On the long drive from Sun Peaks to Whistler, both of which are ski resorts in the winter, it was a gloriously sunny autumn day. Just south of Lillooet, Highway 99 runs alongside Cayoosh Creek for quite a distance. A creek it may be, but it’s a raging river by most UK standards! You can find a few places to stop that allow you to walk down to the water’s edge, such as this spot.
The vast majority of the trees in colour up here were the sparkling autumn yellow leaves of the trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) – a poplar tree. It has many common names – hence the need for a proper binomial to identify it correctly! There were some Birch too, but most were the Aspen. The colours and rushing waters were beautiful in the low sunlight. These two shots were both taken on my 16-35mm f/4 at 19mm, f/10, 1/125s and ISO 100.
We were hoping to catch a glimpse of a black bear too – everyone had said in every location where we stayed that they were visible everywhere, at any time of day, as they hunted for their last bits of food before the winter hibernation. We tried at dawn, at dusk and any other time, but not once in the whole trip did we see a single bear! We understood that the cougars and wolves keep themselves to themselves, but the black bears should have been very visible. The number of locals that said that one was in their backyard that morning……..
Just outside Jasper is the Maligne River, which has the Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake and Medicine Lake along its length, although the waters disappear underground for long stretches as the whole area is a region of karstic limestones, all of which are highly soluble over time, forming underground caverns and streams.
This first image is a panorama of Maligne Lake – it’s a glacial lake at an elevation of nearly 1,700m with the snowy peaks behind, which are up at around 3,200m. This photo is two merged frames taken at 22mm on my 16-35mm f/4 using f/11, 1/100s and ISO 64, giving an 8,500 by 4,300 pixel picture.
On the way back to the car, we stumbled across two huge male moose (Alces alces), who were chomping their way through the vegetation on the forest floor. We were certainly more surprised than they were, especially as we were only 5-10m away when we first saw them. We naturally just stayed quiet and calm, and took a few discreet pictures. Of course, I only had my D810 and 16-35mm f/4 wide angle lens on me, as I was just expecting landscape shots – I didn’t have my D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6, which was still in the car! So, not the best lens option to take close-ups.
Anyway, once you crop quite tightly to around 3,000 by 2,000 pixels, which is the smallest size that I can sell on Alamy, I got some decent images. This one was at 35mm, f/5.6, 1/500s and ISO 400. The dappled sunlight coming through the tree canopy was lovely too.
Once they had both walked off, we came across a park ranger a few minutes later. He was going to shoo them away with assorted tools – he seemed to have an ice hockey stick with sparkling tinsel on the end and a paint ball gun! He warned us that moose can be very dangerous and that the park discourage them from being around the public areas at all. Clearly, if you respect them, stay quiet and keep out of their way, they won’t become aggressive – like most animals. But one can imagine some clown trying to take a selfie, which could really spook them!
It was our closest encounter of the whole trip, and a real treat.
Right at the close of the long day, just before you get to Jasper at the end of the Icefields Parkway, there are two wonderful sets of waterfalls. Firstly, you come to the Sunwapta Falls on the Sunwapta River, which actually flows from the base of the Athabasca Glacier. And then secondly, about half an hour later down the road towards Jasper, there is the Athabasca Falls on the Athabasca River. This river picks up the Sunwapta River, but it starts higher up on the Columbia Icefield. Both have impressive drops of about 20m but are more spectacular because of the amount of water that drops through them, even at relatively low river levels.
This first image is of the Upper Sunwapta Falls taken at about 5pm on my 24-70mm f/2.8 at 27mm, f/10, 1/125s and ISO 125. The second shot is about 40 minutes later of the Athabasca Falls, taken at 26mm, f/8, 1/125s and ISO 160.
You could spend weeks around all the wonders on the Icefields Parkway, but when you are driving the 300km from Banff to Jasper in the day, you only get a short while at each location, and have to make the most out of the available light, given the time of day and the season!
After the stormy and snowy start of the day at Peyto Lake, we eventually got up to the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefields, where there were clear blue skies and bright autumn sunshine. We had now moved out of the Banff National Park and in to the Jasper National Park. We parked up by the main road (Highway 93 – the Icefields Parkway) and walked the 1.5km down over the rocky moraine field to the front of the glacier. As you go, you pass all the signs showing where the glacier head was in previous decades – it has retreated over a kilometre in just the last hundred years. It must also have gone back by around 100m since we were last here in 2013.
The first image from higher up clearly shows the height of the side moraine, which indicates where the glacier had been historically. With a bit of careful exposure and some holding back of the sky in Lightroom, you can also get the full starburst effects of the sun in shot too, which is nice! This photo was taken on my 16-35mm f/4 at 19mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 64. You might normally expect a white balance (WB) of 5,500K in bright sunlight, but the mountains and snow would make that choice very blue – in the end, I used a WB of 6,500K. Shooting in RAW, of course, enables any WB adjustment afterwards.
The second picture was closer to the glacier, but using a panorama of two images merged in Photoshop, each taken at 20mm, f/13, 1/200s and ISO 64. It was all so crisp, clear, fresh and exhilarating. There were some enormous black ravens flying around here too, often getting very close. Foolishly, I had left my D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6 lens in the car, while the wide-angle zoom that I had on me, was useless for any wildlife close-ups! Just wasn’t expecting to see wildlife around the glacier.
