Don’t keep to the path.

Passing Places?

Landscape Photography is a flexible genre. You can photograph the land, the sea, rural, urban, wild, tamed, you can shoot wide and you can pick out the detail in what I call ‘micro landscapes’. Many start with a nod to images they have seen, sometimes they look to achieve the same composition, look and feel of a wonderful photograph they have enjoyed. Our exploration is often shackled by the routes prescribed to us. We shoot from laybys, car parks, from public footpaths and View Points.

 

Passing Places. Bealach Na Ba

Photography in these instances tends to be ‘snatched’ shots here and there. These shots often capture the same locations, from similar positions, time and time again. You end up with nothing new. There is nothing wrong with this per se, we’ve all done it from time to time. Time alas, can be a limiting factor and good photographs are sometimes just fractions of a second but they can also take a lot of time in the making.

[pullquote]’You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’ Ansel Adams[/pullquote]

The key though to good Landscape Photography is to immerse yourself within the landscape. Understand the landscape, the relationship between your subject and the light. You should try to head off the beaten track, look for a different vantage point, find a composition that offers something a little bit different. It is on these journeys we find great subject matter.

Also when we journey to a chosen point to ‘take a photograph’ we often ignore all that lies along the route. We forget that the journey is such an important part of the process. Why pass so many great opportunities? Allow time to not only get to a chosen location but allow time to return slowly enough to appreciate things from a different angle on the return leg.

Be Safe

Of course when straying off the beaten track please take care. Check where you are heading, let someone know where you are going and avoid taking unnecessary risks.  Also spare a thought for the flora and fauna along your route. Just because you don’t see them it doesn’t mean they are not there.  I’ve strayed a few times and I’ve ended up knee deep in bogs or in brambles so dense I wondered if I would ever get out. That said the search is usually fruitful, knowledge is gained and new territory mapped for future reference.

Try not to photograph the fields either side of the road, where possible seek permission and enter the fields. Find a different position from which to survey what lies around with you. Also when the longer, wider view is not always working for you, look closer to home.

Look for detail, look for order, look for chaos and patterns in the ‘micro landscapes’ that lie around your feet and among the hedgerows.

 

Tension Cracks

Level Horizons in Photography

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Level Horizons in Photography

The creative process should rarely be shackled by ‘rules’. Rules have always been there to be broken, boundaries are pushed and new ideas emerge. Some of these ‘rules’ are more just there as ‘best practice’, ways of getting the best from more traditional landscape images.

When photographing bodies of water, the horizon and a variety of vertical structures, it pays to ensure things are level in both the horizontal and vertical axis.

 

 

“But I can straighten the image in Photoshop or Lightroom”, you cry.

The reality is that you can save yourself a lot of bother by taking care of this at the composition stage. If you badly compose an image and then try to straighten in Photoshop, you could find yourself altering the composition or losing vital components or balance within the image.

How to shoot straight?

 It couldn’t be simpler.

There are a variety of options available to you as a photographer:

  • In-camera digital levels
  • In-camera grids and guides
  • Hot shoe mount spirit levels
  • Tripod spirit levels

We expect a horizon to be level.

In-Camera Levels

By far the easiest option on many newer DSLRs is an inbuilt digital level. On my Canon 5dMKIII toggling the INFO button brings up the digital level. It is quick and easy to use. Check to see if your camera offers this feature and get used to working with it. Toggling grid overlays can also be very useful to assist you when composing an image with water. They will also help if you are working to a particular type of composition such as the ‘Rule of Thirds’.

Hot Shoe Mount Levels

 

Hot Shoe Mount spirit levels are very cheap and usually have a dual axis level and simply slide into the hot shoe mount on your camera. They are more difficult to use than an electronic aid but simple once you get the hang. It is good to tighten your tripod head a little so your movements are more controlled.

Tripod and Tripod Head Levels

Many Tripods and tripod heads have built-in spirit levels. Make sure they are in a convenient location for you to work with them. You don’t want to be having to peer around the front of your tripod to check things are level. A little thought when setting up makes them easy to use and will save you time.

Glaring Mistakes

Now I may be fussier than most when it comes to keeping things straight but a  horizon which isn’t level, within a landscape image featuring water jumps out at me before anything else. It is unnatural and quite jarring visually.

Editing Horizons

Whichever software you use there will be functions to rotate and level. People have their own favourite ways of straightening things but this is what I do in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Lightroom – In the Develop Module choose the Crop Overlay Icon. Then choose the Spirit Level Icon for the ‘Straighten Tool’. Simply place the cursor on the horizon and then drag it along the horizon and release it. The horizon will now be level and you can choose ‘Done’.  You can drag the ‘Angle Slider’ but it far less precise than working within the image.

Photoshop – Now I’ve seen some people add a grid overlay and utilise the Rotate Function within PS but this requires you to crop the image afterwards. A far simpler way is to go enter the Lens Correction filter using Shift-Ctrl-R and then press ‘A’ to bring up the straighten tool. The straighten tool can also be accessed using the ‘A’ key within Camera Raw.

