Get out and shoot

Go and shoot they said, the weather will be great they said…… It was lovely when we set out.

In the talk that I give, I discuss the weather, the vagaries of shooting and the stuff you forget to take with you. I also talk about attitude, and what you do at the other end of your drive when things don’t turn out as you anticipated.

It was a fabulous morning, a light mist hanging over the fields – not light yet properly, and the idea of a low mist, a high tide, and the ‘Sound Tower’, one of the Structures on the Edge – down on the coast, kept me moving.

It’s about 30 miles to where we wanted to be – around a 50 minute drive along winding roads, and with the fog getting thicker all the time, there were thoughts about turning around and getting home for a bacon sandwich…

“Carry on”, I said to myself, “Practice what you preach”…. “Wish I’d brought my ‘normal’ camera” I thought, and not the drone….

Still, it looked like it might be OK. We parked up, and wandered onto the beach to be met with a wall of sea fog, but with the sun making a brave effort to poke through. “We’ll launch” we said….. and up we went……

What I didn’t think about was the transmission issues in fog between drone and transmitter…. should have done of course… and at one point it sat in the sky and refused to land – a moment of panic to be sure, but all was well and down she came – I thought better of a second attempt, and only took a couple of images…. here they are…..


The light turned out lovely, and I did get the bacon when I got home…. maybe I will check the forecast in a bit more detail next time before I leave the house……

Wrong weather, wrong mood, wrong camera, wrong lens…….. good photo !!!

I think……

I’ve Never Flown A Drone Before!

A few weeks ago, a friend told me that another friend was selling his drone, did I fancy getting one? I wasn’t sure……….

We decided in the end that we would buy it between us and give it a go.

What did we know about drones? – absolutely nothing…….

However, once it arrived, we found it easy to set up, and get running.  The cables were a bit fiddly till you could sort out where they went, but once the batteries were charged, it can be put it into ‘idot’ mode, which makes for an easier start.

The basics are easy – left control, up and down and rotate, and the right for forwards, backwards, sideways – but getting the knack of using both levers at the same time was a bit more complex.   You also have to take into account that the camera lens can be moved up and down through 90 degrees. Lots of permutations here.

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The first lot of video was shaky to say the least.  Stop start, and too quick rotation meant viewing made your head spin, and getting up the nerve to go to the maximum legal height of 400ft was a bit hairy.

The Boring Bit

To legally use a drone in the UK, over the weight of 250g, it must be registered.  It can all be done online and there are two parts to this.  

  1. Anyone responsible for a drone needs to register as an operator.  This is currently £9 annually.
  2. Anyone flying a drone must take, and pass an online education package. This is free, and renewable every three years.
  3. If you want to fly commercially, a whole raft of other requirements are in place.

So, registration complete, test passed (first time – though in fairness it’s not difficult) – and away we go.

What’s hard?

Thinking in three dimensions is not easy for me – yet …. For a start, the thing is moving, and it’s far away from you usually.  Taking stills is not too bad as it will hover and the gimbal helps keeps the image steady, plus you can see what the camera sees on your mobile phone app.   Video though, for me, is a whole new skill.

So, I’ve got the footage (bad though it may be) and I’ve got some photographs.  Processing them is easy – the drone shoots its own version of RAW – in this case DNG files, which I can deal with in Photoshop and Lightroom.  The video footage though – well Lightroom can’t handle it – Photoshop is limited, so what else have I got?  

I use a MAC, and the free software that comes with that is iMovie – and it actually works pretty well.  I’ve got a fairly powerful computer that can handle video, but bear in mind that the files can be huge.  I shot in 4K (which is the best quality this drone can handle), and after 40 minutes flying the other day, I came back with 30Gb of footage, which when downloaded and edited made for a bit of a wait whilst the files were exported afterwards.

I’ve also been learning a bit more about how YouTube works. The finished files are a bit too big for me to keep locally, and there’s free space so far on the web, which I can link to. Something else for me to learn….

The other interesting thing I found is that you can take a still image from the video footage, and the quality isn’t bad. (See Below)

Cleethorpes Beach

So how am I doing?  Well, it’s been an experience for sure – and some of the images I can already see potential for.

I was initially a bit disappointed with the quality of the stills. The camera is 12Mp but really does need good light to get the best from it. The sensor of course is tiny – but you can work the files to what I consider an acceptable standard – they can be noisy but software can sort most of that. It’s a bit like flying a medium quality mobile phone. (Though I know that some of the newer drones have much better cameras).

I’m always talking about taking a risk, and experimenting with photography, and this is a whole new way of seeing the world.  It’s going to take practice, and although I’m thinking of buying another one (that’s all mine)….. I’m going to wait till I really get to grips with my half of a drone……..  

For those of you who know all this already, I’m sorry to ramble on, but it’s an exciting time.