I know lots of people say Lake Louise is the most photogenic lake on the Icefields Parkway, or indeed in the whole of Canada, but I always thought that Peyto Lake was more spectacular. Anyway, Lake Louise is now effectively closed to car traffic and you can only get there on a tour bus, which is not our idea of fun. You’ll never get me on a tour bus or a cruise! We last came up to Peyto Lake in the summer of 2013 – there was hardly anyone around and the path was quite rough. It’s now been converted in to a proper tourist attraction with dozens of people at the viewing location. Mostly, they are all obsessed with selfies, before quickly moving on – almost nobody was absorbing the wonders or taking pictures of the scenery itself, which is odd.
The widest lens that I had, my 16-35mm f/4, is not enough to capture the whole scene. So, this first image was of the southern side of the lake, taken at 16mm, f/8, 1/100s and ISO 125. It was a cold, stormy morning with a bit of snow in the air, but with some dramatic shafts of sunlight occasionally dropping through the clouds.
The lake is at 1,860m and is fed from the Peyto Glacier, which is out of sight, up on the left – the glacial rock flour in the water is what causes the stunning turquoise/aquamarine colours. Opposite is Caldron Peak (2,911m), with those glorious splashes of low sunlight.
The overall view is best captured though in a panorama, which picks up the whole lake and the view down the valley to the north. You can now see why Peyto Lake is also known as Wolf’s Head Lake. This was an image of three merged photos, each taken at 20mm, f/8, 1/100s and ISO 100. The final photograph, after my usual processing in Lightroom and Photoshop was 10,600 by 4,100 pixels, ie about 43MP. It would work beautifully as a high-resolution, wall-mounted print at about 150cm by 60cm.
We spent most of October driving across the Canadian Rockies from Calgary to Vancouver. It’s a trip we had done 10 years ago, but we wanted to do it again, especially during the autumn with its glorious array of colours. We took a slightly different overall route this time, but still went up the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper, which has got to be one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Anyway, we started in Banff – this first image is from the top of Sulphur Mountain (at 2,451m) looking down over Banff itself, which is at about 1,400m. It had snowed a few days beforehand, and it was still cold and crisp for an autumn morning. The sun was bright but low in the sky, while the pine forests were dotted with the sparkling autumn yellow leaves of the trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) – a poplar tree. It has many common names – hence the need for a proper binomial to identify it correctly!
In the middle of Banff is Tunnel Mountain (1,692m) with the Bow River around it. Lake Minnewanka is in the distance with the very snowy Mount Aylmer (3,162m) behind it. To the right is the start of Mount Rundle (2,949m), which we will see later from Lake Minnewanka. This shot was taken on my D810 with the 16-35mm f/4 lens at 19mm, f/11, 1/125s and ISO 100.
The second picture is a panorama taken later at Lake Minnewanka – it was so peaceful here, away from the relative bustle of Banff (which is very popular with tourists from all over the world). It’s a 50MP image (12,300 by 4,100 pixels) of three merged photos, all taken at 22mm, f/11, 1/125s and ISO 100. Each was processed normally in Lightroom and then merged in Photoshop, which does a fabulous job, though always needs a few tweaks to get the final image to exhibition quality, ready for sale. The white balance (WB) can be tricky in the mountains as normal expectations will always make the mountains very blue – I used a WB of 7,000K here, while holding the sky back by 0.75 stops.
In the middle of the frame is Mount Inglismaldie (2,964m) with the previously mentioned Mount Rundle off to the very right. It was a brilliant start to a wonderful three weeks, which will gradually be revealed here, as I slowly process 1,500 RAW photographs!
Jilayne’s Fauna & Flora garden from this year’s Chelsea Flower Show was re-located to the Eden Project within a few weeks, but it has now bedded down nicely, as can be seen from these two shots from this week. It showcases the marvellous work of the Fauna & Flora conservation charity in protecting species around the world, especially by working with local communities to find solutions that work for everyone. Conservation through Collaboration, as the new notice on the garden says.
The garden shows a snapshot of an ecotourist route in Central Africa up in to the high volcanic (2,000-3,000m) areas of tropical forest where the endangered Mountain Gorillas live, although the confines of the existing tropical rainforest biome make the layout at Eden very different to the one at Chelsea.
The gorilla numbers have now increased, from around 300 in the late 1970s to over 1,000, taking them from being critically endangered. They are still endangered though, but massive steps have been made to improve the way that their safety is ensured by working in harmony with the local community. Fauna & Flora got enormous publicity for its work at Chelsea and this will continue while at Eden, where nearly 1m people a year should see the exhibit. The garden was funded by Project Giving Back, which enabled the charity to gain the powerful exposure without the painful costs.
The Eden Project is a truly marvellous location and it’s such a fitting place for the garden to be re-located, as many of the plants were grown there in the first place – thanks to their wonderful teams in their biomes and nurseries.
Both pictures were taken at 19mm on my 16-35mm f/4 lens using ISO 64, f/11 and 1/10s. It’s always nice to use a low shutter speed for garden images, which you can do here as there is virtually no wind in the domes to rustle and blur the leaves!
After we stayed in Florence, we drove up in to the Apennine Mountains, just over the border from Tuscany in to Emilia- Romagna. We stayed at the Al Vecchio Convento (The Old Covent) in Portico di Romagna, which is up at about 500m – a charming place with good food and great views, though a little weird.
