Inside this issue
All change at the On Landscape offices! Our attempts to publish more articles on a regular basis has mostly succeeded and we’d like to thank the number of people who have commented on articles as they were published. We are including some of the best/most informative comments in the PDF. We think the excercise has been a success and we’ll be moving forward with the new regimen.
Dav Thomas is also wrangling with the PDF generation to convert it to InDesign and he seems to have done a great job – that’s my way of saying “It’s not me!” if anything is wrong – seriously though, if you have any comments about the changes please let us know.
One of the good things, in my opinion at least, is that I’ve actually been out taking photographs. Saltwick Bay has had multiple visits as part of creating the location guide (check out the 360 virtual tour) and also the photographer challenge (a litany of cock ups by all who took part). It only takes a couple of trips out with the camera to put everything in perspective and remind us why we do what we do. If you’ve got any ideas for places you’d like to see location guides please let us know.
Finally though – I’d like to thank all of our readers for bearing with us as we try to keep On Landscape developing. It doesn’t always go smoothly but we hope we keep you interested!
Don’t forget that although there are tickets available for the conference still, we are down to the last few tickets for the dinner on the Saturday night now! Subscribers get an extra discount so just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can download the PDF by following the link below. The PDF can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat or by using an application such as Goodreader for the iPad. Click here to download issue 79 more
In this issue’s Lightroom guide we took an introductory look at the adjustment brush and graduated filter brush. more
After a bit of a lean period in terms of my own photography I’ve had the pleasure of going out every week for the last four weeks. Every one of those weeks has been to the same location but in many ways that has made it more interesting. Apologies for the delay in getting the latest issue complete as we have spent some time getting the 360 location guide working again (why do software developers insist on changing things!). It’s not coincidental that we had the recent meeting at our colleague David Tolcher’s house in Robin Hood’s Bay and that we made a ‘trip report’ of sorts out of it. We thought you might be interested in learning a little more about the location and thinking about what you might have made of it had you been there. And so - in a roundabout way - I’m introducing a new location guide. If you take a look at a map of Whitby, you’ll see just to the right hand side a sandy bay simply called Saltwick. It’s not really promoted as an attraction and to get their you need to drive up a private caravan park entry road and park up right outside their gates. To get down to the beach you need to walk into the caravan site and then follow a path down a fairly steep slope (thankfully it’s been maintained recently and could previously be described as more of a mud chute than a path). I’ve marked this path in green, as well as other rights of way, on the map below (bare in mind that the map is from 1875 and things have changed a little since then - however it’s all I can get without massive fees from Ordnance Survey). I’ve marked the sandy part of the beach in orange. Car parking is marked with the P. If you click on the image below you'll get a wider view including Saltwick Nab (right click here if you want to see this on a new tab or download). What’s all the Fuss About? Well Saltwick Nab has a few things going for it. The main things to attract photographer’s to Saltwick is Black Nab and the wreck of the Admiral Von Tromp, the wreck of a trawler sank in 1976 under peculiar circumstances (see here for more info) Although the wreck is somewhat macabre, it provides some interesting foreground (only a photographer could look at a tragedy and call it foreground!) whilst the submarine like Black Nab acts like a great bookend to a composition. The Classic View - by Joe Cornish and taken the week after the Saltwick Challenge It’s the flat slate beds and the random ‘rockage’ that make the location for me though. Almost horizontal beds of loose shaly slate hold onto the receding tide and act like big reflecting pools. Sea snails act as roaming pointillism, try blending two shots around here and the whole texture shifts! by Tim Parkin That isn’t to say these aren’t the only attractions (but by the positions of the many photographers you’ll meet here you’d think so) there are also weird raised circles on the edge of the slate bed where the sea crashes against angular blocks; Sand Patterns by Tim Parkin The red sand, a remnant of the Alum mining industry, is mixed with fine black powder making wonderful patterns as the tide retreats - no Eigg but it’s fuel for the creative mind. And then there’s the dangerous bits - the cliff faces. The places between the slate that is being revealed along the cliff face picks up iron colourings, tending to oranges and reds, but also is dusted by the alum that is deposited and dried - like a white coating of gauche. Don’t get too close though - last time I was photographing here a quarter tonne of rock fell down right in front of me whilst I was setting up my composition. Nobody has died in rock falls here to my knowledge but I’m betting the first might be a photographer. With a longish lens on a tripod there are details aplenty here. The best cliff face in my opinion is the Saltwick Nab end (the left side of the beach) and this is also the best for general abstract detail shots I think too. I took a few rock detail shots for the Saltwick Challenge and also took a few more on returning. I was surprised to see how much the cliff face had changed in between visits. This is definitely a "get the shot now otherwise it'll be gone" place, quite literally. by Tim Parkin (Black Nab end) At the Black Nab end things are a little more chaotic in the cliff face but there are details to be had here and there. Further out towards Saltwick Nab (at the other end of the beach) there are lots of stray rocks spread around that make for interesting abstract subject matter. There’s also a small jetty from when Saltwick Nab had an Alum plant on top. Remains of Alum slipway by Tim Parkin Behind Black Nab is the edge of the slate/shale bed. It drops off quite quickly but just at this point there are a series of wonderful circular patterns; protrusions, cracking the surface of the shale - repeating along the coast for hundreds of yards. This make wonderful texture standing out in the reflecting pools and picked out against a receding sun. by Joe Cornish Our resident geologist - Joe's son Sam - by Joe Cornish The other wonderful thing about this part of the coast is that you can pick up sunrise and sunset around midsummer. Here's a sunrise shot taken later in the year. Edge of Light by Joe Cornish What this Alum stuff? Alum is a hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate and was primarily used in the fixing of dyes for the wool industry. It is extracted from the shale in Saltwick when Britain needed a local supply of the chemical for it’s very lucrative textile industry. Mining in Saltwick began in 1650 and carried on until the late 19th century and the remains of the workings, breakwaters, mines and the coloured shale on beach (a result of the cooking of the shale as part of the calcination process). Saltwick Nab had one of the biggest works and the remains of the start of the slipway from the base of the Nab to the top is still visible(see photograph in the previous section).Be warned, the tide comes in remarkably fast and there is a low point between the nab and your exit. You don't really want to be crawling over the rocks on your way out. There is a great walk guide from the Humber Field Archeology Group which you can access by clicking here. Anything else I need to know? The tide moves fast, really fast.In order to be prepared for the classic reflecting pools you want to be getting there on a receding tide at around 3.5m depending on conditions (low pressure and onshore winds can lift the tide and delay a receding tide by up to an hour). Also be warned, the tide comes in remarkably fast and there is a low point between the nab and your exit. You don't really want to be crawling over the rocks on your way out. There's much more to see and do besides what we've discussed here. There is an abundance of fossils (some pyritised!) and we've hardly scraped the surface beyond the fairly obvious. We hope you have fun. In the meantime here's the bit you've been waiting for - our latest 360 location guide! Click on the preview below to access it. And finally a couple more pictures to whet your appetite. Featured Comments From: Mike Curry: I slipped and broke my arm on the treacherous slippery shale after getting the shot I wanted! Was there five mornings in a row and got nothing but on the last day got this.. I slipped when putting my camera rucksack up on my back and fell on my elbow, cracking the joint. I had to first scramble over some large rocks one handed then drive home one handed (it hadn’t started hurting then) which was easy enough in an automatic. Fortunately I was staying next to the hospital in Whitby!! Damien Taylor: Just so readers don’t get confused with which caravan park you have to use to get down to Saltick Bay, it’s Whitby Holiday Park. Good advice re: not getting too close to the cliffs as they can be very dangerous and I’ve witnessed a large rockfall like yourself. One thing for me about the wet rockbed, it is particularly slippy and no matter what type of footwear I’ve ever worn, I’ve always found it more
I think it’s fair to say that Iceland has become a bit of a cliche for photographers. No matter where you look online there seems to be someone returning with pictures of clear ice on black sand, moss covered boulders and, in winter at least, swathes of “green shit in the sky”. Even two years ago when I visited with Joe Cornish to shoot the promotional videos for Phase One (one, two and three) I felt like I already knew the place. However as soon as we got out of Reykjavik and headed North I realised that the huge collection of photographs of Iceland online had only documented a small fraction of the island (although some parts had probably had more than enough coverage). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs6NjHlFeWg On that first trip we stayed in Snaefellsnes for a day and then spent two days in Myvatn where we had stunning blanket snow conditions with beautiful arctic clouds. I must admit I was instantly hooked and so the following year when I was offered the opportunity to accompany Joe Cornish, David Ward and Daniel Bergmann on a workshop in Iceland in winter I jumped at the chance. This was to be a bit of a ‘classic’ Iceland tour starting with that pointy, witches hat mountain that David Clapp has photographed so well, and then working our way back to the south coast for some of the black sand, glaciers and aurora action. The only downside for me was that I had promised to produce a ‘mood’ video for Daniel as part of the deal (something I’m still in the middle of doing). This meant that I would be carrying video gear, a couple of tripods and a slider plus audio equipment. I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to capture some of my own work pass by so I thought “What is a nice light camera setup I can take alongside all of this?” and then idiotically decided to take a full 5x4 setup and my Sony A900... It’s a good job we wouldn’t be walking far!! I had to buy an oversize suitcase to fit this all in but fortunately Icelandair were happy with me exceeding their size limits as long as it was a recognised suitcase brand (in my instance a Samsonite 32” Spinner in which I could fit my Gitzo 3540XLS with spikes) although I did have to reduce my first pack down from 36kg to the maximum 32Kg by carrying a few items on my person - tripod head, camera, etc. I used my F-Stop Tilopa BC as my working rucksack which is just sized as carry on - although if they’d realised it weighed 38lb they may not have been quite as happy. The flight and arrival were uneventful and the first couple of days were spent with just Daniel, Joe and David and we took a drive up to the ‘crinkly bits’ in the North West of the island. We had a smooch around Hvítserkur (or Dinosaur Rock) which is a 50’ sea stack in the rough shape of an elephant. Perched atop this imposing rock sculpture was the subject of Daniel’s wildlife photography projects, the Gyrafalcon, a majestic bird and the biggest of the falcon