Sunday 29 December 2019


Before taking up photography I always had a consumer camcorder in my hand recording my family growing up. Christmas, birthdays, Summer day's out and family holidays the camcorder was always in my hand. As young children my two daughters didn't mind having a camcorder pointed at them and sometimes they used it themselves but as they grew into teenager's they naturally started to rebel and the recording became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether.

Looking back now at those short grainy home movies shot in a homely often cheesy style brings a lump to the throat and they are enjoyed and cherished by all of the family. A photograph captures a fleeting moment in time but video captures the personality of those being filmed, how they talked, moved, their sense of humour and their character. As well as recording the innocence and fun of my daughters growing up, older family members who are sadly no longer with us are now on disc. Those recordings are an important family record to show to my grandchildren as they grow up.

The video stopped at about the same time that my interest in photography started. Most of the digital cameras that I've owned during the last 14 years have had the ability to record video but incredibly I've never used it. Cameras nowadays are designed to produce terrific video footage as well as photographs. I've owned cameras producing 1080p HD video and my main camera, the Sony A6400 records excellent 4k video footage as well as 1080p HD in super slow motion. My infrared camera records video in 1080p HD and I can't wait to get arty with infrared video.

I recently received the good news that my fourth grandchild is due in May 2020. By taking photographs of my grandchildren and family and ignoring the video capabilities of these excellent cameras I'm missing out on something important and enjoyable.

My cameras don't have image stabilisation built in and neither do my prime lenses. Camera shake really is a video killer so I took the decision before Christmas to purchase a gimbal to shoot good quality smooth video instead of buying myself another lens.

The DJI Ronin SC gimbal is perfect for the Sony mirrorless system. It was delivered two weeks before Christmas giving me some time to learn how to set it up and use it, balance the camera and shoot some test footage before the big day.

With a cheap Rode external mic on the camera hot shoe I shot video all Christmas Day with my whole family present for dinner. The 4k footage was flawless with the camera in P auto mode and family members old and young are now immortalised in the way they walked, talked, laughed and showed off their personality. The challenge now is to learn again how use new software to put that footage together into a short record of the day. It's going to be fun learning the video side of the camera during 2020.

Photography is still very important and it isn't being put to one side. I'm just adding new skills to my bow and getting more bang for bucks out of the other 50% my cameras.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Samyang 8mm f3.5 Fisheye Lens

I'm always looking for ways in which to help me to be more creative with my photography straight out of camera. This can be done by using a different perspective, using slow shutter speeds, voluntary camera movements, creative blurring, etc. Another way is to use lenses to aid creativity such as the Lensbaby range of "art" lenses.

A lens in my bag that I've used creatively for a number of years now is the Sony "A mount" Samyang 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens. The lens gives a 180-degree field of view and the edges of the frame are distorted, which is handy where exaggerated perspective and an extreme field of view is needed.

The lens is extremely easy to use. There are no electronics in the body so aperture and focus is manual only. Simply set the aperture to f3.5, set the focus distance to 1 meter and everything from two foot to infinity is in sharp focus leaving you free to compose your image and shoot away. A bonus of a fisheye is the ability to capture good images in low light at slow shutter speeds hand held if you are careful. It's a very forgiving lens and a lot of fun to use. Because there are no electronics the lens is cheap and can be bought for around £250 depending on the mount. All of the photographs in this post were taken with the lens.

Porters Cottage - National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
Narrow Boat - National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

At the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port, Wirral I had no room to step back to widen the view but the 180-degree view of the fisheye lens allowed me to get a shot and capture something different at the same time.

Chester Cathedral

Cloisters - Chester Cathedral
A fisheye lens lends itself well to architecture where space is tight but also where you want to display the majesty of a building. I've used it to great effect inside a number of impressive buildings.

Liverpool Central Library
Use the camera in portrait mode as with the above photograph of Liverpool Central Library you can capture an 180-degree view of the floor and ceiling in the same shot. Likewise the shot below of the central spiral staircase of the Museum of Liverpool life is accentuated by the distortion created at the edges of the images.

Staircase - Museum of Liverpool Life

Rudbeckia - Ness Botanic Gardens

The extreme field of view pushes detail and points of interest into the far distance so getting up extremely close to foreground interest and letting the middle ground fall away into the distance can be effective. Fortunately the minimum shooting distance of this lens is 12 inches which was used in the above photograph. The biggest problem with a fisheye lens is keeping your feet or your shadow out of the shot.

London From St Pauls Cathedral Dome
When you do want to show the majesty of a scene then get up high and use the fisheye lens distortion to your advantage as in the above photograph taken from the dome of St Pauls Cathedral in London.