Not far down the road is the village of Bocconi where the river (the Fiume Montone) runs under the medieval arched bridge of Ponte della Brusia, with a waterfall below. A very pretty scene on a sunny summer’s day. This photo was taken on my 24-120mm f/4 at 38mm, ISO 100, f/11 and 1/160s.
The following day we drove a bit further down to San Benedetto in Alpe. From here, you can walk along a spur of the Fiume Montone (the Fosso dell’Acquacheta) for about 5km to the famous waterfall at Cascata dell’Acquacheta. We are not great walkers, but it’s a lovely trek along this sylvan valley, through the dappled light of the forest, along the river bank, passing numerous small falls and rapids as you climb about 200m up to the main waterfall, which is just on the Tuscany/Emilia-Romagna border, up at about 700m. It’s in the Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi.
There wasn’t the huge volume of water that you get in spring or autumn, but still an impressive waterfall cascading down 90m over various sloping, rocky surfaces. It’s particularly famous as it is mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy (the Inferno). This image was taken at 32mm, ISO 200, f/11 and 1/80s. I didn’t have my tripod with me on this walk and so couldn’t do any proper long exposures. I did try a few shots at 1/8 to 1/2s while resting on a hard surface, but you always get a little bit of unwanted blur, especially on my full-frame D810 camera, which prevents me using them as pictures to actually sell.
The Milky Way (MW) is very visible again here in Cornwall as, after the bright-ish nights of June and July, the real darkness is back, with Astronomical Twilight now finishing at about 11.30pm. The Galactic Centre (GC) sets though at about 1am – so, you get an hour and a half to capture that brightest section of the MW, as long as the skies are clear, which they have not been recently!
I was trying to get the footbridge on to Tintagel Island in shot, but you cannot really get far enough around to see it in front of the MW. The better option was therefore to use St Materiana’s Church on Glebe Cliff as the main feature on land – Tintagel is to the left and the bright lights in the distance are from Port Isaac.
The GC was roughly SSW, with the main trail of the MW rising almost straight up, off to the SSE. The bright cluster towards the bottom is the M8 Lagoon Nebula – this sits in the Great Rift of the MW, between the constellations of Sagittarius on the left and Scorpius on the right, with the GC itself just below it. Right at the top is the M11 Wild Duck Cluster.
I used the same techniques as last year with 15s exposures (to avoid star trails) at f/4 (for best quality) on my 24mm f/1.8 prime at quite a high ISO 6,400. To then eliminate the much greater noise from that scene, you stack 10 or more images together. As the noise is random, once you take a median value from each pixel of every image stacked, the black sky becomes black and the stars become white, and you get almost no noise. You still have to solve the issue of the stars moving between every shot, while the foreground stays still, of course, but I use the Starry Landscape Stacker software, which works a treat.
You then have to process the stacked image much more than normal in Lightroom, with greater levels of contrast, clarity, sharpness, saturation and vibrance, as well as trying to optimise the colours for the greatest impact. As with the Northern Lights, your eyes do not pick out all the colours at night very well, but the camera sensor certainly does.
Two images here of the marvellous Ponte Vecchio across the Arno River in Florence. It’s a medieval three-span arch bridge, which was the only bridge in Florence spared from destruction during the war. It is famed for the shops along its length, which used to be butchers, farmers and tanners, but which are now restricted to jewellers! There has been a bridge here since Roman times but this version was primarily built in 1345. Ponte Vecchio means the Old Bridge, of course, after a New Bridge (Ponte Nuovo) was built nearby in 1218.
These photos were both actually taken on the same day – the first in the early morning looking at the East side of the bridge, whereas the second was taken about 30 minutes after sunset with a view to the West side. The day time picture was taken at 24mm, ISO 80, f/11 and 1/125s, while the night time image was shot at 32mm, ISO 64, f/11 with a much longer 10s exposure.
After the glorious sunset the day before, we went to capture the cathedral at night. It’s a magical place – the Piazza del Duomo is thronging with tourists and people in the restaurants and bars, but the cathedral itself is calm and quietly lit. Usually with city shots or cityscapes at night, the focus is on the lights themselves, which either generate starbursts or create reflections and patterns. But here, there are no actual lights attached to the building, just ones that illuminate it all. Annoyingly, the front of the cathedral is lit with quite white lights (4,500-5,500K, I would guess), while the rear is bathed in much softer warm whites, almost orange (at about 2,500-3000K). So, choosing the White Balance (WB) was tricky – the most natural and realistic colours came from using a WB of 4,500K, which also best suited the front façade that is dominant in these two images.
As noted below, the details of the façade are just stunning, though they are all from the late 19th Century, not from the 15th Century when the dome was completed. The white marble is from Carrara, the pink from Siena and the green from Prato – they were all tailored to match the colours and bands from Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery of St John, both of which are adjacent.
Both pictures were taken on my 24-120mm f/4 lens at 26mm, f/11, ISO 64, and with an exposure of 15s.
We went to another Italian Renaissance city at the end of June, having previously been to Verona and Venice in recent years. It was a bit later in the year than we had wanted to go, due to Jilayne’s Fauna & Flora Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show – so, Florence was very hot and busy! We stayed just a minute away though from the feature attraction of the Duomo or Florence Cathedral or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. You can only look up to avoid the crowds in the shots, which makes for great images anyway. The skies were crystal clear and with this set of images, I waited until the façade was bathed in that glorious orange glow at sunset. Strangely, almost nobody else was taking pictures in this fabulous light?
