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Hipsta-Magic
12th July 2011
After reading an article in this months Black &White photography magazine I decided to take a look at the Hipstamatic app for my iPhone – What an absolute blast!

The basic premise of this photo app is that by choosing from a variety of ‘lenses’ and ‘films’ you create photos that have a unique and quirky feel in a traditional square format. There is no post processing (its all done as soon as the shot is taken) and as you have no control over exposure and focus you have the freedom to just “point and shoot” and be creative.

Even the most mundane items become interesting; I'm pretty pleased my first attempts which were all taken around the Lab at work.



Blaenavon 1940’s
10th July 2011
The heritage railway at Blaenavon held a 1940s event this weekend. A lot of effort had been put in setting up period displays and numerous characters helped to create an authentic feeling of war time Britain. I had hoped to take some candid portraits using the situation to add a situational context, which is something I don’t generally do. Unfortunately I don’t think I managed to pull it off and more practice is definitely needed. Still it was an interesting day and I met with some lovely people who were amazing at keeping in character – even if I was accused of being a spy!

New Book
30th June 2011
I have just created a portfolio book to use as a promotional tool, see below for the book. I do like creating books to showcase my pictures!

Web site re-design
27th June 2011
I have had this website for nearly a year now and I have felt for a while now that it needed a bit of a revamp to make it easier to navigate, but also to really show the type of work I'm excited about at the moment.

When I started, I had an idea about what I wanted to do, but I really didn't expect it to be quite as much work as it turned out to be - I love taking the shots but talking about them is a lot more effort. I hope you find the descriptions interesting, I know I found out quite a few things in doing the research - hence the time it took to write them. There's still a bit to do but Ill get there soon hopefully!

Worms Head
22nd June 2011
Another mid week trip out with inn-focus was a visit to Worms Head at Rossilli. It was a bit of a trek from Bristol and although in general the light wasn't great, there were a couple of moments of stunning drama that made it worthwhile.




Ruperra Castle
08th June 2011
Having joined a really cool new photographic group, InnFocus, one of the first club nights I got involved in was a photo shoot to Ruperra castle near Newport.

The castle itself was originally built in 1626 as a typical Jacobean courtiers residence. In 1875 when captain Godfrey Morgan became Lord Tredegar he lived at the castle and made it a great Victorian country estate and deer park. Unfortunately the Tredegar fortunes declined in the early 1930s and after a fire destroyed the castle in 1941 when army troops were stationed there, it was left and not repaired; the estate being sold off as a farm. Today the castle is an overgrown ruin on the boundary of the Coed Craig Ruperra woodland conservation area.

It was fantastic to get outside, mid week rather than just vegging out in front of the TV. Especially as I was out exploring an area I hadn't been aware of until now and making some new friends - isn't photography great?


Tripod Quandaries
30th May 2011
One of several unintended consequences of upgrading to the 1DS was that my Manfrotto joystick tripod head struggled to hold the camera steady, especially in long exposures in portrait mode. However anyone who knows me, will be aware of the fact that I am hopelessly inept when it comes to manual dexterity and so any replacement had to be equally simple to operate. After quite an intensive search for a head that was both simple enough that even I could operate and strong enough to hold the considerable weight of my kit, I finally settled on a Novoflex magic ball (http://www.novoflex.com/en/products/camera-support-systems/ball-heads/magicball/) , which is a beautifully engineered and smooth ball head – and looks pretty cool too!

However it doesn’t have a quick release plate and I just couldn’t attach the camera to it securely enough, so I still wasn’t any further forward. Roll on some more research into various quick release mechanisms (I just love the Speed Graphic catalogue!) and then I discovered elbow brackets! For some reason, I have never come across these before, but they allow the camera to be rotated from landscape to portrait orientation, without moving the tripod head itself. The major advantage of this being that even when the camera is on its side, all the weight remains directly over the tripods centre of gravity and is thus much more stable. Additionally as the view point doesn’t change dramatically between the two orientations, adjusting the composition is much easier.

