Thursday, 31 January 2019

Misty, cold morning

After dropping the kids at school, headed out to the Country Park to grab some misty shots with the sun trying to break through...

Canon 77d, 300mm, f11

Canon 77d, 200mm f11

Pixel2 shot, taken on the walk back to the car

All this recent Surrey photography has prompted me to setup a new Instagram account featuring Surrey images. Who knows where this could go?

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Lightwater Country Park Sunset

Saw the sky lighting up an hour or so before sunset and managed to get to the Country Park just after sunset. The sun had gone over the horizon but was doing a great job of lighting the clouds.
Got the kids to model for me to add a bit of foreground interest....
Sunset over Lightwater Country Park. 10mm, f16, ISO100 with a 4stop ND grad filter

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Astro Testing the Canon 77D

I wanted to test the ISO capabilities of my Canon 77D with my new cut-down tracker.
I spent a cold hour out on the ranges, having waited a couple of weeks for a clear night...
All images were taken on the 77D, with Sigma 10-20mm lens, set at 10mm, f4.0, manual focus.
Here are the results:

ISO6400, 8sec (100% crop)

This base shot shows the noise clearly at ISO6400

ISO400, 8sec (Underexposed by 4 stops,
then exposure corrected in Lightroom)

At ISO400, underexposed by 4 stops (the same 8sec shutter), we can bring back the exposure in Lightroom. You can clearly see the noise level is similar to the ISO6400 shot, maybe slightly worse

ISO400, 2mins (Untracked)
The decrease to ISO400 and increase in shutter speed to 2mins (4 stops or x8) gives the "correct" exposure for ISO400. There is considerably less noise, but at this long shutter speed, you can clearly see the stars trailing due to the rotation of the Earth

ISO400, 2mins (Tracked)

By taking the same shot again, but on a tracker, we get the benefit of less noise and a "correct" exposure without star trailing

ISO200, 4mins (Tracked, full shot)

The full sky shot at ISO200, 4mins. The sky has little noise. There is some movement in the starts as my tracker wasn't set up exactly pointing to the North star. You can see the movement in the ground/horizon as the camera moves over the 4min exposure.
This means that for a tracked shot, a separate foreground shot will be needed to blend in after.

For anyone interested, I built my barn door tracker based on the plans at this site.
I then cut it down to a smaller (half length) size to make it easier to transport. The only adjustment needed is the screw has to be turned a full rotation every 2 minutes instead of every 1 minute. Seems to work quite well and far cheaper than a "proper" star tracker.

My cut-down (half size) barn door tracker

I also tried to get some tracked pics of the Orion nebula, using my Sigma 300mm lens and the tracker. This is a composite of 20x shots taken at ISO6400, f4.0, 8sec. I used the Sequator app to do the stacking.

Here's a "real" shot from the internet (left) and mine (right). Not quite as good, but at least I've captured it!

Image result for orion nebula    

Monday, 21 January 2019

Chobham Common Sunrise

After missing out on the Super Blue Wolf Moon, I headed out to Chobham Common to see if the sun would find its way through the cloud.
It was only a very short window, but managed to get this shot looking out towards Woking.

Chobham Common Sunrise looking towards Woking
(Disclaimer: Pylons and electricity cables cloned out)
Panorama shot (5x vertical images stitched)

The view from behind the viewfinder (Pixel 2 phone pic)

Super Blood Wolf Moon Fail

Camera kit and thermals all packed and ready to go. Alarm set for 0430 Monday morning. Locations scoped:

  • Chobham Common, with light trails along the M3
  • Chobham Common M3 bridge
  • Chobham Common war memorial
  • Lightwater Country Park bench

Up at 0430 with the alarm. Cloud/mist everywhere. Didn't even leave the house.
Starting to clear now (0800) towards the East, but the weather strikes yet another blow to my UK astophotography dreams...

Here's one from last night before the cloud rolled in...

Super Moon the night before

Friday, 18 January 2019

New Black & White Gallery

I've put up a new Gallery section today for Black & White shots. I don't do too many of these, and most of them are a few years old now, but I still like them.
Go here to see the gallery and there are a few examples below

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
One London

Steps, St. Pauls, London

Friday, 11 January 2019

Why blog?

I've been taking photos for more than 30 years but have never really done anything with the images.
They either sat in a box at the top of the cupboard (80's, 90's) or reside on a hard disk these days, mostly unseen. 
I've set them as backgrounds on my computers, created screensavers and shared the odd slideshow, but I've never really exposed them to their full potential.

This year, I have been printing some pictures to help bring them alive... This one below now adorns a 90x60cm frame in my kitchen.