The exterior is simply stunning, such incredible detail and in such good condition. You certainly see much more on the photos than you can see with the naked eye – the level of intricate and delicate detail on the full height of the building is staggering. You can only see that on the full-size 36 Megapixel (MP) images, of course, not so much on these much smaller internet images, which are less than 1MP.
The cathedral was started in 1296 to a design by Arnolfo di Cambio, but the famously engineered dome was not begun until 1420 to a design and construction by Filippo Brunelleschi, who was sponsored by Cosimo de Medici. The dome was completed in 1436 – it was the largest dome in the world at the time and is still today the largest brick dome ever built - an amazing achievement, in both innovative design and construction. Even I, as a chartered Civil and Structural Engineer, don’t fully understand the design yet, mainly as Brunelleschi hid many of his key details to avoid being copied by others. The original facades were never finished though and were all dismantled in 1588, while the current facades were not all finally completed until 1887.
I used my 24-120mm f/4 lens on my D810 – it’s a great lens to take when you need to travel light, as it’s got a bit more focal length than my 24-70mm f/2.8 and it’s also got VR, which can be very useful at the lower shutters speeds needed as the light fades. These pictures here were all taken at 27-35mm, f/11, 1/100-1/125s and ISO 80-100.
More to follow, and then more of when we went up to Portico di Romagna up in the Apennine Mountains for a few more days - much, much quieter, but still hot and way above 30 degC, even up at 1,000m!
We’re getting quite close to the summer solstice already – it’s extraordinary to see how much the setting position of the sun changes over six months. We can see it so clearly from Glebe Cliff here, as you have a clear view of that whole horizon. In the winter, it sets almost in the South-West, whereas around the summer solstice, it’s setting nearly in the North-West – pretty much a 900 change. In reality, here in Tintagel anyway, in the winter, it sets at 2320 and in the summer, it’s at 3100 – a 780 shift. At the two equinoxes (strictly, the Latin plural is equinoctes!), it is indeed in the West at 2700.
So from the same point on the clifftops, whereas in the winter the shot is towards Padstow, Rock and the Camel Estuary, the view can now encompass Tintagel Island and the footbridges, which is what these two images show. The first is just as the sun set at about 9.30pm with half the red sun on display. It’s been so clear, dry and calm here for weeks – we’ve never seen the sea so lacking in surf, which is great for reflections off the water though. As I have noted in these blogs before, you don’t get the massive range of colours and effects in the sky as when there is some cloud, but you do get these fabulously smooth transitions of block colour varying from blues to yellows, oranges and reds. This was taken at 17mm on my 16-35mm f/4 lens at ISO 64, f/11 and 1/4s. So many people stop watching as soon as the sun has gone, but you then get another set of great views over the next 20-30 minutes, as we drift in to the Blue Hour, which is actually more like half an hour. The second image was taken 20 minutes later with a lot more colour in the sky and on the sea – same settings but with a 1.3s exposure.
On the Thursday of the Chelsea Flower Show week, there was another evening "do" that I also attended, enabling me to get some good shots both as the sun went down and after dark. The first two here are in the orange glow of the setting sun, both taken about an hour and a half before sunset, using f/10, 1/100s and ISO 160. The next two were taken between half an hour and an hour after sunset, in that lovely Blue Hour, when you can get the building/garden lights while there is still some light left in the sky. These were taken at f/11, ISO 64 and with a 30s exposure - all were taken on my D810 and 16-35mm f/4 lens.
The hard landscaping is now all installed at The Eden Project in Cornwall and the planting is well underway too!
Having taken over a thousand photos at the Chelsea Flower Show this year, just of The Fauna & Flora Garden, which Jilayne designed, it's taken me a while to fully process them all.
Anyway, here's a further selection of the wonderful garden itself. It got massive attention during the show week, which really show-cased the fabulous conservation work that the charity Fauna & Flora do across the world. Hopefully, over the coming weeks and months, it will really boost their profile and income, which was the whole point of the exercise.
It was also the most sustainable garden at the show by a long way, using no cement or concrete, almost entirely re-cycled and re-used materials, and planting mainly grown from seed at The Eden Project in Cornwall, where it is now being re-formed in their Tropical Rainforest Biome, allowing another million people to see it over the next few years.
You can see more in my Gardens - Seasons Images tab.
After Press Day on the Sunday, you get an exclusive Preview Day on the Monday, before the gardens open to the public on Tuesday. On Preview Day, various celebrities, dignitaries and other influential people come along, in the relative calm before the busy chaos of the following days. The day ends with everyone being kicked out, except the garden designers and a few key sponsors, before the royals arrive!
In the evening, one of the daily "After Hours" events occur – this is the side of the show that the public do not really see, where the charities and commercial supporters wine and dine (mainly wine!) the assorted high-profile and high-value guests to garner future support, donations and sponsorships.
This year at Chelsea, many of the charity gardens (including Jilayne’s Fauna & Flora Garden) were hugely helped by Project Giving Back, a philanthropic organisation which is supporting charities at Chelsea for around three years, enabling them to get their show gardens built in a very high-profile environment where they can get massive exposure, TV and press coverage worldwide, and access to many other wealthy supporters. It’s all quite a game at play behind the scenes.