species. The highlight of the day was an unscheduled stop at a nameless ravine on the way back South. We were driving along many back roads (and in Iceland a back road is seriously off road - especially with negative camber and full ice cover) in strong winds when we passed over a small bridge and looked on in astonishment at the accumulation of ice over the river underneath. Daniel did the usual “park facing the wind so your arms don’t get ripped off when you open the door” routine and we had a quick inspection. The location was only really suitable for crawling around, with big drops, ice cover and 40mph gusts but I couldn’t let a photographic opportunity pass me by. David and Joe looked on in bewilderment as I went back for my large format and started to set up a shot facing straight into the wind - they had more experience than I with large format but I perhaps foolishly figured you only learn by trying. Fortunately, and amazingly to be honest, both my Portra 400 shot at 1/15s and the Velvia 50 shot with a 1 second exposure came out pin sharp. Luxurious Beginnings A return to Reykjavik to pick up the workshop participants included a surprise stay in the International Hilton as our scheduled hotel had double booked us and it was the only alternative hotel. The rooms were excellent and even more so the breakfast which prompted my only ever use of the word smorgasbord to describe the 50 yards of international breakfast delicacies available (I settled for a full cooked with a side order of smoked bacon and waffles with copious maple syrup). We visited the Reykjavik Museum of Photography whilst waiting for “The Gathering”, an interesting place with copies of Ragnar Axelsson’s books - well worth a browse if you get the chance, and an exhibition of the history of women in Icelandic photography. Reykjavik is a beautiful little city but make sure you buy what you need before arriving as costs are about 50% more than UK prices. Kirkjufell and Djúpalónssandur or Witchy Hat and Black Pebbles Our first goal was to go North as far as Kirkjufell for a quick meal and a trip to that pointy mountain. Conditions were wonderful with ice structures of all different sizes but I spent my time getting used to my new slider and getting the camera settings in order. We didn’t stay too long anyway and quickly moved on to a stunning black pebble beach at Djúpalónssandur. I spent some time trying to find a composition using my A900 as a finder and eventually settled on a view out to sea where there was a glow highlighting some small clouds in an otherwise grey sky. I finally settled on a small rocky outcrop and spent a good 15 minutes taking multiple photographs with my A900 at different shutter speeds and at different wave timings until I found I could get the composition I was after which included a small ‘nest’ of pebbles with sea foam receding across the outcrop which was reflecting some of the orange light on the horizon and a wave breaking just offshore revealing the green of the water. Little Black Church and Golden Sands Sadly in the middle of this wondrous trip to Iceland I also had an issue of On Landscape to produce and so on the following morning I spent a half day writing content whilst watching a stunning sunrise out of the Helinar hotel window. It was so beautiful that I wandered out onto the balcony at one point and got locked out of the hotel!! With only a t-shirt on in -5 degree conditions I started to get a little worried until I realised that I used to go drinking in Aberdeen in winter in the same clothes at -20 with no worries - I’d be alright for a few minutes. The afternoon was spent wandering around the beach at the back of the Malariff lighthouse where I found small pockets of blue tinted shade casting the neutral basalt shelving as blue complement to the yellow-orange grasses. Finally as the sun went down and Joe Cornish and I took a few photographs for our article on his new Nokia 42 megapixel phone I spied an opportunity to use the interlocking shapes of the grass covered dunes to frame the Búðir church against the snow and scree covered mountains in the background. Hanging around bathing in the warm sunlight waiting for the last rays of sunset to highlight the edges of the dunes was not so onerous - I busied myself trying to work out just why this part of Iceland had golden sands when the rest of the island was covered in black until the sunlight found just the right angle for the both dunes and background. I had to crop my sheet of Velvia 50 for this shot as the longest lens I had brought with me was a 300mm but it’s still enough for a A3 print should I need. That evening we returned to Búðir to see if the Aurora would come and play. And it did - to a small degree anyway. Ian Purves and I joined forces to try to construct something from a location we'd scouted that afternoon. This is almost the panoramic view from the hotel Búðir bar window which, although expensive, is one of the nicest places I've stayed. Highly recommended. A short morning out working the area around the frankly absurd rock pillars that are Arnastapi and then we returned South via Reykjavik to Vik. On the way we stopped a couple of times to take in the stunning scenery including a naturally abstract vista across the glacial outflows from E15 toward the sea at Kúðafljót. We finally settled into Gerði where the icy part of our workshop could begin in earnest. The Ice Caves of Breiðamerkurjökull One of the wonders of Iceland has to be it's Ice Caves. These naturally expanded glacial fissures are made of some of the clearest ice casting the whole construction in a deep green-blue glow. The drive to the cave was made in rugged all-terrain vans and crossed the glaciers terminal moraine. On arrival we were all kitted out with climbing helmets and given a quick safety run down and then we walked up to a small black hole just above the foot of the glacier and entered a fantasy realm. Words cannot describe the experience of being surrounded by thousands of tons of the most beautiful aspect of plain old water that I have ever seen. The cave mouth is a frozen hangar carved in venetian glass. As you walk up to inspect the surface you realise it's not wet, nor even that cold to the touch. Embedded within the ice are constellations of bubbles, the remnants of trapped air in the compacting snow formed thousands of years ago. Layered in that snow are the ashes of historic eruptions. Most of my time in the cave was spent using Daniel's 1DX as the Panasonic GH1's I use for video do not have low light capabilities. I couldn't help but take a few large format shots though, especially of the ice formations in the entrance. This particular photograph shows about 5 vertical meters of ice varying in colour from deep green-blue at the bottom, through purples where the blue sky outside mixes with the ice colour and up to pale powder blues as the ice thins and the light shines through from outside. I was particularly drawn by the sculptural way the ice has been shaped. Here's a close up of a section showing the textures of the ice and reflections. A Trick of the Light One of the oddest things about working in an ice cave like this is the way it plays tricks with your eyes. Because the light coming through the ice is so deeply blue, your eyes gradually adjust; your blue/green sensing cones become desensitised and hence the colour complement - red in this case - becomes dominant. This means that you don't see as much of the colour cast is as actually present. However, when you do actually see daylight, for instance in a hole in the ice where water has entered the cave, it looks completely wrong. Whilst entering the cave I saw what I thought must have been some form of safety light further on. A reddy-pink glow was coming from overhead. It was only when I got closer that I realised it was actually daylight. Suffice to say my concept of colour went out of the window at that point. You can see the colour cast to some extent in this picture I took of a snow pile on the floor of the cave. This was taken on Velvia 50 and the result was nearly all intense blue. Once scanned I was able to change the colour temperature until it started to look like the scene I remembered. Once balanced like this though, the light coming from the hole in the distance took on a subtle pink cast. This was taken near the entrance to the cave so the effect is nowhere near as intense as further in. You can see more of the ice cave in this wonderful video called "The Crystal Cave" by Red Eden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvzDkpYiLoI Finally I got a little create and took this - I wonder if you can guess what it is ... Iceberg Beach And then we went to Jokulsarlon. Yes the place is amazing and yes it's fascinating to see the structure of the ice sitting on this black surface, specular highlights and caustics everywhere. But I just couldn't get in the mood, unlike the other 50+ people on the beach. This beach is a coach trip destination and along the full length there were tourists taking flash photos with their mobile phones. The experience was at once fascinating and slightly depressing. We went back to the beach twice but found that I couldn't get myself into the mood to take pictures. I think perhaps if I were to return again when there was fewer people around I may be able to get myself into a state of mind where I could see some different possibilities but it's hard enough doing that when I'm on my own, never mind when the third coach tour turns up. Stokksnes and the Green Shizzle And to perhaps one of my favourite locations. Stoknes is another black sand beach but in this case it's loomed over by a truly awesome looking range of mountains - they may not be tall but the way they leap from the flat moraine into a jagged, toothy grin is quite sublime. I wandered off to the far end of the beach to keep out of the way of the clients and found a suitably high dune to take an almost 180 degree panorama. The main problem is that the mountain range covers such a wide range of the horizon so what do you do with it? Out of everything I could see, all of it had been captured before in some way. The black sand; the dry, wheat grasses, the snow covered mountains. But the one thing I could see that was different was the way that the sand had dried so that some of it was darker black where damp and some was silvery grey where dry. I started scouring back up the beach to try to find a nice example of this pattern and eventually found an array of receding arcs like a nest of eyebrows. The light at this point was quite harsh and so I spent a while working with Ian Purves to test out a few theories about 'expose to the right' and the use of graduated filters on high dynamic range cameras. About an hour or so later the light had started warming up and so I took an 'insurance' shot. Basically one in the bag in case the light didn't get any better. Over the next 40 minutes I took another two exposures as the shadows reached various points in the scene and my final exposure was taken just as the final rays of the sun lit the tops of the wheaty eyebrows. The following two shots show the first and last in this sequence. On the second shot I pointed the camera slightly up and used front drop to make the mountains look more prominent. There were so many more opportunities at Stokksnes that it was a shame to leave it behind. Definitely one to return to. However I didn't think we'd be returning in less than a day! We left as the sun dropped to Höfn for a wonderful meal and as we were sitting in our private room at the back of the restaurant I thought it would be good to check the aurora activity in Norway. At a glance I realised we might be in for something interesting; The charts were very active and getting bigger as we looked. Food was scoffed and we piled quickly back into the vans to dash back to Stokksnes. The aurora was definitely active, we could see green patterns from the van windows as we drove over, and once we got past town lights the whole sky was full of the green shizzle. As my Sony A900 isn't known for it's low light performance, I teamed up with Ian Purves again for some high ISO action. I helped Ian with appropriate settings, lenses, etc (He has a D800 and luckily the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 also - we stuck to approx 5 to 15 seconds at f/5.6) and we took turns on pointing the camera in different directions. Our first shot was a two frame panorama to see if we could get the aurora over the mountains. The result wasn't brilliant as clouds were approaching from the East but it shows the setting. Once we'd played around for a bit I realised that the main action was going to be pretty much directly over our heads. However we've all seen a bucket load of just auroral light images