I can’t belive its been a year since I did my favourite 13 images of 2013. Here are my 14 favourites from 2014.
I can’t belive its been a year since I did my favourite 13 images of 2013. Here are my 14 favourites from 2014.
Below is a selection of new images taken over the summer months.
Brancaster Staithe at sunset on the North Norfolk Coast
A fantastic sunrise over Derwent Water in the Lake District
Brancaster Staithe at last light on the North Norfolk Coast
Summer greens in the Lake District
Derwent Water at dawn
A vibrant sunset over Cromer Pier on the North Norfolk Coast
Summer Colour at Crummock Water in the Lakes
Castlerigg Stone Circle at dawn
Happisburgh Lighthouse during a long exposure
View over the Solway, Cumbria
Buttermere on a stormy summers morning
Summer colour at Castle Acre near Swaffham, Norfolk
Cromer Pier at sunset on the Norfolk Coast
Illuminated by light in the Lake District
Summer dawn at Derwent Water in the Lake District
Crummock Water, Lake District
Norfolk Barley Field
Summer stream, Cumbria
Castlerigg Stone Circle at first light
Cromer Pier at sunset on the Norfolk Coast
Crummock Water on a summers morning
Stormy skies at Castlerigg Stone Circle
Poppy field in the Norfolk countryside
Two horse riders in a field of wheat at Happisburgh on the Norfolk Coast
Derwent Water at dawn
Castlerigg on a summers morning
Lake Buttermere, Cumbria
Thunderstorm and straw bale field near Clippesby in Norfolk
The view from Over Owler Tor under a pasing storm in the Peak District
Summer light on the quay at Blakeney
Martello Tower Aldeburgh at last light
A vibrant sunset over the Hope Valley in the Peak District
Dead tree near Snape Maltings
Double rainbow over a freshly harvested field in the Norfolk Countryside
The town of Holt on a summers evening in Norfolk
Boats at Moston on the North Norfolk Coast
Summer heather on the dunes at Winterton-On-Sea, Norfolk Coast
Summer storm in the Norfolk Countryside
Last light on Carhead Rocks in the Peak District
Westleton Heath, Suffolk
Winterton, Norfolk Coast
Looking towards Higger Tor from Over owler Tor in the Peak District
Fishermans huts at Winterton, Norfolk Coast
Fairbrook in the Peak District
Storm captured from Over Owler Tor in the Peak District, Derbyshire
Last light on the dunes at Winterton, Norfolk Coast
Sunset from Carhead Rocks in the Peak District
Some of the strangest colours I have ever seen as the rain started poring down just before sunset.
Warm evening light on Blakeney Quay, Norfolk Coast
First Light, Curbar Edge
The wonderful view from the top of Curbar Edge in the Peak District
Fairbrook on a summers morning, Peak District
The historic Hunters Fleet on the Norfolk Broads
First light on the Heather at Curbar Edge
Mist above the village of Calver, Derbyshire
Cromer Pier at dusk on the Norfolk Coast
Morning light Baslow Edge, Derbyshire
Turf Fen mill at sunset, Norfolk Broads
First Light, Curbar Edge Peak District
A misty sunrise of the dunes at Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast
Two years ago I posted a blog with some images captured at a Tulip field in Norfolk, UK. The original blog can be found here.
Well two years later I have shot another Tulip Field in the Norfolk Countryside and below are a few images from that shoot. This years shoot was at a different field to last time and I arrived a little late as quite a few of the colours had already been de-headed. The tulips are grown for their bulbs here so once the flowers are developed they soon get their heads cut off so more energy goes into the bulb rather than the flowers. This year we had a really mild spring so the tulips were much earlier than normal too. This shoot required a 3.15 am alarm call to get to the location in time for sunrise. After around 90 mins shooting the tulips I was then leaving when all of a sudden a rainbow appeared so it was a case of quickly running back and grabbing a few shots.
Here are a selection of new images captured in January and February.
