Monday, 23 March 2015

Photographing the Kelpies Near Falkirk

We ran a 2 day private landscape photography course in Northumberland at the weekend, a drive of about 4.5 hours from home in the Peak District. Falkirk was about another hour or so further north so we decided, having driven this far, to drive the extra distance to take photos of the Kelpies sculptures, by Andy Scott, near Falkirk. They have been on my shooting list since being asked for prints of them several times at a show we did in Glasgow at the end of last year. They were only installed in April last year and they are still building the visitor centre to go with them. The 2 horse heads are the worlds largest equine sculptures at 30m high and they are surrounded by water. Walking around them you feel quite small!

We arrived about 6.30pm as the light was fading, the sun had just gone down. The metal of the sculptures was catching just a few bits of light and the clouds were different shades of grey so I had lots to work with, not great for colour but good for my black and white. I continued taking shots as it went dark over the following hour. There were some small lights turned on around the footpaths after sunset. Then the floodlights came on quite a few minutes later. We had to wait over an hour for the final piece of lighting to come on, the red lights within each sculpture. These made it look spectacular! Exposure times for my Ilford FP4 were now up to 2 minutes at f5.6 so I just did a few exposures to finish. It will be interesting to see which lighting set works best in black and white, the white floodlights or the red internal lights. In total I ran off 3 rolls of 120 FP4 film, that's 30 exposures.

Kelpies in Black and White, taken on my phone from the same position as used for the proper photos taken with my Mamiya 7 film camera.

Jan took photos too and I have included 3 here to show the different lighting that we had. I'm also in the foreground of all of them for a bit of scale!

Kelpies after Sunset

Kelpies at Dusk

Kelpies at Night 

Private Photo Course in Northumberland

We have just returned home from running a 2 day private photography course in Northumberland. The weather was jolly kind to us, we had quite a bit of sunshine and no rain. The waves were spectacular too, with high tide in early afternoon.

We were based in Berwick upon Tweed in Northumberland just 2 miles south of the Scottish border. The course was a Christmas present for Jo from Morpeth, just north of Newcastle. Jo wanted to get back into using film cameras and brought along her Canon EOS 300 with a couple of zoom lenses. We covered everything from choosing the film, loading film into the camera, taking exposure readings with the camera meter, composition and use of tripods. We used a mixture of Ilford HP5 for hand-held shots and Ilford FP4 film for shots taken from a tripod.

We started on Berwick Beach with the basics then moved on to Eyemouth as there is lots to photograph around there, harbour with boats, beach, rocky shoreline and lots of waves at high tide! It was cloudy in the morning but the sun came out while we were in the Contented Sole pub at lunchtime, as it often does! Fortunately, it stayed out for the afternoon.

On the Sunday we met in Beadnell and headed back north to Bamburgh for the castle, beach and sand dunes. The sea was a little way out still but we took some castle shots, including reflections on the wet sand, rocks and patterns. Then we drove around to take the castle from the sand dunes on the south side.

We continued south but it was too early to take Beadnell Harbour as it needs the tide to be high so we went for an early lunch at the Craster Arms in Beadnell. Crab sandwiches were on the menu so Jan and Jo were happy! Next it was down to Beadnell Harbour for the high tide shot. Unfortunately, there is lots of scaffolding around buildings at the harbour and earth moving equipment, a dumper truck, van and car so it wasn't ideal. Jo can always come back when it's all cleared away being so local. Then we finished by heading south to the beach just north of Dunstanburgh Castle. The rocks on the beach here are round and are shiny black when wet. They make a great foreground with the castle ruins behind. The tide was high and we were in danger of being washed away at times! Fortunately, both Jo and I had high boots so remained dry shod. Waves were crashing over one of the large rocks in front of us and onto the beach so we had lots to go at, including the castle shot of course.

Jo then had a short drive to get home to Morpeth while we headed north to finish our trip by taking some photos of the Kelpies horse head sculptures near Falkirk. That's the subject of another blog post!

Jan took all of these almost action photos on her Nikon D90 to give you an idea of the places we visited.

Checking Camera Settings, Berwick Beach

Eyemouth Beach Wave Watching

Eyemouth Harbour AM

Eyemouth Harbour PM

Eyemouth Beach Waves

Dunstanburgh Castle Beach #1

Dunstanburgh Castle Beach #2

Friday, 20 March 2015

Printing Snow Light and Land Light New Books

On Wednesday 18th March 2015, we went over to Loop Printers in Sheffield to supervise the start of the print run for my 2 new landscape photography books. This time we are having 2 books printed at the same time as I have so many images not yet published in any of my books.

Snow Light is snowscapes from around the world and includes 121 images as well as  3 articles. Land Light is landscapes around the world that are not snowy and includes 119 images and 1 article giving away all of my secrets!

Jan took some video segments on her Nikon D90 which I edited in iMovie, to be included on YouTube and in this blog post. The movie runs for a bit under 1.5 minutes but is over 100Mb in size before YouTube converts it. Our broadband is too slow to cope so I have to send it to Andy, our graphic designer and web man, to convert and upload; one of the limitations of living in a National Park! The video covers the process from loading the paper for the covers, running the press, checking for quality and changing the printing plates.

The printing should be finished within a day. Covers need to be glossed and sealed and then it all has to be sent to the binders to be finished off and packed.

