17 Dec 2014

30 Day Photo Challenge - Week 4

So I'm into my 4th week now of the 30 Day Photo Challenge, inspired by photocritic's idea. It's been more challenging than I thought, and I haven't always felt very inspired.

Day 26 - Winter Solstice
So the shortest day is upon us (although it's already getting lighter every evening in London now and darker later in the morning - see Day 15). Again the sky was stunning after the sun had set (but not as amazing as last night's which was incredible - sadly only had my iPhone out with me), so I captured the now leafless silhouetted trees near my parents' house in Little Chalfont.

Tomorrow's subject is "In My Hand". Nearly done!
Day 25 - The Written Word
Today I have chosen a quote that I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard before. I guess my free education didn't teach me Dickens... If you know it, you'll know it. I also dug out an old fountain pen that I haven't used for over fifteen years!

Day 24 - Natural Light

I'm still on a Christmassy theme - perhaps all the remaining photos will be. I can't leave the flat, as I'm waiting for a delivery (please Parcel Force - give time slots!!), so I'm limited to indoor shots for the moment. If I hadn't already done two self-portraits I might have tried another, but I think two is enough! Instead I decided it was time to get the Christmas hat on the dog again. Poor Henry wasn't too happy, but I made it a bit better for him by plying him with treats while I tried to get some shots of him in natural light. His eye-lashes are getting a bit out of hand again...

Day 23 - Red

This would have been an easy one if it had been next week - as I'm off to see the in-laws for Christmas, and my sister-in-law's dog is called Red. As it is, I'm still in London, so no Red dog. I've just put the lights up on my tiny fake tree, so thought I'd photograph my wonderful red advent calendar that I was given about 5 or 10 years ago with some nice bokeh from the lights in the background. The calendar has small drawers for each day, the perfect size for a Lindor truffle. Yum. Not many to go. So here's my red, Christmassy image, taken with the rather special Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L lens at f/1.2.

Day 22 - B is for...
I was planning to head to the South Bank today and take pictures of the bunnies that are there at the moment, but lethargy got the better of me. It hasn't been a great day, with no contrast in the sky, so I'm going to try to get there on Friday when better weather is forecast. So instead, I chose boots.

I was putting a few things away earlier and came across my beloved cowboy boots and decided that they would do for today's shoot. I've taken photos of them before (as well as of those belonging to my hubby), but thought I'd do a "on my feet" perspective shot instead. I bought them 7 years ago on my first trip to my hubby's family near Austin for Christmas; it was only right to invest in a pair being with a man from Texas! I could barely get them on or off then, but now they are the most comfortable (not to mention gorgeous!) footwear I own.

For the rest of my project click for Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3.

Capturing London in Time-Lapse

I was recently involved in a fantastic photography project, involving 40 photographers and London. The idea was for each photographer to capture a little piece of London in time-lapse. It was organised by Haje Jan Kamps, the CEO of Triggertrap, a company that has created a mobile dongle and app that helps with taking time-lapse photography (among other things). A group of us met up on a beautiful sunny winter's day in King's Cross and had a few introductory presentations from Haje, Nicholas Goodden (a London street photographer) and Chad Gordon Higgins (a professional time-lapse photographer) before heading out to create our time-lapses.

Having lived in London for 20 years the options for venues seemed endless. I'd been mulling over a few ideas - St. Pancras station, Oxford Circus, but didn't feel they were quite right. I wanted to capture something that meant something to me, or that had featured in my time living here, so I headed to the Ebury Bridge just south of Victoria Station where there's a great view of the trains weaving along in and out of the station, but more importantly with Battersea Power Station (possibly my favourite building in London) in the distance. The light wasn't great, with the low afternoon sun obscured behind a building to the west and the power station now sadly mostly under scaffolding and surrounded by cranes and in a distant haze.

One still shot of the trains from Ebury Bridge

I set up my tripod, camera and intervalometer (I wasn't using the Triggertrap dongle and app, as I'd only learned how to do time-lapses the previous day, playing around with my intervalometer at home, so I didn't feel confident enough to try a different method!). I stood there for 25 minutes, taking a 1/15th second shot every 2 seconds. People with young children came and looked at the view and a couple asked me what I was doing. No-one seems to know what time-lapse photography is! In 25 minutes I took enough photographs for 30 seconds of footage, at 25 frames per second. Sometimes there were no trains for a couple of minutes, which I knew would result in gaps in the movement of the finished time-lapse, but that's just how it goes (and I knew that only a couple of seconds of footage would be used in the final cut anyway). Click here to see the full 30 seconds.