and I thought it might be interesting to include some of the clouds to give the scene some scale and context. The city lights were providing a little bit of interesting underlighting on the bottom of the clouds and so we pointed the Zeiss 21mm lens about 45-50 degrees up and took a couple of test shots. This just about coincided with some peak coronal activity and so we reduced the shutter speed to a couple of seconds and took a series of photos. The following are a sample of those images - the last of which was a 15s exposure. The nice thing about leaving the camera just taking picture after picture is that we got to look up and see this with our own eyes which was quite gobsmacking. The sheets of charged particles sweeping backward and forward across the sky, tangling each other up in knots and shifting from pale greens to a barely visible pale red was something I'll remember for a long time to come. At this point everyone was getting a bit cold and we had an early start the next day so we made it back to the van and drove home, watching the aurora follow us home over the mountains in through the side windows. Fjallsárlón We had already spent a morning at Fjallsárlón but we turned up a little late for a full twilight and glow of the rising sun on Vatnajökull and as we enjoyed it much more than the iceberg beach we decided to return again, only a little earlier. Fjallsárlón is a glacial calving lagoon, a sister to Jökulsárlón just a little further East. In winter the lagoon freezes over, trapping icebergs big and small in a thick layer of ice. I wanted to capture the expanse of the experience as we approached from the top of the terminal moraine and so mounted my widest lens and placed the most 'characterful' icebergs in the middle of the frame (not my best compositional planning but it shows what the location is like. This was actually taken on the previous trip. On the following trip I changed to my longest lens and tried a more abstract composition. This captured the amazing pre-dawn glow that we experienced on the second morning. What was most surprising here is the cyan glow that seems captured within the ice - this was visible to the naked eye and most peculiar. We spent the rest of the morning searching for small details of ice or rock on the banks of the lagoon. I found two small chunks of ice and after making a composition using the larger fractured ice patterns I become a little fascinated with the colours and tones of the reflections in the ice. I tried to take a large format version of this picture but I was a little slow off the mark and not only lost some of the colour I wanted that was being reflected off Vatnajökull but also vastly underestimated how much depth of field I would need given the scale of the image (must take more near life size shots for practise). I did however take a series of focus bracketed shots afterwards as 'insurance' and as the material for an article on focus blending. These were blended using Helicon Focus which I found a breeze to use. This had eight different focus points. Dyrhólaey and the Gorilla Our penultimate day was spent halfway back to Reykjavik where we stopped at the Vik hotel and wandered off to Reyniskirkja to the lagoon at the back of Dyrhólaey. Joe Cornish and I went for a wander to the end of a promontory at the back of the lagoon and, as the conditions were dead still, spent the whole afternoon just watching the reflections of the setting sun. Amazingly, as we watched the sun drop in the sky, the temperature of the water must have hit a critical point and the whole surface of the lake started to visibly freeze in front of our eyes. Here's a second picture taken as the air started to drop in temperature. You can see the surface broken by floating ice. A final night and in the morning we visited the other side of the lagoon which was covered in basalt columns and structures. I tried to get a picture of a basalt bridge over a blowhole and with David Ward's able assistance I captured something - well - a little different at least. Time to return now, driving back to Reykjavik via a crashed and volcanic grit blasted DC-3 from the 1970s. Conclusion I must admit to being a little worried whether I could creatively take pictures that were 'me' in a place with such a strong visual signature. There are so many amazing sights that almost demand to be photographed that it is quite difficult to avoid them. I think because I was limited in the number of photographs I could take I was forced to really think about each exposure and whether it would add anything to swathes of photographs already out there of Iceland. I knew that I would probably never exhibit the Iceland work, they would really end up as glorified holiday snaps, but I felt like the tour was more of a 'tasting session' of what I could pursue at a later date. Just like a food tasting session you might only find a few items that you really enjoy, the same goes for photography. I enjoyed the exploring, discovering and taking of all of the photographs here but the ones that gave me creative satisfaction mostly only revealed themselves after returning. I was really taken with the textures of the basalt bridge in the last picture for instance, the ice cave also was stunning although I think it would be hard work to create something unique from a location such as that. One of my favourite sessions was actually in the small, unnamed gulley before the start of the workshop. The shapes and textures of the ice were like a palette of material from which I would create a picture. The other two highlights for me were the glacial lagoon (although I found it very hard to create anything) and Stokksnes. My impression of Iceland changed dramatically during this trip - the story told by many of the photographs online is quite limited. The country itself is vast and although there are shining lighthouses of photographic highlights, the spaces between them are full of potential - it's just that, like anywhere else, they are harder to form into engaging imagery. I'm returning to Iceland next year with my wife along with David and Angie Unsworth and in planning for the trip we've decided to drop in on a few highlights of the place (as mentioned above) but we're going to visit the North of the island and hunt out frozen streams and waterfalls. Hopefully we'll be able to capture a little of the character of the place beyond the photographic hotspots. I hope you enjoyed this short overview of my trip to Iceland - we'd love to have your opinion of the "Iceland Phenomenon" in the comments below.. Featured Comments From: Lizzie Shepherd: A lovely set of images Tim – somewhere I really do hope to visit one day though, like you, I’m not sure I could do much photography in a crowd of 50+ ;(( You’ve certainly come back with some beauties though – my favourites would have to be the first ice cave abstract (and I love the little crop from within it) and also the last of your Stoknes mountain shots – so graphic and very much reminded me of the later work of Lauren S Harris (one of the Canadian Seven I mentioned on here somewhere else…) Tim Parkin: Thanks Lizzie – and a big thanks for the reference to the Canadian "Group of Seven". I haven’t seen his work before and I really like it! And here are a couple of links to Lawren's work at Wikipedia, Gallery 11 and the Art History more
Around midsummer Joe Cornish, David Tolcher, Andrew Nadolski and I decided we'd set ourselves a little challenge to turn up at the same location with a bunch of cameras and see what happened. As David Tolcher has a house in Robin Hood Bay we chose Saltwick Nab as a great location as the sun sets off to sea in the North at this time of year (well - North West obviously but that's up the coast in these parts). Each of us had about three hours to take a look around and to explore the slate bed just offshore where the wreck of the Admiral von Tromp sits alongside reflecting pools and the graphic outline of Saltwick Nab. Read about our experiences below.. Joe Cornish When you have visited somewhere countless times before, the main challenge would appear to be, how do I not repeat myself? In fact, the North Yorkshire coast shorelines are so dynamic that literally repeating oneself is virtually impossible. Even Saltwick's giant sandstone blocks that I know well from the western side of the beach seemed to have been upturned and repositioned in the winter storms. The sea stacks, Saltwick Nab, and Black Nab seemed familiar enough, but all the details on the beach seemed different. Our predictions for the falling tide proved errant as well which, sort of, scuppered our plans. A strong northeasterly breeze had the North Sea piling up against the cliffs for perhaps an hour longer than we had expected. By the time the most productive eastern stretch of the beach was accessible, the sun had long since set.A strong northeasterly breeze had the North Sea piling up against the cliffs for perhaps an hour longer than we had expected. By the time the most productive eastern stretch of the beach was accessible, the sun had long since set. If landscape photography is a half-remembered echo of hunter-gathering, as some wise heads have speculated, then adaptability, and a willingness to seek other opportunities seems a consistent tactic. I imagine that, if hunting woolly mammoth in the lowlands where the North Sea now resides, our ancestors were not deterred if their preferred target had sought pastures new (for example, to the relatively high land of the modern-day Netherlands). They would by necessity have sought some other prey, or else had to face hunger, or worse. We are more fortunate, but the obligation to be resourceful remains. Anyway, back to June 2014 in North Yorkshire…! With the limited beach available, and the light flat under the predominantly cloudy sky, detail seemed the most productive theme to pursue. Like Tim, I found myself drawn to the cliff itself with its predominantly dark, shaley sediments broken by clean fractures, fissures and seeps of bright orange, where iron has leached from the rock. My first image is almost completely two dimensional, and depends on contrasting colour relationships and subtle damp textures to give it life. Made on a fairly new Phase One IQ 280 with a Hasselblad 503 CW (20 years old) a Zeiss 120mm Makro (30 years old). The kelp beds that lie just offshore had been recently scoured; a large area of the sandy part of the beach was caked in it. My instinct initially was to avoid the kelp, but one large hank of weed lay isolated from others. On closer scrutiny its shape took on the form of a resting animal, a dog perhaps, with a menacing presence to the shape, especially when approached from a low angle and in such gloomy light. Echoes of Cerberus, the mythical protector of the Underworld (I must wean myself off the aspirin…). Such a low angle and such near-far elements would challenge the depth of field capabilities of a conventional camera. Accordingly I selected a hybrid arrangement of 40mm Hasselblad lens and Nikon D-800 on a Mirex tilting converter. This combination gives amazing depth of field control with a natural perspective and wonderful image quality. A shame the lens is so huge! In such dark conditions with the light-sapping textures of kelp, a Lee ND 0.9 grad was also needed to feather back the sky. It seemed that the with the sun now long since set that our time was up. But as we chatted for a few minutes the tide finally retreated enough to reveal the amazing rock platform that makes Saltwick such a wonder for photography. We agreed to continue. My final effort is far from an original idea, but with very little experience of painting with light it was, for me, a useful exercise. Much gratitude to Dave Tolcher for the loan of head torch! David Tolcher It all started so well – the planning was good, weekend organised, tides favourable and weather forecast optimistic despite the cloudy high that had settled over the UK. We gathered at Robin Hoods Bay and had a good round of fish & chips washed down with some Timothy Taylors ale in the Grosvenor setting a good foundation for an evening on the beach. Even the sun was peeking out over the sea under the blanket of gloom, maybe Saltwick was going to work some of its magic tonight. Saltwick is one of the few places on the East coast that the sun sets over the sea for about 6 weeks during late May, June and first part of July. It is a well known location with an interesting wreck, Victorian industrial architecture, good beach geology and a sea stack. The predominant rock formation is Jurassic Lias which is shiny black when wet (and very very slippery) going to dull grey when dry. Ironstone seepage has stained some areas with vibrant flows of red, white and orange. Areas of Middle Jurassic sandstone with