Press Day - Wow, wow, wow - it's a GOLD !!!
Final Day 16 - It's finished! Three final images - left, centre & right. Wonderful scheme!
Final Day 16 - Completed. Hopefully, more sunny tomorrow for the judges!
Day 15 - Almost there, final planting and tidying up left for tomorrow - the last day !
Day 13 - Lots of plants in place, red soil going in, furniture being added.
Day 11 - Key plants being placed, walls all blue, turf pathway laid.
Day 9 - Walls getting bluer, first layout of plants from The Eden Project. Jilayne in control!
Day 7 - Classroom, orange tree and big rocks in place, and walls starting to go blue!
Day 5 - Wall render completed, classroom steelwork up and roof installed.
Day 4 - Walls nearly completed, first render on its way.
Day 1 - Foundations being dug, blockwork walls all arrived. Cormac planning the two weeks!
As noted in my Profile, my wife Jil has designed this wonderful Space to Grow garden at the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 for the charity, CAMFED - Campaign for Female Education. There's a great story that it tells with all the details, which you can see on Jilayne's website.
These are the first construction shots - not photographic masterpieces yet - they will come once the garden is finished and planted up! It's such a busy site during construction that you cannot set up anywhere with a tripod or at a consistent place each day. Nevertheless, these are all from about the same spot - generally, 35mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 200-400. Keep tuned in here, or on Twitter, for updates each day.
Structural engineering by yours truly - my smallest project, ever!
I did a recce a few weeks ago around the Bank of England – really to see if I could find a good position to take some long exposure shots around sunset/dusk (to match several of my themes around London at the moment).
These are two images from that day. The first was taken from about the only position that was nicely composed, with good a foreground and background, and with which I could capture some traffic trails going down Threadneedle Street. I was positioned on Cornhill, which was very conveniently closed to traffic at the time, with the Royal Exchange on the right hand side. It’s quite a sheltered spot (from sunlight), giving a foreground that was a tad darker than I would have preferred, but a wonderful view up the Bank of England itself. I took about 15 long exposures over about half an hour, waiting for the right number of buses going down the street. This first image was at 20mm, ISO 64, f/11 and 20s, using a 10-stop ND filter.
In Lightroom, I did try to correct the verticals but, in the end, the composition was much better straight from camera. There was a larger blue cast correction than normal with a Big-Stopper (due to the shady foreground), and I ended up using a white balance at 14,000K. I then boosted the Saturation of the oranges (+20) to help the stonework and reduced the Luminance of the blues (-35) to better bring out the sky.
The second photo was outside the Royal Exchange looking more directly at the front of the bank – again, I waited for quite a while to get this shot of the bus with a Union Flag. This was taken normally at 20mm, ISO 100, f/11 and 1/125s, and with the white balance back to a more normal 6,000K.
I’ll go back at dusk in the new few months to capture those traffic trails and the lights on the building just after sunset – the famous blue-hour.
On one of the really clear days, and having got my ski-legs back (sort of!), I took my (heavy and expensive!) camera up the slopes too. Besides some general shots that you can see in my new Landscapes – World portfolio, I also took a series of panoramas from several peaks. This is the best one, looking back over Obertauern from the top of the Monte Flu-Bahn. I used 1/125s (to hand-hold with VR), f/13 and ISO 64 – with about a third of each frame overlapped with the adjacent one, enabling me to get the whole 180-degree view in 4 images. I used my 24-120mm f/4 zoom lens at 28mm, as I know that it gets quite soft at around its 24mm extreme. The detail in the landscape panorama is wonderful though, even at 100%.
In Lightroom, I then used a 7,000K white balance adjustment (to get rid of the excessive blues in the snow) and a bit of de-haze - I also reduced the Luminance of the blues to -30 to bring out the crispness of the sky a little bit more. I then merged and blended the images together in Photoshop with the Cylindrical mode, which works best (and automatically) for most normal panoramas. You cannot see any join marks, even when viewing at 100%. A last clean-up of assorted slope debris and other skiers then produced the final image, which is 66MP in size (15,400 by 4,300 pixels). A lovely image to have on the wall at about 200cm by 60cm!
