Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Cold North Sea

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Clear weather brings an almost warm feel to this image, when the fact is it was chill on this day in November, 2007, and the wind was almost too strong to stand against, thus the huge waves pounding onto the Yorkshire coast. I took this shot from the base of the west breakwater at the mouth of the River Esk, in Whitby, looking northwest along the coast toward Sandsend, and used high telephoto to frame the sea against the headland. The foreground and a little sky were cropped to focus attention on the thematic areas of the frame, and colour, sharpness and contrast were adjusted. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ephemeral Subject

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Some subjects are there and gone in moments, and you need to anticipate their appearance to catch them on film (or in pixels). Fast-moving subjects fall in this category, and when an aerobatic plane trails smoke it makes pictures in the sky which have the beauty of the physics of fluid mechanics. Here I'm photographing the aerobatic display by the Extra 300s type, flown by Paul Andronicou at the Goolwa Classic Airshow, February, 2007, and while the aircraft itself is the subject matter it becomes visually conjoined with its smoke trail, so the corporate effect is the sense of motion the audience receives. In this sense, the smoke is as important as the aircraft in the aesthetic effect they generate, and the photographer must mot try to zoom solely on the aicraft and track its motion to the exclusion of all else -- it's not possible, for one thing, and you miss the visual suggestion of motion in the smoke if you do. This image was cropped to achieve composition, and sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, image by Mike.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Whitehall is London's famous 'corridor of power,' the street where government buildings cluster thickly from centuries gone by, built in the style of the Classical revival and adorned with statues as if London was making a bid to be New Rome. The Plain trees thrive in the city and this shot serenditiptously captures the ephermeral contrast between a dense cloudbank and sunlight on marble architecture. This building is seen in the closing shot of the main titles of The Professionals classic action series from 1977-'81. The vertical format was cropped out of a horizontal frame and a slight fine rotation was used to square up the symmetry. The colour was adjusted, along with contrast and sharpness, making a pleasing balance betweek the green and grey elements. November, 2007; Fuji FinePix, S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Angry Sky

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Storm skies are always dramatic and are totally ephemeral: here one minute, changed completely the next. Shoot when you see the spectacle unfolding! The problem with shooting skies in an urban context is interferance from structures -- the building skyline, but more intrusively light poles and wires. This shot is from a set taken in St. Marys, south of Adelaide, in July, 2007, beside a main road while I was waiting for a bus, and I could have wept with frustration as the cables strung over the road were impossible to exclude from any angle I could get on the coming weatherfront. This is where the digital artist comes in, to paint out the wires, but that's a long job and takes a skillful hand, or it's as obvious as taking an eraser to a heavy pencil line, it makes a mess rather than a seamless repair. The raw image is very dark and gamma-correction was used to bring up mid-tone values, then contrast was increased to restore the drama of the picture, and colour was brought up to add depth. Sharpening finished the enhancements. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Visually Deceptive

This is the Sunderland,UK, marina, a residential development at the mouth of the river, off the entrance to Sunderland harbour. The modern high-rise appartment blocks are partially protected from the north wind by the Roker cliffs, and from the often heavy North Sea swell by the breakwaters. The colour of this image, barely enhanced from the raw file, along with sharpness and contrast, suggests a very Mediterranean climate, which is the deceptiveness of photography. This picture was taken in November, 2007, it was cold and a biting wind had been blowing out of the north all week; these yacht are laid-up for the winter. The vertical format is here the result of cropping the central body of the image from a horizontal format frame. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Light From Beyond

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Images like this always evoke thoughts of dimensional portals, energy disruptions, gateways between "here" and "there" so popular in SF and fantasy. This is the afternoon sun framed amongst trees on the high slopes of the Adelaide hills, just south of Mount Lofty, in the upper parts of Loftier Gardens, April, 2009. Capturing the sun is one thing, but what the chip makes of the rest of the image is the measure of it. Mid-tones, harsh contrast, lens flare, backlighting, strike-through and silhouette, and a sharp registration of detail as a consequence of the forced minimal apperture, make for a fascinating study of the natural world. Sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Panning with a Moving Subject