I took a bus a short distance to Sloane Square, another place I've spent a fair amount of time in during my time in London. It was a busy pre-Christmas Saturday afternoon with huge numbers of people, buses, taxis and cars passing by. I stood opposite Peter Jones and set the equipment up again, this time taking about 20 minutes' worth of shots. A photographer from Romford chatted to me for a while, which helped to pass the time as the shutter clicked away. Click here to see the result of that shoot - busy place! The man headed off east and I then wandered up the road a bit to the edge of Duke of York Square. I set up my tripod out of the way of the foot-traffic, but within minutes an officious security guard told me that I was on private land and had to move. I asked him where the public land started and it was about 4 feet away. I moved my gear the 4 feet but was now in the way of the people passing by, so people had to skirt around me. I was worried about people knocking the outside tripod leg, so I stood protecting it, taking up even more room. I didn't feel too concerned as it was a wide pavement, but oh it would have been so much easier if I'd just been allowed to stay where I was to start with (on private land)!

Even though buses passed that could take me back home and drop me outside my house, I had to head back to King's Cross to submit my work. The journey was pretty quick (fortunately no problems on the tube) and once back at the Triggertrap office they downloaded my shots and I chatted to a few of the team. Nico Goodden also showed up, having taken shots on a no. 10 bus to Hammersmith. I mentioned that I'd read his blog on camera straps that he'd been testing, and he said I could have any of the spare ones, so that was worth the journey back up there! I eventually headed home, chatting to fellow time-lapser Eddie Botsio, and downloaded the photos myself and uploaded a couple of the "videos" onto youtube.

It was a great experience, helping me to learn something new (there's always new techniques to learn in photography!), meeting some other inspiring photographers, and being part of a wonderful project. The final video has now been put together, and obviously I'm glad that some of my work got included - including a 3-second shot of the trains and a 1-second shot of the traffic at Sloane Square. There's some incredible footage in the final video including my two favourite bits - boats going through Camden Lock and the view from inside one of the Emirates cable cars going across the Thames. Nico's bus footage is pretty cool too.

Now that the final video is out, it's received loads of positive publicity, with Haje and Chad appearing on LondonLive this morning, and the video spreading around UK newspapers (eg the Independent) and websites (eg. the Londonist, Mashable). Here's the youtube version.

Thanks to Haje and team for organising - I'm proud to have been part of such a cool project and awesome result!

10 Dec 2014

30 Day Photo Challenge - Week 3

My 30 day photo challenge, inspired by Photocritic, is now at the end of week 3. I'm still going...

Day 21 - I Feel...
I feel lots of rather negative things today. Uninspired, directionless, a bit flat. I also felt like playing around with a bit of photoshop, so here's what I came up with (another self-portrait), which captures how I feel...

Tomorrow's subject is "B is for...".

Day 20 - I See...
Back in London, and today's photo challenge subject is "I See...". This is a fairly wide open subject, and I hadn't quite decided what to do until I noticed the dog looking out of the window. He used to do it all the time, but only occasionally now. He puts his front paws on the back of the sofa, and from there he can just look out onto the dog exercise area and road opposite the flat. Who knows what he actually sees though...

Day 19 - Size

On the way back from our weekend away in Ipswich today we passed a massive half-built structure along the harbourside, that I captured for today's subject - size. We stayed there in 2011 too and it was in the same state then. A bit sad!

Day 18 - Candid Photo

This isn't too hard, as I'm surrounded by a large group of people and no-one seems to notice me taking photos any more. This is Yoav and baby Sofia.

Day 17 - Aftermath

I'm a day late! Ooops. Well, I'm at a weekend Christmas party in a lovely old coaching inn in Ipswich and was hoping to take a picture of "aftermath" just before midnight. Of course I forgot, so I've taken it this morning instead. Don't know where the rest of the bottles are, as there was definitely more consumed!

Day 16 - Silhouette

Yesterday's photo almost qualifies for this subject. Today's is not dissimilar, with the London plane trees silhouetted against the sky. There were lots of pretty pink clouds in this morning's sky. I couldn't decide which photo I liked so decided on a triptych.