On my large Apple screen, the 100% viewing is equivalent to 110ppi. So, a high-quality print at 300ppi is only about 35% on screen. This 66MP print at 200cm by 60cm has a pixel density of around 185ppi, which is about the lowest density that I would make a very good large print – this is still only about 60%. As I view and adjust all my images at 100%, I can clearly ensure that at 35-60%, they are all perfect.
As noted above, I have now re-organised all my portfolio images in to new categories – these ones are under Landscapes – World.
I was down along the River Thames last week to capture the sunset over the recently closed Hammersmith Bridge. Although it now wouldn’t have any traffic trails on the bridge itself, I thought it would give a more deserted air to the scene than is normal. The forecast was for clearish skies around sunset, which was true up to a point. However, once the sun had dropped below the line of the suspension cables, a large bank of cloud appeared on the horizon that blocked out the rest of the sunset colours! Still, all was not in vain I thought, as the lights on the bridge would still provide a nice line in the approaching darkness – only to discover that due to the on-going maintenance works on the bridge, all the bridge lights had been turned off! All in all, not a great trip – although the earlier pictures shown here were still pretty good.
This first one was about 50 minutes before sunset with a lovely reflection in the water of the river. The tide was also going out much more quickly than I thought, giving a nice foreshore but less water, of course. Both images were on my 16-35mm f/4 at 21mm, f/16 and ISO 64. The first used a 10-stop ND filter to lengthen the exposure to 20s, taking the light from EV 14 to EV 4. The second was then just 10 minutes before the sunset when the light had dropped to EV 11 – I consequently changed the ND filter to 5-stops and used a 5s exposure (at EV 6). The light at the time didn’t seem that great, but you can always get better colours from the fabulous sensor on my D810, which did indeed pull out more oranges, with a bit of help from Lightroom! There’s also a Heron at the water’s edge, which clearly stayed completely still for the 5s duration.
I will have to go back again in a year’s time when the works are finished and the bridge lights are back to normal. I’ve taken quite a few shots of London bridges as dusk now, but rather sporadically – I will now take a proper series of all the more interesting bridges at sunset, which will take a year, or so, as some are best with the sun setting in the NW in the summer, while most are better with the sunset in the SW in the winter, while Hammersmith here is best near the equinoxes with the sunset close to the West.
Look out for updates to my Cityscapes and Bridges Portfolios!
Here’s the red sunset at last! This was on our last day in Austria – we had seen clouded-over sunsets and clear sky sunsets, but none with just that right amount of cloud to cause the fabulous range of reds that you can get.
These two images were taken 35 minutes after the sunset, which is when you normally get the best effects for these sorts of colours. The light had dropped to about EV 10 – ideally, I would have used ISO 64 and f/11, but this would have required a 1/5s exposure. This would then have needed the tripod that I didn’t have with me, or for me to have taken a big risk with the VR working exceptionally well. As I didn’t have or want either option, I chose 1/80s (to hand-hold safely with this 24-120mm f/4 VR lens), and opened the aperture up a tad to f/8, therefore ending up with ISO 400. I didn’t want to open up any wider to f/5.6 or f/4, as the fine detail would definitely get softer. ISO 400 is not ideal for pictures that I want to sell at large resolution, but better that than nought – and my D810 is excellent still at ISO 400, even in low light where I have pulled detail out of the shadows. A good dose of noise reduction in Lightroom (65) also helped to get rid of any remaining issues, without softening the details.
The first shot was of the wider scene at 50mm, capturing the wonderful red sky, the first hint of lights in the town and a “piste-basher” working up on a red slope on the left – it was 2 hours after the slopes had closed. The second photo was then zoomed in a bit further to 85mm, capturing more detail of the fiery sky itself. Incredible colours and effects! You have to wait and then be quick, as you only get about 5-10 minutes to capture these reds; from after the oranges have turned, up to them disappearing in to the oncoming darkness.
