Tuesday 30 December 2008

Christmas Holidays

I am just back from a few days over in Westport on a short break after all the rushing around before, during and after Christmas. The children love the idea of the holidays and are always asking when and where are we going next. This time we went over to the west coast, Westport Co Mayo. The weather was wonderful with nice sunny days (great for getting out but no clouds for my photography) and cold nights. I did manage to get out every morning for sunrise and evening sunsets because this time of the year the days are short with sunrise at 8:50 and sunset at 16:30 or there about. The above image was taken down on Keem Beach, Achill Island. You follow the road all the way along the island until you can go no further.  This is one amazing drive down towards the beach as the road is right on the side of the mountain with just a grass bank between the road and a couple of hundred meters drop into the ocean. The best piece of equipment any photographer should have with them is a pair of wellies. The tripod and myself were in the water for this image (my poor tripod goes through hell). The amount of visitors on the beach who were standing well back so not to get their feet wet, but not me and my tripod. I must have gave them a good laugh. I love the way movement of the water is captured (using a slow shutter speed) and the ripples patterns in the sand in this image. I have a load of images from here trying to get the water and sand movement sequence right and  I think this is the best one. Look out for more posts form this my final photo trip of the year. I will not be taking and more photos until the annual family New Years Day walk in the mountains.

Monday 22 December 2008

Camera Lens Hood ?

How do you protect your camera from the elements?
Answer: a Fedora !
No seriously, this comes in very handy when you want to shade the front element of your lens from the sun. You can't your your standard lens hood when you use your filters and the cost of a lens hood for the Lee Filter system is mad. Cable release in one hand and the hat in the other. Take your image then put the hat back on your head to protect you from the sun. Works both ways. A wonderful cost saving tip in these hard times.

Thanks to Peter Cox for the use of his spare hat in the making of this image.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Shoot Better Landscapes Part 1

Here is a few hints and tips for better landscapes.
This is part one and I will post part two in a couple of day. Use the upcoming holidays to study them and start to put them into practice.

1. The Idea:
You need to start with an idea, a germ of inspiration that will give birth to a stunning image. Without a starting point or an objective you'll find yourself aimlessly wandering.
2. Maps: First thing first, study a map of your chosen area to decide where to start. Google Earth can also be useful.
3. Get out there: There's no substitute for getting your boots muddy and eyeballing the lie of the land. Doing so from a car never works, get out there and use the most useful piece of photographic gear you have available to you: your eyes.
4. Seasons: How will the seasonal factors affect your shot. Does it cry out for autumn colours, or a frosty morning?
5. Sunrise or Sunset: Once you have found your chosen spot, consider how the light will paint the landscape at different times of the day. Is it a sunrise or sunset shot?
6. Bearing of the Sun: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, right? Wrong. Here in these northely latitudes there is a massive seasonal variation from sunrise in the northeast in the summer to southeast in the winter. Consider exactly where the sun will rise or set for your chosen time of year.
7. Obstructions: Look around you. Is there a hill that will cast a shadow across the scene as the sun dips? Will those trees to the east mask the rising sun?
8. Weather forecast: Every landscape photographer is a weather forecast junkie. Check the forecast regularly and try to read between the lines to ascertain whether the lighting conditions you need could transpire.

9. Cable release: You need to keep your hands away from the camera when you're making the exposure, so always use a cable release in combination with a tripod. And if you loose your cable release use the camera's self-timer instead!
10. Check your batteries: Always carry enough spares to avoid them dying on you while on location. The weather can shorten battery life- in cold conditions it's worth keeping a spare in your clothing, underneath your main jacket, so it remains a normal temperature and ready to use in case the one in the camera gives up.
11. Polariser: This filter has a magic touch, saturating the colour in a scene, making rich greens, glories blue skies and fluffy clouds that look almost 3D. Polarisers also make a nifty neutral density filter as well, cutting the light down by two stops.
12. Graduated Filters: Skies are more often than not much brighter than the land and therefore need balancing with the use of graduated filters. They come in different densities, cutting the light by 1, 2 and 3 stops. There are both hard and soft gradient types also.
13. Compass: If the shot doesn't materialise on the first visit it's worth coming back another day when the light is right. Part of the preparation is knowing where the sun will be at a particular time and therefore a compass is useful.
14. Tripod: A tripod enables you to keep your camera steady, so that you can use a slow shutter speed to correspond with the small apertures required for plenty of depth of field.

15. Know your equipment: Only once you can use your equipment unthinkingly will your creative mind truly be free.
16. Know yourself: Don't be afraid to change direction. Accept what genre truly suits you - it may not be the same as that which you most admire.
17. Persist: If you really want to develop your photographic eye persistence is required, almost to the point of obsession. Absolute dedication is all that separates the good from the great.
18. Leave your camera at home: Sounds odd? Think photographically as you look about you in your daily life, when you are without your camera. This mental editing process will refine your eye. Tou will reach a point where you know exactly what a photograph will look like, and exactly which is the best way to make that image.

