Friday, July 31, 2009

Bridge on the Esk


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This is an intensively reworked shot. The original was taken, with plenty of telephoto dialed up, in November, 2006, through a train window (note the marks), looking under the road bridge just inland of Whitby, alongside the River Esk in North Yorkshire. This perspective, framing the historic buildings on the East Cliff, is hard to obtain from anywhere else but the moving train. The image was squared up using fine rotation, then extraneous top and bottom areas were cropped. The softening effect of the window (due to shooting obliquely through it, rather than square-on) was ameliorated by sharpeneing around 15%, then the contrast and colour were adjusted. The final result is not up to the standard of shooting without that dirty window in front of the lens, but the unusual composition goes a long way to forgiving the shortcomings. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Dawn Light in the Forest


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This photograph was taken in the hour after dawn at Mt Crawford Forest, north-east of Adelaide, in May, 2008. The mist was still quite heavy though the sun was burning it up, and this frame catches not only the horizontal light outlining the tree but shafts through patches of mist at upper right. Such images are ephemeral, you catch the moment for the moment will never return in precisely the same way. Sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deceptive Summer





These marching columns are streetlights on St Peter's Rd, Sunderland, UK, photographed in November, 2007. The colour factor is the important point here, besides the composition of the poles and the tower to the left. That blue sky feels Mediterranean, it certainly creates a visual feeling of warmth, which is totally deceptive. Note the distortive effect of the lens on the verticals. November in Sunderland is decidedly chilly, and the wind was like a knife all week. The image was sharpened and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Big Bridge, Small Boat


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This is the lift bridge over the river at Port Adelaide, photographed in summer, 2008. It's almost visually humorous to see a gigantic bridge opened fully to allow through a tiny sailboat on account of the mast being a fraction too tall to pass under the closed bridge! It also nicely contrasts the weight of the industrial construction of the bridge against the relative delicacy of the boat: one built to work solidly through the generations, the other built for speed in a mobile element. The picture was taken from the Hart's Mill Waterfront area, at medium-high telephoto, and was simply a matter of composition, the bright day providing ideal conditions. Sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The British Museum (Natural History)


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Grandeur was a symbol of empire, and the neo-classicism of architectural design in the 18th and 19th centuries was a deliberate invocation of the respectability of classical times: London and Paris are scattered with Neo-Roman buildings. This is the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London, brainchild of the always-controversial Richard Owen in the 1850s, an example of the way Britain's economic and political power had the resources to devote to public structures of the magnitude of cathedrals and palaces. With a building so very large it is never easy to capture it appreciably in the confines of a single frame, and this shot, taken from the other side of Cromwell Rd, is about as far back as you can get before the trees interfere with the composition rather than contributing to it. Sharpened and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Trying For Motion-Streaking


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This is a simple effect with a manual camera. In the old days I would put the camera on the tripod at it's lowest hieght, focus in, then set the apperture to F16, forcing the shutter speed out to half a second, then the motion of the water would streak into solid bars of soft-edged light, which is of course how the famous Steve Parish creates those amazing water images in his celebrated landscape photography. Digital cameras are another matter, and this was purely experimental: was the light level in the Flinder Medical Centre rainforest garden low enough to force a long exposure without going to apperture priority? Almost! The result, while not quite the arty streaking it might have been, is certainly engaging: the crystal clarity of the wet rock texture, and the individual droplets of water catching the light. December, 2007; sharpened and colour-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Precision Flying


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This is a high telephoto shot, and the lack of image resolution is at least partly due to that. But the shutter speed is very high, stopping the vortex of the smoke trail to show each prop-beat eddy perfectly. This is Chris Sperou, Australia's all-time aerobatic champion, in his trademark Pitts biplane, and Warren Stewart in the Beech B33, flying their super-close manoeuvres at the Goolwa Classic Airshow, in South Australia, February 2007. The shot was cropped close from a larger frame area before sizing for publication. The image was sharpened and contrast-enhanced very slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Friday, July 24, 2009

River Cruising in London


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The Greenwich Reach lends itself to panoramic imagery wonderfully. This shot was cropped from a standard frame, taken in November, 2007, from the shores of the Thames between the Royal College of Music and the Cutty Sark's drydock. The sleek, futuristic Thames Clippers are a usual sight, the tour boats plying up and down this famous, historic river through the heart of one of the world's greatest cities. Technically, composition was the object here: I framed the city and waited for the boat to cruise into just the right place before releasing the shutter. The picture was enhanced in the usual way, sharpened and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fish-Eye Reflections