Just before the very dramatic red sunsets, noted below, here’s an equally stunning orange sunset! You tend to get very orange sunsets with clear skies, while the deep red sunsets only really occur when there’s a bit of cloud in the sky, to catch and absorb the light – not too much cloud and not too little.
This image was taken at sunset, clearly – well, sunset on the mountain horizon anyway. Besides the wonderful orange colours, I love the reflections of the sun on the top of the chair lift towers on the right hand side of the picture. This is where the Monte Flu-Bahn and the Kehrkopfbahn chair lifts meet, with the peak of Seekareck in the background. It was taken at 95mm, ISO 100, f/11 and 1/160s, i.e. about EV 14. In Lightroom, I held the sky back by 1-stop using the Luminance Mask on the Graduated Filter. The white balance was tricky, with the average being at about 9,000K – even then, I still had to hold the Blue Saturation back by -50 to get rid of the colour cast on the snow. I also added +25 to the Saturation of the Yellows and Oranges, for even better effect!
I’ll post some more alpine scenes shortly, including those red sunsets!
We’ve been skiing almost every year for twenty years, but hadn’t been for four years – so, we were a bit rusty. Not helped by dodgy knees, hips and backs! Anyway, we generally had gone to Kuhtai (which is up at 2,000m) but this time went to Obertauern, which we had also been to before, but only once. Unusually in Austria, it is also high up above the snow line, at about 1,700m, with the peaks running up to about 2,500m. Better for us, it also has many more blue runs than in Kuhtai – we may have been red run skiers previously, but we definitely prefer blue runs nowadays! Some were simply gentle forest trails, although many also had significant slopes on them too, making them distinctly purple-ish.
I’ve got some very dramatic red sunsets later in the week, but these two images are from the first day. Both were taken on my D810 with a lens that I generally don’t use very often – the 24-120mm f/4 is not quite the same superb quality as my 24-70mm f/2.8, but is a very useful (and still excellent) lens to carry when you’re only able to bring one lens. It also has VR, of course. I knew from previous shoots in Kuhtai that the advantage of the slightly longer focal length would be useful up in the mountains – both these images were taken in the 75-120mm range.
The first was taken at about sunset with the sky almost completely orange and enough light on the slopes to really see the snow still. It was at ISO 100, f/8 and 1/100s. The second photo was shot about 20 minutes after the sunset with the sky full of red clouds (well actually, they’re all plane vapour trails!) and the mountains almost in silhouette. It was taken at ISO 200, f/8 and 1/80s.
I’ll be posting some more day and sunset scenes shortly.
I’d taken evening shots on the west side (from Ludgate Hill) of St Paul’s Cathedral in the autumn of 2017, and had been meaning to go back and get some similar images from the east side, which I did a few weeks ago. Pictures from this side not only show Wren’s dramatic main dome (completed in 1708), but also allow some views of the sky as the sun sets in the west. The best location in the end was at the junction of Cannon Street and New Change – a little too close to stationary traffic at the lights, but you cannot get any further back without losing the view of the whole cathedral.
As ever, the best time is from about 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes afterwards. The earlier times pick up the glowing orange of the sunset, while the later times pick up more of the city and traffic lights, while there is still some nice light in the sky – the blue hour, although it’s much less than an hour! These two images were on my 16-35mm f/4 at 31mm and ISO 64. The first was 10 minutes after sunset with a 5-stop ND filter to lengthen the exposure to 20s with f/10. The second was then 20 minutes later when the light had dropped to EV 5 – I could then take all the filters off the lens and use 10s with f/16. I never use apertures less than f/16 on my FX D810 to avoid any softening issues with diffraction.
In Lightroom, I dragged back the Highlights and Shadows a fair way (-85/+85), while also using a Graduated Filter (by half a stop with a Luminance Mask) on the lighter sky of the first image. The first shot then needed a White Balance adjustment (due to the ND filter) of 7,000K, while the second was back to normal at 5,500K. Finally, I cleared a lot of the street furniture detritus out in Photoshop!
I’ve also now added some of these to an updated set of St Paul’s images in my Cityscapes Portfolio.