I finally plumped on the American made Kirk Enterprises system (www.kirkphoto.com/L-Brackets.html ), which has a custom fit for the camera body which prevents any camera twisting when its attached to the arca-swiss type clamp platform and allows access to all of the communications ports on the camera’s side. OK, it does add a little more weight to the camera over a standard quick release plate, but it is a real joy to use. It is very slick to attach to the tripod, in either orientation and feels incredibly secure once it’s locked on. I have only used it a couple of times in anger so far, but already it feels so natural to use, I cant imagine going back to flipping the tripod head to get a portrait shot. I guess it’s the same as using a battery grip for handheld vertical shooting - once you have tried it, waving your arm in the air to use the normal shutter button just feels wrong!

However all of this has not been cheap; in-fact quite the reverse and although I have been in the really fortunate position to be able to do this upgrade I have to question whether it is actually justified. My word of warning is make sure you understand just what a new camera will actually cost you before you splash out. The new camera has resulted in a new hi-spec (Mac) computer (my old laptop just couldn’t cope with the additional file size), a new tripod support system, new CF cards etc.etc. and are the images any better? Possibly technically yes (the quality of the judo shots at high ISO is way better than I could have got with the 5D) but I still see the photos in the same way. But am I enjoying all my new toys – oh yes!!
Scotland trip
14th May 2011
We have just returned from a few days away in Scotland. After visiting Mikes Mum in Fife and stopping for day in Glasgow, we decided to take a short tour of Argyll; an area neither of us has visited before. We started our whistle stop tour at Loch Lomond where we stayed in a lovely guesthouse right on the Loch, (www.culag.info) with a unique attraction of being the terminus for a seaplane service. It was such a picturesque setting I spent virtually the whole time we were there with a camera in my hand; not only taking the view, but also attempting to capture the swallows that were nesting under our bedroom window.



Our next stop was to stay in another loch side guest-house (www.dallachulish.co.uk) at Barcaldine on the banks of Loch Creran, just north of Oban. The view over Oban to the western isles from McCaig's Tower was simply stunning, although photographically challenging – bloomin’ sun. We sampled the best of Scottish seafood, with a fabulous dinner of oysters (cooked I hasten to add – my only experience of raw oysters in Belgium wasn’t one I care to repeat!), a whole Lobster (to confirm Mike’s statement that the fish always have one claw larger than the other as they are either left or right “handed” – its true!) and the best handmade chocolates I have had for a long time – it just couldn’t get better. Until the sunset that is!



The next day we traveled on to Skye, which is just so beautiful and the scenery so varied that it would keep a landscape photographer happy for weeks – but we only had a day to explore. We did our best but we just have to go back for a longer stay soon!




The weather on our last day took a turn for the worse and so we headed back to the mainland on the ferry from Ardvasar to Mallaig, which was a bit of an adventure. The crossing was a little rough and we spent the whole trip listening to the wail of a car alarm going off – it was only when we got back to our hire car that we realised it was us! Our final stop was in a B&B overlooking Loch Sunart at Strontian (which gave its name to the element strontium, which was first discovered in the nearby lead mines in 1790) on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. This area is so remote there is only one petrol pump on the whole peninsular and this is at a post office that closes at 5pm! However it was lovely to share the house with a day old lamb that was recovering from pneumonia (it survived its first night and we can only hope that it continued to thrive), 2 huge wolfhounds, 2 highland terriers and a visiting pine martin!



Back to reality the next day and the flight from Edinburgh was as stressful as usual – even though I had de-watched, jewelled and sorted out the camera bag before security, I forgot to remove my Mobile from its usual pocket - Ergh!!! Of course I set the alarm off. To make things worse, the skirt I was wearing kept setting the hand search wand off so I was asked to go to the “private area” for a personal search. Although I wasn’t overly worried about doing this, the warnings and signatures I had to give to say I was aware of my rights were a tad unsettling. Then just when I got through this, my camera bag was deemed “too dense” so it was hand searched and swabbed – I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask what technique they were using to test the swab at this point. Then just to top the whole journey off, Mike realised that the random car park ticket he had found and thrown away in Kirkcaldy was in fact the Cardiff airport parking ticket – things weren’t going well. Next time Ill drive or take the train!!
Infra-Red exploration
20th April 2011
A few weeks ago, a TV drama set in an abandoned holiday village in South Wales reminded me of stories my Dad had told me about a family involvement with the running of the camp in the 1960s. My interest was piqued and after a little research we set out to find the place armed with my IR converted 5D.