Shooting Star Trails
Photographing Star trails is actually a relatively simple technique that can conjure up some wonderful eye catching images. As the earth rotates, the North Star will appear to remain fixed whilst the other stars appear to rotate around it. During long exposures we are able to record the motion of these stars in our images.
Planning plays a pivotal role in achieving successful star trail images. Before heading out I pay close attention to the weather forecast to ensure it’s going to be a clear night, I find websites such as Metcheck and Wunderground are particularly useful as they will give a cloud coverage breakdown for set times every three hours. Subject matter is a personal preference but I like to include subjects with a strong outline against the sky in my images such as a church, barn, lighthouse or windmill, by using a compass I can also work out which direction the North Star will appear and if possible include this in my images. Once I have found my location I try to set up my gear whilst it’s still light and make sure everything is in order. By arriving whilst it is still light it is much easier to focus and compose the image. I begin by setting up my tripod and composing and focusing the picture, a good solid tripod is essential here and its important to make sure that it’s on solid ground with no chance of moving during the long exposure. At this point I also like to check there is plenty of memory and fully charged batteries in the camera.
Its then a matter of waiting for it to get dark enough before I begin shooting, if I want to recompose an image or re focus in the dark then a large powerful torch is really useful. Its very difficult to see much through the viewfinder so once I think I have everything set up correctly I like to take a short test shot. To do this I select a high ISO setting on my camera, I then take a test shot of around one minute using the bulb facility and a cable release and examine the image on the LCD to check for distracting elements and to check the focus. At this point I also like to check the exposure is correct, the test shot is also a great way to gauge how long the main exposure will need.
A little bit of Maths is required here, but just remember that every time we increase or de-crease the exposure by one stop we are doubling or halving the amount of light coming into the camera. So if a an exposure of one minute is correct at ISO 1600 and we increase that exposure by one stop to ISO 800 then we are doubling the exposure time so the new exposure time would be two minutes, just keep doing this until you get to your chosen ISO and aperture settings to give you your final exposure time.
Stacking Method Or One Long Exposure
To capture star trail images for the main image we have two options, the first is to shoot one long exposure and leave the shutter open during that time, the second process we can use is to shoot lots of shorter exposures and then combine these later using computer software. Both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages. If shooting lots of shorter exposures then exposure times of around 30 seconds work well here. Long exposures increase the amount of noise in the image so the shorter exposures of around 30 seconds stacked together will have less noise. The disadvantages of this technique are that you use more space on memory cards and hard drives, your post production work is increased and the major disadvantage is you have tiny gaps in the star trails. One of the real advantages of the stacking method though is the ability to remove images you don’t want stacked in the sequence such as a frame where a plane with lights has flown through the image or you can even remove a number of frames afterwards to dramatically reduce the exposure of the image. There are a number of software options available to combine the stacked images but one that I have found particularly good is a free piece of software available at www.Startrails.de.
Begin by composing your picture and making sure your tripod is on solid ground. I like to hand my bag from my tripod for extra stability. Composing can be a problematic in the dark so its best to take a test shot.
|Set you camera to bulb mode, use a large aperture such as F4 and a High ISO speed then take a short test shot. Review the test shot and make sure you are happy with the composition.|
So to begin shooting using the stacking method we need to set our camera to continuous drive mode, this means when we lock open our shutter when setting a sequence of 30 second exposures.Set your shutter speed to 30 seconds and select your chosen ISO and aperture settings, ISO 400 and F8 often work well.
We need to illuminate our subject with some light, I find a large torch gives off a nice warm light and offers you lots of control over what parts of the scene you illuminate. You can also use flash. I save this part of the process to the last five or six frames, this means if we over expose the areas we paint with the torch we can simply take a few of the last frames away.
For the final image of the day attach the lens cap to the camera and take a dark frame as the same settings, the stacking software can then use this to help reduce noise in the final image at the post production stage. All of the images will look very dark initially right out of the camera however this is perfectly normal.