Fingers crossed I can keep up with this, and hopefully get to make some video that is actually worth watching….. till then… fingers crossed.


As the DJI website says – “Let’s Fly”

Being Quiet

I’ve stolen this title from a podcast that I listen to, where the talk was about being digitally quiet as well as physically quiet.

This came from the fact that, (for reasons that are unimportant) I put Facebook back onto my mobile phone as a temporary measure.  I’d deleted the app over 12 months ago, but every now and again wished it had been there – and yesterday I put it back on for one day – and I wish in some ways I hadn’t.

We went to the Festival of the Air in Cleethorpes and I’d had this idea that I could post to FB a video of the kite flying – which was incredible by the way…..

What I found was that I got to looking at other things rather than just posting the video, and a couple of photos. It became a huge distraction, as I became more bothered about the upload, than I was about what was going on around me.  In the end I uploaded a photo or two – and the video, and then deleted the app again – it was just too much for me to deal with, AND absorb what was going on around me.

Once again, I noticed the number of people (this time including me for a while) who were watching the parade, the kites and all the other attractions through the small screen of their phones – almost like it was a sin to watch the real thing with their own eyes.

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I don’t think I take enough time really to stop and look.  There’s too much digital noise going on, and sometimes I feel I’m being dragged into directions I don’t want to go.

I’m an advocate of playing around though – I think that it’s essential to take time off from the serious bit of photography.  So this weekend – apart from the Facebook distraction – I decided to play with the images – I took them just because it was interesting to me, and not because they were truly ‘artistic’ in any way.

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I call it photographic doodling. It’s a great way of limbering up the artistic juices (of which I’ve been sadly lacking for weeks and weeks) – It’s the process of playing around, and not the result.  It’s been good to just mess about, and see what comes out.

Facebook has been removed from my phone, and I hope will never, ever, get put back on again, I need the peace and quiet after all….

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Fast Photography?

I feel the need to slow down, but it’s hard to do…….

Most times I go out to shoot, I come home, and am looking at what I’ve taken within hours. I’m starting to think (a strain for me I know), that I should try and slow things down.

When I’m actually out shooting these days, I’m one of the slowest – I’m conscious that I’m the last to finish, and sometimes people are left waiting for me.  It’s a style, and I see other photographers who can jump out of the car and get cracking straight away – and if I try to do this, I come back with images that are only fit for the digital trash.

I was talking to a friend the other week, who said that he didn’t look at anything he’d taken for at least a week.  He would download to his computer, and back up – but then leave them to ‘develop’ and come back to them later.

With hindsight (which is a wonderful thing) I can see how this works.

I’ve been looking back at images I took months ago, and have just left them to stew on the computer.  This long cooking time, can make for a better image – so rather than just delete stuff – I’m trying to hang onto it for at least two months before I make a decision.  The obvious operator errors can go straight away, but sometimes it’s good to come back to something in a different frame of mind.

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This image for example.

I took this in March of 2017, when out with some friends on an exploration of the Lincolnshire Coast.  I’d forgotten all about it, and rediscovered it, and re-processed it over the last day or two.  I think it’s something I might have easily thrown away, but with hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t.  I think it’s a peaceful shot, calm and Autumnal.  (The image by the way is the ‘Soundtower’, part of an art installation called ‘Structures on the Edge’, and can be found at Chapel Six Marshes.)

It’s always worth archiving images you are not sure about, and come back to them later.

And in the meantime, I’m going to make a serious effort to not process images as soon as I’ve taken them.  I’ll try and let them stew for a while, and look at them again, in the ‘cold light of day’ as it were.

I think that there’s a difference between just getting a ‘shot’, and experiencing the ‘getting of that shot’.  This is what I’m sometimes missing.

Do you find that you get the best images when you are chasing the shot, or when you spend time contemplating what is to come – can you anticipate when the moment is to come?

I think I learnt to ‘rush’ when I was working as an agency photographer.  I would have to wait for the event to happen, but then it was a frantic rush to get the shots, and then they had to be sent off to the agency as soon as I could.  If I was late, then another photographer would have already sent images to another agency, and I would have lost the moment.  Speed was of the essence.

Now though, I don’t need to do that any more, but it’s still ingrained in me – so I rush with post processing, like I need to get images out in a deadline.

I need to STOP, and smell the roses……

I need to make the observation come first, the photography second, and the processing slow and easy.  I shall try and adjust my approach for the future.

And now, I’m out to shoot…. hopefully I can resist the image to edit what I take today…..

Enjoy your photography.

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It’s about the Light (and the weather)

How often do you hear the phrase “I only shoot in the golden hour”, or alternately “I won’t shoot in the middle of the day”?

I’m constantly surprised by these remarks, because, if you think about it, it only leaves a few scant hours to shoot in the Winter, and it must knock at least 12 hours off your Summer schedule too.