I felt that the atmosphere of the deserted buildings was captured brilliantly using infra-red, especially as the day was a fabulously vibrant spring day and the new growth absorbed the light dramatically. Although the place has been abandoned for years it appears that the land has recently been sold to developers and planning consent notices posted in March suggest the area might be redeveloped very soon. I hope to return soon – who knows perhaps another project is emerging? Anyway for now a small selection of the images I took:











Getting to know you
20th March 2011
I have to admit to being somewhat tardy in updating my website recently. However this lack of uploading isn’t due to a lack of photography – I have actually been quite busy getting to grips with my new camera.

I have been really surprised at just how different the 1DS is to use, and I’m not talking about the image quality here (which is just stunning), but just the practical operation and handling. All my previous camera upgrades have felt quite natural and it didn’t take me any time at all to find my way around all the customisation settings. But this time it is taking me longer than I expected to feel totally confident in using it. I suppose there are many reasons for this – it is a much more complex beast than anything I have ever used before and it really does do exactly what you tell it to do – even if what you are asking it to do is total rubbish! Everything is really easy to adjust, but the decision making is entirely down to you – and the level of control (which is the reason I wanted this camera in the first place) is just immense - I guess it will just take time to get to be as familiar with it as I was with the 5D.

Still I am loving using it – the dynamic range is much greater than the 5D and the 7 shot bracketing makes controlling high contrast scenes a snip – even if it does eat compact flash space at an alarming rate!

One of the first shoots was on a very frosty morning at Ferryside, the light was stunning, even if the sky was a bit bland:


The G12 on the other hand is just great for those quick grab shots - like this one of the end of the Aberavon breakwater - this was the first and only time I have ever seen the tide so low that you could walk around it - which I did - with the G12!

2011 Challenge
27th February 2011
My new year resolution for 2011 is to complete the "52 challenge" run on the web forum Talk Photography (www.talkphotography.co.uk).

The basic idea being that a topic is posted on the forum every week and you are challenged to create an image to interpret the theme. To do this properly I should post the results for critique on the forum, but I am too web shy to do this bit. I know I would get much more out of it if I contributed properly, but I am conscious that I would then feel obliged to comment on others work and I would either become obsessed with it or start to resent the time and stop doing it - so I am just doing it as a personal project.

I am collating my results in a document format, describing my thought process and inspirations (or not as the case may be!) and I shall upload the document periodically through the year.

So far we are at week 8 -my results so far can be seen in the pdf file below:

2011 52 Challenge Copy
Shiny new things
26th February 2011
Things have been a bit quiet with me photographically for the last month or so, as I started a new job, which has limited my photographic time. However this change in circumstances allowed new opportunities on the equipment front and I treated myself to not just one, but two new cameras - I know it's a bit greedy of me as I can only use one at any given time, but hey I managed to justify it to myself, and more importantly to Mike, so it can't be too bad :-)

The first is a Canon G12 compact, which I have been considering for a few months, since I dropped my small Ixus compact in London and broke it. Although I didn't use it often I always had it with me and it served me well on a number of occasions (including taking images of a hill fire which were published on the front page and inside spread of the South Wales Post newspaper) and I felt quite vulnerable without it. Although not as small as the Ixus, the G12 is much more rugged, controllable and the image quality is great, I can use it in situations that I wouldn't (or haven't) taken the SLR. I have used it on a few occasions now and have been really impressed with the results - a few examples are shown below.



My second new camera is a rather different proposition. When Canon upgraded my trusted 5D to the MKii I made the decision that other than the resolution uplift, the camera didn't offer enough to tempt me to trade up. For the past couple of years I have been happy with that decision, I was happy with the quality of the output I was generating and have instead concentrated on upgrading the lenses I use to L series glass. However recently I have found myself wanting a little more from the camera, like a fully weather sealed body to protect it in the dreadful conditions I seem to find myself shooting in these days, more selectable focus points to help compose when using a tripod, faster continuous shooting and of course more resolution (with better noise control at high ISOs). I considered the 1D mk iv briefly, but came to the conclusion that a full frame sensor is just too important to me (for wide angle shooting and depth of field control) to compromise on. So I had decided to hold off for a while until the 1DS mk iv was released which I reckoned must be pretty imminent. But then I started to hear from a variety of reliable sources that Canon's plans for the flagship camera might not match my requirements (see canon rumours.com). So after quite a bit of soul searching and internal debate (about specification v requirements, age of technology v cost, availability v pose factor etc) - I decided to bit the bullet and I'm now the very proud owner of a shiny 1DS mk iii. After extensive reading of the manual and considerable customisation of the camera functions, I gave it a workout at the botanic gardens - I am just blown away by the detail it can resolve. I guess I need to get out there and start using it in anger now!

