Welcome to my landscape photography blog. I am out and about with a camera a lot, hopefully this will give you an insight into how I work and what I am doing. I'll also be discussing my workflow and the equipment I use, I hope you find it useful.
My day job is Sales Manager of Specialist Cars of Malton, one of Europe's premier independent Porsche specialists. Recently I was asked by leading sports car website Pistonheads.com to shoot one of our stock cars, a Porsche 911 Turbo, for an upcoming article, this year being the 50th anniversary year of the iconic 911.
I used my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery powered studio flash equipment, a superb piece of kit which I love to use. Essentially you've got the power of a studio flash, in a light portable kit which packs up into a briefcase and can be taken anywhere, even packed into the back seats of a Porsche 911!
Mixed weather (in North Yorkshire? Surely not!) greeted the day of the shoot, we were interrupted half way through by a tremendous hailstorm, 15mm hailstones bombarded us and left the area looking like it had snowed.
My technique for this shoot was to underexpose the background and light the car with fill flash from the Quadra Rangers. This would give me a correctly exposed foreground with a nice dramatic background. I used a combination of a reasonably small aperture (between f8 and f13) and a graduated neutral density filter (ND Grad) to ensure the sky kept definition and also to add to the drama of the slightly stormy sky.
The journalist wanted an interior shot, so for this shot I used one of my Quadra Ranger heads laid on the passenger seat, to throw a touch of light onto the dashboard, and one looking over my shoulder as I took the shot to illuminate the steering wheel and instruments, this gives the shot an almost 3D effect.
Having taken photos of each angle of this wonderful sports car the next job was some tracking shots, that is to say shots showing the car moving.
Normally we would hang out of the boot of the camera car to take shots like this but on this occasion I chose to lean out of the car window, which gives a greater degree of safety and security. The key to shots like these is for the car being photographed to match the speed of the camera car, and then use a slow shutter speed to blur the background. If the speed of the two cars is different the shot won't be sharp, get it right and the car is pin sharp whilst the blurred road and background gives a real feeling of speed.
I was really pleased with the shots, Pistonheads was happy with them and you can read the article here
Last week I was waiting for my girlfriend to arrive back from a business trip, into Manchester Airport. Her flight didn't arrive till 10.30pm so I made my way to the redeveloped Salford Quays / Media City area of Manchester.
My recently acquired 24mm TS-E lens lends itself to architectural photography, these images would have exhibited big leans as if the buildings were falling backwards had I not used the shift of the lens to keep the verticals vertical.
I started off at Media City, the BBC's new development to replace their old White City London base.
Then I moved on to The Lowry, the theatre and arts complex designed by Michael Wilford, a very striking building.
The best thing about photographing this area is the owners relaxed approach to photography, which is becoming rarer and rarer due to ridiculous paranoia that photographers might turn out to be secret terrorists. Taken from the Media City developers website:
We encourage those wanting to take images of the exterior buildings and public piazza to do so, but please be mindful of events taking place around the area you wish to photograph.
Such an approach should be applauded, the owners of other big developments really should take note, particularly Canary Wharf.
A beautiful cold afternoon on Ullswater in the Lake District, ice on the rocks and snow on the caps of the distant mountains. I was there to recce some locations for future visits, this has potential for a sunrise shot and I am sure I will return. Usually mid-day sun is quite boring but on this day it was such a beautifully sunny day I thought I could make something of it.
The iconic arches of the Ribblehead Viaduct stand firm against a biting wind and minus 5 degrees celsius temperatures on a cold March morning.
Another early start this morning, out of York at 4.15am in minus 5 degrees celsius, there had been a smattering of snow in York but no more, I was surprised to find a thick blanket of snow covering the Yorkshire Dales, driving was treacherous at times, I was ahead of the gritters and snowploughs.
Reaching Ribblehead at 6.15 the first light was just spreading across the valley. I got kitted up in cold weather gear, hoody, fleece, fingerless gloves, a Polartec snood, gaiters over my trousers, the whole lot. A short walk down to the bridge and I got set up.
The wait for the sun was cold (it was minus 4 outside) and sat in the snow watching a hardy dog walker and his faithful Springer making the most of the cold morning.
