Sunday, 24 September 2017

Time Lapse On Tour

Hello again,

It's nice to get stuck into my blog on a regular basis after letting it fall by the wayside in recent months. There simply isn't enough hours in the day to cover everything, including work, family and other commitments. Quite often though, when I sit my arse down on the settee and there's nowt on the telly, I turn to my laptop and conjure up something to pass the time away. If it's photography related then that suits me fine, which includes writing about my outings with the camera and relaying them to Joe Public, via my blog page. Over the last year or so I've taken an interest in time lapse photography, after seeing one or two creations online and thinking to myself  'Hey, I wouldn't mind dabbling in a bit of that.' As visitors to my site may well know by now, it's not just still photography that interests me. I occasionally flirt with video, which is predominantly aerial, from my eye in the sky drone, plus the recent time lapses I've created with my GoPro action cam. It's the GoPro aspect that I'm gonna touch on today, as I bring you an insight with behind the scenes pictures and also direct links to the finished time lapse.

First of all, the tools. Last Christmas my wife bought me a GoPro Hero 5 (black edition), which was a big surprise - I certainly didn't see it coming. Well, it beats the obligatory pair of socks and a box of After Eights !!!  (Only joking Amanda, if you're reading this lol). I quickly got to grips with it and was immediately impressed at how much tech was packed into this tiny waterproof box. Although it's capable of pulling in some stunning 4K video footage, at 30 frames per second, I'm more than happy with the full HD 1920x1080p mp4's it delivers too, especially at 120 fps. The camera can be controlled through the GoPro app on my phone, which is a very handy side line, plus Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for good measure. The rear LCD touchscreen is excellent - a feature that is non-existent on previous incarnations of the GoPro cam. Also featured is a burst function at 30fps, Night Lapse and Time Lapse (photo and video). With advanced wind noise reduction, this piece of kit seems to have it all.

So off I went, with my little shoulder bag, armed with my GoPro, a tripod, and a  Rollei ePano 360 motorized swivel head, The swivel head would enable me to capture some motion time lapse, as it panned across my chosen scene. It's battery powered, with an internal rechargeable cell that would give me at least a couple of hours of shooting from a full charge. Setting up was fairly straightforward and the trickiest part, if there really was one, was levelling off the tripod legs and ball head. Keeping the panning head level as it made a 180 sweep was very important. Failure to level the legs and head correctly would almost certainly produce a poor time lapse with a bad horizon, so I double checked everything before I set the GoPro away. The pano head has a few different settings, including panning 360 degrees, panning 180 degrees from left to right and back again, plus a 90 degree pan with a 30 second pause, before panning again, pausing and panning again. No doubt I'll try all of these eventually, but right now I'm gonna pan from left to right at 180 degrees.

So, where have I visited? Well, I've ticked off a time lapse at Newcastle Quayside, the new River Wear Crossing, Seaham Pier, Sunderland's East End and Penshaw Monument, amongst others. I've put each time lapse into a compilation video and this, along with a few others, can be found on my YouTube Channel. FEEL FREE TO SUBSCRIBE !!!

This time lapse carry on is addictive and I'll be doing plenty more of them in the near future, so keep an eye out for them. Cheers.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Seated Man, North Yorkshire (Recce Visit)

Eyup!!!! ... and we're off to North Yorkshire ...