Deepcut woods, Autumn 2016

Since creating my website in late 2017, I've been wondering how else to get my photos "out there". In this day and age, everything needs a story, a context. Lots of photographers go down the vlogging route, and there are some fantastic vlogs on Youtube. I regularly get advice and inspiration from the following, among others...

But I don't want my face all over people's screens and I don't have time to make regular vlogs. These guys are lucky enough to be able to fund their vlogs via their photo work (and vice versa) but it takes a long time to get that traction.

Before vlogs, there were blogs, so this is mine. It's a way of hopefully personalising some of my images and giving them context. Even if I'm the only one that reads this, I'm sure it'll be nice to go back and read through them one day, when I'm old, or when I've made it as a professional photographer!

Saturday, 5 January 2019

My kit

Kit list

Here's my current kit list, just for reference..

  • Canon EOS77d
  • Sigma 10-20 f3.5 lens
  • Canon 18-55 f3.5 kit lens
  • Sigma 70-300 f4.5 lens
  • Manfrotto 190CLB Tripod, with L-Bracket
  • Various Cokin Filters, inc 10 stop ND, ND Grads, Polarizing

I regularly think about upgrading my kit, but in reality, this setup does me fine.
The only time I really hit the limits of the camera is when doing astrophotography. A Canon 6d (or maybe even a completely new Sony setup) would be nice, but for 90% of what I do, the 77d is great.

I'd also like a faster (wider) lens that would enable me to get better astrophotography results.
The Samyang 14mm f2.8 or the 16mm f2.0 look good. Maybe this Summer?

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

New Years Day- Mupe Rocks

Having secured a great sunrise at Durdle Door (see here), we moved to Lulworth Cove and had a walk over the cliffs to a location I've always wanted to photograph.
The clifftop path is only open at weekends, so getting the combo of access, weather, tide, sun direction...etc is even harder.
I was using this as a bit of research to find out what the walk is like as the path down to the beach and the rocks on the beach are well-known to be treacherously slippery, especially in the dark.

Although the sun was well up now (it was about 11am), the light was still lovely due to it being mid-winter.
This shot was taken looking due East along the coast, with the rocks of Mupe Bay in the foreground.
I used a 10-stop ND filter to slow down the exposure and capture the movement of the waves along with a circular polarizing filter to cut glare and deepen the blues in the sky.
I'm pleased with the results, but there's definitely more to be got from this location, either at sunrise, or as a night-time location.

Mupe Rocks, Canon EOS77D, Sigma 10mm, 5s, f11, ISO100, 10 stop ND filter & polarizing filter

Sometimes you need to get wet to get the shot. Suffering for my art, with my son looking on.....

New Years Day Sunrise

We agreed as a family that we'd forego the usual midnight shenanigans and get an early night instead. The forecast for New Years Day was bright and cold, so we decided to start the New Year with some fresh sea air.

Durdle Door was the destination- a location I know well from childhood holidays, but not as a photographer.
I've always wanted to do a Milky Way shoot at Durdle Door, but the possibility of getting a winter sunrise shot, with the rising sun coming through the door seemed a great idea too until the Milky Way season kicks in.

Alarms set for 4:30am (ouch!) we all got up and headed off on the 1h45 drive.
Arriving at the entrance to the caravan park around 6:15, we parked up on the verge (the Car Park doesn't open until 9am). Not the first here, as we saw one other photographer wandering off towards the sea.
We negotiated our way by torchlight through the caravan park to the clifftop, keeping our kids (9 and 11) close by at all times to prevent losing them over the cliff!

We couldn't see the sea, just the distant lights of Weymouth and the occasional star shining through the cloud (surely a good sign).
I took a couple of high ISO shots, just to get an idea of what was down there...

Pre-dawn crowds at Durdle Door
What do you know... other people.
I had thought about getting down on the beach to get the classic "through the keyhole" photo that can only be got a couple of weeks either side of the Winter Solstice (this sort of thing), but decided that rather than rub shoulders with others to get in the right place, I'd enjoy the space up on the clifftop.

The sunrise didn't disappoint, with the sun coming up exactly where expected (funny that!) after it eventually cleared a small bank of cloud on the horizon.

Durdle Door, pre-dawn. Canon EOS77D, 10mm Sigma, 5s @ f11, ISO100
Durdle Door sunrise, New Years DayCanon EOS77D, 10mm Sigma, 1/6s @ f16, ISO100

All in all, a great way to start the New Year and I feel lucky to have got the weather for a clean sunrise. 
As happy as I am with the results, I just can't shake the feeling that I should have been down on the beach... maybe next year!