To start the post production stage open up the star trails software, click file, Open images and then select all the frames minus the dark frame. Now select file, open and load in the dark frame. Now we have all our image ready simply click build and then star trails, we now need to wait a while and let the software do its stuff, when the image is completed simply click file and then save as and the image is complete.
Star Trail Tips
Star trail images are always eye catching, but just like photographing images in the day we need to find a good subject and a good composition. Whilst pictures of a night sky alone will result in good star trails if there is no subject matter to the image then they will rarely work well. For stunning images try locating the North Star in your composition, as the earth rotates the other stars will appear to spin around it.
Clear skies are essential for photographing star trails so avoid nights when there is a chance or thick cloud blowing in during the long exposure.
Exposures for star trails can range from several minutes to several hours, the overall exposure length will depend on the amount of motion you wish to capture. One of the major problems with digital cameras during long exposures is there are power hungry, with this in mind I normally limit my exposures to less than 90 mins unless I am using a battery grip with the facility to hold more than one battery at a time.
To help aid with focusing in the dark shine a powerful torch on your chosen subject, once your camera gets a focus lock switch your lens to manual focus so that it doesn’t hunt when you press the shutter button.
Take a compass with you and work out the position of the North Star. As the Earth rotates the North Star will appear to stay fixed and the rest of the stars will appear to rotate around it.
It can get very cold at night particularly when standing around waiting for long exposures so warm clothing is essential.
Safety In Numbers
Night photography can be quite daunting, I like to photograph subjects in remote areas where you don’t attract as much attention. Strange noises & wildlife moving in the bushes can be quite spooky especially if you are on your own, but you soon get used to it. This does put a lot of photographers off from shooting night photography especially lone females. With this in mind I began offering one day workshops photographing at night in Norfolk, UK. I usually hold two or three one day Painting With Light & Star Trail photography workshops throughout the year, these are priced at just £50 and are offered on a first come first served basis. For more details on one day workshops offered in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex & Derbyshire please visit the workshop section on my website at http://www.theuklandscape.com/Workshops.htm
Apologies for being so quiet on here of late it’s been a hectic Spring & Summer this year. I hope to begin with lots of new posts in the coming months but for now here are some new images from the last few months.
I had an incredible hour of light back in April at Horsey Mill on the Norfolk Broads
Due to the long winter the Daffodils were very late this year. Here are a few captured in a Norfolk Field
Stormy last light illuminating Horsey Windpump
South Creake ford in North Norfolk
The old disused Dilham Canal lock at Ebridge Mill
Stormy last light at Heigham Holmes Drainage Mill near the village of Martham
Horsey Mill with some stormy light about an hour before sunset
Something a bit different for me, I was commissioned to write an article on photographing derelict buildings for a UK photography magazine and here is one of the images I shot of an old derelict mill in the Norfolk Countryside.
Dream light as the last rays of the stormy light illuminate Horsey mill and the sky above.
Derelict Detail shot
This is probably one of the least photograph mills of all the Norfolk Broads mills that have some sails. This is Heigham Holmes and sit’s on an island that is only open to the public one day a year.
Norfolk Mill at night
Reed bed glow
I loved the grey mixed with the red brickwork in this shot at an old flour mill
The very last light on Horsey Mill and my very last shot of the day on this particular evening
A misty morning start at Horsey Mill on the Norfolk Broads
Oil Seed Rape field in the Norfolk Countryside
The picturesque West Somerton Staithe on the Norfolk Broads
Horsey Windpump at first light
Probably one of the laziest images I have ever shot as this one was done practically over the garden fence with a telephoto lens.