Picasa – Has a basic Straighten tool that uses a slider and grid found in the ‘Commonly Needed Fixes Section’.

The straighten tools will also work on the vertical axis as well. If you have an obvious vertical

 

Supporting Team GB
Supporting Team GB

We are Better Together

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Surely we are ‘Better Together’

 

 

I may repeat myself but I do feel very strongly about the Scottish Vote for Independence. In some ways, I was very fortunate to have lived abroad for many of my formative years. For want of a better title I was a ‘Brit abroad’. You become more conscious of your ‘National identity’ when you are an expatriate. You, in some small way, represent your country and wish perhaps to set a good example. I grew up in a British Colony. The flag we flew was the Union Jack. I only really became aware of the Cross of St George or the Saltire when I eventually returned to our green and pleasant lands.

I was British first and English second. At my most English when sport had to be played but I was always prouder to be British. I love Scotland and most things Scottish (midges aside – although to be fair I’ve had them worse in the Lakes). That love, appreciation of Scotland perhaps came from my father being based at the British barracks in Stanley Fort, Hong Kong, where he managed the satellite Earth Station there for Cable and Wireless in the early 1980s. At the time the Scot’s Guards were in situ and naturally many of my peers were Scottish. The exposure to the heart-stirring drone of the pipes was never too far.

I fondly remember my father and a friend smuggling a pipe band back into the barracks well beyond curfew one New Year’s Eve, after they had piped us into the New Year. It may have been my fondness as a child for all things military and the important role that the Scots played within the British Army in so many historic conflicts. Hell, I’ve even joined with a few rousing renditions of Flower of Scotland at Murrayfield. Who wouldn’t?

A magical evening etched in my memory down on the sands at Talisker Bay

As a photographer and lover of the outdoors, I have come to love the varied Scottish landscapes of the Highlands and Islands over the years. My job and my love for the outdoors have brought me closer to Scotland and allowed me to travel to so many amazing places as Applecross, The Outer Hebrides, The Highlands and beyond. I also just happen to have two very lovely Scottish girls in my life: my fiancee (Update- Now wife) and my Land Rover who amazingly both grew up not far from the shores of Loch Tummel. It is from visiting these distant corners of the United Kingdom that I have really discovered what it means to me to be British. I have always been richer for the knowledge of different cultures, different ways of life, the differing landscapes, customs and traditions and the bonds that tie us. I remain proud and respectful of all I see.

Braving the wind and chasing the setting sun at Neist Point on the Isle of Skye

I have personally always considered each of our nations to be independent in their own right but part of a greater Union, one that supports these far-flung communities as best as it can. Our often maligned but I think wonderful Postal Service that allows you to get a letter to Stornoway for the same price as one to Oxford. A union that I at least believed supported rural communities, supported communities with more reliant populations.

I’ve always loved the rivalry, the banter but the strong sense of Britishness we shared as a collective is what I really believe in. I’ve worked to learn about the oft-highlighted miseries of history because they help us to understand what lies around us but those that spend too long looking back, invariably forget to look forward and to actually live, enjoying what they have.

It saddens me to think that perhaps 45% of the people of Scotland feel that Independence will workout for the better. Personally, I’ve heard nothing to suggest it will and believe that we are always stronger together, working ever closer with more powers afforded to the Scottish parliament. The key though, is that ‘togetherness’, that ‘Union’ which ensures that the UK has the backs of all of its citizens. It is a safety net in a changing world, in a world where we are fortunate enough to be a group of Islands with some control over our borders and resources.

I don’t personally believe that the SNP are the people to even give Independence a fighting chance. Much of the message appears to be built on negativity, about how bad the lot for Scotland is, about the lack of investment, the lack of opportunities, the lack of social support etc. Time will judge them on what they can actually bring to the people of Scotland. There are areas for improvement within every community within the British Isles but from what I have seen on my travels throughout Scotland, I’ve seen great potential and also a great investment in rural communities and throughout the Hebrides.

Another ’emergency stop’ trying to create an image of this beautifully located Croft on South Uist.

Perhaps it is just selfish because I love the UK, I have grown up proud of our collective achievements in the World. Achievements on both sides of the border that would not have come about but for our collective drive, determination and abilities. The pride we have shared in our British Teams, be it the Lions, Team GB, or even supporting Britain and Scotland’s Andy Murray on his way to 2 Grandslams, a Gold and Silver Medal in the 2012 Olympics. cd

I hope the majority of people in Scotland do vote and say No. By saying No you are just saying Yes to a brighter more prosperous future with the support of the entire United Kingdom.  Don’t stay undecided because to be undecided should mean that you are unconvinced that change is necessary. The SNP and Alex Salmond are taking a short-term, somewhat jingoistic view of the current situation. So many hollow promises, so much guffawing and grinning. Is it really the passion of a well thought out campaign? Until every question is answered, the workings for every promise shown clearly, I would not fall for all this pomp and hot air.