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Sometimes the results of a shoot can be surprising. The Goolwa Classic Air Show 2007 was my first time shooting a flying display digitally rather than with the trusty Pentax K1000s and the manual zoom lens, and I was very pleased with the range of effects and benefits that came through. Here I'm panning with the takeoff roll of the restored WWII-wintage Yak-9 Russian fighter, flown by Jim Wickham, managing somehow to keep the horizon level (I think the camera was balanced on top of a fence post) and tracking left to right with the subject at high zoom. Oddly enough, though the shutter speed was fast enough to almost stop the prop, the background is attractively streaked while the subject is sharp and clear. I was not using sport mode, but the day cleared out to bright sunshine (and a buffetting wind) and the chip made great use of the faster available speed range. The image was sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Orderly Trees

I took this shot on a roadway across the ridge above Rocky Paddock, Mount Ctrawford Forest, north-east of Adelaide, in May, 2008. It's in the high telephoto range and I was surprised at just how much information the image contains, given that I was shooting at only 2mP on the day. The further forests -- tree farms, this is a pine plantation for the building industry, being progressively harvested -- created a symmetry on the hillsides which made an interesting contrast with the organic nature of the trees closer at hand, and the telephoto framed one within the other. The tonal range within the greens and other hues is appealing, also. Sharpness, contrast and colour were adjusted slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Inside, Looking Out

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An amazing thing about the evolution of a city is the way its structure becomes interlinked. In eastern London, the Docklands Light Railway was built as a 'people mover' linking the residential redevelopments taking place around the long-disused docks (the revolution in sea freight with containerisation made the old docks redundant long ago) and this elevated railway snakes amongst the buildings, crossing canals and docks, and passing right through some buildings. This station is inside a low floor (third or so) of a high-rise tower, and immediately outside is a bridge across a wide canal. The city engineering is impressive and almost picturesque in a 21st century way. Here the chip has done an amazing job of balancing the dark interior with the bright exterior, and creates a real feel of conditions on the day. The natural contrast is very hard, and mid-tones were enhanced with gamma correction. Colour was also encouraged a little as an image like this is preferentially close to black and white. December, 2007; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Machine Texture

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An aviation museum has many subtle and visually interesting textures, from the gloss of paint finishes to the not-yet-restored grub and corrosion of metal long exposed to the elements. Here the engine is dismounted from a Mirage III fighter, workhorse of the Royal Australian Air Force in the 1970s, at the Classic Jets Fighter Museum, Parafield Airport, north of Adelaide, and the lighting conditions were a challenge. The shadow areas inside the engine bay contrast with the burned-out primary light source and the chip has found an excellent balance, bringing out good mid-tones. This was further enhanced with gamma-correction, plus a round of sharpening, contrast and colour adjustment. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic; January, 2007. Image by Mike.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Caedmon's Cross

This beautiful Celtic cross with deeply-incised graphical detail on all faces of the shaft, stands in graveyard of St Mary's Church, on the East Cliff of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. It commemorates Caedmon, the great bard of the Dark Ages, remembered for the beauty of the spoken word as an artform. A trail up the cliffs to the site of the old abbey on the east side of the River Esk is known as "Caedmon's Trod," a 'trod' being a local term for a path (e.g., the 'Sailor's Trod' ran across the moors between port towns on the coast). This simple portrait-format shot was taken in November, 2007, on a cold and breezy afternoon, looking north-west along the Yorkshire coast, and the view awakens thoughts of this place before modern development, when such stone carving was the epitome of its artform. Sharpened, colour-enhanced and contrast-adjusted. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reflections in a Rippled Lake

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The subtly-shifting surface of a calm lake makes an amazing reflector, and while a glass-smooth lake at the foot of a fall forest in New England or wherever makes for the ultimate in reflection shots, the infinite variability of the interplay of light with the surface of water makes any such scene visually interesting. This is the lake at Flinders University, south of Adelaide, on a bright, calm day in April, 2009. Note the mixture of both Australian eucalypts and European willows. Telephoto was used to exlude unwanted background and frame the trees and their reflections. The image was sharpened only for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Town with a Long History