banding and black plant debris cap the cliffs and can be found littering the beach from old falls. A lot happening in quite a small area but actually quite hard to work images from. Sunset is late around mid summer and the afterglow goes on and on so you can be taking photographs well past 11pm if conditions are right. A receding tide is crucial for the best images at Saltwick so that the rocks (and shelves) are wet and very reflective. We had high tide at 18:45 which was a bit later than perfect but the sea should be out over the first reef exposing the stepping stones for about 21:30. Sunset at just before 22:00. What could possibly go wrong? We arrived at the car park around 20:00 and were somewhat surprised to only see water from the cliff top. It soon became obvious that the tide wasn’t receding as fast as expected. Spring tides was one factor but a bitingly cold Easterly wind was keeping the water in. Speaking to a local fisherman who was also caught out by the conditions he reckoned that it was as much as ½ an hour behind where it should be based on the onshore breeze. This was to become crucial after sunset in that we couldn’t get on to the areas we needed until after the light had gone. Nevertheless we pressed on. Although I know Saltwick well having collected fossils there for nearly 40 years and taking pictures since the late 1990s it is somewhere that I always find difficult to get your eye in when the conditions are less than perfect. The temptation is to return to old favourites, search out some well loved bits of sandstone or old jetty or cliff. The high cliffs unbalance any image that includes them, they are dark rock and mostly in shade. Working under them is slightly hazardous (especially recently as cliff ‘showers’ and falls have been more frequent since the 2013/14 Winter) but can be rewarding. I had a new Samyang 24mm F1.4 lens in the bag that I wanted to try on the A7R and found an image that would serve that purpose. Catastrophe – open the bag and there is the empty space where the camera should be. This is a new problem with mirrorless… too damn light, this would never have happened with Large Format or even my old Nikon DSLRs. I had taken the A7R and pancake lens out with me on a walk and left it at home in the pouch of my jacket. I had turned up on location with a bag full of lenses and no camera and no back up. You visualise that image of a donkey all too well at this time especially with the sniggers from your friends and the ‘been there, done that’ comments. Fortunately Joe had an A7R in the van which he kindly yomped up the cliff to get for me. It was going to be one of those nights ! First image if of some of the sandstone blocks in the predominantly orange sticky sand that is found on the beach. I was attracted to the reflected light on the sand from the blue sky out over the sea in the shade of the cliffs. The scene had a heavy tranquillity to it and good modelling leading to a perceived 3D image. I really needed a bit more height but could just get separation by standing on a rock. Image is a 3 image stitch taken at F16 on a Mirex adapter and 35mm PC Distagon. As the tide receded we moved down towards the Nab and wreck at the Southerly end of the beach. An opportunity to test the 24mm lens presented itself with the newly exposed wall of the old quay. Interesting cloud and a blue soft light again from the blue sky out over the North Sea. A combination of 2 stop ND grad and 3 stop pro glass ND filter gave me a good shutter speed to soften the sea. It was very important that the sea had just receded as the quay is very dull once dry and sucks away light more effectively than any black hole. The afternoon high tide had moved a large amount of kelp on to the beach and left it in strands over the sand. The soft light and glowing greens of the waterfall caught my eye as something a bit unusual – the quality of light can be very good at Saltwick and lift an ordinary scene into something a bit more interesting. Again a 3 stitch pano with the PC Distagon stopped down to F16 gave me something I was happy with. At last the tide was going out. Unfortunately the cloud had closed the gap in the sky that we had hoped would provide a few moments of magic but the light was soft and tranquil. As the sea moves beyond the first reef it briefly leaves a pool of water through which the stepping stones emerge. These aren’t really stepping stones but a series of flat rocks from a hard layer in the cliffs. I really wanted to capture the tranquillity of the scene with space for the very soft sky. Timing of the exposure was key to avoid the fisherman and his headtorch looking for ‘peeler’ crabs around the Nab. Shot times on the 24mm lens stopped down were over 10seconds now and very very blue ! A switch to ‘cloudy’ white balance and a slight warming of the image and magenta hue adjustment gave the final result. I was pleased with my four very different images from 3 hours at Saltwick. Note to self – always check the camera is in the bag! Lastly an image taken partly with my headtorch of Joe at work in the twilight Andrew Nadolski Wow - talk about being thrown into the deep end; physically and metaphorically. When I left Exeter for the seven hour drive to Robin Hood’s Bay for an OnLandscape management meeting it was definitely shorts and t-shirt weather and that is exactly what I packed; alongside my Sony A7R with 35 and 55mm lenses and tripod. The decision was made that on the Saturday evening we should all go off for a joint dusk shoot at Saltwick Bay. Mr Tolcher, with a beady eye on the tide times, told us that we had time for a relaxed meal (accompanied by an excellent pint of Landlord) in the local pub before heading off to the beach. There was I in my shorts and t-shirt and miniscule camera bag whereas the others were wearing survival clothing last seen in the depths of winter (Joe even sporting an Antarctic expedition fleece), whopping big F-Stop rucksacks and larger than average tripods - talk about being made to feel a little inadequate. As we gathered around to get into Joe’s minivan I began to feel like we had somehow slipped into a bizarre ‘Top Gear’ world of ‘challenges’ . There was I in my shorts and t-shirt (plus thankfully a thin fleece borrowed from David) and miniscule camera bag whereas the others were wearing survival clothing last seen in the depths of winter (Joe even sporting an Antarctic expedition fleece), whopping big F-Stop rucksacks and larger than average tripods - talk about being made to feel a little inadequate. Mind you as would later be revealed Mr Tolcher was going to try and pioneer a new kind of camera-less photography... When we got to Saltwick the situation became even more absurd in that the beach was almost completely covered with water and the promised receding tide looked like it wasn’t going to be doing a lot of receding this side of midnight. With an onshore wind the words ‘slightly chilly’ sprang to mind. Oh well I thought if I didn’t come back with any good images I would be able to invent a whole new genre of landscape photography - UCS - Unintentional Camera Shivering - but that would just be a load of bollocks wouldn’t it. I offered to express my artistic reactions to Saltwick through the medium of dance but the others weren’t having any of that. Mind you I thought it a little unfair as David was obviously intending to use mime as his medium of expression having forgotten his camera! This is where the metaphorical deep end comes in. It is a little daunting to go to a location that others know well and feel pressured to produce something to display. I pottered around a little trying to make a few compositions with the wet sand and sea but struggled with a sinking tripod. I knew later on I would be able to produce something ‘acceptable’ at the very least; as water, dusk, long exposure = picture; not exactly original. Would I be able to produce anything meaningful, an artistic reaction to a place? Highly unlikely as there wasn’t time to sit, watch, absorb and simply feel the landscape. I need to walk and look before I can consider getting my camera out. Is it possible to produce images that ‘say’ something when you haven’t worked out what you might ‘feel’ about a place? The path of compositional cliches is all too easy to go down, making ‘paint by numbers’ images from artistic ‘devices’ - rule of thirds, s-shaped curves etc etc. This trap is readily sprung for all who call themselves ‘landscape photographers’. We are in an age where it has never been easier to take a photograph but never been harder to take a good photograph. Are we all ‘chasing the light’, tracking down the light’, nay ‘shagging the light’? Has landscape photography become the new big game hunting - tracking down the trophy image at the expense of any intellectual depth or genuine emotional response? I wonder if there are simply too many landscape photographs ‘out there’ and I am afraid that is the blessing and the curse of the internet - often there is no editing; technicolour images are vomited onto the pages of Flickr and popularity with ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweeting’ seen as success in some kind of eworld of mutual self congratulation. ‘Following’ each other’s blogs or Facebook posts like an ever decreasing circle of dogs sniffing each others delicate parts. Now I think I had better climb down off my soapbox before I am pushed off. Anyway my reactions to Saltwick - looks like it might be an interesting place - I have even been told there is the wreck of a boat that makes for good pictures.... Tim Parkin It's true that I've been to Saltwick a couple of times in the past and so I should have a small idea what to expect but both times I've been led by our resident expert David Tolcher to just the right spot for reflections, Nab and sunset and hence didn't really get much chance to explore the rest of the bay. Tonight it turned out I'd have even less chance as fortune threw an extra challenge in the guise of a foot of salt water obscuring most of the aforementioned beauty spots. However, this is part of the idea of the article - in the real world what can you make out of a location given a single evening? Well in my case I fancied taking a look at the opposite end of the beach from the main attraction and was immediately struck by the textures of the mineral stained sandstone and mudstone in the cliff face. The minerals, probably predominantly the famous 'Alum' which was used in antiquity to fix dyes, had dripped across the rocks and dried, sometimes to a rich yellow or orange and sometimes as a white, talcy veil. For my purposes it created all kinds of variety and my task was to make some sense of them as a composition. The surface of the cliff was three dimensional enough that this wasn't just a case of 'cropping' a nice pattern and so I used a framing card (a 4x5 hole in a piece of black plastic) whilst wandering around to try to find appropriate shapes. A suitable pattern stood out quite quickly and, thankfully, I didn't have to get too close to the cliff (which has a tendency to rockfalls on a regular basis). My camera of choice was my Ebony 45SU large format camera and with a little bit of swing and tilt I got my plane of focus in the right place. A final adjustment for bellows factor and hopefully Fuji Velvia would do the rest. I continued looking for a few moments wondering if anything else would catch my eye and within about ten foot of the first composition another possibility appeared. I was hoping to move on and try some different subject matter but being as I'd got my eye in on this type of subject and my camera was already out I gave it another shot. This needed a much longer lens - I was using a 360mm lens and area of interest was only about 14 inches across. Lots of bellows and a steady hand and that was two shots in the bag. Having captured a couple of shots I was reasonably happy with it was time to wander around looking for something else. As has been mentioned, our only disadvantage was the onshore wind that kept that seawater blocking our access to the fun stuff. However, instead of trying to hard I took the opportunity to have a chat with a local fisherman who was stocking up on peelers for his bait (crabs that have just shed their shell) and he told me about how the tides work locally, the pertinent bit being up to a fifty minute delay if there is an onshore wind and a low pressure (which we had). It looked like a view of the wreck at sunset wasn't going to happen. To add insult to injury the dreaded 'Middlesborough Wall of Cloud' made it's regular appearance and blocked any hope of a sunset or afterglow. Having only made a couple of exposures I felt I had to at least try for one more and so I saw a few rocks just offshore and a hint of parallel lines in