The people of Scotland are being asked to make a choice largely based on ‘hope’ and emotion. Whatever Scotland chooses, I pray they prosper but the numbers don’t add up and the SNP surely can’t fill anyone with any confidence can they? With a ‘No’ vote I’m certain will come greater powers of self-determination and I hope an understanding of the value and obvious benefits of our Union.

I feel very bad for those proud Scots who currently reside outside of Scotland, that they have had their choice taken from them. Any nation is only stronger when its people spread their wings, share ideas, learn from different cultures and embrace the opportunities we have throughout Britain and further afield. Of course within Scotland are many incomers who in their own way bring vital investment and jobs to Scotland. To deny the former Scots the right to vote on their country, their home is very unfair.

Driving through the heart of Harris and trying very hard not to stop every 30 seconds.

I can do no more than keep my fingers crossed that Britain will still remain the same after the votes are counted. That the Union will not be damaged and that we can continue forward on this path to recovery and a brighter future. I can’t imagine a different future because it is all I have ever known and love.

We are Better Together. Please vote NO. 

 

Eridge Rocks, Rich Clark Images
Lofty Vantage Point

Eridge Rocks

Photographing Eridge Rocks

 Rich Clark Images

 

I admit I was slow to discover the amazing sandstone formations dotted throughout the Kent and Sussex Countryside. Naturally I am drawn to Landscapes that offer something different to the norm. These stunning sandstone formations and the ancient woodland that surrounds them are certainly worth a visit. There is a strong coastal bias in many of my images but as a photographer I’m always looking for new and differing landscapes. At the various sites throughout Kent and Sussex you will find great photographic interest not only in the wider landscape but also in the details within the rocks themselves and the flora and fauna that surround them.

Hopefully this piece will provide you an insight into what you might find at some of the sites and showcase some of the work I have been doing.

Eridge Rocks

Map https://goo.gl/maps/D7I2h

Eridge Rocks are managed by The Sussex Wildlife Trust as a Nature Reserve and they are an altogether ‘wilder’ and more natural offering than High Rocks. They are also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The small carpark popular with dog walkers is reached by turning down the pothole strewn (Update 21/03/2014 – Most potholes filled) Warren Farm Lane next to the Church in Eridge.

Eridge Rocks is a beautiful spot offering great walks and lots of varying flora and fauna in a wonderful setting. The area has an almost prehistoric feel to it. The differing forms, textures and hues within the sandstone blend beautifully within the ancient woodland setting. The area took a bit of a beating in the recent bad weather which is a shame and a good few trees were lost further down the path. Also a section of the path has collapsed and is currently fenced off, so take care.

 

At present dog fouling is a real issue, so take extra care where you step. It is something that The Sussex Wildlife Trust are looking into at the moment. The rocks demand your attention which can lead to accidents. On every visit I’ve fallen foul (no pun intended) of this problem because I’m always looking for a photo. My last visit on Friday last week, ended up with me hobbling about in the woods trying to clean dog poo from the handle of one of my crutches.

I’m surprised (perhaps I’m not..) that within a nature reserve some dog walkers have so little respect for the environment or fellow users. The law does not specify that in areas such as this dog walkers are required to clean up after themselves, so clear signage and an awareness campaign will be a great benefit. Dogs are often walked off the leash so if you are nervous around dogs do be aware of this. Most are friendly and well behaved!

Apart from this temporary problem it is a truly lovely area and it is worth exploring off the main path. Take care on the rocks and slopes as they can be slippy and where possible, try to keep to the paths dotted around, so not to adversely effect the abundant wildlife. The woods are full of wildlife, if you are there early and you are quiet, then of course there are plenty of deer about. I watched yesterday as a bird of prey, probably a Sparrow Hawk, chased wood pigeons above the tree tops.

There are currently no dustbins within the car park so please take your littler with you and clean up after yourselves. Certain sections of the path are quite muddy so wellies are sensible.

I’ve been photographing the site for a couple of months now and I always find something different to focus on. Recently I have been exploring the textures, tones and striations in the rock. I’ve been looking at how tree and stone interact and trying to give a sense of the very different feel to the ancient woodland. I hope to make an exhibition of the work I have created, to attract others to explore this wonderful resource on our doorsteps.

Photographing the Detail in the Rocks

I like to get close up and capture the detail in the varying sandstone. The textures, striations, mosses and lichens create such a rich canvas of colour and interest. As much of the site nearer the rocks is sloped it helps to pack a sturdy tripod with adjustable legs. I opt to shoot with my Canon 5D MK III and i tend to work with either an EF 24-70mm f2.8 L Mk III or an EF 70-200 f2.8 L. These lenses gives me the ability to get closer but also to pick out detail higher int he rock faces. I usually work with the mirror locked up and use a remote release to achieve the best results. When creating more abstract images of the rocks it pays to look for ‘interest’, leading lines, contrasting textures within the frame, much as you would shooting a landscape.