There were incredibly clear, blue winter skies a few weeks ago at Bodiam Castle in Sussex. It’s a 14th century moated castle built in 1385 by a former knight of Edward III, notionally to defend against the possible French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War. The waters of the moat were so still and clear that the reflections are almost perfect, which you can particularly see in this second image.
Both were taken with my 16-35mm f/4 wide-angle lens. With the sun behind me in the first image, I didn’t need a polarising filter (and it wouldn’t work anyway) – the blue skies were simply stunning on their own. It was taken at 19mm, ISO 100, f/11 and 1/125s. The second photo had the sun to my left side and I used a polarising filter to improve both the sky and the clarity of the reflections on the water. The filter took the light down by nearly 2 stops, for which I then used 23mm, ISO 200, f/11 and 1/80s. 24mm is the commonly used widest angle before the polariser starts to give banding issues in the colours of the sky.
The only tweaks that I applied in Lightroom, besides the usual adjustments, were to reduce the Luminance of the blues (to darken them more) and increase the Saturation of the oranges – both just a tad to highlight the overall feel of the pictures.
Only downside is that I can’t sell any of these images on Alamy, as the National Trust building is clearly private property – which is a great shame as, even though I say myself, they are lovely pictures!
I took some pictures at the beginning of the year at St Michael’s Mount, which is just off Marazion, near Penzance in Cornwall. The famous causeway, which allows access to the old Benedictine monastery at low tide, is a common feature in many images of the island, as it provides a wonderful lead-in line. The earliest buildings on the summit date from the 11th century, although the main chapel is from the 15th century.
Even though the shortest day is on 21 December, the latest sunrise is actually a few weeks later in early January. I was there on the beach from about 9.30am, knowing that the tide was on its way out and, with the sunrise being so late at 8.20am, the sun was still low in the sky. Actually, the sun didn’t appear from behind the clouds until mid-morning, but the images all still look like early morning.
As I was taking images in to the sun, the light levels were equal to those of a bright sunny day at EV 15 – the first image of the causeway just opening up (as the tide receded) was at 18mm, ISO 64, f/16 and 1/80s. I had the 16-35mm f/4 lens on my D810 on a tripod. I didn’t need it to be necessarily mounted on a tripod but I was also doing some longer exposure shots with ND filters at the time, although all my preferred pictures were taken without any filters.
The second image was about an hour later on the beach itself. The crepuscular rays (aka God’s rays!) were very dramatic for quite a while with the sun shining right down on to the church and island, with some great reflections on the beach itself. This was also exposed at about EV 15, using 32mm, ISO 64, f/13 but now hand-held at 1/125s. This image worked better with the island a little more like a silhouette, with a bit less detail of the church and slightly more of the sky.
I’ve also now added six images of St Michael's Mount to my Landscapes Portfolio.
I hadn’t been to Knole before, but it was another lovely winter’s day, with low sun and long shadows. I didn’t spend much time around the house as I can’t really sell any photos from the property due to National Trust restrictions – it is private, of course. The current house was built as an Archbishop’s Palace in the 1450s, but is now partly National Trust owned and partly still occupied by the Sackville family - Vita Sackville-West (of Sissinghurst Garden fame) grew up here. It’s always the grounds that are of the greater interest to me – lakes, hills or woods.
Here, there’s a medieval deer park that has been around for about 600 years - Henry VIII knew it well. They have two types of deer; the Japanese Sika and Fallow. The Sika deer males are larger, browner with pointy antlers, whereas the Fallow bucks are smaller, spottier with flat elements to their antlers.
I was using the 200-500mm f/5.6 lens on my D500 camera. With fairly still animals, I use 1/500-1/1000s, mainly to avoid camera shake than anything else (even with VR) – these ones were both at 1/640s. I then tend to use spot-metering (as that’s what I’m focussing upon) with the Auto-ISO function. This is great as the light can change enormously in moving from one shot to another. You simply fix your shutter speed and aperture, and then the camera selects the ISO – these ones were 320 to 640. I always used to use f/5.6, as the lens sharpness seemed highest here, but I’ve switched more recently to using f/8 – not for sharpness but for a little more depth of field. It’s nice if you focus on the face/eyes to also get the mouth and ears in focus too. For example here, using a 300mm focal length at about 20m away, f/5.6 gives about 1m depth of field, whereas f/8 gives you about 1.5m; just enough to get the whole head more safely in focus, without opening the ISO up too much.