This first pair of images is of two famous Dames down by the kiosk with Jilayne, both “purchasing” an item. Judi Dench took a genuine piece of woven Central African bowl, while Joanna Lumley acquired a mountain gorilla carving. These were both posed shots at quite close quarters using my D810 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I was standing very close to Judi and had to use 24mm (which can sometimes be not so flattering, but worked OK here), f/11, 1/160s and ISO 280 – I love Jilayne looking on with a huge smile. For the group image with Joanna, I used 44mm, f/8, 1/160s and ISO 220 – Mark Rose on the left is the CEO of Fauna & Flora.
Most of my other celebrity shots from the day used my D500 with a 70-200mm f/4 lens, using f/8 and 1/250s, with various ISOs to suit, between 100 and 400. This enables you to capture people less obtrusively from a greater distance, featuring a more natural interaction with Jilayne, who was generally the one showing them around the garden. These other three guests here (there were many others too on the day) are Darcey Bussell, Gaby Roslin and Josh Widdicombe.
Jilayne has been in Chelsea for the last month, as the 3-week build got underway for her design of the fabulous Fauna & Flora Garden on Main Avenue. It showcases the marvellous work of the Fauna & Flora conservation charity in protecting species around the world, especially by collaborating with local communities to find solutions that work for everyone.
In particular here, the garden shows a snapshot of an ecotourist route in Central Africa up in to the high volcanic (2,000-3,000m) areas of tropical forest where the endangered Mountain Gorillas live. The gorillas were famously featured by Sir David Attenborough in 1978 and it was him who asked Fauna & Flora at the time to set up a protection programme for them – their numbers have now increased from around 300 to over 1,000, taking them from being critically endangered. They are still endangered though, but massive steps have been made to improve the way that their safety is ensured by working in harmony with the local community.
Their protected habitat extends over the borders between DRC, Uganda and Rwanda – Jilayne went to Rwanda last year to get a real feel for the environment and the key messages to be got across on behalf of the charity. Much of the planting was grown by the Eden Project in Cornwall (not far from us now!) and the whole garden will be re-located to their Tropical Rainforest Biome next month.
These three views were taken on Sunday, the Press Day, which is just after the gardens are completed and just before they open to the public on Tuesday. All taken on my D810 and 16-35mm f/4 lens. The overview, which shows no hint of the location being anywhere near a bustling central London plot, was taken at the end of the day with suitably stormy and tropical clouds overhead, using 19mm, f/11, 1/100s and ISO 100. The second shot is from the side, showing the very impressive 5.5m high waterfall, built sustainably, as is the whole garden, with no concrete or cement. This had the early morning golden sunlight hitting the tops of the trees – it was taken with 21mm, f/11, 1/13s and ISO 64. The final image was a close-up of the waterfall looking through the bamboos (one of the many gorilla foods on the garden) – taken using 21mm, f/11, 1/200s and ISO 200.
The goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) are back – not all of them migrate south for the winter but many do, and we haven’t seen any around here until the last few weeks. They are very skittish, never standing still for more than a few seconds, which makes photography a bit more difficult. They do seem to be making nests in the shrubs though, which means that you can see to where they will fly back.
The females do all the nest building apparently, while the males tag along, but don’t do much! They are both pretty much identical in appearance, although the male has a slightly larger area of red on its face, but it’s very subtle.
This shot was a little shady as one came back to a hydrangea bush where it was nesting – no idea whether it’s a male or female. I’ll need to try again with a bit better light to keep the ISO down. Anyway, this shot was taken on my D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6 lens at 500mm, f/5.6 using 1/2000s as they were so jumpy and skittish – this needed ISO 1600, which is fine for a wildlife image, although a little too noisy for my liking, even after some processing in Lightroom. I’d prefer ISO 400 or less, which needs a nice shaft of sunlight, or something similar.
This is the gorgeous little stream that runs through our garden – it’s the one that ends up as a large waterfall dropping on to the beach at Tintagel Haven, which I have photographed previously. In the summer the stream is pretty quiet and low, but at the moment it’s very full – not quite the raging torrent that it was in October, but still fast flowing enough! I built the little dam to form a small pond behind the waterfall, while allowing water to flow quite naturally through the various rocks at both low and high flows.
These two images were taken in the late afternoon spring sunshine on my 24-70mm f/2.8 at 42mm. You can see the mass of daffodils in the background, while by the stream the enormous gunnera or giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) is just starting to come in to leaf. It will end up during the summer at about 10 times that size! The red-brown spiky structure within the leaves is the flower, which is about 1m tall at the moment.
I took several shots at various shutter speeds. The first here is a standard photo using f/11, ISO 125 and 1/100s, while the second is a long exposure using a Lee Filters 10-stop ND Big Stopper, which increased the time to 10s with f/10 and ISO 64. I bought the upgraded Big Stopper a few years ago – whereas the original ones used dyed glass (which gave a very distinctive blue colour cast and some vignetting), the latest ones (the ProGlass IRND) use a metal coating that gives perfect light and colours – it also blocks the excess of infrared (IR) light, and indeed the UV light too.