Flaybrick Cemetery in Bidston, Wirral (720nm Infrared)
For me the bonus of the Samyang fisheye lenses are their suitability for infrared photography. They produce sharp images with no hotspots. The only problem of course with a lens this wide is keeping flare out of your shot.

The fisheye effect doesn't suit every situation or every photographer but the Samyang fisheye lens is a cheap creative lens to have in your bag. I've now switched from Sony A mount to an E mount mirrorless camera and the first lens I bought was the Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye 11 which is even sharper and smaller than the early A mount version used to capture these images.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Textured Flowers

From the moment I picked up my first camera 14 years ago my favourite photography subject has always been flowers. I've been a very keen gardener for longer than I've been a photographer so I was naturally drawn to flower photography with a camera in my hand. Flowers are wonderful subjects to photograph. They're very patient and never complain if you don't get the shot right first time. "Don't worry. Have another go. I'm not going anywhere. Take your time"

There's nothing more relaxing than spending the day in beautiful surroundings on a hopefully still and slightly overcast day with a macro lens, tripod and a diffuser picking out flowers that are in perfect condition to photograph. I'll often photograph freehand but I prefer to use a tripod to get the composition and the focus spot on and then wait for an insect to land before shooting. In most gardens that doesn't take very long.

When I started in photography I had the ambition to be a flower and garden photographer. I built up a small portfolio of perfectly focused and sharp portraits of flowers and would submit them to stock libraries only to have them turned down. They were perfectly good photos but I eventually realised that they were simply record shots of flowers without any artistic merit or mood. Regardless of the disappointment I've carried on photographing flowers for the simple enjoyment of using a camera on a fine day in lovely surroundings.

In November 2018 I was searching Youtube for videos on flower photography and I came across the photography of Kathleen Clemons from the US. Her photographic style was something that I'd never seen before and it simply blew me away.

Echinops and Hoverfly - George Evans
Kathleen takes photographs of flowers in freehand often using Lensbaby lenses for creative effect and mixes her own painterly textures with them in post processing to create a soft painterly effect. Sharpness is usually focused on a few stamens or the leading edge of a flower to draw the eye to a small area of detail with the remaining image falling away into soft focus. Her work is simply beautiful.

Helenium - George Evans
I suddenly found a use for my library of old record shots of flowers that I'd collected over 14 years so I bought Kathleen's e-book detailing her technique with her painterly textures and started to create my own artwork. I've always admired artists with the talent to draw and paint, something which I've tried to do myself and have failed at miserably. I can now create digitally from photographs.

Hemerocallis - George Evans
I've spent nine months creating my own painterly flowers as artwork and enjoyed every minute. A photographer should never attempt to copy another photographers work but every photographer uses different gear, has a different eye for composition when shooting and their own post processing software and work flow. I hope that my images inspired and encouraged by Kathleen Clemons are sufficiently different to stand on their own.

Japanese Anenome - George Evans
An issue that I never considered in my sudden enthusiasm for textured flowers was that the whole of an image must be 100% the work of the photographer to enter club, national or international competitions. For a club photographer with Hoylake Photographic Society this was a bit of a blow so none of my work created during 2019 and shown in this blog post can be entered in competition but I'm in the process of creating my own painterly textures to use in future projects.

Helianthus and Cabbage White Butterfly - George Evans
My photography inspired by creative photographers visiting Hoylake Photographic Society over the years has been moving towards a more pictorial style. I've long been creating pictorial style images from landscapes, architecture and digital infrared which could be hung on a wall and enjoyed and this "Textured Flower" series of photographs fits that bill perfectly.

Tuesday 8 October 2019


In March 2018 I was invited to accompany a small group of Hoylake Photographic Society members on a week long trip to the Western Peninsula of Iceland. Our group of eight stayed at the Arnarstapi Center on a Bed and Breakfast basis with the intention of spending the week photographing this small area.

Western Peninsula

The backbone of the Peninsula is the imposing Snaefellsnes Glacier which dominated every landscape and the Snaefellsnes National Park with its endless lava field. An unforgiving yet beautiful landscape.

Snaefellsnes Glacier and Lava Field

Snaefellsnes Glacier

When planning for the trip I was unsure which camera to take with me. I took the full frame Sony A7mk2 camera with a Sony A6300 as a backup. Taking a backup camera was a good decision as the full frame camera failed to operate in the extremely cold conditions. Most of the colour shots on the trip were taken with the cheaper A6300 which worked flawlessly and produced the two images above.