The first image could be from the Scottish Highlands with a majestic Sika stag looking over the hills. He was actually stood grazing most of the time, completely oblivious to me! The second one is of a group of five Fallow fawns, skittering around like rabbits. It’s too early in the season for births this year, and so they must be fawns from last year, I guess.
Been to Cliveden quite a few times now, mainly as it’s a great location to see Red Kites flying over the Thames Valley. It’s always nice on a clear, crisp winter’s morning too, with blue skies and long shadows in the winter sunshine. Cliveden sits on the banks of the River Thames and has been a famous country home for various owners from the Duke of Buckingham in 1666-1687 to the Astors in 1893-1967. The grounds are now all National Trust, even though the House itself is still a private hotel.
The first image was of the snowdrops along one of the gravel pathways in the dappled woodland shade, taken on my D810 with the 16-35mm f/4 at 28mm, 1/100s, f/8 and ISO 200. The second shot is of one of the Kites squawking in the adjacent trees. There were four pairs of Red Kites flying around that morning. Cliveden House sits high on the top of the valley overlooking the East, South and West, with the birds mainly flying around the South and West, over the Thames Valley itself. Quite regularly, they come over the grounds of Cliveden and occasionally, rest in the trees at the top of the valley – this time it was on the East side. Being high up, you get a wonderful view of their movements – they are so calm, gently hovering, hardly flapping their wings at all. I still find it difficult to capture really good images of them in flight, unless they come in very close, as the auto-focus on my fabulous 200-500mm f/5.6 is not quite fast enough, even on my D500. Once stationary in the trees, it’s much easier to get a really sharp image – this one was at 500mm (equivalent to 750mm on the DX camera), 1/1000s, f/5.6 and ISO 720.
We drove up to Stowe last week, on a gloriously clear and slightly snowy winter’s day. Much of Stowe was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, before he went on to really make his mark on many other country estates with his English Garden style, typified by rolling landscapes, serpentine lakes and structures. He rejected the very formal geometric French style of gardening, such as seen at Versailles, and concentrated on echoing the natural undulations of the English landscape. He was responsible for re-designing around 170 major estates and gardens over his life, many of which still survive to this day.
Everything was taken on my D810 with the fabulous wide-angle 16-35mm f/4 lens. I like to handhold with shutter speeds of 1/125s to 1/160s to ensure really sharp images – even on lenses with VR. As it was quite bright, I could then still get ISO 100 with f/11 for good depth of field.
The first photo is of the Shell Bridge – it’s actually a dam, not a bridge; one of the many tricks that he used with these sorts of watercourses and landscapes. There’s a higher-level lake just behind the “bridge”. The second shot shows the Temple of Ancient Virtue set in the wooded Elysian Fields. I’ve also now added some of these shots to my previous images from Stowe in to my Gardens – Places Portfolio.
Took the opportunity of a sunny winter’s day to take some pictures around the legal areas of central London. The wonderfully gothic Royal Courts of Justice was looking fabulous in the low sunlight of a winter’s day – glowing orange against a clear blue sky. It was opened in 1882 by Queen Victoria. It’s at the bottom of The Strand just before Fleet Street starts. There was quite a lot of clutter outside with various protesters and the like, and so I had to opt for upward looking shots. This was the best one of the main entrance and spire behind – it was taken fairly traditionally at 28mm, 1/160s, f/11 and ISO 100. I could have straightened all the verticals with the Guided Transform tool in Lightroom, but would have lost quite a lot of the frame in the process, and so I stuck with the converging lines, which look just fine.