the slate in the foreground and so I checked the meter to see what exposure I'd need on Portra 400 - well two minutes wasn't so bad. focussing when you can't see s**t wasn't so much fun. I used a headlight to illuminate the foreground whilst applying tilt and crossed my fingers. Unlike my digital brethren I didn't get to share the product of my work until the following week when I stocked up with C41 and E6 developer. I then had the wonderful experience of wondering if my exposures were right and if my chemicals were mixed correctly. It all worked out OK though and with a quick run through the drum scanner I got to show my off my own results (a week after everybody else's of course!) Conclusion The whole 'challenge' was interesting. I was impressed at how differently we all saw the location and opportunity. I think in many ways having slightly poor conditions was more interesting for the article. We ended up having to work harder to find photographs and to work with the conditions. I hope you've found the results interesting - we plan to repeat the exercise at some point in the future in another location with different people perhaps. Featured Comments From: Ian: It is interesting how different the results of the trip were for each participant. Very brave of Andrew to head out to the NE coast in just a t-shirt, even if it is summer (allegedly). I’ve only been to Saltwick once and the wind was really cutting on that occasion too. I also enjoyed Andrew’s soap box mini-rant and wonder if there would be any value in an expanded discussion on the assertion that “We are in an age where it has never been easier to take a photograph but never been harder to take a good photograph”. David O'Brien: This seems a bit like 3 men in a boat! a great read and on any future trips please bring Mr Nadolski and his soap box. I was sitting in the infernal Quiet carriage on the train when I collapsed in laughter at the phrase “shagging the light”. Am not sure my fellow passengers are pleased with more
I've read a small amount about Ansel Adams over the last few years and he has always come across as the master technician of landscape photography. His teaching of the Zone System and his considered 5x4 and 10x8 work was an aspirational example of the master craftsman personified. So it was with a small amount of relief that I read an article about the making of "Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite" and discovered that he wasn't quite the perfectionist he is made out to be. Now I have to admit it's an "awesome" shot (ahem), the way that the shadows balance one another and the sunlight creates wonderful textures on the face of half dome are beautiful. However, my inner acolyte tells me that Ansel must have composed this perfectly and his knowledge of exposure would have allowed him to capture this masterpiece in a single frame! Sadly not. If we take a look at the contact sheet for this roll of film (for yes, Ansel did use a medium format camera; a gift from Victor Hasselblad in 1950) we'll see a different side of the master. Ansel used to say that bracketing exposures indicated “nothing but indecision”So in this roll of 12 exposures we have (the first at the bottom left and the last at the top right) show Ansel almost playing around with the camera. If According to his notes, the last were after he had walked "Several hundred feet to a favourable position, for a balanced composition. I made several exposures at intervals of about a minute". Well it would seem that the moon travels about two of it's own diameters between the first two shots and the rest and that means about 2 hours passed between those periods or that he changed position. My guess is that the real answer sits between the two and Ansel moved down the road aways and waited for a while for the light to move to a point where it highlights the two trees at the bottom right of the frame. It says in the book "Looking at Ansel Adams" that Ansel pre-visualised the exact crop in advance as a 5x4 but I have a bit of trouble believing that. If you look at the final image, the two trees highlighted in the bottom right look like one of the most important factors. Why would he crop these out in later frames if he had seen this in advance? Never mind this though - it looks to me like each frame is a different composition and for that matter a different exposure! I'm not sure what is happening in frame 8 (the blown out one at the top of the middle row) but Ansel obviously changed to a wider lens and moved again to a different position (or waited another 2 hours according to moon position - unlikely as the shadows don't shift that much). UPDATE: Never trust an internet fact. The moon moves 30 diameters per hour and hence one diameter every 2 minutes. So he took all these pictures in about 11 minutes. Ansel used to say that bracketing exposures indicated "nothing but indecision" but in this case I think he was possibly flustered slightly or just 'covering all options' in both exposure "and" composition. A risky approach if he got the best exposure and best composition on different frames. Let's take a look at the final frame though. What is surprising here is the amount that Ansel crops from the left and right of the picture. And the final image is cropped even tighter than is shown here. So the master isn't perfect, why should I care! Well the fact is that I don't. It's nice to see that quite often the word that comes down from on high isn't so much "This is how I work" but "I aspire to work like this". If Ansel had been arrogant about his approach to photography he would have never shown his contact prints and so I believe that Ansel knew his own weaknesses and when he quite often talked about photography he talked about his own goals, not his own practise. For me it's great to see that someone so lauded as a craftsman wasn't so proud that he couldn't work outside his own envelope on occasion; wasn't so pure that he didn't mind a big crop on occasion. It makes me feel better on those stressful occasions when I make "just another exposure" or "let's try a wide as well!". I researched this using the internet and a great book called "Looking at Ansel Adams" by Andrew G Stillman (cover shown to the right). UPDATE 1: We've had a little bit of debate about the timescale of the shots taken and I thought it would help to add an animated gif showing the frames aligned so that you can see what moves where. If they were all taken on the same day I count about five and a half hours from the first to the last frame UPDATE 2: I found an article about "Moon and Half Dome" that calculates the exact time it was taken as 4:14pm. It also turns out you can't trust the internet for information without checking it yourself. It appears the moon does travel it's own diameter in an hour but that ignores the sky moving as well. So in effect the moon moves 15 degrees across the sky in an hour, or thirty diameters per hour. So the distance across the sky from start to finish of cycle is about 5.5 diameters or 11 minutes. The space between first exposure and his chosen is about 3 minutes. Featured Comments from: David Ward: A fascinating look at how Ansel made one of his famous images. I must admit to being shocked by how scrappy the contact sheet appeared; there’s little sign of the consummate craftsman! There are light leaks all along the edge of the roll, something that only happens (in my experience) on very rare occasions, and the exposures appear to be all over the place. Where’s the evidence of carefully calculating what zone to place tones in? I think you’re right in your assumption that what he described texts such as “The Exposure” were ideals rather than the messy reality of practice. And really how could it be otherwise? When writing a technical description it’s unlikely that one would highlight one’s failures of technique ;-) A general ‘problem’ with people viewing photographs is that the finished article appears to have arrived without a history. There are no brush marks, no signs of reworking, it is just presented in its apparent ‘perfect’ state. Of course we know that Ansel never exhibited an unmanipulated print but the viewer can’t tell, simply from looking at the surface of the paper, what work was done. There is an implicit understanding that any painting has been ‘worked’ but this isn’t always the case when people view photography. In the light of this, it’s easy to see how an artist like Ansel can be perceived as a perfectionist who rarely, if ever, made a mistake. Of course he was only human, like the rest of us (unless this is being read outside our Solar System!), so his practice would have been just as liable to include mistakes and fudges. People have sometimes said to Joe and I, “But of course you never make a bad photograph.” Well, I can’t speak for Joe (which I’m sure he’s very pleased about) but I know that I certainly make lots of mistakes. I just try not to let anyone else see them... Joe Cornish: <snip> ... In Ansel’s defence, the fogging might well be caused by a faulty back rather than processing incompetence. Return to Victor for fixing (no, not in the darkroom!). I remember seeing a huge print of this image in an exhibition at the Barbican, before Adams died, I think it may have been 1982, and it was one of the most disappointing in the show. Simply put, being shot on such a small format (and cropped, as we see from your piece) and printed extremely large meant that it was quite soft compared with many of his other images, which had an incredible, grain-free smoothness to them. I even remember a suggestion of camera shake. A fascinating reminder that legends are human after all. How do you feel about the gap between Ansel's quotes and his personal more
“We don't make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.” - Ansel Adams In this memorable quote, Ansel Adams distills the idea that photography is truly an act of self expression. He urges us to apply our entire life experience, especially what we have learned from other art forms, and from our relationships, to our photographic seeing. It stands as a luminous signpost to anyone ready to further their photography beyond good craftsmanship/technique. We recognise that the human character is a fusion of nature and nurture. It's no surprise that when we look at our friends and family – those we know well – we find that their behaviour, their habits, patterns, outlook on life is, along with their own natural instincts, abilities and gifts, a reflection on what happened to them as children, and beyond. This recognition becomes much harder though when we look at ourselves, for the mirror we hold to our own experience is also heavily tinted (and perhaps even cracked) by the very experiences on which we need to reflect. Nevertheless, it is from the joy and suffering of a life – our own – that we ultimately find inspiration. The ideas, the shapes, the proportions, the energy, the colour, the light and darkness that invades our images are at their most eloquent when they are connected to, and reflective of, our life as we have lived it. Which leads me, via a winding and undulating trail, to the subject of walking. Looking back, neither of my parents were 'into the outdoors', or physical activity per se. Nevertheless, we (my siblings and cousins and friends) were outdoors a lot with little adult supervision, so had plenty of exercise, adventures and scrapes on a regular basis. As well as playing on the street at home, there were numerous seaside holidays in Cornwall and Devon, scampering around rocky foreshores, and hopping between boulders, much to the dismay of our mothers who chided us for 'being naughty' (“land-scrape” was probably a fair description…). Surely there was no conscious effort to learn a skill, but it is amazing how, fifty years later, the agility learned then has served me well. At university (Fine Art, Reading) my most ambitious pieces of artwork were 'about' walking; these were mainly large paintings, constructions, and photographs made responding to essential walks which were a daily ritual.At university my most ambitious pieces of artwork were 'about' walking; these were mainly large paintings, constructions, and photographs made responding to essential walks which were a daily ritual. In the third year of my degree I lived four miles out of town. Following the theft of my bicycle early that October I resolved to walk to and from campus every day (mainly through economic necessity). For a healthy twenty-year old this was unexceptional (certainly nothing compared to the training of many young athletes), but it was a training of sorts. In addition to the physical discipline it formed the basis of my artistic ideas. The same path along the banks of the Thames was always subtly different every day according