With large and fast waterfalls, the best exposure times seem to be 1/8s to 1s. Anything faster looks too blurred until you get to around 1/200s, and anything slower is too milky. With waves and seascapes, being smaller and slower, the better times seem to be 1s to 10s. This very small fall is much more akin to the motions of the sea than a proper waterfall – hence, the times worked best at about 1/2s to 10s.
I caught another series of wonderful views of the setting sun this week – every time, the light and the feel of the sky and sea is so different. In just over 40 minutes, 20 minutes either side of the sunset, you see every colour, with it all changing very quickly – each vista can last just a few seconds. You get the best array of colours when there is some cloud, but not too much. A clear sky has great colours but no light on the clouds, as there aren’t any, whereas a cloudy sky obviously has no impact at all. That middle ground of some cloud is what I’m looking for each time.
This evening it was almost perfect, though once the sun had set the clouds didn’t seem to pick up that extra splash of redness that you can often get. I think the clouds were too close to me, or the sun was shielded by a band of low cloud on the horizon, which stopped those dying embers of red light passing upwards.
Looking west from the clifftops at Glebe Cliff towards the sinking sun, with nobody else in sight, I took a whole series of images at 18mm on my 16-35mm f/4 lens using f/11 and ISO 64. The shutter speeds start off at around 1/100s and slowly increase to about 1s.
The first one was 10 minutes before the sunset and taken at 1/30s, while the later one was at sunset itself, where I used a slower 1/6s. The colours have moved so rapidly from yellowy-orange to orangey-red in just that 10 minute spell. The most suitable WB also changes a lot during this sort of light – here it was at around 6,500K at the start of the shoot and increased to about 8,500K by the end.
We walked around the cliff tops to Trebarwith Strand recently – at speed from Tintagel, it’s probably only 40 minutes away, but at a more leisurely pace, stopping to take photos along the way, it was well over an hour. Once you get to Penhallic Point, you can see the whole expanse of the 800m wide beach at Trebarwith Strand. You get two patches of sand at a very low tide, but more often than not, you can only see the sands right by the village itself. At high tide, the beach completely disappears, as many do up here on the rocky North Coast of Cornwall.
This first image was at mid-tide on a sunny and windy spring day. Hole Beach at the north end of the Strand was already under water, but you can also clearly see one of the huge caves formed from the slate mining on this stretch of coast. Slate was mined along here from the 14th century up until the 1940s, and two of the largest slate quarries in North Cornwall were at Trebarwith Strand. This area above Hole Beach was part of the West Quarry. I took this photo on my 16-35mm f/4 lens at 19mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 80. It’s a lovely mixture of crashing surf, aquamarine seas and low sun on the 100m high cliffs.
A bit further around towards Trebarwith Strand village, we saw this very unexpected sight – a very impressive rock stack just sat behind the beach. Having not realised it even existed, it was quite a surprise to see. It’s actually a scullock – a tall pinnacle of poor quality slate rock that was not worth mining. It forms part of the Lanterdan Quarry that used to be mined above Vean Hole, which is one of the coves on the Strand. This image of the rock stack, the aquamarine sea and Gull Rock in the distance was taken a few hours later, at nearly high tide, using 18mm, f/10, 1/160s and ISO 80.
I captured a series of wonderful views of the setting sun last week, on a crisp evening with clear skies. In the space of half an hour or so, it’s amazing to see how the colours evolve from yellow to orange to red, with each stage only lasting a few minutes.
I was looking west from the clifftops at Glebe Cliff towards the sinking sun, with the top of the Camel Estuary in the far distance on the left – there was nobody else around. Both images were taken at 24mm on my 16-35mm f/4 lens at f/11 and ISO 64. The first one was 40 minutes before the sunset and taken at 1/160s, while the later one was just 15 minutes before sunset, where I used a slower 1/40s, on a tripod. I gradually reduced how much I held the sky back as the light levels faded, from 1-stop to zero. The most suitable WB also changes a lot during this sort of light, starting off at around 5,000K and increasing to about 6,500K.
Besides the rapidly varying colours as the sun dropped, I love the starburst effects around the sun (from my fabulous wide-angle lens with 9 aperture blades), and the dazzling reflections on the sea and on the rocks of the cliff top.
I went out last week on a beautifully clear (and cold) evening to capture the sun setting over the sea out by Glebe Cliff in Tintagel. At the same time, I was looking to see how the sunlight would fall over Tintagel Island itself. This set just covers the changing light over the island, as it varied from yellow, to orangey-yellow, to yellowy-orange, to orange and finally to red, before the sun eventually disappeared below the horizon.
Both were taken on my 16-35mm f/4 at 24mm, f/11 and ISO 64. The first was 45 minutes before sunset, taken at 1/25s with long shadows and a definite yellow hue. Half an hour later, with only 15 minutes to go before the sunset, the shadows were even longer and the colours were much more orange, almost red – this second image was taken at 1/8s. That band of cloud that you often get on the horizon had also picked up significant colours, with a mixture of oranges, reds and purples.
I captured some lovely shots of the setting sun too, staying on the cliffs until 30 minutes after the sunset, but these will be in the next post!
It was a beautiful evening at dusk last Thursday, with a glorious sunset giving a sky full of colours. It was the same evening that Venus and Jupiter were in conjunction too, both of which were very visible in the early twilight, becoming more noticeable as the darkness approached.