West Somerton, Norfolk
Cart Gap, Norfolk Coast with the Lee Big Stopper, ten stop filter
Happisburgh Lighthouse shortly before a storm passes overhead
Cromer Pier following a colourful sunset on the Norfolk Coast
Rainbow captures in the dunes at Wells-Next-The-Sea beach on the Norfolk Coast
Happisburgh Lighthouse & Oil Seed Rape
Last light at Winterton dunes on the Norfolk Coast
Summer field near Repps With Bastwick, Norfolk
Weybourne Shingle Beach & Fishing Boats
For Sale. Beach huts at Wells
Cromer Town reflecting in the wet sand at dusk
Oil Seed Rape on a windy day at Happisburgh
Stormy light looking towards the beach huts at Wells
Weybourne, Norfolk Coast
Sunset at Winterton, Norfolk
You are probably getting board of Happisburgh by now but here is another, all taken on a number of different visits to get the Oil Rape Seed at different stages.
Norfolk Field near Repps With Bastwick
Winterton Dunes at last light
Wells Next The Sea
Stormy golden light over a freshly harvested barley field in Norfolk
Summer poppies near Burnham Market
Long exposure over the old pillbox on Horsey Dunes
Poppy field at Castle Acre in Norfolk
Sunset and golden light near Repps With Bastwick, Norfolk
Castle Acre Poppies
Poppy field just outside Burnham Market, North Norfolk
A rare opportunity to see St Benet’s Mill illuminated at night as part of a summer wedding on the Norfolk Broads
My favourite stretch of the Norfolk coastline happens to be one that is often ignored by visitors and photographers alike. This 12 mile stretch of coastline and countryside is rich and diverse offering fantastic potential for photographers. Whilst most landscape photographers head for the North Norfolk Coast to shoot popular locations such as Holkham, Wells or the picturesque Staithes at Brancaster & Blakeney. I love heading to this underrated and much quieter stretch of coastline. Here the Broads and the coast run side by side offer a great deal of variety all just a short distance away.
Horsey Beach is best known for the hundreds of Seals that have their pups on the beach every year. From November to the end of January its extremley busy with visitors that come to get a glimpse of the pups. At other times of the year it’s a fantastic peaceful beach with great sand dunes and beach patterns for the landscape photographer.
Brograve is one of the lesser known mills of the Norfolk Broads. Very few boats come down the narrow stretch of water named Waxham New Cut. Beacuse the mill requires a walk of about 45 mins from Horsey Mill or a 20 min walk over the muddy fields a lot of people don’t bother visiting. It’s a wonderful peaceful location and is excellent to see lots of wildlife.
Sea palling is best known for it’s sea defences that consist of high rocks placed out to sea. These can be see in the distance of this image. The location does have some nice sand dunes and is just a short stroll from the car. Here the beach was captured at dawn on a frosty morning with the sand and dunes coated in a white layer of frost.
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Looking back at 2012 it was certainly a hard year to get out and do as much landscape photography as I would like, especially with our first (and last) child who was born at the end of 2011 . Lot’s of people wrongly assume being a professional landscape photographer photographer you can simply go out and shoot what you want when you want and because of this you can get the best light. The reality is finding time can often be a real challenge. Workshops and commissioned landscape photography left me with probably less than one morning or afternoon a week to get out last year to shoot what I want. So I was certainly more selective with the locations I choose, most being quite close to home.
With commissioned photography shoots I did have the chance to shoot lots of locations I had not shot before. Often with commissioned landscape photography you can be shooting those locations that are less photographic or those locations which are not really shot by many photographers, hence the shortage of material out there and the need for a photographer to be commissioned. Although I must admit I did get the chance to spot one or two really nice locations and I am looking forward to getting back to them for my own photography some time.
The plan for 2013 is certainly to continue being more selective about locations rather than just heading out for the sake of it. I am hoping to get in a few more trips to other locations in the UK this year, if the weather plays ball. And I must remember to shoot more panoramics as they always sell really well, but I am forever leaving the panoramic tripod head at home.
Throughout 2012 I invested in a large format A1 Epson printer which has been a fantastic, albeit expensive to run if you don’t use it lots every day. We also have a family friend who is a picture framer and he trained me up on framing throughout the year and before I know it I had invested in a full framing workshop. This has been great at handling my own orders, especially Christmas which was my busiest yet with framed Print orders. I have also been doing a bit of framing and printing for other photographers I know and will begin offering this service to other photographers over the next month or so. The website is almost built, it just needs a few last finishing touches.