to the weather and the seasons. I saw wildlife, noticed the birdsong consciously for the first time. It wasn't really a case of learning to love it. Walking simply seemed the logical solution to a problem. As time has gone by, life has always given opportunities to walk, even living in London for eleven years. The last years there were spent in a flat in Clerkenwell; near enough to walk to anywhere in the West End, or the City. London folk used the gym for exercise. Whereas walking is simply the gym of life, as anyone used to shouldering a 15-20kg pack on the hill will concur. It is unlikely that there would have been a fraction of these walks without photography. Photography provoked the need for a walk; walking provided the raw material for photography. If our bodies and our instincts still reflect the evolutionary instincts and desires of our ancestors, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest just that, then walking would appear to be more than just a pleasant pastime, and actually essential, compulsory, a way of life. And even if we think we have evolved since hunter-gathering (which looks unlikely) pedestrianism was widespread until the motor car. For our ancestors, apart from the privileged and wealthy elite, a sedentary life was not an option. While these reflections might seem more the realm of evolutionary biologists they are also significant to the layperson; we all need to understand where we came from. Perhaps even more significant to artists/photographers is how we function creatively in relation to the walk. Short walks may not allow quite enough time for deeper thought. While long, strenuous walks may lead to exhaustion, so be less conducive to photography and more about the 'marathon' itself. A medium length walk, one and a half to three or four hours, gives ample scope be immersed in the rhythm of the walk, in the surroundings, and – if alone – in one's own thoughts. In our community that will likely be with the intention, the hope for and with luck the realisation of, making a photograph (or two or three). But if not then the physical exercise, the meditative potential and the diminishment of the self as a separate entity (that is my experience anyway) all are valuable. Simply put, it's the best therapy in the world, and it's free. So all walks are good walks, whether alone or in company. Since pedestrianism is, by definition a form of motion, does that not make it incompatible with photography which is a matter of stilling time and place? I think not. The pace of walking provides a changing spectacle in our immediate surroundings certainly, but that pace still allows us to perceive fine details, and when we walk in a suitably attentive state of mind details, fragments and juxtapositions catch our interest and it is easy to pause and look again. And then to stop, and if the inspiration is there, to settle into some photography.While walking in the open landscape the horizon changes slowly, imperceptibly, and this allows much more time to contemplate how or whether that line, that edge to the sky, should be part of our photographic thinking. While walking in the open landscape the horizon changes slowly, imperceptibly, and this allows much more time to contemplate how or whether that line, that edge to the sky, should be part of our photographic thinking. That other form of self-propulsion, cycling (also a wonderful form of exercise), is nowhere near as photo-compatible, because our attention is so much more focussed on staying alive on the bike and because we generally pass things too quickly to perceive photographic ideas. At least at the speed my brain works! Walking allows us to adapt our pace easily, so that we have enough energy to apply to photographic thinking, or possibilities, as we perambulate. Perhaps that too is a matter of perception. No doubt at times a photographic walk involves a specific destination, to a hilltop, woodland, beach or headland where we know a view will unfold. In that case it might seem the walk is just a means to an end. But it is always better than that. It's a chance to tune to the surroundings and measure the light in ones mind, think ahead to how it will unfold. Even the apparently non-photographic senses, smell, touch, sound, inform our feelings and help guide our thoughts and ideas, help us judge, 'what is the essence of this place?' So often preconceived images are just a starting place. Rarely does the weather play the cards predictably, especially on these Sceptred Isles, but in a creative frame of mind, ready to respond to the landscape we see (as opposed to the one we may have hoped for) then alternative possibilities almost always arise, and are all the better for being unexpected, unplanned. There is no such thing as a wasted walk. All walks are good walks. Sometimes, rather than images it is thoughts and ideas for writing that emerge with the steps. These can also be recorded. A few weeks ago I purchased a couple of A6 notepads and, along with a pencil, inserted one of each into my camera backpacks with good intention. Ever since my walks have been singularly bereft of inspiration for writing! But previous scribblings and scrawlings on many maps and inside lens cloth covers and sundry bits of paper are proof that ideas can and do often flow with the rhythm of the walk. These may or may not be directly related to the surroundings. Just as often it is an internal thought that simply 'bump-started' with the walk and developed its own life. It seems unthinkable that these ideas would have sprung unbidden being at home answering emails or doing the accounts. Walking gives time, a space and the right balance of stimuli to provoke the flow. Here are some scribblings lifted from my battered 1:25,000 North York Moors Western Area OS Landranger… “At first, the bleakness of the North York Moors can be overwhelming. Driving on the tops and the first vistas when walking offer little but an apparent featurelessness. This is especially true if the sky is all grey, or all blue (as today). Yet little by little, as I walk across short-cropped and burnt-back heather, through bracken, beside sedge and rush, into bog(!) and along schisty dry peat paths with studs of gritstone like little jewels, another landscape emerges. Isolated trees –hawthorn, rowan, oak – mark distance; ancient drystone walls divide the land giving shape and line to the rhythmic swell of the slopes. Brilliant and delicate midsummer grasses glint backlit in the sun. This is no pristine wilderness – rather, a highly managed and regulated landscape – but it has its own subtle beauty that only emerges by degrees. To the photographer it is a challenge but one which rewards the open mind with subtle gifts.” Baysdale, 25.07.09 It is tempting to conclude that the solitary walk is preferable for the creative muse, and certainly for writing that has been my experience. Yet a walk with good companions should also be taken and enjoyed whenever possible. Conversations in walking are different to the ones had at work, or around a dinner table, or in the pub. The shared physical effort, and the encounter with the wonders of the landscape can be tremendously stimulating and creative. “A photograph is an instrument of love and revelation that must see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live in all things.” Ansel AdamsWhen those companions are happy to journey through mountains, camp out and share the discomfort and simple pleasures of a proper pilgrimage then they enable us all to go further and see into the hidden wilds, something we might not dare to do alone. I am all too conscious when I meet and talk to doctors, nurses, anyone in the emergency services or indeed in the primary industries like agriculture or energy generation, that my work, photography, is not (thank goodness) a matter of life and death. It is trivial by comparison, and a reason for both gratitude and humility. My decisions at work are unlikely to ever harm anyone, and by the same token it cannot do anyone that much good either! Yet walking is the source for philosophical speculation that makes it at least a matter of life. When contemplating the 'What is the Meaning of Life' question my conclusion would probably be, Walking and Life itself. Walking is one thing that can almost unambiguously be described as good, and good for you. “A photograph is an instrument of love and revelation that must see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live in all things.” Ansel Adams (again!) This is the sentiment of an artist/photographer whose life has been framed by the balance of rhythm, and warmth, and fatigue, and joy that come with walks in the hills, through the woods, and by the sea. Alone or in company. With the walk, why would we not turn to nature, and to each other? All walks are good more
At the moment if you want to use a dedicated black and white sensor you’ve got the choice of buying an old Kodak DCS camera (in a full 1.2mp or 6mp formats), buying a Leica Monochrom for £5k or a Phase One IQ Achromat for about £36k. Not many realistic options really. However there are rumours that Sony are looking at producing a monochrome version of one of their sensors as a dedicated lens RX1 which would (hopefully) bring this niche product to market at a reasonable price. But why would anybody want a monochrome sensor in the first place? To know this you have to know how a colour sensor works. I’ll only give you a brief recap of the pertinent details as there is a good explanation of the Bayer array on Wikipedia. The most important fact is that each pixel in the Bayer array is covered by a colour filter. If you’ve ever used colour filters on a black and white camera you know that there is a filter factor involved because they block light. The filter factor for a blue or red filter is about 2 stops. That’s two stops of light blocked!That means that your native, base ISO is now around 800 instead of 200 Higher Sensitivity A black and white sensor is the same as a colour sensor but with the colour filters removed. That means that your native, base ISO is now around 800 instead of 200 (presuming a Sony sensor). This would mean an almost noiseless ISO of 6400. The other good thing (or bad thing depending on your point of view) about having no colour filters is that you can go back to using black and white filters properly again. If you’ve ever tried to use a red filter in front of a colour digital camera you’ll know the loss of resolution you get because you’ve effectively disabled three out of the four pixels available - the green and blue filters receive almost no light with a red filter on. This leads to a more ‘natural’ filter effect (so I’ve been told by people who know better than me). Now why can’t we just remove the colour filters from a current DSLR to get the same effect? Well you can, but it’s not easy - in fact it’s quite scary by all counts. Have a look at this article. Some companies will remove the colour filters for you - I know of one that has done in the past and they have a page about monochrome sensors here. Another advantage of removing the colour filter is sharper pictures. Sharper Pictures Another advantage of removing the colour filter is sharper pictures. Depending the subject your resolution on a colour sensor is only a fraction of what it should be. Imaging photographing a girl with red hair. Only the red pixels would pick up the red hair properly and only 25% of the pixels are red. This means less than half the resolution in the hair which leads to blocky, pixelated hairs. On a black and white sensor all the pixels pick up all the information and you get nice consistently drawn lines. In actual fact colour sensors aren’t quite as bad as this but the loss is still significant - estimated at between 15% and 30% depending on who you talk to. More film like noise If you do use higher ISOs the noise you get is actually a lot more randomly distributed (because it’s not affected by the different gains the colour channels get). This gives something that looks less digital like if not more film like. Foveon Sensor? The Foveon sensor has pixels that collect all the colours of light and hence have some of the resolution advantages of a dedicated black and white sensor but without the sensitivity advantages. Plus there are few high-resolution Foveon sensors. However it does seem like a good compromise for the black and white photographer. Do I want one? Well I must say that I like the idea of a black and white sensor and if I were to do a lot more black and white it would definitely be a consideration. If I was a dedicated black and white photographer I think this would be on my shopping list, especially if it has the 36mp sensor! I wouldn't expect to see one until early 2015 though. I’d be interested in anybody’s