Day 15 - 4pm
I had a choice here - either something dog-related or sky-related. At 4pm the dog gets his dinner, and just before 4pm, the sun sets. I decided on the latter - not wanting to include too many easy dog-related shots, so went outside to the lovely Eel Brook Common to see what the afternoon skies were presenting me with. Unfortunately there was no dramatic sunset, in spite of a glorious sunny day, so I had to be happy with a pleasant but very vague glow from the earth's shadow to the east.

I thought I'd add an interesting little fact for the day that not many people seem to be aware of... 

Today's sunset in Parsons Green, London was at 3.52pm. Tomorrow it will be at its earliest of 3.51pm and again at that time for the next three days. On the 15th December, it's back to being at 3.52pm and from then on it will be later and later until its latest on June 24th (on June 26th it starts getting darker earlier again). 

As for the mornings, sunrise is later and later each morning until December 28th (with the latest sunrise at 8.06am) where it stays for a few days, until January 3rd when it starts getting light earlier in the morning again (this goes on until June 12th when sunrise is at 4.43am and lasts until June 23rd, after which day it starts getting light later again).

My point? Well, everyone assumes that it'll start staying light later in the evening after December 21st - the winter solstice, but this isn't the case. That is the shortest day and the day on which the sun is lowest in the sky, but the evenings have been getting lighter for a week before it, and it's still getting darker in the mornings for another week after it.

So now you know.

Tomorrow's challenge is "silhouette".

Click for my first and second weeks of my 30 day photo challenge.

3 Dec 2014

30 Day Photo Challenge - Week 2

My 30 day photo challenge, inspired by Photocritic, is now at the end of week 2!

Day 14 - Sometimes I...
Sometimes I spend hours photographing frosty leaves. There have been four frosts so far this autumn/winter and I've been out in the local park for each of them, photographing the beautiful frosty leaves and grass. Here is my favourite from this morning. More can be found on my website.

Tomorrow's subject is "4pm".

Day 13 - Distance

The photo I've chosen for today's subject of "Distance" could easily be for tomorrow's subject of "Sometimes I..." as sometimes I like to take photos of planes out of the window! They are the most distant objects that I can see from my window, apart from the clouds.

Unfortunately I live under the flight path, and apart from the long-gone sight and sound of Concorde the planes are pretty unwelcome. Occasionally I see planes pass through a rainbow or passing through stunning sunset skies, but mostly it's just an unwanted, continuous grumble in the sky. Today they look quite pretty, though, passing through fast-moving low clouds, lit up in the sun. I Googled to check the distance and think they're at about 3,000 feet above sea level when they pass over me here in Fulham. So this photo of distance is 3,000 feet!

Day 12 - Play

I feel as if I'm losing momentum a little. Today's subject is "play" and I didn't want to do another picture of the dog (which would have been an easy one, as he insists we play ball if we go to the park). Instead today's photo is of a bunch of young lads playing football - probably a scene seen all over the country (and world, in fact). It was raining slightly, with annoying washed-out skies. I also tried some time-lapse shots of the hubby and dog playing, but wasn't massively impressed with the results, given the white skies.

Day 11 - Work

I spent the day taking part in a great photography project - #lapselondon - where 60 of us went off to create some time-lapse shots around London, organised by TriggerTrap, which has produced a dongle and iPhone app to help take time-lapses. Today's photo challenge subject was "work" so I captured one of the TriggerTrap team (Thomas) demonstrating how to use their dongle and app. Work doesn't have to be boring...

Day 10 - Happiness

Today's photo challenge subject is happiness, something that seems pretty easy to depict. I could've taken a photo of my dog (but he was yesterday's star), my hubby (he's at work), my camera or a host of other things that make me happy, but as a typical tea-obsessed Brit I thought I'd capture a simple symbol of happiness - a cup of tea in my favourite mug (Scottish Highland Stoneware, purchased in Ullapool in 1997). You just can't beat a good cuppa!

Day 9 - Fear

This was a tricky one. How do you depict fear? I guess I could've walked down a dark alleyway at night, but I don't actually want to do that. And it's a bit obvious.

The next thing I thought of was how Henry, my dog, always hides under the coffee table when he's afraid of something - me approaching him to put on his raincoat or with a grooming implement (without an edible bribe) are the main two. I'm trying to avoid taking too many photos of him during the photo challenge, but he is a handy subject. So here he is, under the table, peeking out to see if the coast is clear (has the comb gone...?).