Hitech ND Grad Review
The reason landscape photographers use ND Grad filters is that cameras simply cannot record the same level of detail that the human can. When the sun is low in the sky or not yet risen then there is a much wider tonal range for the camera to capture. The filter is toned with a darker area at the top of the filter and a clear area on the bottom half. The darker area is a neutral colour and tones down the exposure over the sky proportion of the scene. This bridges the contrast range between the darker foreground and brighter sky and makes for a more evenly exposed image with good detail and colour in the sky and a lot more detail in the foreground. The above example shows a scene captured without a grad and then a second image captured with a grad filter.
Like many landscape photographers I started with the Cokin filter system. However, I found I was always experiencing the classic problem of the infamous Cokin colour cast. After struggling along with the Cokin system for some time I had heard a few good things about the Hitech system as a good alternative. I quickly invested in an 85mm set of Hitech ND Grads. Immediately I saw a massive difference. I continued using the filters for about a year, then as I upgraded to the wider Canon 17-40mm lens, a move from the 85mm size filters was required. I opted for the Lee filter system, and like most Lee users I have been a happy user ever since.
The move to Lee filters was about 8 years ago now; however I often recommend Hitech filters to my photography workshop participants as they represent a good trade-off between quality and price. The obvious problem with the Lee filters is their higher price. If you are serious about landscape photography and can warrant the cost then the Lee filters are well worth considering. However, for those occasional shooters, or the newcomers to photography who don’t want to fork out around £250 on a filter system, then the Hitech system is well worth looking at.
A few months back Hitech filters generously provided me with a large number of new filter kits and holders for my workshop participants to try out on the courses. I thought it would be really good to try out a few of the filters myself to see how good they really were.
Although Hitech did send me a few of their ten stop filters I haven’t had a good chance to try these out yet so I will report back on this filter at a later date. The filters I am going to look at here are their ND Grads.
First let’s look at the Hitech hardware. Hitech have released a new modular filter holder, like the Lee holder you can add or take away slots and add or remove a 105mm front filter ring for polarising filters. On my own Lee holder I use a 105mm circular polarising filter on the front, this makes rotating the filter much easier. Due to the design of the Hitech holder it’s actually quite easy to just rotate the whole filter holder with a polariser attached to the lens behind, the brass screw on the side of the holder can then be loosened to quickly straighten up the holder. This is hard to explain here, but in practise is actually really quick and easy to do. This makes using a polarising filter behind the Hitech holder really easy to work with.
Adapter rings to attach the holder to the lens come in normal and wide angle versions; the wide angle ones are set back slightly and can help avoid any vignetting.
Hitech offer soft edge, hard edge and reverse densities for their graduated filters. The density relates to how quickly the grad changes from clear to dark. If you are just going for one set and you shoot lots of sunsets, costal scenes or general landscape stuff I would probably opt for the hard grads. When investing in filters I would always avoid the cheaper Chinese sets of filters you can get on ebay, they have a grad area that’s way too soft and these are useless not only for the optical quality of the filter, but because the grad area is difficult to place and the lower part of the sky will not have enough light blocked out.
Soft grads can be more difficult and less effective when used on crop cameras, lenses with a smaller diameter and telephoto lenses. Where soft grads can be an advantage is if you shoot in areas where you have an uneven skyline, such as some mountain scenes, cityscapes and woodlands. With my own Lee filters I own both sets of Hard & Soft Grads, however the vast majority of the time it’s the hard grads that get used.
Hard grads are easier to place on the horizon level. One problem when shooting sunsets is the horizion level is normally the brightest area of the scene, but with the soft filter this can actually be the weakest part of the ND area and the sky can easily burn out in this part of the scene. This is less of a problem with ND hard grads as the horizon area of the filter is much darker and because of this it is more effective.