This first image was taken from Glebe Cliff, just at the top of our lane next to St Materiana’s Church, about 30 minutes after the sunset. I had been there for about an hour and a half already, getting images as the sun got lower and lower in the sky. The best colours, especially when there’s little cloud, are generally in that spell after the sunset – from around 15-45 minutes after the sun goes down. The yellows of the sun gradually become orange and then finally turn red, before fading away. As it got darker, the two planets came clearly in to view, in the centre of the shot – Venus, the Evening Star, on top (at Magnitude -3.9) and the dimmer Jupiter below (at Magnitude -2.1). The photo was taken at 18mm on my 16-35mm f/4 on my D810 at f/11, ISO 64 and with a 1s exposure on a tripod, of course. The White Balance (WB) gets quite difficult to predict at this time of night, but the most natural colours came out with a WB of 9,000K.
About another 30 minutes later, I got some close-ups of the two planets themselves. Here, I used my 200-500mm f/5.6 at 500mm on my D500, which gives an effective focal length of 750mm. I started off with images at f/5.6, ISO 100 and 1/125s, which clearly showed Jupiter’s orange bands, but moved later to slower exposures, to get more brightness. This 2nd image here was taken at f/5.6, ISO 100 and 0.5s, on a tripod. It was only when I was processing the image on my computer that I saw that Jupiter’s four Galilean moons were also visible in the shot. In sequence from left to right, I can see from my BBC Sky at Night charts for March that the moons are Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io. I find that the best WB for these moon and star pictures is at about 4,250K.
Great sunsets can be any day, weather permitting, but the next conjunction of these two brightest planets is not until 2032!
We can walk around to Trebarwith Strand along the clifftops, but it does take 45 minutes or so. This time, we just drove around – it was a beautifully crisp and sunny winter’s day, of which we haven’t seen many recently! You can only get on to the beach at low tide here and on these shots the low tide was still about an hour away. The sea was quite calm but the surf was surprisingly large with the wind blowing offshore, generating lots of spray as the waves broke. All very atmospheric - peaceful and exciting at the same time.
The first shot was a wide angle at 20mm on my 16-35mm f/4, taken at f/10, 1/200s to capture the waves breaking and using ISO 100. You get a lovely view of the whole beach if you walk to the top of the cliffs behind the Port William pub, just by Dennis Point. You can see St Materiana’s Church in Tintagel on the far clifftop.
On the second image, I was wanting to get the landmark Gull Rock in the frame too. Even at my widest focal length of 16mm though, you don’t quite get it in, and the lens is a little softer at that widest point too. So, I switched to my usual technique of getting 2-4 photos merged in to a panorama in Photoshop. The automatic merging using the Cylindrical Mode is wonderful, though you do have to spend a bit of time manually sorting out some issues with the breaking waves and the rolling sea, all of which have moved between the individual shots! Also had to remove my own shadow, which was right in the middle of the frame. These three merged images were taken at 20mm, f/10, 1/160s and ISO 80.
The final merged photo wasn’t actually any larger than the standard 36MP from my D810 (7,400 by 4,900 pixels), but it was more panoramic at 9,100 by 3,800 pixels, and it did include Gull Rock.
There’s a cave at the entrance to Boscastle Harbour that spouts wonderful gushes of water at around low tide - it's called the Devil's Bellows. We went there last week – it was meant to be gloriously sunny too, but it suddenly became quite overcast. It wasn’t a windy day and the sea was quite calm, but the entrance to the harbour was pretty rough still with quite a lot of surf. On the northern side of the harbour is Penally Point and about halfway in towards the harbour itself is this cave. The sea rushes in, and every minute or so a huge volume of water spouts out from the underground cavern like a geyser, with an almighty roar as well. This image was taken at 27mm, f/8, 1/250s and ISO 125.
Just behind the headland is Meachard, a rock/island out at sea – this also has a blowhole. This cave though is quite a bit above the high tide mark – it seems to erupt about every five minutes with a spout of water and spray. I’ll go back at high tide at some point to see if it does anything more spectacular at that water level.
We hadn’t been on to the actual island until this week – this was the first time since we moved here that it was sunny and the English Heritage site was open and we were free! There’s been a royal settlement on the island since 5th century, but it was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description in the 12th century of the legendary King Arthur’s conception on the island that led Richard, Earl of Cornwall to build his castle there in the 1230s. However, the castle was never really used after Richard’s death and it quickly became dilapidated, especially with the collapse of the isthmus to the mainland, sometime in the 15th century.
The first image is looking down over the ruins of the castle and monastery in to Tintagel Haven with the headland of Barras Nose, and the two islands/rocks of The Sisters behind. There are two caves on that side of the beach that you can walk to at low tide, but here you can also see the massive cave on the headland, which is generally inaccessible. This photo was taken at the end of the afternoon, with the low light of the setting winter sun – it was at 28mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 100.
Out on the far side of the island is this fabulous bronze sculpture by Rubin Eynon, which was built in 2016. Its ghostly appearance is meant to allude to many historic kings who have lived on Tintagel Island, but clearly everyone assumes that it is indeed King Arthur and Excalibur. It’s called Gallos, which is Cornish for power. I went for this contre-jour shot, which is only possible to achieve successfully with the fabulous dynamic range of my D810 full-frame camera, where you can capture both the highlights (the sun) and dig right in to the shadows (the face of Gallos), with no loss of quality at all. It was taken at 24mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 64, with the sky also held back by 1-stop in Lightroom. One cannot sell images like this though, as it’s a photo of someone else’s copyrighted artwork, while also being a piece of property on English Heritage land – it doesn’t seem to stop there being hundreds of images of Gallos though on multiple photo stock agency websites?