I then walked down Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral – just on the left is Old Bailey, where the second image of the Central Criminal Court was taken. There has been a court here since 1585 although this somewhat austere building dates from 1902. The famous bronze statue of Lady Justice sits atop the dome – it seems gold to me? I liked the sunburst just peeping over the roof with the English flag fluttering to the left (although I did have to Photoshop the flag from a shot a few seconds earlier, as the best sunburst image had a flag that was drooping and almost invisible!). There’s a rather grand old main entrance on Old Bailey too, but sadly it’s not used – the one that you always see on the news is the very insignificant entrance further south, which forms part of the rather dull South Block that was added in 1972.
Finally, this was the day of the storm – not so much rain, but very windy, with big waves and lots of white horses on the sea. These two images were both again at Fistral Beach. The first was in the late afternoon with a lovely orange glow on the rocks as the sun got lower in the sky. It captures a smooth curve of surf as it broke in to one of the many coves around the headland. I love the aqua colours in the overall blue of the ocean, together with that swirl of sandy yellow as the breakers drag sand up the beach. I kept f/11 but increased the speed to 1/200s to freeze the waves, with the ISO going up to 160.
The second shot was only an hour later, looking in to exactly the same little cove. You can see the waves breaking a long way out – too strong and choppy for any surfing this time, even for the many experienced surfers that are usually here! This was taken at 1/160s, f/11 and ISO 100. All I did in Lightroom, besides the usual adjustments, was to add a Luminance Mask to the Graduated Filter to hold the sky and sun back by one stop. The clouds produced a good fan of crepuscular rays too, which I also enhanced by boosting the orange colours in the frame.
I took some photos of other Cornish sunsets a few days later, both again at Fistral Beach in Newquay. The first one was the day before a heavy autumn storm. With lots of surfers in the sea, it was taken using 1/160s, f/11 and ISO 200 at 50mm. The second one was the day after the storm, with quite choppy seas still and a beautifully red and orange glow as the sun went down behind the clouds. I didn’t have a tripod to hand and had to rest the camera against a wall to use 1/60s – I can’t hand-hold my FX sensor at anything less than 1/125-1/160s without it showing up on the image. I then opened the lens up to f/5.6 and the ISO to 400. With this wider aperture but the focal length at 28mm, and nothing in the close foreground, I could then focus on something about 10-20m away and still get everything in focus from 5m to infinity.
Only just got around to processing a lot of images from north Cornwall that I had taken last October. Many of these are now available on Alamy and I have also re-ordered a number of my Landscapes Portfolio pictures to suit these new additions as well.
The first few days were clear and crisp, with bright skies and a calm sea. These first two were at Fistral Beach in Newquay, both taken at 1/160s and f/11 on my D810 with the wonderfully versatile 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The late afternoon view towards the headland at Towan Head (with the famous Cribbar Rocks beyond) is always good, working nicely at ISO 100, as the shadows start to lengthen. The second image was clearly just before sunset, needing an increase of the ISO to 250. It was taken from the Headland Hotel, where we were staying, looking down over the large number of surfers who continued to surf well past sunset. The crepuscular rays through the clouds are always a nice feature at this time of day too.
Further to my Blog - 2018, these are two panoramas from a few days later, using the same techniques to stitch three telephoto images together in to a single wide-angle frame. The cloud layer on the horizon made the whole feel of the photos quite different to the clear skies earlier in the week. This first one was at 6.35am with a brighter look due to the reflections of the pre-dawn sun from the clouds. As I wanted to keep the exposure time below 20s (as it was windy and the clouds were moving quickly), I had to up the ISO a tad to 320. The second panorama was 30 minutes later (but still 45 minutes before sunrise) with a very strong orange glow behind the dark clouds shrouding the city. It’s still a nice image but the power of the building lights was dropping very quickly as the dawn progressed. This one was taken at ISO 64, f/11 and 6s.
On balance, I much prefer the shots from earlier in the week, with the beautifully clear and slightly orange skies and the very bright city lights, taken an hour and 15 minutes before sunrise. I’ve just had the Hampstead Heath 41 – panorama, London 2018 photograph printed out and mounted at 180cm by 64cm, on glossy Kodak Pro Endura paper with a UV lamination on a wonderfully thin and frameless aluminium dibond backing. It’s exhibition quality and looks fabulous – now available for sale in limited edition at £1,200.