We are waiting to hear when the finished books will be delivered but expect to have all 3000 copies of the books before Easter. Both are the same format as my previous books with 80 pages in each, mostly images.

Here are some still photos with the video at the end.

The stack of paper for printing the covers loaded into the printing machine

Covers for both books being printed together.

Dave checking the first prints for quality, mainly density and contrast as well as dust

Completed stack of printed covers being removed from press, to be printed on the reverse, glazed and sealed

Trevor changing printing plates, taking out the one used for the covers and replacing with the bluey coloured new one (leaning against the machine) for the Snow Light intro pages

The Loop Printers logos on the wall of the building. This makes 4 books that they have printed for us.

So far they have done a very good job!

Here's the edited YouTube video of the printing

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Buxton Artist and Designer Fair

We are doing our first show of the year in Buxton Pavilion Gardens this weekend. An Artist and Designer Fair,  open until 4.30pm.

Lots of new photos, both mine and Jan's.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Crans-Montana Skiing Last Day

True to the forecast today was a fantastic day, albeit with no clouds at all.
We started skiing at the crack of 10am! I was carrying a Mamiya 7 camera, 43mm and 65mm lenses, 8 filters (just in case!), Gitzo Mountaineer 1028 tripod with Manfrotto quick release head, 7 rolls of 120 FP4 and 1 roll of 400 Delta 120 film. I used all but 2 rolls of FP4. Because it was blue sky and mostly above the tree line I used B+W light red filters all day.

I had just one shot on my list, Wildstrubel from the highest lift station of Plaine Morte. I skied to the summit in 2000 but in complete whiteout so I didn't see anything from the top. Unfortunately, the lift was shut because of strong winds, same as yesterday. Everything else was working though so we went off for a few hours finding a few photos along the way.

Patterns on the hillside

Skiing past the Violettes hut

By early afternoon we returned to the lift to the top just as they were starting to run it. What luck! It was jolly windy and very cold at the top, at just under 3000m. The view across the glacier to Wildstrubel was clear as a bell.

Wildstrubel (right) from Plaine Morte

A bit further down I could see a different angle on the shot so I skied a few hundred yards off-piste until I had a clearer view with some good wind blown snow shapes in the foreground.

Another objective was to test Ilford 400 Delta for handheld shots. I took a few handheld and some using my tripod. I also took similar photos on Ilford FP4, my usual film for the last 20 years or so. This would give me 2 stops extra speed = 2 stops faster shutter speed, 1/60 instead of 1/15, for example. This should be enough to ditch the tripod if my back was painful. At least I could then continue taking photos instead of leaving the camera at home. Now I just have to work out how to process it within my exposing and processing system.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Crans-Montana Skiing Day 3

Yesterday we had a full day skiing, but in mostly poor weather. Lots of low cloud and flat light. Today was bright but windy. Just 5 lifts were running in the Crans-Montana ski area and by 1pm it was down to 3. Wind speeds of 115 km/hour were measured at the Violettes mid-station at 2200m. At times it felt like we were back skiing in Scotland with the icy blasts of spindrift, then I noticed there was snow under both skis and knew it couldn't be Scotland!

We finished skiing by 2pm, caught a bus back to our hotel in Montana, dropped off the skis and went for a 4 mile walk around Crans-Montana. The GPS said we had travelled 17 miles while skiing, including lifts.

Here's a couple of phone shots from our walk. The mountain one shows the spindrift being blown off the mountain tops. I didn't carry my big Mamiya 7 camera the last 2 days so I left these as colour shots as there won't be a black and white version!
Montana Lake View

Montana Mountain View

The forecast is good for tomorrow so it's a proper photo day with my Mamiya 7 camera and tripod! Fingers crossed the lifts are open.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Crans-Montana Skiing Day 1

What a contrast to the rain and snow of yesterday. We had a lot of sunshine for our first day skiing at Crans-Montana in Switzerland. It was actually my second time skiing the Crans-Montana area as I had a 5 day ski mountaineering trip starting above Sion in 2000. We were blown off Arpelistock, then skied the Wildhorn, Wildstrubel and Schwarzhorn, all 3000m peaks in the Western Bernese Oberland north of Crans-Montana. Our descent from the Schwarzhorn took us down to Aminona, part of the Crans-Montana ski area.

However, today we started in Crans and worked our way over towards Aminona. The skies were a little cloudy at times but continually changing. I took a couple of rolls of Ilford FP4 120, that's 20 shots, during the day.

Here's one of the Violettes Hut. I took quite a few of this on my Mamiya 7 camera and red filter as the light and clouds changed. The shot here was taken on my phone and edited with Snapseed to give you an idea of what I took on the proper camera.

I'm planning to ski without the camera tomorrow as snow forecast on and off all day.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jolly Wet Day in Geneva

Yesterday we flew out to Geneva and planned to take photos through the day today. Unfortunately, it rained on and off all day. I took no pictures during daylight and just 18 shots at dusk and night time. We had a lot of exercise though, walking about 15 miles around Geneva with the odd pub break during the heaviest rain.

I took this on my Mamiya 7 camera and this is the phone version to give you an idea of one of the shots.
Geneva Cathedral at Night

Catching train to Crans-Montana tomorrow. Ski photos Tuesday to Friday, weather permitting!