Where the reverse grad comes in to its own is when shooting sunsets or sunrises. A normal grad filter starts by being weakest on the horizon level and strongest at the top of the filter. With a lot of sunset or sunrise scenes the brightest area is obviously around the horizon level. The area of the sky where the filter doesn’t need to be quite so strong is actually the top. The Hitech reverse grad works by being darkest at the horizon level and slightly weaker as it rises to the top of the sky. This is a filter I have wanted for years and am really pleased Hitech have begun producing this one. It’s not going to be required all of the time; however it’s great to keep one or a set in the kit bag for those occasions when it is really useful. I have been trying this filter out for a few weeks now and am already beginning to wonder how I have managed without it for so long.
I have been really impressed with the quality of the filters and the colours achieved. I have received no unwanted colour casts, in fact the colours achieved have been very realistic and true. The optical quality of the filter seems excellent with no loss of quality and lens flare has not been a problem at all. I must confess I haven’t shot in a situation where I have needed to stack any filters and this is where any colour casts could suddenly appear. If you do shoot raw then slight colour casts in the sky are probably less of problem now as they once were. Software like Adobe Lghtroom has a grad tool where you can apply adjustments to just the foreground or the sky, including adjusting the white balance / colour on one particular area which is great for correcting any slight colour casts.
If I had to say one negative thing about the filters it would be that I find they can scratch a bit easier than the Lee filters. Most of this seems to have occurred when I have been taking the filters out and putting them back in the plastic wallets, these wallets do feel quite sharp and are quite a tight fit, especially when you have freezing hands. Personally I would house them in a soft filter wallet and not use the plastic pouches they come in. Both Hitech and Lee make such filter wallets and these are ideal to get at your filters nice and quickly whilst also protecting them much better. The black multi filter wallets also double up as an excellent tool to hold at the side of the lens to stop lens flare.
It would be a nice touch to see the more expensive larger size grad filters come in the soft cloth with the three pockets in, similar to how the Lee filters arrive. These can double up as good lens and filter cleaners as they always seem to be to hand and are ideal for this purpose. When shooting in wet weather keeping rain droplets off filters can be problematic. I like the soft pouches the Lee grads come in as you can just put the filter back in the soft pouch and it’s easy to wipe away rain droplets before taking it back out and being ready to shoot again.
All in all I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised with the Hitech filters, they seem so much better than the first set I was using over eight years ago now. I actually prefer the Hitech holder to the Lee holder. Would I change from the Lee filters though? The simple answer is no. With the Lee filters I have never had any problem in eight years of using them. At the larger size 100mm x 150mm (same as Lee), a set of hard grads, a filter holder and a wide angle adaptor is actually not that much cheaper for the Hitech kit compared to the Lee kit. I believe though that Hitech can offer kits consisting of a number of different filters which can result in quite a good saving. Hitech also offer their very own 105mm circular polariser at a good price, although I have no experience of this filter and do not know of any photographers who have used it so I can’t comment on how good it is. It’s also difficult to find any reviews online.
I would certainly recommend the Hitech Reverse Grads which I believe Lee don’t offer. These have been fantastic in use, they fit my Lee holder with no problems and I have found myself using this filter all of the time. If I didn’t require the 100mm x 150mm size grads then I would certainly recommend the smaller size Hitech filters as these do represent excellent value for money with a really high quality product. Compared to the Cokin filters it’s a no brainer in my opinion I would go for the Hitech every time.
A slightly updated version of this can be found on my website at http://www.theuklandscape.com/Hitech%20Review.htm
Here are a slection of new images taken in November. All shot in Norfolk, England.
On the 12thNovember I added a post on my facebook photography page about a dramatic sunset but unfortunately I didnt have a tripod with me. I couldn’t resist stopping for a quick shot anyway and this is the resulting image. The iso had to be pushed up to ISO 1600 and it was raining quite hard when this was taken.