opinion who uses either a Leica Monochrom or a Foveon sensor for black and white photography (or even an Achromat or converted sensor). Featured Comments From: John Beardsworth: No thanks. And I say that as someone whose first loyalty is to black and white. Sure, there may be advantages in terms of high ISO (though slow ISO has its value too) and more in terms of sharpness. But as for more film like noise, or rather less digital-looking noise, get a film camera and get your hands wet. AlexeyD: Just to point out – I would not expect sensor sensitivity to grow a lot with CFA removed. In the old days when camera manufacturers were less concerned about shooting in a dark cupboards at nighttime, the CFA were quite dense and taking them off leaving monochrome sensor did indeed result in 2 stops boost. Looking at Kodak monochrome cameras vs their non monochrome versions it seems around 2 stops gain. Nowadays the CFA are quite weak to accommodate high ISO shooting so taking them off won’t result in drastic sensitivity boost. Regarding the existing sensor conversion – the link you posted Tim is got to be the most careless one ;). Iliah Borg on DPreview was the pioneer of the conversion (not the one referenced though) – he stripped Nikon D2X sensor CFA off and had monochrome D2X version. From what I recall he used solvent chemicals to dissolve the filters (building an insulation well around sensor chip and using the bath of solvents on the bare sensor surface). His method was repeated by a few brave souls on DPReview with success from what I recall. Considering how many old Kodak SLR/n/c and 14n are left around (they have 14megapixel fullframe sensor) and the sensor construction (where the chip itself sits in a ceramic bath like frame) – solvents method actually looks quite repeatable. Joe Cornish: I am slightly skeptical whether the theory of the pure black and white camera quite translates in print as we are led to believe; and the control of tone using colour channels remains an attractive aspect of mono conversion from digital colour, to my way of thinking. Nevertheless I do think too that a Sony RX-1 monochrome would be a massively appealing product for traditional street photography, and open up that approach to those of us who still think the price of the Leica Monochrom is too high. Jürgen Metzler: I Had the chance so see a comparison between b/w prints from the M9 and the Monochrom last year and I couldn’t believe the difference, sharpness and tonality of the MM prints were in a different league. Only for watching on a monitor I wouldn’t buy a monochrome version. However, for me, b/w is strictly connected with film, I don’t like the digital clearness in more
When Tim asked me if I would do an “End Frame” I didn’t realise quite how difficult it would be identifying which particular photograph I wanted to discuss. There are many photographers whose portfolios I admire and there are many more photographs within those collections which I could loosely describe as favourites .... so which one should I choose? I turned to my collection of photography books and began studying several familiar photographs. After a while I started to ask myself what were the characteristics that I associated with some of my favourite pictures. Following some deliberation, I became aware that, particularly when viewing landscape photographs, an evocation of ‘being there’ was important. The illusion of standing alongside the photographer, and becoming totally absorbed in his vision, was deﬁnitely a major characteristic that made images appeal me. Eventually I found myself repeatedly returning to the only work of Peter Dombrovskis that I possess. The book “Simply” has many images I like and I could have listed several as “favourites”. However, the one I have selected is Plate 40, “Mist on the North-East Ridge on Mount Anne, Southwest Tasmania”. I know that this book, and several others by this artist, have been extensively reviewed in previous issues of this magazine by those more learned and more erudite than myself but I can only try to convey why this particular image is so attractive to me. Perhaps my background (which is growing increasingly distant) as a plant scientist inﬂuenced this choice since the image portrays a wonderful intimate view of mountain vegetation, which I would love to have explored ﬁrst hand. The North east ridge of Mount Anne is renowned for some ancient vegetation types, which probably hark back to what is called ‘Gondwana type vegetation’ containing some species which are considered amongst the most ancient surviving species of plants on Earth. Perhaps my background as a plant scientist inﬂuenced this choice since the image portrays a wonderful intimate view of mountain vegetation Looking at the image in detail the most prominent element in the foreground is a specimen of Richea pandifolia (Pandani or Giant Grass Tree) which is actually in the same family as our more familiar heathers, and a plant which particularly enjoys the high altitude environment of the wet mountain forest. Photographically the plant is very striking with graceful arching leaves, which here are coated in ﬁne droplets of fallen rain. The camera is positioned so that the plant leaves unfurl to introduce us to a small pool of still, calm water. The pool reﬂects blues from the overcast sky and these perfectly compliment the surrounding soft greens. On the furthest edge of the pool are large mounds of cushion plants which are also typical of this high, mountain habitat. Beyond these hummocks the Pandani theme returns drawing the eye towards the near silhouetted trees and almost featureless sky, forming the backdrop and containing the view. Thus, for me, there is a wealth of subject interest in this image with all its natural forms, textures and tones. When out with my camera and confronted with such a view, I, and I suspect a few others, would struggle to depict the scene in such a natural and harmonious way. However, here the photographer achieves this with apparent ease. Like many others of Peter Dombrovskis’s landscapes, this scene is captured in the soft, diffuse light characteristic of overcast, misty conditions. This helps evoke a feeling of tranquil solitude and a sense of unspoiled remoteness. For me this is an archetypal ‘quiet image’, encouraging the viewer to linger and reﬂect on things more signiﬁcant than the “information bombardment” of day to day living. Peter Dombrovskis succeeds in totally immersing me in this distant landscape and I think that is why it features as one of my favourite images. Featured Comments From: Douglas Griffin: I have a copy of ‘Simply’; like you I would count many photographs from that magnificent book among my favourites, and this would certainly be one of them. It has an ‘other-worldly’ feel to it, largely on account of the vegetation, I suspect. It’s an exquisitely composed and wonderfully relaxing image. Anthony Castreuil: But is it not the fact that it feels “other-wordly”, one on the biggest selling points of Peter’s work? It feels that way for me. When I look at his work, it always feels special just because it does not resemble anything remotely than what I have in my country. I wonder how native people feel about those pictures, do they feel the same way? When I look at pictures from landscape on my own country, I can certainly appreciate the workmanship and the views, but it never feels special to me. If you'd like to contribute an "Endframe" please get in touch and let us know on via our submissions page. If you have any comments about Pete's choice please let us know more
I imagine most of you will have heard that we have a D800 replacement arriving very soon. If you haven’t, the bottom line for landscape photographers is Removed optical low pass filter (the old version still had one but supposedly it cancelled itself out - removing it completely may make things sharper) Included new sensor technology with possibly better noise handling Added a native 64 iso so you can get longer exposures for more blurry water or use wider apertures in daylight Finally a fix for the awful live view screen so finally it might be a match for Canon, Fuji, etc Electronic shutter in live view for quieter and, more importantly, less bouncy exposures The thing that caught my interest was the “split screen live view mode”. I’ve talked about the possibility of this in previous posts where I proposed that it would be great to have two separate windows on your LCD that you can move around and zoom in and out of independently of one another. Well it looks like Nikon have managed to do this but I think they’re trying to solve the wrong problem (or at least putting unnecessary restrictions in place). Why do I want a split screen live view? Nikon’s answer is that you can lock the two windows to the same horizontal level and hence line up parts of the landscape that need to be level with each other. e.g. The horizon on a coastal shot or parts of buildings for architecture. Have a look at the screenshot below from a Nikon presentation.This could be revolutionary for the use of tilt with T/S lenses Well if you’ve used tilt shift lenses you’ll know one of the live view procedures of moving backward and forward between horizon and foreground trying to get the tilt to line up properly. Imagine if you could put one live view on your foreground and one on the background and then just watch as you tilt and focus your way to a sharp picture! Here’s a mock up of what it might look like.. The selected window is highilghted in yellow. Of course you’d have to be able to swap it round from top and bottom to left and right (similar to the slide from Nikon). All is Not Lost (possibly) Now even if Nikon have locked the two splits to a horizontal line, it might not be the end of the world as long as they aren’t using the orientation sensor to choose which way to display things. If you can tell the camera which way you want the ‘line’ to be then you could just set the line up vertically instead of horizontally. In which case although you’ll be limited to two points directly over each other, this would be fine in most cases (and is what most people do at the moment, just shifting vertically from one point to another). Also for Depth of Field Now it’s not just useful for tilt shift lenses, if you want to check that your foreground and background are suitably sharp by stopping down you can place the points in the same way and see how aperture affects depth of field. I can almost envisage an “auto aperture chooser” function that looks at your two windows and chooses the optimum aperture based on two phase detect auto focus points (i.e. it can work out at what point to focus for both and hence work out where the middle is and stop down until they’re at maximum sharpness) A call for an open API for camera interfaces Now if Nikon were forward thinking like Apple, they would allow software developers to play with the interface for their cameras and then start up a ‘camera app store’. This sort of functionality would be developed pretty damned quickly even if only for a few geek photographers to ‘scratch their own itch’. I’d like to be able to download tilt shift tables, use my camera with photo ephemeris, focus blend applications, you name it and developers would build it (and probably much more!). We’ll keep you posted on how this works once we get to play with one!! FEATURED COMMENTS FROM: Duncan Fawkes: It would be brilliant if the screen was touch sensitive to allow us to position two windows quickly. Strangely this is a feature found in Canon’s recent entry level cameras that you might expect in more expensive models. Seems like a gimmick at first, but I’m all about speed and ease of use and if I can tap the screen to set my AF/zoom point rather than scroll around with a diddy joystick I’m all for it! (extract) AlexyD: ETTR applied all the time nowadays can do more harm than good. In my view the reasons why we typically do not see it anywhere in a cameras (only in third party hacks like Magic Lantern) are rather technical. Sensors nowadays come with quite diluted CFA filters and relatively weak primaries separations (to cater for better low light performance). This require more careful profiling and as a result more careful exposing. The profiles will effectively fix the colours in ranges where separation was weak but if exposure was offset (like in ETTR case) wrong colur ranges end up being fixed. This leads to subtle (initially) colour shifts that can be emphasized by postprocessing. In addition, on some sensors with high dynamic range, nonlinearities start to appear arount saturation point (hence additional colours shifts if that is all to be shifted back to midtones). It all depends of course on amount of posprocessing or it can be acceptable compromise on some subjects like landscapes. With portraiture however it is most likely not – so in my view that’s the reason why we never see this from Nikon or Canon officially. I agree that public API and camera apps would be superb to extend the functionality but looking at Nikon history for example – it seems that they are quite opposite and want to control more rather then open things up. Lizzie Shepherd: Some interesting thoughts here Tim. Focus by touch screen would undoubtedly be a great feature – judging by how well it works on the little Olympus cams – split screen, or otherwise… I’d also love to see touch screen functionality allowing one to choose from a sensible range of crop/format options – I know of no camera that offers all the options I’d like. I don’t really see why it has to be limited at all in fact. D Reisenberger: Good post and question, Tim. The functionality I would like to see (would like to have seen?) on an extended-D800 camera would be a wider range of in-built, or custom programmable, image ratios. 5:4 was a step in the right direction, but why not add square (1:1) and a panoramic format or two, such as 1:2, 1:3, and more