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This is the Highstreet, in Stockton, Cleaveland, UK, a town with a very long history. There was a castle at rear left of this picture in medieval times, commanding the river which is a couple of hundred yards beyond the buildings (its foundations were found by workers in the 1960s), and there has been a street market here (hence the breadth of the street) for some 800 years, the charter for which was granted by King John, of Robin Hood fame. I took this photo in December, 2006, hence the Christmas decorations, and you can see by the clock in the tower of the Town Hall that it is 12.05pm. A series of rain squalls went through and left the roads wet, excellent reflectors to the patchy sun that came up later. The image as taken was quite dark, so mid-tones were recovered with gamma-correction, then contrast, colour and sharpness were all adjusted. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Autumn Glory

There's nothing like the autumn in a decidious wood, the colours are wonderful to the eye and the soul. This is a telephoto close-in on a patch of luminoscity created by the backlighting of a fall tree, direct sunlight shining through red and gold leaves to silhouette the trunk and boughs. Things like this tend to jimp out of a landscape to a photographer's eye, and draw the camera like a magnet. Sharpened and contrast-balanced; Loftier Gardens, April, 2009. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Millenium Dome

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London's Millenium Dome was built as an exhibition pavillion to mark the change of century, on a reclaimed industrial site in Greenwich. It was a controversial project seen as a money-pit by many. Open during the year 2000 with millenium-related exhibitions, it fell into disuse and has subsequently been revitalised as part of "The O2" entertainment district. I took this shot at high telephoto at the beginning of November, 2007, as my plane was circling London waiting for landing permission. The softness of the image is due to the accute angle through the window, and the colour, contrast and sharpness were all adjusted to maximised the result. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stop-Action at the Gallop

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This is another shot from the Gumeracha Medieval Fair in May, 2009. I was shooting on the camera's 'sport' setting, which optimises exposure time as short as possible. Capturing a horse in full gallop, unblurred and with excellent tonal qualities, is a good result. Shooting into the sun quadrant would also have driven the shutter speed up, and the chip has compensated to render pleasuing mid-tones in a situation which would have favoured hard contrast in the days of chemical photography. Sharpness and colour were tweaked slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Night on the Street

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Sometimes digital cameras can amaze you. This is a full night-time shot in streetlighting, and it's as clear as if you'd stepped into the street and looked around. It was a bitterly cold night in November, 2007, and I was leaving a function at the Bonded Warehouse Restaurant in Sunderland, UK, to walk back to my boarding house. I held the camera against the wall, rock-steady, to let the chip work its magic with a long exposure. Note how the wall is distorted with the wide-angle effect of the lens. Mid-tone areas were enhanced with gamma-correction, then contrast and sharpness were increased, and a slight custom rotation (a fraction of a degree) was used to minimise the proximity-distortion of the wall. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Light Through Quartz and Feathers

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Australian seagulls are small grey and white birds that are seriously human-habituated. They beg for food whenever they see a human, and will always tidy up fast food abandoned on the sea front. I took this shot not long before sundown in the spirng of 2007, and the low-angle, short-frequency light has created some interesting effects. The point that draws the eye is the sun shining through the wind-ruffled feather, then the refraction through quartz grains in the sand, while overall the play of short-frequency light in the highlights and long-frequency in the shadows creates an almost painting-like texture. Sharpened and colour-enhanced for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Slow Burn Image