As the sun came up the clouds cleared and I was able to get this photo, using my new favourite lens, a Canon 24mm TS-E tilt and shift I used a touch of tilt to maximise depth of field.
To avoid having my shadow in the show I had to lie in the snow, the sun being behind me. I was glad of my cold weather gear.
A lovely cold morning in a very quiet tranquil place.
Have you ever taken a photograph of what you think will be a gorgeous landscape only to find the sky is completely white with very little, or even no detail, like this?
In this photo the foreground is perfect but we've lost detail in the sky. So we do the obvious, shorten our shutter speed to allow less light in so that the sky isn't too bright. Now we get a photo like this:
I'm happy with that sky, unfortunately what we've now got is a foreground, the lovely Ashness Bridge near Keswick in the Lake District, that is way too dark.
This is a common issue for landscape photographers, the scene contains more dynamic range (that is to say the difference in brightness between the darkest foreground and the brightest sky) than the camera can record. The difficulty is that your eyes are much better at making the most of a scene like this than even the best cameras.
What we need to do is to somehow balance the brightness of the sky and the darkness of the foreground so that both are recorded in the same shot.
One way is to blend both images in Photoshop. This would certainly work in a photo like this where the only movement in the shot is the water. If however there was a few elements moving, maybe waves rolling into a seascape, or any scene with people in them it becomes a lot more difficult to get a convincing result.
I, and a lot of other landscape photographers, prefer to get as much done in the camera as possible, after all, I'd rather be sat watching the sun come up over Skiddaw on a lovely crisp winter's morning than sat in front of my Macbook in Photoshop trying to make it look right. The answer for us is Neutral Density Graduated Filters, usually abbreviated to ND grads, or just grads. These filters are dark at the top and light at the bottom, allowing you to balance the brightness of the sky against the darkness of the foreground, in one shot.
So, how would we balance out a shot like this?
I used a 3 stop graduated neutral density graduated filter, applied over the sky and mountains in my photograph. This brought the brightness of the sky down to a level where it could be recorded by the camera. With this photo I also used a circular polariser to cut through reflections in the stream, this is best seen in the pool to the bottom of the image;
I favour a British made brand of filters from Lee, an old name in the film and photography industry. Their filters are hand dipped (in the dye) to ensure the best quality. Their Quality Control is rigorous which means that there is sometimes difficulty in getting supply of them; it is worth waiting for them, I've tried all the brands and whilst Lee aren't cheap, they are the best.
So, what do we need? Rather than just send you off to find these I'll link to them at our friends Dale Photographic in Leeds who are one of my closest suppliers of Lee filters.
You will need the following:
So, we've got all the kit, how do we use them? First we've got to work out the difference between the sky and the foreground. Put your camera into spot meter mode, aim at the foreground in aperture priority mode and see what the reading is and remember it. As an example say the camera told you you would need 1/30th at f11. Now aim at the sky and take another reading, imagine this reading is 1/500th at f11. That means there is four stops difference between the sky and the foreground (one stop would be 1/60th for the sky, two stops would be 1/125th, three stops would be 1/250th and four stops is 1/500th). I usually take one away from this figure, to allow for the sky naturally being brighter than the foreground. As such I would use a three stop filter to balance the scene.
Now align your camera (hopefully on a tripod, and using a cable release) to get the composition you want and make sure it is level. In manual exposure mode set the camera to the setting you had for the foreground (1/30th of a second at f11). Focus and switch the lens to manual focus so that you don't knock it as you apply the filter. Now switch on liveview if your camera has it, and, watching the screen, slide the filter into its holder on the front of the lens. If you press the Depth of Field preview button on your camera it will really help show where the gradation lies. Align the gradation with the horizon. Now trigger the shutter with your cable release to take the shot. Check the histogram on the screen of your camera to make sure you've applied enough filtration, there should be a gap at the right hand edge showing you've not blown the highlights. Most cameras have the option of highlight warnings, or blinkies, to tell you where a shot is overexposed to the point of losing detail, these are invaluable.
In time you'll get used to just looking at a scene and in your head working out which filter you want, this just comes with experience.
I hope this gives you a brief starting point with filters, they really are, in my opinion, an essential tool for the landscape photographer. If you have any questions feel free to email me through my website, I'll do my best to help.