19. Keep is simple: When looking for a subject to photograph, compose your shot to remove as many un-neccessary objects as possible. A clean and simple composition is an essential ingredient to an eye-catching image.
20. Work in odd numbers: Odd numbers are always very effective in photography, especially threes. Any subject matter should work well this way, maybe three foreground rocks, or three trees on the horizon. It's up to you, but always remember that odd is more visually pleasing than even!
21. Use lead-in Lines: A good composition will consist of lead-in lines which draw the viewers eye from the foreground of the image towards the middle and then background. Obvious lead in lines would be a road, river or pathway, winding throughout the image. Less obvious lead ins could be a line of trees, rocks or waves breaking on the shore.
22. Foreground, middle and background: To achieve a strong composition, there should be subject matter in each of these places and they need to work in harmony. Look for subjects which compliment each other throughout the frame, this could be in appearance, colour or their association to each other.
23. Rule of thirds: Compose your image following the rule of thirds and you won't go far wrong. Place the horizon on the first or second horizontal line, and place your focal point at one of the intersection of the lines.
24. Don't dominate the foreground: A wideangle lens helps to accentuate foreground and create shots full of impact. But unless you are careful, the foreground subject will dominate the frame and throw the composition off balance.
25. Watch out for unwanted items: An obvious one, but something that we all fall foul of occasionally. Once you have composed your shot, look carefully through the viewfinder for any unwanted items such as crisp packets, bottles etc. These can be removed so much easier before taking the photo than in the computer afterwards.
26. Go low or high: It is natural to take photographs at standing height. But often compositions can be improved dramatically by setting your tripod nearer to the ground. By doing this you can maximise the intricate detail near the ground and give people viewing your shot a far greater sense of being there. Alternatively, if opportunity allows, try setting up your camera at a higher vantage point to gain another alternative view.
27. Use a small Aperture: With landscape photography, a small aperture of f/16 - f/22 will allow you to capture the full depth of your subject matter in detail.

Ignore all the above
All the above tips are just a guide. Rules are there to be broken, and doing so can often make the most dramatic images. Don't be afraid to try something different.

Friday 19 December 2008

Thursday 18 December 2008

No Joke !

This is no joke, or trick photo. Yes that is a car in the sand on the beach down in Duncannon, Co Wexford.

I was walking around the beach and spotted soomething in the sand. It was a bit of a walk out to the object and was only when I was up close that I could see it was in fact a car. Don't know what type of car, but if you know please let me know.

What Direction ?

And you wounder why people get lost. Sign posts like this might have something to do with it. This sign post can be found in Ballyvaghan, Co Clare on your way thru The Burren to Lisdoonvarna.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Port Beach Sunrise

Here is another view form Port Beach taken on a different trip very early in the morning. We are looking southwards in this one. This is a different image than what I usually do. It's a colour image taken as a colour image. When I go out on a Landscape shoot I have done my homework, studied the maps etc and have pre visualized ( The great Ansel Adams has to answer for this ) the final (b&w) image in my head. This is was not one of them as I find just converting from colour to B&W does not work the best. However this one does work and I have a few more sunrise, sunset images that started out as colour images.

Friday 12 December 2008

Port Beach

While over on the east coast with Navan Camera Club a couple of weeks back for a Landscape Day Outing guess who forgot his tripod. Don't ask how I managed to leave the house without this vital piece of equipment for landscape photography. However it did  not spoil the day as I was more interested in teaching the new members of the club how to setup and compose their images. And because I had no tripod myself I got to go around to everyone and help them. On the Saturday we had some very cold dense fog I had every seen and was not looking good for Sunday. Like this is Ireland and the weather changes for day to day. The next day, Sunday, we had clear blue sky's and sunshine. What a contrast from Saturday. Mind you there was still a cold and frosty start to the day as you can see from the foreground in the above image. This image was taken on Port Beach looking north. You can see The Mourne Mountains in the clouds on the horizon. Wonderful side lighting makes the time image come alive in the foreground with parts in the shade as the sun was still very low in the sky. 
We travelled up the coast to some different locations. As I had not been to any of the locations before it was hit or miss with the conditions. I have been to Port Head on a number times and knew what to expect with the tide out. One of the main thing to do before you head out for Landscape photography is to know the tide times and sunrise, sunset times and positions  so that you are in the right spot at the right time. I had checked the time before hand so we got to Port Beach when the tide was at low tide. This gave us the max length of time on the beach. Again luck would have it that it was low tide again for the sunset and we made our way back here to finish of the day's shooting.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Monday 8 December 2008

Gougane Barra Forest Park

Here is another images taken on the same day from the previous post form Gougane Barra Forest Park. This was taken further on the road in the Park. The River Lee which flows through Cork city and county starts life here (just outside the frame on the left). The sun was not high enough in the sky to cover the complete foreground and give the image very strong side lighting with the trees on the left compared to the right side. I also like the V shape made by the tops of the trees against the sky background.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

In Action

This image was taken by Peter Cox when he was trying out my Canon G10. The image below (Gougane Barra post ) was the image i was taking at the time. The camera was at a angle so as to remove the lake from the froeground.