Yes, it's a trip south, into North Yorkshire for a recce visit to a statue on a hill in the middle of nowhere land. It was a chance sighting of the statue that caught my eye whilst browsing the internet, one rainy Friday morning in August. I was sitting down with a cup of tea, trying to shake off my night shift jet lag, when I first noticed The Seated Man, in situ on Castleton Rigg, overlooking the tiny Yorkshire village of Westerdale. At first I was a little confused as to what the statue actually represented. All I could see was an elderly man sitting on a seat, with a brief case resting on his knee. His facial expression was one of deep thought - definitely a pensive mood going on here, I thought. And it suddenly struck me that he resembled Jeremy Corbyn, without a doubt. Well, well, well ... I need to visit this statue in person and I need to visit it soon. I originally had nightscapes in mind. Star trails, milky way, moon shots ... and this place seemed like the ideal spot, as it was in a dark area away from light polluted urban areas, that would and could have a negative effect. There was a carpet of heather surrounding the statue. I could only imagine how nice it would look during the day, when bathed in sunshine. That's it, my mind was made up - I'm heading down there, first chance I get. It's only an hours drive from home. That'll do nicely. Within 48 hours I was heading down there to check it out, in the flesh, with my brother Chris. The weather was poor, very poor in fact - certainly not a day to be walking on the moors, but what the heck ... this WAS a recce visit after all.

My satnav took me into the village of Castleton, before I headed out and across the moors road towards Castleton Rigg. From this vantage point we got our first glimpse of the statue in the distance. I parked up at the roadside and we headed through the heather and up the hill towards the main man, accidently disturbing a few grouse on the way. That was funny - not for me, for the grouse. I almost shat me'sel a few times over. Once we'd negotiated the incline, and the grouse ha, we were on the flat moor and heading towards the statue, which we could see directly in front of us, approximately 100 metres ahead, with his back to us. Within no time we were standing in front of this amazing statue. Amazement was my first thought as I stood in front and admired the artistry in front of me. This bronze statue stood around 3 metres in height and the detail was outstanding. All I could think about at this point was returning another day to photograph him in better conditions. The heather was in full bloom, although its colour was almost non-existent under this overcast lifeless sky. I wanted sun and lots of it. I wanted blue skies and broken clouds. I wanted perfect conditions. I wasn't asking for much, was I? Should those pieces of the jigsaw fall into place then it was down to me to do some damage with the camera, to complete the puzzle, so to speak. I was up for the challenge - just give me my conditions and I'll try to deliver.

Time to return home. Recce over. I already had the photographs in my head, but they were no good in there - they had to appear on my memory card, ticked off and uploaded to I was glad to get back to the car, to be honest. The rain kicked in as we left the site and the winds didn't help the situation either, but this was a recce after all. Groundwork done. Just a waiting game now. Come on Mother Nature, throw some sun at me and let's see the heather blooming in all its glory. I'M WAITING !


Friday, 22 September 2017

TV Aerial

Hello again and welcome to another blog entry, albeit a short one. I'd like to give you an update on the Aerial section of my website. Over the last week I've been editing lots of HD video footage from the SD card in my drone. Some of the footage was captured at the beginning of 2017, so as you can imagine, it was beginning to form a backlog and I didn't want to fall back any further with it. The upshot is, there's a handful of new video's on my site, all aerial, and there is more in the pipeline. I've got a tick list here and it has several locations on it, all of which I want to visit with the drone, during the next few weeks. I'll not give too much away though - that would be spoiling it, so if you would like to be informed of my latest video's, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel. You'll receive instant notifications of any new uploads from myself.

I still feel like a complete novice when flying, despite a good ten hours of flying time under my belt over the last year or so. I'm gonna have to become more adventurous with the joysticks and crank up the speed and flight paths of my Phantom 3. Most of the royalty free soundtracks I have preferred to use are fairly low tempo ambient affairs, which I love, so I like to match the tempo of the flights with it, which works well I reckon. As my flights become more intense, so will the music, to match, but that's all in theory of course. The proof is in the pudding. Let's see what I can conjure up during the next couple of flights. So many places to visit, and lots of ideas floating around, as long as I stick to the guidelines.

So stay tuned and I'll be sure to bring you any more developments on my aerial photography.

Chocks away!


