament house and the Railway Station (now the Casino). The four-square might of the building suggests the solidarity of the establishment, rising over North Terrace, and the hot summer sky marks this frame, taken in February 2009, as very much Australia. The image was sharpened 5% and the colour enhanced slightly for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

737 Ground Handling

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Getting to watch the coming and going of aircraft alleviates the boredom of waiting in airport lounges for your flight to be called, and you can see some interesting things. In addition to watching the often ingenious baggage-handling systems at various airports, the huge tow-tugs that move fully-lagen aircraft are always impressive. Here a tug backs the greater weight of a fully-laden Boeing 737 off the airbridge position onto the taxiway at Adelaide International Airport in November, 2006, before I departed on my UK expedition. I found it ironic at the time that I was loading Australian photographs onto the flashcard and they would travel right round the world with me back to their place of origin. Technically, the biggest problem was finding a spot to get a clear angle on the plane with the lens right against the plate glass to exclude reflections. Then I zoomed in on the subject matter and waited till the tug moved the plane to just the right angle, and exposed the shot. The picture was sharpened and the colour and contrast adjusted for publicaion. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Salt and Steel

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The play of sunlight on the water and hulls makes a fascinating contrast to the shadows of the quayside, in this study of trawlers at Whitby, Yorkshire, UK, taken in November 2007. These are the powerful boats that go up into the arctic to bring back the fish to go with England's chips (or they used to be, I heard the Russian fishing fleet has been supplying England's fish and chip shops for many years now). The shot was taken by telephoto from the east side of the River Esk, looking into the same quadrant as the sun, thus the harsh reflections. The image was sharpened and the colour increased slightly for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vertical Symmetry

All modern cities are architectural playgrounds, but vanishing-point symmetry is visually engaging no matter where it may be found. This is Adelaide, South Australia, on a Sunday morning in April, 2009, James Place, looking south into Grenfell Street. At street level the vista is totally ordinary, but look upwards even a little and the vanishing-point symmetry appears. I can only imagine what photography would be possible in New York! Sharpness, colour and contrast have been adjusted. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, image by Mike.

It Wouldn't Be Trafalgar Square Without Pigeons

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The title says it all... This was December 2006 and I knew I had to pay homage to the pigeons of Trafalgar Square. The following year the closest I got to the ravens at the Tower of London was a black shape in a tree, but the pigeons are more tractable. This was a slight telephoto close-in to fill the frame without getting too close to the bird, perched on the balustrades in front of the National Gallery. The general dearth of colour is due to the low winter sun into whose quadrant I was shooting: note the shadows of the passers-by. The image has been sharpened and the colour turned up for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Extreme Stop-Action

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I finally had a chance to try out the 'sport' mode on the camera, this being a shutter-priority system which optimises for the fastest possible shutter speed, stopping violent action such as on the sports field. I'm not a big sports watcher, so the Medieval Fair at Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills, in May 2009, was a perfect opportunity: a sunny day and violent action! Teams of armoured medieval warriors did battle for the audience in true 14th-century style, and I was quite surprised by how well the shutter priority system worked. The subjects were moving rapidly but are stopped as crystal-clear as the background. Obviously, as light levels fall the effectiveness of this sytem wll be lost if exposure is to be maintained, so overcast days and other low-light situations do not lend themselves to this system (though you can compensate with rated filmspeed up to the 'virtual grain' threshold, and that's a matter of taste). Enhancements were 5% sharpening and a few points of extra clour saturation. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic exposure, telephoto, sport mode. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunderland Marina

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This is the new residential waterfront complex in Sunderland, at the very mouth of the river, a high-rise appartment development surrounding parking for a great many vessels. I took this photo in November 2006 from the cliff above, in late afternoon light on my way from the university to my boarding house. The sun angle is probably around 3pm, certainly no later than 4. The range of colour in the image is rich and eye-pleasing, and the chip has focussed firmly on the subject matter: note the foregound vegetation softened out. The frame was sharpened and colour-tweaked for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Wild Mushrooms

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Nature has a way of changing from moment to moment, things appear and disappear, and to capture the ephemeral is part of the gift of photography. I was wandering the trails of Loftier Gardens with friends in April, 2009, when we came across a patch of wild mushrooms, these spectacular red and white growths, inches across, and the afternoon sun and leaf litter created wonderfully photogenic conditions. This was a macro-setting shot from a distance of a couple of inches, in natural daylight, and enhancements are a 5% sharpening plus an extra dash of colour. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Trucks by Night

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This was one of the set I did at Newcastle Airport, England, in November 2007, shooting through plate glass as evening deepened. It was an experiment in exposure latitude and shutter speed, and especially in holding the camera steady actually against the glass. This was a long telephoto shot after full dark looking into the light pool of major floods. Though the tanker was moving, the shutter speed was sufficient to freeze the action. The composition is an interesting industrial scene and the contrast of the white vehicles against the night is quite striking. Sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Colour Therapy

Autumn is a wonderful time of year for colour, not only are the trees in their fall colours but many late-blooming plants put out their flowers before winter. This is Bougainvillea, a climbing vine common in Australia (named for a town at the east end of the Solomon Islands, up in the Pacific). It forms great outcroppings on the slope above the bus stops at Flinders University, the whole earthwork bank can be a mass of vivid purple flowers, a remarkable display against the white concrete of the library extension block and the yellow of the busses. The photograph, taken in April 2009, was simple enough, I found a spray of flowers outlined against the sky, closed in on them to exclude all else and let the chip do the rest. Sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.