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Having experimented with faster virtual filmspeeds and encountered 'digital grain' in the 800 ASA range, I'm actually glad I stayed with 200 ASA and played the camera-motion game at my shoot at the RAF Museum, Hendon, in December, 2006. This is their Lancaster bomber and shooting a black aeroplane in a huge building in which the illumins were never quite right for photography was a technical challenge, but the clarity and liquid-smoothness of the 5mp image were in fact worth it. I saw a photo taken in the Lancaster assembly line during WWII, an early colour negative, with a filmspeed so slow you could see the ghost-images of technicans who were walking through the frame. To my amazement, the same thing appeared in this shot: note the patron at far right. This tells you how long the exposure was. The camera was held solidly against a column to eliminate motion, then the chip simply did its thing with the exposure, rendering a very pleasing final result. Sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Colour Therapy II

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The hard Australian sky, viewed through dense foliage and the splash of tropical blooms, makes a pallet that's hard to resist. Colour for it's own sake! This was a simple snapshot, looking up toward the library at Flinders University, south of Adelaide, in April 2009, the blooming period for the Bougainvillea. The campus is on a hilltop, facing the northerly sun, and is often bright and colourful. Sharpened only; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Landseer's Iconic Lions

The four bronze lions that flank Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square are a London icon. But no matter how familiar you think you might be with the sights of this city, nothing prepares you for their size when you finally see them in person. They are several times lifesize! The lions, strongly symbolic of British power in Imperial times, were cast in 1867 from a sculpture by Sir Edwin Landseer, the 'most celebrated animal artist of the reign of Queen Victoria,' as I once heard him described. He was criticised for giving animals eyes that were too expressive, they had a human quality that was uncomfortable to the 19th century mind; it is also said he had never seen a lion when he sculpted the original, but used his dog and cat as references! The metal of which these statues are cast is said to be the melted-down cannons of the destroyed French fleet, captured in 1805. The photograph was not difficult, but a composition in which there were no intrusive elements was; here one of the four shares the frame with the decorated base of Nelson's Column, but at least there are no buildings, people (or pigeons) in the shot. Sharpness and colour were enhanced, the latter considerably to put some hue into a watery winter sky. December, 2006; Fuji FinepPix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hong Kong Dawn

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The plane from Australia got into Hong Kong around sunrise and the smog made for strange lighting conditions, like this purple twilight. This shot was taken at the end of October 2007, over the wing of a taxying Qantas 747, and was the clearest of a batch of frames. The duplication effect around the lights was an artifact of the plane window. The frame was cropped down to a panoramic view on the subject matter, and colour, sharpness and contrast were enhanced slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Intrusive Elements

Sometimes there are elements in the landcsape you can't avoid, and they can be the kiss of death for a great photo -- rubbish bins, for instance. Here a street light gets in the way of this 'monolithic' shot of the Optus Communications building on South Terrace, Adelaide, taken in January 2009. I tried moving around but then other lights intruded into the frame also. I even took a frame incorporating traffic lights as a complimentary symmetry. But this is a perfectly framed image of the tower in dusk light, with wonderful colour gradients and vanishing point symmetry, which perfectly demonstrates how an intrusive compositional element can get in the way of a shot being rated first class. Sharpness was the only enhancement. Fuji FinePix S6500, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Three-Master On Show

Only one original Georgian warship remains in the world, HMS Victory, safely drydocked at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, but period vessels have been built for contemporary reasons. This is The Grand Turk, built for the 1990s TV series based on C. S. Forester's immortal Captain Hornblower novels, a fully-featured and entirely functional sailing vessel in the style of the Napoleonic period. The ship is kept in good condition and is a standing exhibit and tourist attraction moored at Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. Mock swordfights enhance the period flavour, and the vessel is open to the public all rear round. I took this photograph in November 2007, one of a long series in many different lighting and weather conditions over two visits, but this is one of very few in which I was able to appreciably frame the whole ship. Like Victory, she is both large and in close proximity to buildings and other structures, so an unobscured vantage is difficult to find, except from the other side of the river. The framing was simple enough and the chip handled everything else, the challenge was composition. Sharpness and colour were enhanced for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Riot of Colour

This is another of my Loftier Gardens shoot from April 2009, celebrating the absolute artists' pallet of the autumn deciduous woods. What can you say? The crackling reds and yellows against the blue of the sky creates a virtual colour-therapy that is like summer's last gift before the bare boughs of winter. These images were technically simple, the chip did the hard work and left me free to think about composition, to see the shots in the landscape and make them happen in the lens. Sharpness was adjusted, there was no need to mess with colour! Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Evening in an Old Town

