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