Beautifully sunny, winter morning last week, with nobody around as Tintagel Castle was closed – the beach at Tintagel Haven was deserted and the clifftops had only a couple of walkers.
I went down the steep steps to the beach first to get some long exposures of the stream that runs through our grounds, where it becomes an impressive waterfall in to the sea. I had timed the visit for low tide, as you can’t really get on the beach otherwise, but being quite close to the new moon, it was a spring low tide, ie a bit too high for me to get shots of the falls square one. So, I went with images from the side instead. From previous long exposures of waterfalls, I know that the best shutter speeds are around 1/8 to 1/2s – anything a bit faster is not sharp enough, while slower images look too milky for my liking. You often need a polarising filter or a smidge of ND filter to get the light intensity down, but the beach here was very shady (about EV 10), meaning that I could get it all to work at 1/2s, f/18 and ISO 64. I used my 16-35mm f/4 wide-angle lens at 19mm. This photo caught a bit of orange sun on the clifftops and a wave crashing on the shore too. With it being so shady, I had to adjust the WB to 9,500K to get a good range of colours.
Shortly afterwards, up on the clifftops, there were some lovely views down on to Tintagel Island, with that low orange winter sun and contrast of the deep shadows. Even so, I like to pull out quite a lot of light and colour from the shadows, which you can easily do on my D810 with no loss of quality whatsoever – it has fantastic dynamic range. This picture was taken at 18mm, 1/125s, f/11 and ISO 64, almost normal sunny conditions, though the WB was still at around 7,000K. I’m not a big fan of the new footbridge – it should have been a simpler and more elegant real "arch". The two cantilever spans are too fussy and suffer from the issue of having a very pronounced dip at midspan. But what do I know – oh yes, I designed major bridges all over the world for 40 years!
Walking in the other direction around towards Trebarwith Strand, the coast was really stormy a few days ago, with some massive surf and waves crashing on the rocks and cliff faces. This first shot was taken at Dunderhole Point, just opposite the YHA building on the clifftops. You can see Tintagel Island behind, with the statue of King Arthur, Gallos, isolated on the edge. There was a fair amount of sea spray around, but as long as you kept the lens pointing away from the wind, it was just about fine. This image was taken at 38mm on my 24-70mm f/2.8 using a slightly higher speed of 1/250s, with f/9 and ISO 200. The WB was at 6,750K and I held the sky back by 0.8 stops in Lightroom too.
10 minutes later, a bit further around the coast on Penhallic Point, it was sunny and raining, with a fabulous rainbow dipping in to the mist over the sea. You can always tell where the rainbow will be, as it’s always at an angle of 42o between the sun and your eyes. This is because the reflection (and two refractions) of the sunlight in each water droplet is 42o too. This photo was taken at 27mm, 1/250s, f/9 and ISO 100, but as the clouds were darker, I only held the sky back by 0.5 stops. I love the stormy blues of the sky, the aquamarines and white foam of the sea, and the golden glows of the sunlight on the rocks.
It had been ages since we had a clear, fresh winter’s day, having been surrounded by a lot of clouds, a bit of snow, and rain for weeks now. This was our first opportunity to walk round to Bossiney Cove/Haven. It was well over an hour there, at a leisurely pace, which is perfect for us. We’ve never been keen walkers, but do like a reasonable stretch to discover something new. The sun was so low in the sky all the time, giving a lovely orange glow with long shadows, which is great for texture, depth and atmosphere.
We walked up to the Camelot Castle Hotel first and then around to Gullastem, a rocky cove. This first image is looking back southwards to the hotel, with Tintagel Island and its ruins on the right, and then the Camel Estuary and Padstow in the far distance. The shadows on the sea, of both clouds and the cliffs, brought a huge range of blue and aquamarine colours. The photo was taken at 28mm on my 24-70mm f/2.8 using f/10, 1/160s and ISO 125. I took quite a few panoramas here too, where I combined 3 shots in to a single frame, giving images that are about 12,000 pixels wide. We’d heard quite a lot about the slightly idiosyncratic hotel. Only been there once for an evening meal – it’s definitely unusual.
We then ambled round the Willapark headland, with the two rocks of The Sisters out at sea, to the larger Lye Rock as you get round to Bossiney. You could clearly see Bude and the Hartland Point up in the north, in Devon, but could also see Lundy Island sat out in the Bristol Channel, which we had certainly not seen from Cornwall before. The second photo is of the whole cove/bay that covers Bossiney Haven and Benoath Cove. The large rock on the left of centre is Long Island. It was all bathed in wonderful light and shadows, even at mid-morning – the great advantage of winter photography. This image was also taken at 28mm using f/10 and 1/160, but with ISO 100.
Even though it was sunny, the best White Balance (WB) on both pictures was much higher than the expected 5,500K, at 7,500K, due to the low angle of the light. I also held the sky back on both by 1-stop using a mask, which Lightroom does automatically nowadays, and it works wonderfully well.
So much more to explore, just on our doorstep, never mind the rest of north Cornwall too!