I tend to see the Landscape in a very varied way, as a very broad collection of tones, textures, tighter crops and wider views. It has never been just one thing to me, one style of creating an image. More a constantly evolving representation of how I feel about the landscape at the time I shoot it. To promote front to back sharpness with these rock faces I will usually work at f11 to f14. With digital cameras working beyond an aperture of f16 diffraction will start to soften images. As most lenses are at their sharpest just a few stops up from wide open you can look at ‘focus stacking’. Take multiple identical frames of the same images shifting the focus point manually from foreground, midground to distance and then combine them using focus stacking software. It is by no means a magic bullet but a technique I sometimes use to achieve sharp images front to back . As most lenses are not pin sharp corner to corner, it can pay to frame slightly wider than you intend and then crop when editing.

Work with differing apertures at different points, get close and shoot side at interesting angles. Be Creative.

 

Eridge Rocks Photography Workshops

I will be running Landscape Photography Workshops at Eridge Rocks over the coming months, where I will provide instruction, on how to photograph the rocks and the wider landscape. Showing you how to get the best out of your cameras and to create some exciting images.

For further details checkout out http://www.richclarkimages.co.uk/landscape-photography-workshops-in-sussex

Workshops are offered on both an individual and on a small group basis. If you would like more information, or would like to register your interest, please contact me at: info@richclarkimages.co.uk

Other Reading

Sussex Geo Diversity Partnership http://www.geodiversitysussex.org.uk/

Bio Diversity Sussex – http://www.biodiversitysussex.org.uk/

Sussex Wildlife Trust – http://www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/page00014.htm

Woodland Trust – http://visitwoods.org.uk/en/visit-woods/pages/wood-details.aspx?wood=26358&site=eridge-rocks#.Uy_mUfl_v_Q

Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunbridge_Wells_Sand_Formation

Choosing a Digital Camera

I’ve been a Canon man for a good number of years and of course once you begin to build a collection of equipment it does make it more difficult to change. These days things are changing and a number of camera models are able to utilise 3rd party lenses maintaining autofocus via a host of adaptors.

Canon 5dMK3

Which digital camera should I buy?

There is no single camera that does everything and those looking to make a purchase need to think primarily about what they will be using the camera for. The best camera for shooting landscapes is never the best camera for shooting sports, weddings or slipping into a pocket for portability.

You have to match a camera to your direct requirements. What will you be shooting?

These days the internet is full of lots of wonderful reviews and information but you have to consider, who is giving the review and where their priorities lie. The only way to really compare the best lenses, or the best bodies is to make direct scientific comparisons. This is very tricky unless you operate in a studio environment. I’ve been impressed with the Nikon D800E over recent months and the Sony A7R looks to be an interesting, flexible piece of kit. Will they do everything better than the Canon 5D MK III I use on a daily basis?  No they won’t do everything better but as is always the case, one camera will edge another in certain areas. It is very much down to what you shoot.

Reviews

The reality is that sometimes reviews are conducted by the same website but not by the same photographer and not in the same environment. The issue with reviews is that people are all clambering for the same limelight when they review a product. Some look to review to find fault, others are blinkered to the obvious limitations of the products. Read a few reviews of the same product and you will see good old ‘subjectivity’ rearing its ugly head.

The same goes for lenses, tripods, radio triggers, lighting, software ad infinitum. You could create the most stable tripod in the world but you might not want to carry it up a mountain with you. You could create the lightest, most collapsible tripod in the world but if I wanted tack sharp photos on a breezy day I’d give it a miss.

As photographers we always have a wish list, the industry churns out product after product and it pays these days not to be first in line. I prefer to wait and allow others to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of new products. Too often these days camera are rushed out with issues like the recent light leaks, firmware issues or simple technology held back. I’ve been a little disappointed with some of Canon’s recent offerings.  Really because I’m a Landscape Photographer and there are certain things like dynamic range and resolution that others are currently doing better. I’m now waiting to see what they bring out next. The competition is certainly hotting up and with cameras like the Sony A7R flexible enough to make use of my existing lenses via adaptors, it makes you sit up and take notice. The reality though is that the camera takes the picture but you have to make the picture. Great images can be created with any camera. If you want a motor drive that can throw out 10 fps then you are limited to those cameras that can achieve this.

Trials Without The Tribulations

If you plan on purchasing a ‘prosumer’ DSLR or investing a fair amount in a camera then it makes sense to have trialled the camera before buying. If you are not lucky enough to have access to the desired model then why not consider renting one? Rental firms will rent on a Day or Weekend basis a camera body or kit to allow you to get some hands on experience and really find out if the camera is right for you.

Or perhaps you could book a workshop or tutorial with a professional?

I’ve been happy to offer short courses to familiarise photographers with cameras like the Canon 5d MK II and III and the 1D series camera. It is a great way to trial a camera and have someone on hand who can show you the ins and outs. It gives you time to relax with the camera and put it through its paces, perhaps also giving you access to a differing range of lenses and filters.