This issue we're talking to semi-professional Yorkshire based photographer Robert Birkby. Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation? I was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire and educated in nearby Brighouse. My father is a retired cabinet maker and my mother a housewife. As a child I always had an interest in natural history and geography, so whilst other kids were playing with 'Action Man' or watching American cop shows, I was out rooting in the local canal for creepy crawlies or fishing. My father had Minolta SLR cameras in the 70s and 80s and some of my earlist memories are being with him developing black & white photographs in his dark room in the cellar. It was like magic, watching the image appear, with the pungent smell of 'developer' 'stop' and 'fixer'. I was given a small 35mm film camera for my 10th birthday and used this for many years even up to my late teens. What are you most proud of in your photography? I'm proud of what I've achieved in photographing my local area. I live in one of the most heavily populated parts of the country so it's difficult finding unspoiled landscapes here. Photographers in the area often make a beeline for the Dales or Peak District, which is understandable. Whilst I'm the first to admit that judging and comparing very different photographs is quite subjective, I felt it was quite an achievement to get 5 photos in the 2013 Landscape Photographer of The Year book/exhibition. Even more satisfying was winning two 'judges choice' awards, being runner up in Classic View and winning the people's choice award by all visitors to the exhibition. Even more satisfying was winning two 'judges choice' awards, being runner up in Classic View and winning the people's choice award by all visitors to the exhibition. In most photographers lives there are 'epiphanic' moments where things become clear or new directions are formed. What were your two main moments and how did they change your photography? I think the first would be in my mid teens when I began to take an interest in the gritty urban scenes here in northern England. The journey from Calderdale to Manchester for example seemed atmospheric with the stone terraced housing of home, followed by the misty pennine hills before dropping into the red brick of Manchester. Wet weather and grey skies seemed to enhance the atmosphere and whilst everyone around me found these places depressing, I remember thinking 'One day I will get a SLR and take pictures around here.' The second would be in 2010 when I took my first trip to the Isles of Scilly. I was taking snaps the best I could, for my own pleasure. To cut a long story short, I became friends with somone there who was a photographer and had contacts in publishing. The next thing I knew, I was being offered good cash for my pictures. Somewhat surprised, I then began to wonder if I could market photographs I'd taken from other parts of the country to the tourist industry and had great success. I couldn't understand it, so many people take photographs, why would they want mine? The upshot of this was that it gave me confidence to try even harder and improve on my photography. Tell me about why you love landscape photography? A little background on what your first passions were, what you studied and what job you ended up doing. My interest in nature and science somehow ended up with me studying Pharmacy at University and it was around this time I saw my first digital camera. I was instantly fascinated with it, and how it could record scenes without the need for film! I saved up whilst at Uni and eventually purchased a Fuji DX-5, which featured a 0.3 million pixel sensor (and no LCD screen.) Looking back, the images it took were diabolical, but at the time it seemed amazing to me. I started work in retail pharmacy in the late 90s, and got interested in travel once earning some money. I purchased a better digital compact to record scenes from my travels. As technology progressed, so did my obsession with photography, and I began to read books and magazines on how to improve my pictures. I bought my first SLR in 2004, a Canon 300D. After working in pharmacy for 15 years or so I quit my job (long story) and currently work just part time in pharmacy on a self-employed basis. I have more time to devote to photography now. Since I have a love for nature, scenery and travel, recording landscapes with my camera is just the most rewarding thing I can do. Could you tell us a little about the cameras and lenses you typically take on a trip and how they affect your photography. I'm currently using a Canon 5D Mk III. The lenses I have with me depend on whether I'm home or abroad and weight allowance. Typically I would have my Zeiss 21mm, Canon 50mm 1.4, Canon 100mm macro and a Canon 70-200mm f4. I have a Canon 24mm TSE and a 24-105mm zoom as well. I tend to use primes these days for better resolution in the corners at wide to normal focal lengths, but the 70-200mm is for all intents and purposes as good as a prime. I'm more than happy with the images from my kit, although I do wish Canon would hurry up with a D800 equivalent as I could occasionally use more resolution. I don't particularly think one brand is better than another, it's just that you invest heavily in compatible glass don't you? I happened to start with Canon 10 years ago and have stuck with them. What sort of post processing do you undertake on your pictures? Give me an idea of your workflow.. I either use Canon DPP or Adobe Camera RAW to produce a 16-bit TIFF file and work on that as necessary. I used to like DPP but since upgrading to a 5d III I find the images a little 'harsh' in appearance, so now favour ACR. I spend a little while getting the colour temperature correct at the RAW stage. There's no set routine after conversion and I'm not all that adept with Photoshop anyway. I tend to level, crop, remove dust spots, correct colour, perhaps a bit of dodging and burning, or curves and the occasional gradient tool.I try and balance out exposures at the time of shooting with grad filters, but very occasionally blend exposures if necessary to retain the range of tones. I've recently enjoyed using Nik Silver FX pro for dramatic B&W conversions, I like the detail it brings out.I was initially slightly shocked that this photograph got the runner-up prize, but on seeing it printed rather large at the National Theatre I thought ‘crikey it looks really good!’ Do you get many of your pictures printed and, if at all, where/how do you get them printed? I don't print all that many for myself to be honest, my only printer at home is a very old Epson 1290 which I won in a photo contest eons ago. The prints are still fantastic, but I can't sell dye based prints due to the questionable longevity. As a result I use a local printer called Knight Graphics who do a great job on a variety of media, using large format Epsons. A large pigment ink printer will eventually be on my shopping list, but as many prints I have ordered are quite large, Knight Graphics will have my business for a while yet. I'd never seen my photograph of Ben Nevis (which came runner up in LPOTY Classic View) printed at all until I walked into the exhibition in London. I was initially slightly shocked that this photograph got the runner-up prize, but on seeing it printed rather large at the National Theatre I thought 'crikey it looks really good.' Which just goes to show what difference a quality print makes. Tell me about the photographers that inspire you most. What books stimulated your interest in photography and who drove you forward, directly or indirectly, as you developed? No photographer from Halifax could fail to mention Bill Brandt's iconic photographs of the town. The scenes of grim cobbled streets and mill chimneys have fascinated me for some time and inspired me to investigate what's on the doorstep. In a similar context I'm a big fan of Simon Butterworth's variety of work, and I enjoyed his 'Searching for Yorkshire' series, taken from around my part of the world. Changing the mood slightly, my first trip to the Antipodes in 1999 was inspired by Andris Apse's New Zealand Landscapes book. Sadly I didn't have the skills or the equipment to take decent pictures from the country back then, but his photos were, and still are, a source of many hours enjoyment. Today, I admire the work from a huge number of photographers, so it's impossible to list them all. However, for all round technical brilliance, I must mention David Clapp and Guy Edwardes. For dramatic, striking landscapes Mark Littlejohn always comes up with the goods. For intricate studies of nature it's got to be David Ward and (am I allowed to say?) Tim Parkin. For my favourite place (Scotland) it's Ian Cameron and Colin Prior. Tell me what your favourite two or three photographs are and a little bit about them The first would be 'Winter Solstice.' It's taken really close to home, I was lucky to be off work this particular morning in 2009. I like the texture and cool tones in the snow as well as the lines leading to the rising sun. The second would be 'Milltown II.' I do enjoy photographing Hebden Bridge, it's always had a reputation as being a little, erm, 'different' but quite often the weather actually is different up that end of the Calder Valley. Hebden is a typical pennine town of terraced housing climbing up into the hills and mist tends to form here. It's very atmospheric given the right conditions and I'm not surprised the 'Happy Valley' TV series was based around this area. This is a shot from earlier this year which I felt worked best in mono. Third - 'January Dawn.' I love winter minimalistic type shots, so I'll pick this image of sheep from a couple of winters ago. As well as the simplicity I like the balance in composition and that delicate warm tinge of the sky which is separated from the white snow by the wall. If you were told you couldn’t do anything photography related for a week, what would you end up doing (i.e. Do you have a hobby other than photography..) I enjoy walking in great scenery but that would probably drive me mad without a camera. So I'll go for cycling or the gym. If funds allow I'll fly off to some nice holiday location and loaf on a beach listening to music! What sorts of things do you think might challenge you in the future or do you have any photographs or styles that you want to investigate? Where do you see your photography going in terms of subject and style? For the time being I plan to carry on doing what I'm doing- i.e. trying to take striking images in very different situations. I enjoy this variety, taking photographs opportunistically as to what the weather and seasons throw at me. If I am to develop a photographic style or subject I'm not sure what it will be as yet! I shall continue shooting stock images in and amongst too, as I like doing this and it's certainly helping to pay the bills at the moment. My agency 4Corners have been great in this regard, promoting my work to a wider audience. I have a list of locations I'm looking forward to visiting in future, both in the UK and overseas. Who do you think we should feature as our next photographer? How about Justin Minns ? I've been a fan of his work for a couple of years now, Justin has some super photographs from East Anglia and the surrounding area. Thanks for Robert for his time. You can see more of Robert Birkby's work at his website ( or follow him on twitter @RobBirkby. [gallery link="file" ids="20673,20674,20675,20676,20677,20678,20679,20680,20681,20682,20683,20684,20685,20686,20687,20688,20689,20690,20691,20692,20693,20671,20672" size="full-column-width" more