Monday, 31 December 2012

Last shots of the year

Thanks to the twin demons of British weather and having to work for somebody else for a living I haven't had much of a chance to get out much, very annoying as the River Trent has burst it's banks a couple of times recently and turned the landscape north of Newark into a lake. My partner and I finally had a bit of the Christmas break to ourselves yesterday and combined a drive out with a bit of photography - just!

The weather forecast promised interesting skies so we headed straight for the north Norfolk coast, ending up on Brancaster beach. I hadn't been there for years and had forgotten how spectacularly huge both the sky and the beach are. I also hadn't factored the wind into my planning - it was, to use a meteorological term, bloody freezing... fortunately the same wind was tearing the clouds to shreds, letting the sun through and sending sand flying like spindrift on a mountaintop. I managed to get a few shots off in the fifteen minutes before the rain hit - my partner did a good spotting job on that one, we were all packed away and ordering coffee from the rather good kiosk near the car park before we got soaked.

All worth it though, the few shots I did take all came out fairly well. This 10-22mm lens is really getting under my skin and I think I'm starting to do it justice:

Brancaster Cloudscape

This is just a quick pre-edit, I need to find a way to enhance the shadows from the stumps and there's a bit of noise at the top right that needs eradicating. But I'm happy with the composition, which is the whole point of going somewhere like this - the absence of major landscape features means that careful and traditional composition dominates the photography process. The 10-22mm really helps here, letting relatively small foreground features become tools for leading the eye into the shot - or for throwing the middleground towards the back, enhancing the depth of the image and giving a sense of space.

And just to prove that the 22mm end of this lens gets used:

Next stop the Netherlands!

Again, a very quick edit (three minutes in Aperture, just now!) - I don't intend doing any more work on this shot as the contrail spoils it for me. But it does illustrate how the bare bones of composition are best for this kind of landscape, as well as the importance of texture to bring interest to what could so easily be a featureless and even bland shot.


In other news, I've just signed up for a free trial with Photium - I've used them before in a collaboration a few years ago so it will only be a trial until I've got the content and layout sorted. Watch this space for a website - at long last.

And finally, given that it is the last day of 2012, here's my equivalent of a bloopers reel for this year. I'd like to say something about even aspiring pros being human, and all of these being part of the learning experience, but I just know that these aren't my last wonky horizons! Happy New Year :)

Oops... one of many...

The light was tricky!
Focusing. Surprisingly difficult...

And the light again... although the horizon would be wonky if it was correctly exposed...

Er...







Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I think I just saw the future...

So I, like pretty much everybody I suspect, just got hold of a Nexus 7 tablet. It's a neat little device that looks like it will perform it's intended function of dragging me out of work mode and onto the sofa very well. One cloud on that particular horizon however is Chainfire's DSLR Controller app which looks like it will make the N7 a regular fixture in my camera bag as well. The short story is that with a USB OTG cable, you can get the N7 to talk to your Canon DSLR. The tablet can act as a video monitor, a remote shutter release and - most exciting to my tastes - an intervalometer with the pretty nifty trick of allowing HDR timelapses. With clear winter skies becoming a fixture I can see star photography getting a lot easier and I'm entertaining visions of controlling a shoot from my sleeping bag :-D

Not much of a post really, I'm just excited about my new toy! As ever, watch this space for results when I try it out on something more interesting than my living room wall...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Christening the new toy...

So the 10-22 EFS arrived just before I went to Gozo - the original idea was to give it a workout while I was there but a number of factors meant that I didn't take it - mainly the fact that I'm suffering pretty heavily from burnout at work and had to give myself the mission of having an actual sit-on-the-beach-and-do-nothing holiday before a doctor forced it on me... anyway, fast forward to today, and I've finally been out to see what the beastie can do, at Tupholme Abbey near Lincoln.

There isn't anything I can say technically that hasn't already been written about this lens, and it really is as impressive as the reviews suggest. What I found interesting was the feeling that this is a lens that really sorts the wheat from the chaff - every shot takes a lot more work, compared to a lens with more conventional focal lengths, when it comes to thinking about depth of field and composition simply because there's so much of the scene to compose. It's easy to fall into the trap of getting crazy perspective without thinking about the whole picture and the basics of composition. To analogise the situation, it's like a normal lens is a pretty fast hot hatch, but the wide angle is a bit like a British sports car - the scenery doesn't come towards you all that quickly but once you learn the right techniques you can REALLY make some progress.