For further information on Camera Familiarisation courses, workshops and tuition check out: http://www.richclarkimages.co.uk/landscape-photography-workshops-in-sussex/

Asgeir Photographs

Asgeir at the Green Door Store, Brighton. 12th December 2013

Asgeir

I heard Asgeir doing a session on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC radio show on the way back from Cornwall a few months back. We’d had a great week in Crantock, not far from Newquay.  We’d been relaxing , photographing and surfing the local beach-breaks. Asgeir’s voice leapt out, the harmonies were excellent, we turned up the volume and I made a note to remember the name.

Ironically it was also Asgeir’s pronounciation of his Vees in ‘adwice’ in the otherwise excellent Nirvana Cover of Heart Shaped Box that stuck in our minds.

When I got back, I hit Youtube and found this gem ‘Going Home’  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weyENZESVL4 The gentle yet haunting vocals, the tight harmonies, the perfect blend of analogue warmth and the richness of the synth and moog. I immediately checked to see if they were hanging about in the UK for a while and found a gig down the road in  Brighton at The Green Door Store.

Gig Photography

I find it hard to leave my camera behind at the best of times. I knew that without organising anything in advance,  it would be very dark and very tricky to shoot anything worthwhile. I did try and contact their management team but it was very short notice. I packed a camera on the off chance. It is always good to test your equipment out in such tricky conditions. You can usually get something usable for the web, if nothing else. When you work with the roadies and lighting team you can usually get down the front for a couple of tracks. They may even accommodate you with the lighting. You can then head back out of the way and work with a longer lens. I’m always very conscious of not being in the way and not marring the experience for anyone else.

I managed to grab a few Asgeir Photographs.

All images © Rich Clark images 2013. Please feel free to share but credit me where you do.

Gig photography usually involves working in the dark, with tricky lighting, crowds and musicians who are going to be constantly on the move. Gaining sharp workable images is not easy under these conditions.

With a gig like this, I also didn’t want my camera getting between me and enjoying these guys play live. This, even moreso in what is such an intimate venue. I grabbed a few shots, working nowhere below ISO 3200 and sometimes well beyond. They were using a projected light show over them onto the back wall, which made it a little more challenging. The Canon 5D MK III certainly gives you a bit more to play with when working in low light.

Asgeir are fantastic live. There is a rawness in their sound, something slightly elemental perhaps, born out of Iceland where they come from. As a landscape photographer I am very aware of the rugged beauty of Iceland and I’ll be there soon enough to take some of my own images. If I could get my Land Rover there too, I’d be delighted. Their music conjures up that rugged beauty and the live experience , at least for me, really captures a sense of the place.

In The Silence

I’ve just opened their new album ‘In The Silence’, which arrived this morning. I knew it would be great and I expected it to be a slightly different experience to what I have heard already. It is more polished naturally but I have to admit to preferring some of the non album versions of tracks. I’m also quite partial to them singing in Icelandic.  I definitely prefer the various versions of ‘Going Home’ I’ve heard. The album version feels a little over processed and it takes something away from the rawness I love.

Asgeir

Asgeir’s voice needs no embellishment whatsoever apart from a spot of reverb here and there. The wonderful harmonies he and Julius create need to be kept simple. Lost was the beautiful melancholic simplicity of the piano riff at the start which was a shame. I loved the introduction of the analogue brass at the end. The bandwagon has certainly begun to roll and I know we’ll be hearing a lot more from these guys.  

We’ll be seeing them again in April in Islington and can’t wait. Their music has not been far from my playlists while working over the last few months and a number of the songs have been the inspiration for some on-going projects I’m working on that I look forward to sharing.

Photographing The Thames Barrier

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I’m not sure why I thought The Thames Barrier was further East? I’m looking at a map and of course it is just down the river from the O2. It looked like there might be a break in the weather, so I thought I’d head carefully North from flooding Tunbridge Wells and take a look. The roads were fairly treacherous, so I took it slow buoyed by the sight of blue skies over London.

rich clark, thames barrier, abstract, rich clark images, landscape photography

The Last Line

You can park at the Thames Barrier Information Centre for £1.50 a day which is very reasonable.

There was some interest in the sky, a bit of blue, a few wispy clouds and the menace of grey rain to the South. I did a reccy to the West of The Barrier and found the tide was low. One of London’s many ‘Beaches’ was on show, a mating pair of Ducks splashed about on the shoreline and there in all it’s futuristic silver foil-like splendour was the gleaming structure of the Thames Barrier. I decided to grab a coffee from The View café while I had a think about how I was going to approach photographing The Thames Barrier.

From the carpark my first thought was an abstract view of the tops of the barrier I could see above the grassy embankment. Sometimes you see a shot and in essence it is just not doable. I found a reasonable angle and on this occasion got what I was after.

Thames Barrier Abstract

Photographing The Thames Barrier

There are many ways to shoot The Thames Barrier. I’d erred from studying shots by other Landscape photographers and opted to arrive and approach the structure in whatever way took me, on seeing it for the first time. I worked for about 2 hours working between wider angles and using my 70-200 f2.8 L IS  to isolate more abstract detail shots.

