Thursday, 30 May 2013

Night Tyne Photography

As promised, a couple of photographs from my brief outing to Newcastle Quayside. Following on from a visit to the Angel Of The North (Last blog entry), I headed over to the Quayside to try out my 24-105mm lens, which I hadn't tested on the Quayside to date, so I was itching to give it a first run out at this location, albeit a very brief one. It was literally a five minute stop, as I parked up in the Fish Market Car Park, next to the Swing Bridge, before setting up my gear and shooting down the river, towards the Tyne Bridge, Millennium Bridge & Baltic Arts Centre. It was getting late, so I made sharp and ran off two exposures, which were around the 5 second mark. There was cloud above, which is always a good addition to a night-time shot, as opposed to a flat sky with little or no detail in it. There was many a Geordie reveller on the Quayside, dodging from pub to pub, and there's plenty of choice in that department. It was rowdy, to say the least. Aye, been there...done that. Nowadays I'm focusing on Rivers and Bridges instead of getting rat-arsed and staggering home with a dirty kebab in my hands. Ahhh, those were the days!

But more of that another time. Here are the shots I took, only two, but very similar, although one is cropped to give an almost panoramic feel to it. Turns out the L-Series glass was more than capable...
Speak soon.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Enter The Angel

Two weeks ago I made another of my regular visits to the Angel Of The North, shortly before sunset. The Angel is an ideal stop off, especially when the plan involves a trip to Newcastle Quayside later in the evening, when timing is ideal for photographing at both locations. As the sun sets, and the photo's are in the bag, a fifteen minute car journey through Low Fell to Gateshead Quays is all it takes to pick off another photogenic 'Hot Spot' here in the 'Not so Grim North'. And that was the plan tonight, two into one, as I covered two popular locations in one night. Some nice colour in the sky, add in some nice to profiling, and Robert is your Father's Brother! Enter the Angel . . .

As the sun went down on the horizon there was a burst of colour in the sky. I photographed visitors as they walked back down the path towards the car park. Some interesting silhouettes (shots 3&4), and in particular, the elderly couple who stopped to take photographs of the colourful horizon (last shot, below). Very straightforward photography. All you need is a decent sunset and that burst of colour shortly afterwards. I got it tonight. The shots wouldn't be the same without people, as scale is all important here. It's a simple case of waiting for those unsuspecting folk to plonk themselves right into the frame, just where they appear best, as they pose for their own pictures, oblivious to the fact that they're also posing for mine  - A prime example is shown below (shot 2)... 

And that's about it, for now. Next I'll show you the shots I took an hour later, on Newcastle Quayside.
Until then, see ya later.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

New Addition - Canon 17-40mm Lens (L Series)

Last week I added another lens to the arsenal, in the form of a Canon 'L Series' 17-40mm Ultra-Wide. This is my second 'L' purchase, following the 24-105mm lens that came with my Canon 5D MK2 body (Full frame upgrade). For anyone who is unfamiliar with L-Series, these are the 'Luxury' lenses in the Canon EF family line, and what a difference the results are, compared to the EF-S series that I was using alongside the now departed Canon 7D crop body. Naturally, the L-Series glass comes at a price, but they're worth every penny. So, what is the difference between EF (L-Series) and EF-S lenses, you may ask...

EF-S lenses are specifically designed for APS-C digital bodies and optimised for the fact that they have smaller sensor and mirror. EF-S lenses are marked with a white dot on the mount instead of red one that EF-glass has, and can be only used on EF-S compatible bodies (almost all of smaller-sensor Canon DSLRs, up to EOS 7D). Film and larger-sensor digital cameras (5D, 1D, 1Ds) take only EF lenses. If you have a camera with EF-S mount support (such as EOS 7D, 50D or 500D), you can use both EF and EF-S lenses. EF-S lenses are a slightly different format whereby the rear element sits closer to the lens, this is possible due to the smaller mirror with APS-C sensor. The distance from the back of the lens to the image plane is known as the back-focus distance, hence the S in EF-S standing for short back focus. Other manufacturers have lenses designed for smaller sensors with appropriately smaller image circles but they don't have a different back focus distance. Having the lens sit slightly closer does make it slightly easier to design wide angle lenses, however I've heard the reason Canon introduced EF-S lenses was so they could scale down existing lens designs as a base for the optical design to avoid having to start from scratch. It's often said you can't use EF-S lenses on a full frame body (such as the 5D, 1Ds) but this is not strictly true. Canon use a different shaped rear baffle to physically prevent you mounting as the mirror could hit the lens and cause damage. However this can be removed to allow mounting, and since the rear element moves when zooming there are positions that allow shooting. Vignetting is a problem as EF-S lenses project a smaller image circle, but again the image circle can get bigger while zooming so some focal lengths work ok.