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Christmas trees can be very hard to photograh. For their lights to be seen at their best the ambient illumination should be low, and flash pretty much defies the object of the lights. You can snap away for ages before you get a decent shot, and this macro closeup is delightfully sharp. The red orb is a perfect spherical mirror in which the camera itself can be seen, along with the photographer. Sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Prime Meridian





This piece of what appears to be modern sculpture is the marker at the Royal Observatory, Greenwhich, London, showing the line of zero degrees (the metal strip recessed in the ground), the 'prime meridian' of the world from which navigation calculations derive. There have been others in the past, the French had a coordinate system with zero passing through Paris, and I believe there was a Russian system based on Moscow. This one is a tourist mecca, and everyone needs to stand with a foot in each of the eastern and western hemispheres at once. The oblique 'mast' of this gyroscope-like structure is almost certainly aligned on the celestial north pole, therefore reproducing the axial tilt of the Earth. The photograph was a simple composition piece in which the principle challenge was taking it in the moments when the monument was not obscured by the thronging visitors. Sharpened only. November, 2007; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ancient Landscape


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Staying with the dinosaur theme from the last image, here is an ancient landscape: Fern Gully, at the Loftier Botanic Gardens, east of Adelaide. This nook in the hills catches warmth and holds it to enable an island of highland rainforest to survive amongst the native eucalypt forest, creating a very Mesozoic feel to the place. This shot was an exercise in composition, finding just the right angle at which to capture the feeling of the spot, the natural composition of the trees and the path, which somehow never 'felt' the same through the viewfinder as they looked to the eye. The image was sharpened 5% only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Old Bones Tell Stories


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This is the British Museum (Natural History)'s specimen of the American horned dinosaur Triceratops, photographed in December, 2006. it is complete to the last fragment, and an imposing reconstruction. The museum's dinosaur gallery is kept in twilight which makes photography difficult: long exposures, meaning keep that camera steady, or flash. The short range of the S5600's flash is probably the camera's single weakness, certainly the only factor which I can say has had a measurable impact on my work with it. This is a flash shot, and it pays off because the skeleton is just inside the size range at which the flash can envelope it, certainly it's important elements for the purposes of the POV. The ambient lighting is warm-toned and low but helps fill in the darker areas with tonal variation, while the flash has brought up the fine texture of the essentially dark subject matter well. Mid-tones were enhanced with gamma correction, then the image was contrast-balanced and the colour and sharpness tweaked. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, flash. Image by Mike.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Focal Depth


A fascinating effect of telephoto photography is the available distance over which focus is sharp. Here the photographer in the forground, inside the focal depth range, appears as sharp as the main subject, which is at least 20 to 30 metres further away. This shot was taken at the Goolwa Classic Airshow, February, 2007, and was sharpened, and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mountainous Cloud





Clouds are ephemeral subjects, you shoot what you see when something special appears. These stratocumulous formations were drifting over Adelaide from the Gulf St Vincent in May, 2009, and I framed this towering formation from Carpark 1 at Flinders University, south of Adelaide. Even though the university has a hilltop location there are still intrusive elements taller than the photographer's vantage, carpark lighting for instance. This photograph would have been perfect if not for the lighting poles, but even so it makes a very aesthetically pleasing show of light, shade and colour. Colour and contrast were enhanced slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hong Kong Smog


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This photo was taken shortly after dawn from the international terminal at Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong, at the end of October, 2007. I didn't even try to beat the reflections in the plate glass, but just recorded exactly what met the eye: the reflections of the terminal lighting overlie a scene of industry, the fascinating array of cargo-handling systems serving the 747, against the backdrop of dense smog through which the hills are ghostly suggestions of themselves. Sharpened, and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GPO, Adelaide





This is the clock tower of the General Post Office, Adelaide, on Victoria Square, photographed in February, 2008. This building dates from the mid-19th century and when it was new it was one of the taller structures in the city, along with the Town Hall and the cathedral. This was 8.35 on a hot Sunday morning in summer and the brilliant sunshine brings out the richness of colour between the sky, the trees lining King William St and the cleaned stonework of the tower. Sharpened and colour-and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Hotels by the Sea