I'm not convinced that I can drive the 10-22 all that well yet but I'm pleased with the results for the first time out. Here's a quick edit:

Bizarre fact of the week: The Beach Boys and Status Quo once played here. Seriously.
This is actually an HDR edit. The composition however is intact from the camera, apart from a slight crop to reduce the headroom, so the actual scene is representative of the 10mm end of the lens' range. One problem with old buildings is that what may appear to be a slight case of converging verticals could just be a wonky building - which I suspect is the case here. On the upside, I love how the wide angle makes the sky so dynamic - the sense of movement lifts the image and gives a real sense of space.

In short I love the results and it suits my style and approach to photography. This is one new toy that definitely won't be sailing out of the pram.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

New toys!

So I've taken the plunge... in a few days I'll be taking delivery of a Canon EF-S 10-22mm wide angle zoom lens. Really looking forward to using it as my photography has been trending towards wider and wider shots lately. I've got a holiday in Gozo coming up in a few weeks so it'll get a thorough workout while I'm there - watch this space for the results! I'll also be working up a longer post on the subject of choosing the right lens for your camera and photography style.

Coming to a YouTube channel near you soon...

A few years ago I did a fair bit of product photography for the company I work for - sadly I was forced to give it up due to other demands on my time. The photos I took, however, are getting a new lease of life by forming part of the backdrop for their DVD studio and YouTube channel. They've also got some brief slots each week running DVD edits on Propeller or Information TV so my work is getting shown to Sky customers all over the UK (albeit uncredited and a long way down the EPG!).

I think the pics have come out rather well:

The 'Pencil' setup, middle and right are my shots...
...and the 'Watercolour' setup, all three shots are mine.
The whole process has turned out to be quite useful - it's been interesting to see just how far an image can be pushed in terms of print size. Although these were taken with work's DSLR and kit lens, it's not exactly top of the line gear and is also getting on a bit so the images weren't that huge. Personally I was quite worried that the specs from the print house were too demanding - a full size image, .tif format, at 600dpi - but the hardest part was finding large enough media to store the pictures on! We ended up using one DVD per picture.

So the short conclusion is that I'm a lot more confident about enlarging some of my own images to the kind of size I'd always imagined when composing the shots in the first place. That's another piece of the puzzle in place!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

500px

I've just started up a profile and gallery on 500px.com. It's been a while since I've been active on that type of site - I used to be very active on DeviantArt but, for me, it lost it's focus and became too big and crowded. 500px is purely photography-oriented and seems to be more about the photos than harvesting likes and comments.

Here it is: edfcole on 500px.com


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Something A Bit Different

I'm a DVD editor and cameraman in the real world. So it's only natural that some of my photographic tendencies tend to mutate towards video (I'm also considering freelancing as a videographer, not sure about it yet though). The obvious crossover point for me is timelapse videos.

They're still very much something I'm experimenting with, they take time and that's something I don't seem to have very much of at the moment. Having said that I'm pleased with the results that I have got.

Here's an early one, put together with my old EOS 450D. I used star trail stacking software to create it (a 'cumulative stack'). Don't ask what the shot interval was, I just locked the shutter down and hoped for the best! The bright heads of the trails were created by overlaying an ordinary timelapse over the cumulative stack images.


Fast forward to last weekend and I went out to play with my new HD Hero2. I'd seen a few videos on YouTube about using a kitchen timer as a cheap panning mount for timelapses, and immediately hit eBay and got myself a stainless steel Ikea timer. Here it is, with the standard GoPro sticky pad and long cam mount:


Preparations complete, it was off into the lawless wilds of Lincolnshire to find a decent view. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a drainage ditch near Bassingham with a flat-topped concrete culvert, right by the road. I set the HD Hero to take a photo every two seconds, gave the timer a twist, plonked it down and ran away for half an hour.

Once I got home I created the actual movie in Premiere, which is ideal for timelapses for two reasons. The first is that it will import image sequences - nothing that unique there. The other is that it natively works with full-res images, unlike Avid which I use in the day job. So once the image sequence was imported I could choose pretty much any crop I wanted - HD Heros photograph at 5 megapixels which gives an image significantly larger than HD's 1920x1080 pixels. A bit of rendering later and here's the result:



I'm really happy with this - I got the boiling clouds that I was after and, apart from some slight jerkiness from the clockwork mechanism, I'm happy with the panning. Not to mention that most of Lincolnshire's wildlife seems to have wanted a taste of celebrity!