Life goes on, and light goes on, even during the day – and at mid-day too.

I grant you that good light is great, and when it happens, and you are there – the images, you just know, are going to be amazing. The caveat is, that this great light, has to have something great on which to fall.  No subject equates to no picture.

This week, (early in February) the weather in the UK has been pretty grim.  The folks down South seem to have had the worst of it, but up here in the micro climate that is the East Coast of Lincolnshire – we didn’t get a lot of weather as such.  What we did get was a blast of freezing fog, grey sky, sleet, and as I type a smattering of snow.  ( And even as I finish that sentence – the snow stops and the sun comes out)……..

However, I digress – I had to go out – I had an appointment that I was not able to change, or postpone, I had to go.  The roads were icy (I’m three miles from the nearest main gritted road), the fog was thick and patchy, and if I hadn’t had to get out, I’d have stayed in and watched the fog!

So, when I did get the car out, I thought I’d take the camera….. just in case.  turns out it was a good thing I did.

Appointment finished about 10am, and the fog was still freezing – the car said -5 but I thought I’d head out to the coast.

First impressions were not thrilling, and the cold air took my breath away.

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None the less, I enjoyed the lead lines fading away into the distance.

It was heading up to 11am by the time I arrived at my next location – which I swung into on impulse.  It’s the Country park, which is usually chock full of dog walkers and joggers.  The paths were OK, but the car park itself was lethal.

The hoar frost made everything look much more beautiful, and the low light gave everything an air of peace.

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By changing the white balance on the camera from sunny to cloudy, it warmed the pictures up a little but still allowed for that feeling of cold.

Moving around the lake to the jetty I found that by shooting low – (this means sitting in the frosty grass by the way), I was able to get my favourite shot of the day.

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A tweak or two in photoshop, add a vignette, and I’m done.  It’s lunchtime.  The light is directly overhead, it would be harsh but for the fog (now lifting) – it’s revealed the textures in the icy water and in the wooden stumps.  There’s no cloud, so I’ve not shown much of the sky.

All in all, I’m glad of the appointment – I’m glad I shot in the worst part of the day – chose the wrong weather, got cold, and wet.  It was worth it.

Get out in the ‘weather’, whatever it may be.  You just don’t know what will be revealed.

Where East Meets West – Part 2

If you trace the Prime Meridian from the North Pole, heading South, the first landfall you will make is on the East Coast of England.  Here, a 306-mile (493-kilometer) footpath is marked off following the Meridian line as closely as possible. Dubbed the Greenwich Meridian Trail, the long-distance walk follows the invisible geographic marker from the English Channel in Sussex northward to the east Yorkshire coast at Sand le Mere, and Patrington.

From the South it comes up through the outskirts of Boston, and up through the Lincolnshire Wolds.  Then on to Cleethorpes, and after that, with the Humber Estuary in the way, to Spurn Point, and Patrington – ending at Sand Le Mere.

Sadly the marker for the end of the walk at Sand Le Mere, has been washed into the sea following the coastal erosion, and although it survived the initial fall, it has now vanished from the beach.  Hence my first blog post showed the 0 marker on the main road.   Sadly, I suppose the route is getting slightly shorter, year on year, following the problems on the Yorkshire coast.

Another boring fact is that Louth is the largest Town north of London that the Meridian actually passes through properly.  There are some that have the line just outside the town perimeters, like Holbeach and Boston.

Once the line goes into East Yorkshire it quickly leaves the County (like many other things) just near Holderness, and from there it is entirely over water all the way to the Pole.

And for those who like facts and figures, it only passes through 8 countries en route.

They are, in order North to South, England, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso and Ghana  – so maybe I’ll visit all of them…

Anyway….. to conclude this post, here’s the Meridian in Cleethorpes, where my journey really starts…  I’ll revisit on a less wet day with a few better images.

Lytham Proms 2012

Over the last weekend, I was able to shoot the Lytham Proms, held each year on Lytham Green, just outside Blackpool.  It was a fantastic experience to be able to shoot such giants as Alfie Boe, Olly Murs and Diana Vickers, as well as the Lytham Community Choir.

The weather on Saturday night was mixed, but even as the rain hurled down, the voice of Alfie Boe made you forget the water running down the back of your neck.

You can just about make out the rain to the bottom left of the shot.  Despite all that, the sun shone, and though I’ve not got a photo of it, there was a wonderful rainbow, that arced from the sea, over the Lytham Windmill, and onwards.  Alfie remarked that it was a great light show, that had been set up..

Next night was Olly Murs, and the whole demographic of the evening changed.  Lots of  young people, all screaming their heads off for Olly.  He was a true professional, with so much energy – and lots of time for his young fans.

The full set of images can be found by clicking HERE