In the back of my mind was an ‘Environmental Landscape’ competition I had spied earlier in the day. It gave me more direction and perhaps a loose brief to work with. With the recent weather so fresh in everyone’s minds, the storm surge only just abated, it seemed somehow fitting to be stood at the feet of The Thames Barrier, largely London’s last line of defense in these matters.

rich clark, thames barrier, abstract, rich clark images, landscape photography

Thames Barrier Mono

The silver cladding of the Barrier captures the light wonderfully but it also makes for some tricky exposures. I was actually spellbound by the structure’s beauty. Its curves reminded me of the Sydeny Opera House.  I shot both abstract, architecturally, I worked with longer exposures and also looked at how focal length and framing might add drama by including the city beyond from the East.  Part of me thinking of the competition brief wanted to show an expanse of calm water, the Thames Barrier and the City of London beyond. I wanted that ‘stilled’ expanse of water to provide some sort of ironic drama, By using a long exposure I felt I could add emphasis to the structure juxtaposing it against the smooth water.

rich clark, thames barrier, abstract, rich clark images, landscape photography

Thames Barrier Blues

rich clark, thames barrier, abstract, rich clark images, landscape photography

When I have more time I’ll visit the Information Centre to perhaps learn more about the structure and how it functions.

I was pleased with the images I created. The tide had risen considerably over the 2 hours I was there and the light was every changing as the cloud shifted overhead. The rain when it came, only lasted long enough to give me time for a coffee. I earmarked a number of shots I’d like to come back for at different times, one which will need a large group of fairly short schoolchildren and some strong light.

Using up Another of my 9 Lives

There is nothing quite like a spot of aquaplaning at 60mph on the A21, narrowly avoiding a car that had spun through 180 degrees to face the oncoming traffic to snap you out of that mildly self satisfied glow you have after what you feel has been a successful shoot. To go from that riverside calm, engrossed in the subject to what was a near death experience was quite sobering. If I thought that was it for the day, watching a tree fall ahead of the vehicle in front on the way back to Crowborough kept me very alert. In true post 3pm Friday afternoon fashion not a single motorist stopped to assist me as I dragged the tree from the carriageway.

After multiple dramas and arriving back to the office to find that my Mum was being plagued by scam bank phone calls I managed to miss the competition deadline by 1minute. Considering what had gone before I really couldn’t have cared less.

Photographing The Thames Barrier – UPDATE

I re-visited The Thames Barrier for last light on Sunday after checking out the Emirates Air Cable Car and pottering around Greenwich. With the tide out the small ‘beach’ to the West of The Barrier was workable but be very aware how slippery those rocks are. There is not a great deal of foreground interest to be had but it does add something to the shots as I hope you’ll agree. Something I did notice which was an added bonus was that as the tide gently rose and fell along the shoreline there was a very soothing tinkling sound of what transpired to be broken glass, mostly smoothed by the tides that chimed against the stones on the shoreline.

Thames Barrier Sunset

Thames Barrier Sunset


Thames Barrier - Blue and Still

Thames Barrier – Blue and Still

As I was getting a final shot, a long exposure of about 30+ seconds I looked up to see a large Navy Frigate approaching the Barrier quickly from the West. I was mid exposure with Noise reduction about to cut in for another 30 seconds. I didn’t really have time to capture the stern of the ship, it’s red ensign flapping behind as it passed through the Barrier. It would have made for an interesting shot but alas I had seconds to dial in ISO1600 and hit the shutter and just caught it as a blur as it passed through.

HMS Argyll Departs

HMS Argyll Departs

 

Ebb and Flow of the tide at Birling Gap
Ebb and Flow of the tide at Birling Gap

Birling Gap – Steps to Beach Closed

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I nipped down to Birling Gap on Monday 13th January, alas,  to find there had been a cliff fall affecting the beach steps after the recent storm surge. Access to the beach is cut off until further notice. Wealden Council is on to it and will be repairing the steps as soon as they can. A real shame after recent work had already been carried out. I’m hoping it isn’t closed for long as I have a number of projects to photograph there and also some Workshops in the planning stages.

There was certainly some very blown out wind swell with 3-5ft waves (non-Hawaiian scale) pitching up over the shallow sandbar at low tide.

Alas, only surfers with a boat or very long length of rope would have been able to brave the conditions. As I’d made the journey I popped in to see the ongoing changes to the National Trust facilities, grabbed a coffee and a burger and caught up with some emails as they have FREE Wifi on site. It all looks to be coming on nicely and I’m sure it will be excellent when it is finished. I’d imagine some form of beach cleanup will be on the cards as the storms have certainly washed up all manner of rubbish.