I'll definitely be doing more of these, obviously the HD Hero gives an interesting effect with it's wide-angle lens but in the interests of variety I'll definitely be looking into building a panning rig and a dolly for my EOS 7D as well. I've got a few big ideas for it but mainly I'll do it because it's fun - and a way to keep the skills sharp until I have another trip out of the flatlands and take some real photographs!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Shot Planning With The Photographer's Ephemeris

I started writing this post yesterday with the nebulous idea that through the medium of screengrabs I could demonstrate how I plan a shoot using Google Earth, an OS map and a bit of local knowledge. During the course of a bit of research I stumbled on to a piece of software that shows that the world has presumably moved on a bit while I was either asleep or at work...

The software in question is called The Photographer's Ephemeris. I have no idea how I found it, but it's here: http://photoephemeris.com/. Beneath the visual quirks it's a very useful and useable piece of software (and no, this isn't a sponsored post or anything. I grabbed it, used it, and was blown away).

The principle is simple. Take the times of sunrise/set and moonrise/set, plus a widget that works out where the sun will be at a given time of day, and overlay a visual representation of those on a Google terrain map. Put it in a pretty 1920s style frame and set the default location to Timbuktu (an utterly useless touch, but very funny if you're British!) and that's pretty much it. Of course, this is all information that you could probably work out for yourself with a lot of Googling, some brainpower and a name change to Patrick Moore, but the workflow implications of having all this in a point-and-click interface are pretty massive.

Here it is:


The orange line is the direction of sunset for yesterday, Jun 4th 2012. Yellow is sunrise; light blue is moonrise and dark blue is moonset. Not visible on here is the actual ephemeris table, which allows you to select the date and time and overlays a fifth line representing sun direction at that time. I was quite pleased that the sun direction is shown even for pre-dawn and post-sunset times, so you can even work out where the airglow will be if you're after pre-dawn silhouettes or suchlike.

In the example above, the map was centred on a little road by the River Trent that would, apparently, be directly aligned with the setting sun. There's not a lot to photograph in this neck of the woods for a big landscape photographer, so sky- and river-scapes are pretty much the only way to go. It was a bit cloudy last night but I decided to take a chance on a bit of evening clearance. A quick check on Bing maps showed that the road is public (this is, as far as I'm concerned, the only useful feature of Bing - the Ordnance Survey overlay on the maps is a godsend) so off I went - The Photographer's Ephemeris told me to be there by 9:23 so I was. I think it was worth it:


Just a quick edit from the 70-odd photos taken, but it throws up a couple of interesting points. One is that The Photographers Ephemeris was, of course, spot on and the sun is setting right along the line of the river. The other is that there are things the software can't show you - the sun actually set right behind the trees just to the right of centre in the shot above. The potential for a huge photo was there, I could envision the orb of the sun right in the gap in the clouds on the horizon with a massive reflection stretching towards the front of the photo. Because of the trees that didn't happen. So the golden rule is: Use the software, but find several locations and give yourself enough time to change locations if necessary. Of course this was just a test and you should never completely rely on software to do your thinking anyway.

All in all a worthwhile download and because of it, a worthwhile evening's photography. Get it and use it!

There's also an Android version - you have to pay for that, but given the amount of work that's gone into this software and how useful it already is, I'm going to quite happily do that in the very near future and I'll review that version as well.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Product Photography

Firstly an apology for the lack of updates, although I do have a great excuse - I somehow pulled my hamstring courtesy of the day job. Utterly frustrating as making it across the front room was hard enough let alone going out to take photos! Managed a short trip to Clumber Park with a friend but between my leg and the rain it wasn't what you'd call a completely successful day. On the plus side, Clumber Park definitely has a lot of potential, especially if you can get in at night for star shots.

One of the more commercial areas that suits my approach to photography is product photography. It was actually a part of my job a while back until the institutionalised opposition to creativity within the company led me to give it up - a shame, but the experience was useful and I got to play with some nice lighting gear and, if I say so myself, come up with some pretty neat solutions to doing things on a budget (boss too tight for a light table? Simples! Take top off ordinary office table, cover with white acrylic, put desk lamp underneath).

I'm doing work at the moment for twistedwhisker jewellery, which is actually my partner :) It's a proper commercial arrangement however so the pressure to deliver quickly is still there and it's proving a great way to get my act together as a contracted photographer rather than an employee. Here's a few samples:




She's also started doing step-by-step guides to jewellery making - as a photographer this presents an entirely new set of challenges as traditional rules of composition go straight out of the window - it's all about illustrating a particular point with absolute clarity and involves communicating closely with the client to ascertain exactly what they want illustrating and how. I suppose the benchmark for this type of photography is still the older Haynes car manuals. Some more samples (from the twistedwhisker blog, where there are a lot more steps and it probably makes sense!):




As an aside these shots also illustrate how good the EOS 7D is in low light - these were shot at ISO 3200 and although there's grain, if you know you're shooting solely for web use you can get away with it. And a better lens would probably help - my current macro lens is a Tamron so ancient that I think some of the components are made out of stone. The good news for me is that it's not for much longer - I think an L-series is looming on the horizon...