The most difficult decision to make was whether to take my Sony A6000 720nm infrared camera. Infrared is normally associated with dreamy white landscape's filled with foliage but there isn't a tree to be seen on Iceland. What persuaded me to shoot in infrared was an article showcasing the Iceland infrared photographs of Andy Lee. I'm glad I took the camera as infrared enhanced the other worldly feel of this beautiful landscape (below) 

Snaefellsnes Glacier - 720nm Infrared
Black Church of Budir - 720nm Infrared
Hotel Budir - 720nm Infrared
The Black Church - 720nm Infrared
Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) - 720nm Infrared

I did as much photographing in infrared as the light would allow, switching cameras from colour to infrared to capture the same scenes and below is Mt. Kirkjufell in standard colour using the Sony A6300. It's a close run thing which version came out the best. 

We chose the Western Peninsula because it was off the main tourist route concentrated on the South coast but it was still impossible to capture the classic shot of Mt Kirkjufell with the Kirkjufellfoss waterfall in the foreground due to the large number of photographers with their tripods surrounding the falls so I had to be content with a tightly cropped image of the falls on their own.

Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) in standard colour

The week was far more tiring than I'd imagined. The group would eat a hearty breakfast. We'd then drive to a location and spend the daylight hours photographing in the biting cold before eating again at around 7pm. We would then continue shooting at night attempting to capture the Aurora before returning to Arnarstapi for midnight. Spending all day wrapped in three layers of clothing and attempting to operate a camera wearing gloves was extremely hard work and trying to concentrate in the cold wasn't easy.

Of course staying on the Western Peninsula meant plenty of opportunity for coastal shots. Being a volcanic island the dramatic looking volcanic beaches were covered in either black sand or black pebbles sometimes dusted in white snow.

Dritvic Black Pebble Beach
Dritvic Beach
Hellnar Fishing Village near Arnarstapi

During the week we were blessed with fine sunny weather except for one day of snow which covered the mountains before slowly melting away towards the end of our stay. The weather produced some glorious sunrises with the best shots to be had only 400 meters from our hotel at Arnarstapi. It was a case of rise at 6am, get the shot in the bag then a short walk to the warm restaurant for breakfast.

The Break of Day, Arnarstapi
Statue at Arnarstapi

It was a trip of a lifetime. A one off for me. Tiring, hard work, cold and the food and drink was expensive but the photographic opportunities of Iceland made it well worth the effort. My only disappointment was seeing the Aurora during four nights of our trip and not getting a shot worthy of processing. Night photography is a skill I've yet to learn.

Monday 30 September 2019

Lower Heswall Wrecks

Photographers are always on the hunt for the interesting and unusual and decay figures high up on their list. Decaying wood, rust, disused buildings, old graveyards, rotting cars are often popular subjects. A popular spot for photographers looking for the unusual on the Wirral Peninsula is the boat yard near Sheldrakes Restaurant at Lower Heswall.

Lower Heswall is on the River Dee Estuary, the West side of Wirral with beautiful views across the mud flats towards the North Wales coastline on the opposite side. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and an important reserve for migrating birds.

River Dee Estuary and North Wales Coastline

The mud flats are the home for a small number of abandoned and decaying boats. They're usually holed and left at the mercy of the rising tide and the harsh weather. Whether the tide is high or low and no matter the time of year the theme here is mud, mud, mud and wellies are recommended if you plan to photograph.

Mud Glorious Mud

One Careful Owner

I return each year to see if there's anything new to photograph and it's sad to watch the wrecks decline. The photograph above was taken a few years ago and sadly the boat's cabin was destroyed in a storm with only the hull now remaining. I'm glad I had the opportunity to record this ageing beauty in High Dynamic Range (HDR) whilst she was still intact.

A bonus of Lower Heswall is the wonderful sunsets that you sometimes get from a Sun setting out in the Irish Sea. A wreck or one of the many seaworthy boats lying on the mud flats or out in the channel makes a great foreground subject for a dramatic sky.

Sunset on the Dee

Sunset at Sheldrakes

If the weather conditions are too bright for daytime photography or there's no prospect of a dramatic sunset during the golden hour there's still the opportunity to photograph in infrared. The photograph below was captured in the 830nm pure infrared wavelength of light on a Sony A6000 590nm converted camera with a B+W 0.93 IR830 infrared filter attached to the lens.

Saturday 21 September 2019

The Golden Hour

Landscape photographers will swear by the importance of the "golden hour" when capturing a beautiful landscape. The golden hour is the hour before sunrise and after sunset when the light is at its best. Colours are more vivid at that time of day rather than being washed out by a bright midday Sun. The problem for me is that landscape photography takes dedication and commitment and I find it difficult to rise from my bed in the early hours of the morning. On the one occasion that I managed to do so it paid dividends producing the best series of landscapes that I've ever captured.