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The texture in this photograph is quite amazing, the variety, from the metal of vehicles to the swirls of an unsettled sky, the direct sun highlights on the upper parts of hundred-year old buildings and the overall long-frequency light in the wide shadow areas. I took this shot in November 2006, on Oxbridge Lane, looking into Yarm Road, Stockton-on-Tees, Yorkshire, UK. Yarm is the anglicised, lingually-drifted hand-down of Iarum, the name of a Roman river port just a few miles away, which is a comment on the antiquity of this part of the world. This photograph was taken on a blustery afternoon, around 3.30pm, with not much over an hour's daylight remaining. Colour, contrast and sharpness were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Organic Tangles

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Even when shooting an event, there are photogenic marvels in the natural world that still claim the photographer's attention. I found this amazing tangle of tree limbs while at the Gumeracha Medieval Fair in early May, 2009, and was struck by the Fangorn-like quality, the riot of wild growth, that so amazingly complimented the ancient theme of the day, while also being an Australian native tree in juxtaposition with a European cultural stream. The frame was a no-brainer to take, just point, zoom and shoot. Sharpness and colour were adjusted slightly. Fuji FnePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One Serious Breakwater

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Actually it's one of two... These great, curved breakwaters extend way out into the North Sea from the Roker foreshore, just north of the entrance to Sunderland harbour. They are Victorian engineering, all solid stone and cast iron, and are capped with typically 19th century lighthouses. The area enclosed between them seems to be a safe beach for the summer tourist trade rather than guarding the mouth of the river, as the twin breakwaters do at Whitby. The photograph was taken from the esplanade, and was cropped down to a panoramic image, removing some foreground and a lot of sky. The horizon line was levelled up using the fine rotation tool, and the image was sharpened progressively to regain the clarity expected of such a shot. Colour and contrast were also adjusted slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic; November 2006. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Emotion in Stone

Monumental masons are artists who are underappreciated in our society, probably because sculpture as an artform is associated with the past, and statues tend to be survivors of ages long ago. But a stroll through almost any major cemetery will reveal examples of magnificent work which captures the emotional essence of grieving and commemoration, rendered by hands long forgotten when their work survives. This particular piece is a family tomb at Main North Road Anglican Cemetery, at Prospect, north of Adelaide, just one of many in this cemetery, but a standout for the fact it represents a human-natural form rather than an angelic being, and the pathos of the individual comes clearly from the stone. She is seated under a four-pillar Classical stone canopy, and is at least 50% above lifesize. The play of light and shade is engaging and a clear Australian sky evokes the Mediterranean whose past is its thematic inspiration. The photograph was simply framed and taken, and column edges were cropped out for publication, along with enhancements to sharpness and colour. February, 2009; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Landscape by Constable

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I've always said the quality of the light in England is unique (it's certainly different from Australia, probably something to do with latitude), and the available subject matter has a very characteristic feel as well. The famous paintings of Constable, those brooding skies over scenes of rural life, were his synthesis, not his invention, because England actually looks like that. I took this shot in the Esk Valley, Yorkshire, in November 2006, from the window of the morning train on its way from Whitby to Middlesborough, and the texture, colour gradients and composition really seemed to gel. There is always an element of reflex shooting when on the move, but the train was slow enough and the subject matter far enough away to have extra seconds for a pleasing frame-up, with plenty of zoom. Note the time by the clock tower is 8.55 -- the train left Whitby three minutes earlier. I'm not sure which village this is. The lushness of the temperate woods and the landscape-marker of the church, an artificial structure rising out of nature, made as wonderful a visual icon photographically as they did as painted art in the 19th century. The verticals were squared up with a fractional fine rotation, then the softening effect of shooting through the train window was cleaned up with contrast and sharpness, and colour was slightly re-saturated. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.