EF (L-Series) is Canon's professional line (though used extensively by non-professionals) of EOS EF auto focus 35mm SLR and DSLR still camera lenses. Some say L stands for "Low Dispersion" - achieved by the UD lens elements found in these lenses. But, the true answer is probably the one in Canon's Lens Work III Book - "L" is for "Luxury". Watch the sidelines at the next professional sporting event you attend or watch on TV. Look for the identifying L-lens red stripe around the end of the photographers' camera lenses. These are the people who make a living with their equipment - and they frequently trust the Canon L Lens Series for their income. About their L lenses, Canon says "these lenses use special optical technologies [such as] Ultra-low Dispersion UD glass, Super Low Dispersion glass, Fluorite elements, and Aspherical elements to push the optical envelope."
OK so what does that mean - practically speaking? What you can get when you use Canon L lenses (if you do your part right) are amazing pictures. In fact, this amazement is said to cause a disease know as "L-Disease". Once caught, it is incurable.

After upgrading to the full frame 5D MK2 with 24-105MM lens, I couldn't wait to get started. If you trace back my blog entries you'll find many photographs that I've taken with my new kit. To the viewer there may seem little difference between the photographs on my blog from each camera, but there is a noticeable difference between the prints, especially at A2 (25x17 inches). Obviously, when you factor in the full-frame side of things, the upgrade has been a master stroke in my opinion, as it has opened up more capability, mainly the ability to get that much more subject onto a full frame sensor. As for my two lenses - the 24-105mm is my everyday 'Walk around' lens, which covers most aspects of my photography needs, whereas it doesn't quite cut the mustard up close, hence the need to go wider in that pursuit. That's where the 17-40mm glass makes an appearance. A popular misconception with some photographers is that Wide Angle lenses are to 'Get it all in'. I tend to disagree. Ultra-wide's are for getting yourself, and therefore the viewer, right smack into the middle of something. If you can't or won't get close, leave the Ultra-wide at home. These lenses have the ability to rub the viewer's nose in your subject. Properly used, Ultra-wide's grab your viewer and yank him into the middle of your situation, bringing the viewer into the photo, not for fitting a subject into a photo. Ultra-wide's require you to get very close and personal to anything you are shooting. Even a fraction of an inch (or cm) will make a massive difference in your composition, so you need to be very deliberate with your movement. If you use them properly, you should be rewarded with dynamic images. I find that regardless of which lens I use, and however many photos I make on a trip, the ones I like the most are always those made with a wide angle lens. My old 10-22mm Wide was a brilliant lens and gave me the experience I now carry forward. As the weather up North has been sh1te recently, I haven't had a decent chance to road test my new 17-40mm Wide, but rest assured it will put through its paces soon enough. Until then I'll twiddle my thumbs and plan my next outing. Lots of printing/framing to get through, which is ideal when the weather is poor. Indoors all the way, but not for long. Until then...


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Littlehaven & The Labour Party

Welcome back, pop pickers!

At the tail end of April I was contacted by a Labour Party Organiser, representing the South Tyneside constituency on behalf of local MP, Emma Lewell-Buck. The enquiry, which came through my website, was in response to one of my photographs that was spotted on Google images. As a result, I allowed the image, Littlehaven Sunrise' to be reproduced on a By-Election flier that was 'Dropped' in 10,000 homes in South Tyneside on the morning of voting day. Labour came out on top!

South Shields result -
Emma Lewell-Buck Labour 12,493
Richard Elvin Ukip 5,988
Karen Allen Conservative 2,857

Anyway, here is the electronic version of the flier (above). I received paper copies in the post shortly after the election, along with a nice cheque for allowing my photo to be reproduced. Another feather in the cap, eh.
And just a few days later I was at Littlehaven again, catching another sunrise, this time at 5.00am - a first. I usually capture sunrises during Winter months when I don't have to set my alarm clock too early. It proved to be a wise move as I got some great shots which I'll be uploading HERE, very soon. Until then...See ya.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Infinity Bridge, Stockton-On-Tees

Following my first visit to the Infinity Bridge back in January of this year, I was keen to revisit this location for more photography. My previous, and only visit, was at dusk, when I managed to grab some nice shots of the bridge when illuminated, but this time was a very different affair as I photographed at mid-day in bright sunshine. The River Tees was approaching high tide when I arrived filling a parking space on the South side of the water. And it was this side of the River Tees that I concentrated on, as I looked for decent vantage points to begin my work. Conditions were ideal as I wandered around, so it wasn't going to be a difficult task to get the photographs I was hoping for. There wasn't many people around during the half hour I spent at the Infinity Bridge, which was surprising considering the lovely weather. Maybe folk had opted to visit the more picturesque locations around Stockton, if there are any!