In July 2012 I camped at the Cae Du campsite just outside Beddgelert in Snowdonia with the intension of capturing a sunrise over Llyn Dinas. The lake was a short one mile walk from my tent. I visited the lake the evening before to check out the position where the Sun would be rising and a suitable location on the waters edge providing the right composition.

The next morning my alarm woke me at 4am and I struggled to rise from my camp bed. I'd normally just roll over and go back to sleep but the need for a toilet forced me to dress so I gathered my camera gear and trudged off in semi darkness along the path to Llyn Dinas with sleep still in my eyes and with a breakfast bar to eat.

It was a very good decision. The location that I'd initially set on didn't produce a good enough composition so I walked a further half mile around the rough and boggy edge of the lake and stumbled on a lone tree that I didn't know existed. It was perfect.

Reeds in Mist

Daybreak on Llyn Dinas

Sunrise on Llyn Dinas

Towards Llyn Dinas

Within the golden hour I'd managed to capture this series of photographs from just before the Sun rose to shortly after on my walk back to my tent for breakfast. The early morning mist that blanketed the lake early on was slowly burnt off by the rising Sun. The icing on the cake was this final photograph "Llyn Dinas at Dawn" which won the National Trust Handbook Cover 2018 Competition. The handbook was sent to over 5 million NT members and I received the prize of a top Panasonic camera valued at £1,800. 

Llyn Dinas at Dawn

Since taking these photographs in July 2012 I haven't shot another photograph in the early morning golden hour preferring to shoot infrared images in the bright light of midday but the old saying that "The early bird catches the worm" rings true if you're a dedicated landscape photographer.

Thursday 19 September 2019

In The Beginning There Was Infrared Light

My first camera was a Sony F717 bridge camera bought in 2004 and it was bought as a form of therapy. After 27 years serving as a front line fire-fighter my body was starting to suffer and I could no longer play golf or use a gym to keep myself fit for work. I decided to change my exercise routine and take up walking instead so I sold my golf clubs and bought the camera to record my days walking in the countryside.

Why Sony? Sony have always been innovators and push the boundaries of photography. Before the introduction of tilting LCD screens common on today's cameras the F717 had a tilting body which drew me to the camera. It made taking low level shots easier on my aching joints. What I subsequently learnt by accident from reading the Sony forum of DPReview was that the cameras "Nightshot" mode which allowed the user to auto focus in the dark could be utilised by screwing an NDx4 filter and an R72 infrared filter to the lens. By doing so you could capture daytime infrared photographs. When I tried it out myself I was instantly hooked on the invisible World of infrared photography.

The images from the F717 were only 5mp JPEG in those early days of digital but it produced some images that I'm still proud to have taken 14 years later. I've always loved the challenge of digital infrared. Imagining the shot in infrared before capture. Choosing the right subject, as not everything suits the infrared treatment. The swapping of the red / blue colour channels to produce a blue sky and finding a work flow that would overcome the noisy and soft JPEG images out of the camera. As much as I tried, the colours out of this camera were quite weak and my best images were usually those that were converted to monochrome.

Looe Harbour, Cornwall

Eden Project, Cornwall

Bodnant Gardens Weir, Wales

Bodnant Gardens View, Wales

After a few years I found that the limitations of the F717 were holding me back and I bought my first DSLR and kit lens, the entry level Minolta5D with in body image stabilisation. It meant leaving infrared photography behind for a while. When Sony subsequently bought the Minolta brand and A mount I bought the Sony A700 as my main camera and had an A200 permanently converted to the standard 720nm wavelength of infrared by Advanced Camera Services in the UK. My love of infrared was rekindled.

The Sony A200 served me well but I eventually switched from Sony A mount to E mount mirrorless cameras and the A200 has been replaced with two Sony A6000 cameras. One has been permanently converted to the 590nm "super colour" wavelength and the other to the 720nm standard wavelength of infrared. From those early days of infrared discovery with grainy and soft 5mp JPEG's I can now capture 24mp Raw files with the ability to see the shot in infrared in the viewfinder before capture.

Welcome To My New Photography Blog

Welcome to my new photography blog. The aim of the blog is to showcase my photography captured over 14 years as an amateur photographer, discuss the gear and software used in that time and the techniques that I've picked up along the way. By visiting this site I hope you will be inspired by what you see and return. Thank you for visiting.