Ebb and Flow of the tide at Birling Gap

 

The gusty wind and low light made for tricky photographic conditions so I decided to grab a few shots looking back towards Beachy Head Lighthouse. I noted there had been quite a large fresh cliff fall there too. I could see that there was another area that looked as if it will soon head South too. Please beware if you are in the area especially, as additional wet weather is promised. 

 

Useful Resources

Birling Gap and The Seven Sisters – National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birling-gap-and-the-seven-sisters/

Wealden Council Updates http://www.wealden.gov.uk/Wealden/News_and_Events/News/News_Severeweatherinformation226787.aspx

 

 

 

Landscape Photographer of The Year 2013 – LPOTY

I popped along to the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2013 Exhibition at the National Theatre on Saturday. It was great to see the exhibition space so busy and such a varying range of people enjoying the images. It was lovely to see so many youngsters there, clutching cameras and clearly making a day of it. Naturally there was a strong International presence too and the assembled images are a wonderful advertisement for the breadth of vistas available throughout the British Isles. As usual the standard of the chosen images was very high indeed.

I should have probably looked to see if there was an audio commentary available from the judges as I think it is important to understand how and why certain images were picked. With most it is obvious. There were guided tours with Charlie Waite which would have been fantastic but alas I couldn’t make these due to pre-planned shoots.

I have to say that as subjective as art is, there was very little in the way of head shaking as we walked around. The quality was very apparent in all of the winning images.

Achieving Harmony

As ever I feel it is very much about getting a range of factors to blend perfectly, to capture a moment in time where the landscape, the atmospheric conditions and the light harmonise perfectly. These are usually fleeting seconds, these moments of time are often fortunate but fortune favours those who place themselves in the right position at the right time. That is half the battle.

As landscape photographers we know of the countless times that the conditions have not quite aligned, or when what looked to be magical had in the blink of an eye escaped. I always think there is a photograph to be made but it might not be that showstopper that is good enough to be called the ‘best’.

The Winner

lpoty, take a view, landscape photographer of the year 2013, tony bennett

Mist and Reflections – Crummock Water. © Tony Bennett. Winner of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2013 www.inspirational-images.com

Many congratulations to Tony Bennett whose winning Image ‘Mist and Reflections’ taken at Crummock Water in the Lake District certainly captured one of those fleeting magical moments beautifully.

The swooping peaks and length of the range create such scale and depth framing the trees. The glassy stillness of the water, the ethereal mists and the early soft warm light on those trees all harmonise wonderfully, to create a very worthy winning image.

Please check out Tony’s website fore more of his great work. I’d imagine that superb phone he received will spur him on to produce many more exciting images.

We thought it a little odd that the winning image was at the beginning of the exhibition but a little tucked away around the corner from the main body of work. I would have preferred to have seen it displayed at the heart of the exhibition. I imagine the idea was for it to be the first and last thing you see on entering.

I’m glad I made the effort to drop in, as seeing this quality of work always quickens the step and motivates me to improve my craft.

I look forward to picking up the book shortly to add to my growing collection. The books are a rich source of inspiration and feature some excellent images.
The book is available now:

I’ll continue to work hard on my Landscapes and maybe one day soon I’ll see some of my own work on the walls of the exhibition and hell maybe I’ll get a call from Charlie.

The Tate Modern – A Photographic Journey

If you don’t care for Modern Art then the former Bankside Power Station that houses the Tate Modern is in itself a work of art and worthy of inspection. I have to be in the right mood for a trip to The Tate Modern. For me it’s key to choose the right time to not have to struggle against the chaotic tide of humanity.

We spent a good couple of hours there. There was the usual blend of human emotions on offer. Head scratching, confusion, annoyance, indifference, surprise, awe and wonderment to name but a few. I wasn’t at my most receptive because my mind was full of my own ideas before I entered.

One thing though that always happens when I enter The Tate is that it reminds me to press on with my own ideas, reminds me of those I outlined and then forgot and often conjures up new ideas. Too many new ideas considering those that have been forgotten. Now where did I leave my ideas book?

As expected it was very busy on Sunday afternoon and I was still recovering from the visual and nervous assault to the senses that was Gravity at the BFI Imax. A visually stunning film that tested my ‘mild vertigo’ to the limits and left my nails perilously short. The concrete floors and general robust solidity of the Tate was very reassuring after the vaccuum of space, where apparently ‘no one can hear you scream’. . To be fair, with the ‘magical hour’ approaching, there were photographs planned and I was starting to notice the exit signs a little more.

With my mind narrowed somewhat, thoughts elsewhere I found myself reaching for my, at best, grainy camera phone and I started to snap here and there. Never the art on show, but other details I spotted in the form of the building, the floors, the doors, the ever present barriers to art ‘Do not touch’, ‘do not cross this line’ and the ever present ‘exits’. It was about the textures, the shadows, the journey from entrance to exit, about feet and the need for a seat.

Tate Modern, modern art, art, a journey, rich clark images

‘The Tate Modern – A Photographic Journey’ – © Rich Clark images 2014

I decided to amalgamate these grainy images into something collective and I feel representative of my journey. Recurring images of escape, of uncharacteristic disinterest and of looking for a different view point.