Not much else to say, to be honest, other than 'Here are the photographs'. And from there I headed East towards Redcar & Cleveland, to 'Paddy's Hole', which will be my next blog entry. There's stacks more photo's to come, so I'll catch up with those very soon. Cheers!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Durham Cathedral - Part 2 of 2

Following on from my last instalment, here is Part 2 of my Durham Cathedral blog for May 2013. Part 1 focused on a daytime visit to the Cathedral, but this time it's the low-light night shots that I bring you, captured from the same viewpoint. As an added extra, there's a few bonus shots of Durham Cathedral up close, as I ended my outing with a drive into the City where I parked up at Palace Green, directly in front of the Cathedral. It was a calm night with almost clear sky, give or take the odd scattering of cloud overhead. In fact, it was ideal for photography so all that remained was the task of pulling in some decent shots, again, beginning at the lofty viewpoint near the Botanical Gardens. As I set my gear up the sky had took on a dark blue hue, which can be seen in my first shot, a panoramic effort, where Penshaw Monument can be seen once again to the left of the frame, highlighted by the surrounding street lamps. Below the Monument is Durham Castle, illuminated and standing alongside the Cathedral, which is clearly the focal point and dominates the shot. My second shot, shown here, is a similar composition which I took approximately fifteen minutes later. The sky has taken on a different colour altogether here, and works just as effectively, although I prefer the first shot out of the two.

The last four shots were taken in the Cathedral grounds, as mentioned earlier, and by this time the sky was literally pitch black. As a backdrop to the warm tones in the stonework I think this works really well and blends in well with the shadows on the facade. I was running with 15 second exposures by this time, longer on other shots, just to compare the results before settling with a rigid shutter speed on my final few exposures. The moon shone above the Cathedral, so I included it to add a touch of atmosphere to the shots, which finished them off nicely. There must have been a hymn service in progress as quite a few visitors entered the Cathedral, then some half an hour later dozens of them left through the main door as I photographed from the pathway. I waited a while until the coast was clear then resumed. Another distraction came in the shape of a remote control Gyro- Copter! Bloody hell - what next! The guy controlling it seemed to getting plenty of attention from passers by and even flew the craft straight into my shot, as it rose to the top of the main tower before hovering in a static position. I went over and had a quick chat with him and he said the Copter had a built in camera which was filming the view below. His mobile phone was linked up to it and he was looking forward to reviewing the footage once he'd landed his toy. Not being that interested, I headed back to
my camera, which was stood a few feet away, then packed it away in my bag before 'Doing a runner.'

So, there it is folks, another blog entry behind me, with plenty more to come. So, as Saturday night is almost at a close, I bid thee farewell once again. Until of course, the next time...
Ta ta, Ash


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Durham Cathedral - Part 1 of 2

Hello again!
We're now into the month of May and the weather seems to be making a turn for the better, although there remains a chill in the air. I made a recent visit to Durham to photograph the Cathedral from a high vantage point, similar to the one near the train station, but this time I was across the other side of the city. Not too far from the Botanical Gardens is a hill where access is granted via a public footpath, and from here the panoramic view across Durham City Centre is quite spectacular. I had this location in mind following a previous visit to Whinney Hill, another viewpoint up a height that I stumbled across last year. From Whinney Hill there is an excellent view of Durham Cathedral, with the huge round rose window facing you, but the daytime sun hits the west facing walls so I was obviously standing in the wrong place for photography. It was at that point I realised I needed to be elsewhere, so I looked around for the perfect spot, finding it quickly by sight, but needing to explore it in person to find out whether it was accessible. I jumped back into the car and headed through the streets towards my intended destination, which I found in a matter of a few minutes. The public footpath led me onto another hill from where I picked a spot to begin my photography. It was a fine day and the view had me raking about for my polarising filter. The blue sky and clouds were going to play a big part today. With the sun behind me this was an opportunity to grab some good shots, although the cold wind hampered things slightly and my tripod almost bit the dust on more than one occasion. At one point I had a heavy plastic police cone jammed up against one tripod leg, to prevent the whole thing toppling over, but it was as much use as a glass hammer. The wind was doing its best to put me off, which is why handheld photography was out of the question. I was never going to photograph the Cathedral from a distance, with a long lens, plus keep the camera steady in the wind, so the tripod saved the day in that respect.

A couple of dog walkers passed me. Other than that I had the place to myself, which isn't a bad thing. The wind was a bad enough distraction, let alone anything or anyone else. A dog did run over to check out my tripod however, having a sniff about the lower legs. I was half expecting it to cock its own leg and irrigate my 'Not Cheap' tripod, so my hiking boot was primed, ready to present a kick in the gonads at any given moment. Luckily for the K9, it thought against the idea and toddled off down the hill to reunite with its master. Time for me to crack on.

I ran off a few frames and headed back to the car, hands and face numb with cold. Ah well, who dares wins. The fair-weathered photographer only makes a fraction of good pictures, compared to one who goes the extra mile in all conditions to achieve that little bit more. Todays visit to Durham was more than worthwhile and I found myself a great spot for future reference. I could see Penshaw Monument in the distance so I added it to my composition. I never imagined I could have photographed both of these iconic landmarks together, but now I have (see shot 3, above) and they certainly sit together very well, despite being miles apart, geographically. My final shot (below) was composed with one thing in mind - Magazine cover!

And that's about it. Not a long blog entry by any standard, but this is only the first part of my Durham Cathedral entry for May. The second and final instalment will be here very soon, as I revisit the same spot for some night time photography. Watch this space...