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This is a 'holiday snap' style photograph, where composition is the goal. These hotels are on the clifftop above the old town at Robin Hood's Bay, on the coast of Yorkshire, UK, photographed in November, 2007. Fine rotation was used to offset the wide-angle distortion effect which curved the buildings in at the top. The exposure balance between the shadow side of the buildings and the slight burn-out of the sea background is most pleasing, creating a great sense of depth. Sharpened and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crystal Clear Image-Stop


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This is an example of what a camera can do when there is enough light on the subject. I was shooting at high telephoto to close in on the subject, which would have been perhaps 100 - 150 feet above the ground at this time, and let the automatics handle looking into the afternoon sky, maybe 45 degrees of arc away from the sun. Extremely short exposure time resulted, stopping the spinning blades as if they were motionless, while the aircraft is perfectly exposed. This was part of my Goolwa Classic Airshow shoot from February, 2007. Sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Focus on a Stem


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Here is a trick easy with a manual SLR but infuriatingly difficult with a full auto system: focusing on a wispy, insubstantial subject rather than the material further away filling the rest of the frame. With a manual, crank the focus ring until you have what you want, nothing could be simpler, but with an autofocus system it's often pot-luck as to precisely where in your composition focus will fall. As with the aircraft shot published recently, the chip has here successfully chosen the foreground object as the focal target, creating that wonderfully 'arty' feel, as the soft focus de-emphasises the background. This shot was taken in the rainforest garden at Flinders Medical Centre, south of Adelaide, in December, 2007, and was sharpened and colour- and contrast-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Layering of Light


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This is one of the series of studies I took in Welford Rd Cemetery, Leicester, UK, on Halloween 2007, a cold evening with a fast-declining sun. The play of light and colour are visually very appealing; the chip has found an excellent balance between foreground and background elements, silhouetting the overhanging branches and finding their mid-tones by burning out the evening sky. The colours of the autumn trees have likewise been optimised by the exposure, as have the cool values of the stones; the luminous quality of the sunlight through the golden tree draws the eye, while the shadow-side of the stones creates a sense of depth by providing a field of tonal difference. Sharpened, contrast- and colour-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Australian Sky





This is another example of a serendipitous alignment. These wind-torn clouds in a hard, summer sky, framed so neatly against the flagpoles atop Parliament House in Adelaide, are seen from the Festival Plaza in February, 2009. In a few minutes the clouds would have moved and the essence of this image's aesthetic quality would have changed to something else, so photographs like this are truly captured moments in time, whose precise qualities are totally unique. Sharpened only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Atlantic Weather


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This is another study of the Irish Sea coast of Blackpool, taken in December, 2006. Hail made it difficult to get anywhere near the seafront, and I was sniping these shots between bursts in the weather. In this one I managed to hold the camera level in the wind, and composed the car and building against the long graduation of the storm front over the sea. The containers at left add a vivid splash of colour which really reveal the iron greys of the background. On days like this it is the momentary, passing lighting conditions which draw the eye, and the luminous quality of the breakers creates the defining contrast. Sharpened and balanced for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Personalising the Hardware


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Hardware, machines of any kind, are always interesting textural and light-effects subjects, or of interest for their own sake, but to personalise the image creates another dimension. People depicted in promotional illustration or photography compliment the product by depicting desirable lifestyle, and this is the same mechanism at work. Here the telephoto medium close-up on this D.H. 82 Tiger Mother, at the Goolwa Classic Airshow, in February 2007, has the dimension of personalisation due to capturing the passenger looking toward the camera, creating an emotional exchange in which the viewer participates in the image. Photographically it was not a difficult shot, simply a composition which sought a close angle on subject matter which was being well-documented from all perspectives. The image was sharpened and balanced, and fine rotation was used to help to square up the horizon line, correcting the tendancy to rotate the camera to the right with the shutter release. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's All About Exopsure


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Brilliant sunshine and fast shutter speeds make for amazing results in the digital age: look at the mid-tone clarity on these figures in violent motion, the truthfulness of colour registration, and the frozen sharpness of edges. These are combatants on the field of honour at the Gumeracha Medieval Fair in May, 2009, photographed on the 'sport' setting to optimise results on a moving subject. The clear sunshine made possible extremely short exposure times, maximising the stop-action effect. The frame was enhanced slightly by the usual techniques. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic/sport. Image by Mike.

