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.