Friday, 15 September 2017

RAF Spadeadam & The Galactic Core

Welcome back once again to the final part of my RAF Spadeadam adventure. It was another journey west to the county of Cumbria to take in some more night time photography - this time I had Milky Way in mind, as a backdrop to the Lockheed Shooting Star airframe, on barren wasteland. By this point I had already done the customary recce visit, followed by my first night trip to attempt a star trail or two, so all that was left to tick off was the Milky Way, with its galactic core on show at this time of year. Another Friday night and another trek across the boggy field to the spot that I would spend an hour or so of my time before heading home. Naturally the conditions were favourable and clear skies were overhead once again. The elements were on my side, so it was up to me to finish the job off and get out of there.

On arrival we found 3 parked cars near the access field. I noticed one of them immediately - it belonged to Mike Ridley, fellow Nissan worker and astro photographer, amongst others. It looked like he had arrived before us, unknowingly of course. Once again I was with my brother Chris. I certainly wasn't gonna take this trip on my own. We headed across the field towards the aeroplane and we could clearly see torches wafting about in the distance. A few minutes later we reached the plane and I called out 'Mr Ridley' who replied (in a slightly worried tone) ... 'Who's that'. We were soon shaking hands before chatting and he introduced me to his two mates, Tom Hill and Dave Thompson. Mike said he saw us approaching and thought it was the police, ha!

The Milky Way was prominent, rising behind the aeroplane in an ideal position. Within a few minutes its position had changed quite a lot, so I quickly got to work and started photographing it before it was out of shot altogether. My choice of weapon was the Sony a7s, coupled with a Canon 16-35L f2.8 lens, which was more than capable. At around 1am the International Space Station flew over, but I wasn't shooting continuously so I failed to pull in my first ever shot of it. I managed to grab a 5 second exposure before it vanished. Another job done and ticked off nicely. I was only after one good shot and I got it. Amazing foreground and another enjoyable night out under the stars.

Cheers, Ash

Sunday, 3 September 2017

RAF Spadeadam - Revisited

Welcome back!

Following on from my last blog entry, this is the second part of the RAF Spadeadam trilogy - a night time visit under the stars. I'd been excited about a revisit since our first outing a couple of weeks previously. The thought of getting back into Cumbria to attempt a trail shot kept me ticking over nicely, whilst anticipating the drive west, over the A69 for more astro photography. As you can see by the BBC Weather screenshot from that day, clear skies was the forecast and a three quarter moon phase would help to light up the foreground. A second screenshot, also shown here, gives an indication of where the moon would be around 11pm, the time we planned to arrive on site . The position of the moon was perfect - ideally placed in the south west and directly behind where we planned to shoot from. The elements were on our side tonight. We arrived on time, as expected, then began to shoot our star trails. My brother Chris was alongside once again - there was on way I was heading here on my own. The site was open once again as we headed through the wooded area and parked next to the cattle grid - a ten minute walk to the abandoned Lockheed Shooting Star.

I was running with two camera's - a Canon 5D3 and the amazing Sony a7s mirrorless cam. I wanted to pull in two star trails, one portrait and one landscape, hence the use of two camera's. Lens choices on the night were Canon 16-35 f2.8 and a Samyang 14mm prime, also at f2.8. From memory, we were on site around 90 minutes, during which time it became increasingly colder, even though we could hardly feel it when we arrived. I reckon the task of negotiating the boggy access field warmed us up a tad. I'd opted for walking boots on this occasion, but the field wasn't anywhere near as dry as our first visit, so my got rather soaked and it was no fun standing in wet boots for an hour and a half.

Once we stopped the star trail sequence we ran off a few selfies before heading back home. It was a productive night and an enjoyable one too, despite the brass monkey bollocks I acquired on the night. All part of the fun I suppose, with hindsight. It didn't feel like fun at the time, he he. As well as capturing a star trail or two, I also put together a motion star trail from one of the sets of images I pulled in. The result can be seen on my 'Night Sky Time Lapse Compilation' which I uploaded to my You Tube channel. Click here to view it.

With the job done I was already planning to make a third visit to photograph the airframe under the milky way. This came to fruition a week later. Stay tuned for that - coming next. And on that note I shall vanish once again. Back soon folks. Cheers, Ash