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Weddings

My partner and I were invited to a family wedding last weekend, with some vague instructions for me to bring my camera. I'd been asked if I wanted to be the official photographer but declined - I'm not a natural crowd wrangler. Anyway, it turned out that I was sort of the official unofficial photographer and depending on your point of view I was to provide either glorified Facebook photos or candid shots to complement the official photographer's output.

Now this was actually a pretty interesting opportunity - a chance to ease myself into wedding photography if I ever felt the need to branch out, plus a chance to see what a 'proper' wedding photographer does.

The first thing I noticed is that you don't have to go into drill seargent mode to get a crowd of people to do what you want - I'd underestimated the power of wielding a posh camera. The second thing was the pressure - nobody was expecting much from me and I still felt it, so what it must have been like for the official guy I can't imagine. It's a big day for the client and you can't go back when the light's better and have another go!

Thirdly - and this was real surprise to me - I found that candid photography is a lot of fun. The security of knowing that I had carte blanche to shoot who, what and where I wanted meant that the job turned into a kind of game. I suppose it was a kind of hunt - there was a ceilidh, so there are going to be people doing this over there at that moment - but will this, that and there happen at the same time? Can I get into position? Will there be enough light (no!)?

At the end of the day I think I got some decent shots (no pics sorry, some of the subjects won't want to see themselves on the net), but the main thing I took away from it was a renewal of my belief that wedding photography isn't for me and I'll forever look up to the skillset it takes to be a wedding photographer, but at the same time I had a lot more fun than I thought I would and picked up a few techniques and notions that will come in handy for other types of event.

And I should probably apologise to the official photographer, I may have drooled on his L-series lens a little bit.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

So What's All This About Then?

This blog marks the start of my transition to full-time photographer - I work full-time at the moment and can't devote enough time to the things I love doing - climbing hills and taking photographs. At the same time I've built up a wealth of experience and it would be churlish - especially when I stop working for somebody else - not to share that.

Ultimately the idea is to make a living from three things: Landscape photography, product photography, and instructional media. Explanations follow...

1) Landscape photography: Probably the same dream as a lot of photographers. Very difficult to make it your bread-and-butter but very rewarding to do.

2) Product photography: It always helps to have a foot in the door - my partner is a jewellerymaker, so initially I'll be  photographing her creations.

3) Instructional media: In other words, DVDs and web videos on how the average person can improve their everyday photography and step up from snapper to hobbyist.

Obviously these three areas will be served by web presences other than this blog in due course, but this is where I'll be charting my progress on a more personal level.

A Quick Note On Copyright

All photographs and videos that appear on this blog are the sole copyright of Ed Cole unless otherwise noted. Any use outside of this blog is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the copyright holder. Any violations will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of applicable law.

Sorry to get heavy, but this is the internet and many individuals and organisations seem to be an ethical vacuum once they get online. The short version is don't profit, financially or otherwise, from my hard work. If you want to use any of my photographs, get in touch - I don't bite!

Gallery: B&W as of March 2012

So as this is a photography blog, I thought I'd start out with some pictures. As my tastes stand at the moment, I'm leaning towards black and white - this really works for landscape photography because b&w really accentuates form and tone. I'm heavily influenced by Group f64 in general and Ansel Adams in particular so I suppose it's a natural progression (regression?) to be aiming towards shooting large format b&w film eventually.

Anyway, this is a pick of my current portfolio.

Couple, Sennen Beach


Stump and Breakers, Spurn Point

Ilam Rock, Dovedale

Cromford Mill Pond

Cromford

Scarthin Books, Cromford

Trees and Mist, Tissington Trail

Furrows and Snow, Newark

Eel Crags

Grisedale Pike

The Central Fells

Tree Stump, Bradford Dale, Youlgreave

Cow Shed, Youlgreave

Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moss

Lanyon Quoit

Red Tarn, Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Catstye Cam

Red Tarn From Swirral Edge

Ribblehead Viaduct and the Yorkshire Three Peaks


As with all posts on this blog please respect and observe the photographer's copyright.