Day 8 - Mother Nature

As soon as I saw today's topic - Mother Nature - I thought of a couple of little trinkets that I picked up in Cusco, Peru, back in 2001. They are small pewter statues, representing Pachamama and Pacha Kamaq - Mother Earth and Father Earth. I rarely collect souvenirs on my travels these days, so it was nice to dig them out again!

For Week 1 - have a look here.

26 Nov 2014

30 Day Photo Challenge - Week 1

I read about a 30 day photo challenge, suggested by Haje Jan Kamps of photocritic.org, and decided to give it a go!

Day 7 - Upside Down

Today is the end of the first week of my photo challenge. It's been fun, and challenging, and I've taken quite a strange selection of shots, most of which I wouldn't have done in a normal week. Today's topic initially seemed quite straight-forward - "Upside Down"; I've taken plenty of upside down shots before - of the reflection of Battersea Power Station in the River Thames, of the dog lying on his back - but everything I tried today looked plain odd. Finally I came across some stark winter trees along the edge of Tooting Bec Common in South London, nicely silhouetted against the moody skies. I turned the camera the wrong way up and came up with this.

Day 6 - Tell a Story

How do you tell a story in just one photo? This was quite a challenge! I tried to think of something in my own life that told a story. For as long as I can remember I've been collecting match books - from bars, hotels, restaurants, companies, at home and abroad - wherever I've seen them, I've taken them. I have hundreds. The collection rarely gets added to these days, given that most places stopped producing them when they banned smoking. They tell a story, mainly of my twenties - of places once-visited, of places much-loved, and of places long-gone...

Day 5 - In Motion

As a Londoner, the first thing that came to mind for the topic "In Motion" was a moving tube. As we were going to see a friend across the other side of the city for lunch today, a tube ride was definitely in order, so I got my opportunity. I didn't have the right lens or a tripod with me, so didn't really get a shot I liked, but this will have to do. Some of the light trail shots I took a few nights ago around Oxford Circus would've been better, but I didn't get the chance to recreate any of those today.

Day 4 - Friends

I spent most of today with my friend Helen, who I met on an organised trip travelling around China, ten years ago. She is a fantastic singer and her husband bought her a session at the Crypt recording studio in Crouch End for her birthday, so I went along with her to take a few shots, together with her old friend Barbara.

The topic of today's photo challenge was "Friends", so this was an easy one, given that I was with two women who've known each other since their first day of secondary school. Here they are, Helen on the right with Barbara.

Day 3 - Ground Level

Today's photo subject was "Ground Level". Since I spend a while each day out and about with the dog I thought I'd get down to his level for today's challenge. He is a bit obsessed with playing ball, and he's started doing a puppy bow, barking with the ball in his mouth, before running around like a bucking horse. Here he is just before sprinting off, tail wagging madly.

Day 2 - Black & White

This was an easy one. Well, lots of choice of what to photograph, anyway. As I've just bought a replacement set of extension tubes (who know what happened to the first lot) I thought I'd do a macro shot. I have a massive collection of cowrie shells (yes, I know, I probably shouldn't pick them up from beaches...), so decided to capture one of my favourite ones, and then convert it to black and white.

Day 1 - Self-Portrait

This is not as easy as it sounds! Trying to hand-hold a heavy camera and lens with one hand and focus with the other (and getting both eyes in focus) is quite tricky. The shot needs to be fast to have any chance of sharp eyes, so the aperture has to be wide open, meaning the focus has to be spot on. Even if you're using a tripod, trying to get the eyes in focus is a big challenge.

Also, vanity comes into play - you want to get a shot of yourself looking halfway decent. I noticed how big the bags looked under my eyes, how lined my skin looked, how wonky my nose was, how thin my upper lip was... I sat in front of the window, with the natural light on my face, and pointed the lens in my face, over-exposing a little - I find this usually helps hide a few of these areas of concern.

Needless to say, quite a few shots were taken, and this was my favourite. I've flipped it over so it looks like what I see in the mirror, so probably looks a bit weird to people used to looking at me normally. I also did a little post-processing to hide a few blemishes and soften the lines a little...

19 Nov 2014

10 Reasons I Love Iceland

There are hundreds of reasons why I love Iceland, and why I keep going back year after year. There are probably hundreds more why other people love the tiny country, but I thought I'd share ten of my favourite things about place, illustrated with some photos I've taken over the past couple of years.