"Black 5"


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"Black 5" is a very famous locomotive: it used to draw Queen Victoria's train over a hundred years ago. It is preserved in immaculate condition at the National Railway Museum, York, UK, and makes for a very difficult photographic challenge. First it is a highly reflective black object, second it's stored in a museum whose internal lighting is a mix of full-frequency and fluourescent types, thirdly the object is too big to paint with flash, and lastly, the light level is even softer than at the RAF Museum at Hendon. It's dark in there, and upping the virtual speed may not have made all that much difference, going by more recent experiences with concert shoots. I held the camera steady any way I could and just kept shooting, sure something usable would be among the blur. This image was gamma-corrected to bring up mid-tones, then contrast and colour balanced to restore overall integrity, and sharpened for clarity. November, 2006. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Painted Forest





The play of light, shade, colour and backlight here create a image with its own validity divorced from the landscape in which it was observed. There is something of the tonal quality of the paintings of the 18th century French master Fragonard in this, in which the light in the trees is the theme and subject, and the aesthetic of the moment is very much a 'leightmotif' as characterised the art of the Rennaissance. This picture was taken as a high telephoto close-up on a group of trees at Loftier Gardens in April, 2009, and the image was sharpened and contrast- and colour-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Cars on an Old Bridge


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A little-seen angle on London's Tower Bridge: I took this shot standing on a traffic island, and took my time lining up the symmetry. Even so the frame still needed a custom rotational fix to square it up, along with the usual enhancements. This was Sunday afternoon traffic in November, 2007, and London is a permanently busy town. It's another example of the old and the new, the centuries-old architectural style of the bridge counterpointed with the up-to-date designs of the cars crossing it. This same bridge has carried every era of car design since the car was invented, and shows every sign of continuing to do so into uncertain futures. Fuji FinePix, S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Unintentionally Artistic


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When you're shooting on the fly you can only take advantage of what happens in front of you and see what comes out later, and sometimes the results are surprising, things the eye did not register at the time. This is an old T-28 Trojan trainer, flown by Wayne Pearce, at the Goolwa Classic Airshow, February, 2007, an aircraft I captured in many studies. The conditions were bright sunshine (exposure time is short enough to stop the prop) and a strong, buffetting wind, and by afternoon a lot of heat was reflecting from the landing strip, creating the heat haze seen here. I was tracking with the aircraft on landing, at maximum telephoto, and it seems the heat haze meant the sonic focussing beam could not find the subject. But it did find the strands of grass blowing in the foreground, generating an image that suggests I focussed deliberately on the grass to let the subject matter blur artistically. This is serendipity, I certainly could not have made it happen! Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto. Colour- and contrast-balanced. Image by Mike.

Storm Over an Old Church





One of my favourite lighting situations is found usually in the later afternoon when a heavy weather front is moving through, and the low sun can strike under the clouds. This often creates a deeply stormy background sky framing a fully sunlit foreground, an ephemeral situation which a photographer can preserve for posterity. This is the old church (pre-1850) at St. Marys, south of Adelaide, photographed in August, 2007, on a rather raw afternoon. Besides the lighting conditions, the composition not only exploits the height of the bell tower, it frames the ancient Saxon architectural style against Australian gumtrees, a delightful juxtaposition. Sharpened, contrast- and colour-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Big Ship


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Photographing HMS Victory is not easy. Stand back far enough to see the whole vessel and you tend to get smaller buildings in the shot as well! This was my first glimpse of the historic Georgian warship as I walked through the public access museum area of Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, in the 'Gunwharf Quays' district, on a very grey day in December 2006. The sheer size of the ship is stunning, she towers into the sky and is well over 200 feet long, a triumph of timber engineering. Exposure times were long on this day as the chip dealt with low light levels and intermittent rain, and composition was always going to be a compromise between seeing the ship unobstructed but only in close-up, or longshots that were visually cluttered. Sharpness and colour were enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grandeur of the Romanesque


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The ancient architects of the Mediterranean cultures could never have imagined that their styles would be seen as epitomising the respectable, dignified establishment thousands of years later, but even today the Classical and Romanesque styles automatically suggest grandeur and power. This example is on the corner of King William Street and Currie Street in Adelaide, South Australia, a 19th century building in a colony eager to establish itself swiftly as a modern and respected corner of a far-flung empire. The photograph was taken at medium telephoto to exclude all surrounding information and concentrate solely on the play of symmetry and light, the texture of the stone and glass. Sharpened and contrast- and colour-balanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic; April, 2009. Image by Mike.