On departing alas the mist had dropped in, blue skies gave way to drizzle and the planned photos will adorn the pages of my ideas book when I locate it. For the umpteenth time I marvelled at the Silver Birches that punctuate the landscaped frontage to the Tate Modern. The Tate wasn’t finished and it offered up one final inadvertent’installation’. An unusual pink cowboy hat twisted and turned in the breeze caught high among the branches of the Birches.

tate modern, a hat among birches, rich clark, rich clark images, modern art, pink hat

‘A Hat Among Birches’ – © Rich Clark images 2014

Soundtracks in Photography?

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Soundtracks in Photography

Music inspires me, it always has. It allows us to escape, to drift and flow. When it is right my creative channels open up, I see further, I see differently and it takes me places creatively that I perhaps would not get to straight away. I need to let music inspire my photography.

I tend to be quite a visual person, so find that I have a knack of matching music to images. I see stories unfold within music, collections of images come to me when the music ‘takes me’.

As I write, Ludovico Einaudi’s – Timelapse is providing the soundtrack.

I was out with my camera last year on a crisp Winter’s day. As I drove through the fields the snow was being whipped up by the wind, drifting softly across the fields. I immediately thought of a piece from Einaudi’s new album, or more, the transition within the piece as the crescendo built. The relationship between that piece of music and the scene in front of me was something I wanted to develop.

 

 

Connect

There is a lot to be said for slowing things down when out within a landscape. Just stopping for a while to breathe it all in. Slow your thoughts down and bring them into tune with what lies around you. I personally find I see more, I see differently when I do this. You form more of a connection, rather than simply walking by and creating images from the ‘outside’ looking in.

A variation to this is to take the music with you. Allow something you love to become the soundtrack and see if you appreciate or see the landscape differently.

When you get the blend right, the results can be wonderful. 

The Soundtrack Project

I’m planning a series of images where I choose the soundtrack in advance. I’ll then look to create a visual story using the music as the creative catalyst. I’m yet to decide whether it will be a collection of entirely static images or perhaps a blend of stills and video. I work to evoke movement within many of the images I create and I hope some are able to appreciate this. Others though may want it spelt out for them with actual movement. 

There are different ways you can incorporate music into your photography. 

You could absorb the music in a neutral environment, see where it takes you and create a list of images that you head out to create. Or perhaps you take the music with you and allow yourself to respond to the music within a pre-determined environment. Either way, it should be an interesting challenge.

Yesterday while working along the coast, I couldn’t get Tchaikovsky’s 1812 out of my head. I was watching the waves crashing into the breakwater down in Shoreham, West Sussex. They detonated like explosions reminding me of the passage of the 1812 overture when the Russian cannons worked to defend against the French invaders. 

waves, shoreham, rich clark, soundtrack

Waves crash against the breakwater in Shoreham.

 

Neutral Density Filters – A Simple Long Exposure Calculator

Neutral Density Filters – Long Exposure and Calculating Shutter Speeds

Every photographer should have at least one ND filter (Neutral Density Filter). ND filters allow us to control the amount of light entering the lens at a given time. This enables us to lengthen shutter speeds to create movement in the sky, sea or subject. ND filters vary in density, usually from 1 to 10 stops. 10 stop filters cut the amount of light entering the lens so dramatically that an unfiltered shutter speed of 1/500th of a second would become a 2second exposure. (They can also make composing your image with the filter on a little tricky..) In low light, longer exposures of a minute to 10 minutes are widely used to create dramatic movement in the sky or to create an eerie ethereal calm on bodies of moving water.

Guess Work

The key is having a long exposure calculator so you can achieve the correct exposure without the guess work. When you are working at first and last light the window to achieve the right result is small. In failing light a 10 stop ND filter will require a serious time commitment. By the time you have composed, taken the photo, allowed the camera to cancel the digital noise, that ‘window’ may have closed. It pays to do your calculations to maximise your chances of getting the right result.

photocrati gallery

There are a number of useful Apps on the market but I’ve added a basic chart you can print out and keep in your camera bag.

Long Exposure Calculators

There are many apps available you can download to your phone to help you to calculate DOF and Exposure. The sums do in time become quite simple to remember but it is always useful to have a chart in the bag when working with ND filters and long exposures.

Quite simply if the scene you are metering requires a shutter speed of 1/500 on a brighter day and you would like to slow things down and lengthen your exposure to 2s then you would require a 10 Stop ND filter (Filter Factor 3.0). For each additional stop with an ND filter the shutter speed required for correct exposure doubles. Just remember it might be worth considering ETTR (Exposing To the Right)..

Also if you are using a DSLR’s in-built Digital Noise Reduction then each actual image will take twice as long to create as the noise reduction works by taking an identical shot with the shutter closed and then cancelling the noise from the first exposure.

Neutral Density Filters – Long Exposure Calculator (Click to Download)

long exposure calculator, rich clark,