1. Ice... 
...it flows slowly down mountainsides in huge glaciers before crumbling away at the bottom and drifting off into the sea. Jökulsárlón beach is my absolute favourite spot in Iceland, where icebergs of all shapes, sizes and colours are washed ashore and battered by waves on a black volcanic beach.

2. Waterfalls...
...melting glaciers and winter snows - as well as a bit of rain - create thousands of waterfalls, ranging from pretty trickles down basalt cliffs to roaring deluges bringing thousands of gallons of water per seconds rushing down canyons. Some just appear spookily from lava fields. I discovered a new one recently, a little-known fall in the north-west of the island called Kolufossar.

3. Volcanoes...
...the best place in the world to go for a geography field trip - volcanoes and signs of Iceland's volcanism are everywhere! From enormous barren fields of old gnarled lava flows to freshly erupting red-hot lava, you can see how alive the country is (and has been), beneath and above the surface... This is Holuhraun, which has been erupting since late August 2014, seen from a Cessna - it shows no signs of abating. It is also possible to go down inside a dormant volcano.

4. Geology...
...in general but the basalt columns in particular. They are remnants of old lava flows which can be found all over the island, as well as clearly used as inspiration for the design of churches and buildings.

5. Fjords...
...most people stick to the main tourist areas in the south, but the west, north and east coasts are marked by dozens of stunning fjords, some with steep-cliffed mountains surrounding them.

6. Swans...
...when I visit in March there are usually hundreds of elegant whooper swans. They often sit in fields in pairs, or fly past in huge numbers, often in groups of up to 50 or more, honking as they fly over. Such graceful birds. Another beautiful bird species that graces the island is the puffin, seen during the summer months.

7. Desolation...
...I love the feeling of desolation and remoteness, and Iceland is the place to find it, even along the ring road. Drive a couple of miles off the road and you're really in the middle of nowhere. There's even a wrecked plane sitting on a black sandy plain.

8. Weather...
...it's harsh! The country is often whipped by fierce, freezing winds, and battered by hailstorms, snow and rain (at any time of year!), but it can be totally glorious and calm on a sunny day. With such beautiful scenery there's always something to see and do, even in the worst of weather. And you're guaranteed to see some great crepuscular rays and visible rain.

9. Northern Lights...
...sometimes you see them, mostly you don't! Iceland is often cloudy, so even if the aurora borealis are out and about, they may be hidden above the clouds. But if you're lucky and you do see them, what a show! And such beautiful backdrops everywhere...

10. Sculptures...
...the influence of the geology and history of Iceland are clear in many of the island's sculptures, as well as in the architecture. Around the Reykjanes Peninsula and the Reykjavik city area are dozens of wonderful sculptures, some not even in any guide books. My favourite individual sculpture is the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture along Reykjavik's northern waterfront, but my favourite collection is on a hillside in the suburb of Grafavogur.

Many more images of Iceland can be seen on my website, available as personal downloads, prints and for licensing, and tips on capturing the northern lights and what gear to take can be found in earlier blogs.

12 Nov 2014

A Few Shots of London SW6 for Bleeding London Project

A few months ago I found out about an ambitious project called Bleeding London, run by the Royal Photographic Society. It's aim was to get photographic documentation of each of 15,000 streets in London! I signed up. For various reasons I did nothing for the project over the summer, ignoring the odd email update, but a couple of weeks ago I joined in. They were well behind their initial target and desperately needed more photographs from all over the city.

I asked for the list of streets in SW6, my (rather large) neighbourhood, and then spent time planning routes, exploring new and old streets, downloading and uploading photos, and updating my spreadsheet to see which streets were still outstanding. A couple I couldn't find - unknown alleyways and lodges. Some of the places I went were a little outside my "comfort zone" - wandering around large housing estates with my camera equipment always gets the heart beating a little faster. For the most part, though, I wandered along street after street of pretty Victorian terraces, past the huts, skips and scaffolding of endless home expansion projects. I discovered alleys and pavements and terraces. Other than a bit of building work and the school runs, though, not a lot goes on in the backstreets of Fulham and Parsons Green during the day!

Here's a selection of the photos I've taken.



For more information on the project, please have a look at their website or follow them on Twitter