Misty hills of Afan Argoed
21st January 2011
An early morning trip to the local refuse tip resulted in a drive down a little used road near the Afan Argoed forest park. The mist was lingering in the valley and as I looked for a good place to stop to take a photograph I found a new coffee shop/ restaurant. What a result: not only did I get a couple of pleasing shots, but I had a lovely hot chocolate as well!



Frosty morning in Port Talbot.
19th January 2011
After the really harsh weather we had in December, so far January hasn't been too cold. However this morning, the frost had settled thickly and the sunrise was just lovely as it sparkled on the ice crystals. I spent much longer shooting images of this old bridge over the Avon river than I had planned and consequently missed my aqua fit class! Ironically the bridge is called Newbridge" but it's so dilapidated that it has been closed to vehicles and is now a footbridge to the docks only.



2010 yearbook published
01st January 2011
As has become my traditional way of spending New Years eve, I created a Blurb photobook of my favorite images from 2010. I love making these books and think its a great way of making a permanent record of what I did over a year - it really brings back the memories in a way nothing else does. I also find that it is interesting to see how my style and vision has changed over the years.

Anyway, if you are interested, you can have a look at the book below;



As always, I would love to know what you think, so if you have any comments please drop me a line in the comments section,
Happy New Year
Susanne
Portraits, Moi?
12th December 2010
I have just been on an enlightening course led by Len Bateman in Pembrokeshire on careers in photography. The first day concentrated on defining the main areas of commercial photography, marketing techniques and business approaches. Len ran a successful business with 3 studios in South Wales until his retirement a few years ago and his insights into the commercial world were incredibly informative. Then we concentrated on portrait photography set-ups, from lighting to studio organisation and shoot organisation. For someone who has resolutely refused to do any people photography in the past this was terrifying – the idea of shooting models was just not on my agenda – ever. However I have to admit that after some excellent instruction and trial and error, I actually got to enjoy it and I think I managed to get some decent shots. Both Len and the models were extremely encouraging and said that I had directed the shoot enthusiastically and had really got some great images. As with most things, it seems that preparation is key and as long as the lighting is set-up well, the shoot should concentrate on getting the images the customer wants. We even went through setting up wedding shoots – now that might be a step too far, but I’m not ruling out doing portraits anymore. Anyone know of any studios going spare in South Wales?

Some of the images I took:



RPS Fellowship panel showing
02nd December 2010
Michael & I braved the dreadful weather to view a number of the successful fellowship panels from the November 2010 FRPS adjudications. Although the roads were generally OK until we got to England, by the time we got to Bath the snow was falling heavily, the roads were starting to whiten and I started to wonder whether we would get stranded. We carried on regardless as the tickets for the viewing were highly sought after and had a fabulous time studying the wonderful work. John Chamberlain hosted the day and provided a brief overview of the Fellowship process, stressing the reasons why the judging is performed in-camera and the role of the advisory panel.

He then introduced ten panels covering a wide range of photography:
An abstract study into the sensory experience surrounding red wine, a botanic study of the apples in a monastery orchard, a gritty monochrome study of the decay of the Fife coastal defenses (by Donald Stewart), a professional study of the 2010 Wimbledon tennis tournament featuring the winners and key players as well as more unusual details from the courts (by Duncan Grove), a set of dramatic landscapes of Snowdonia by Andrew Kime), a panel of softly textured impressions of the British coastline by John Buttress,
a beautifully detailed and toned study of abandoned crofters cottages of Southern Ireland by Gabriel O'Shaughnessy. A creative art panel of hand toned sand patterns which themselves looked like detailed landscapes (by Peter Peterson) and an expanded study of the life and environment of Indian Tigers by H. Kumar.
The final panel shown was a study of churches in the south east of England, which was introduced and explained by the photographer himself (Mike Trendell), who was presented with his certificate at the event.

A huge and impressively presented portfolio by the American Landscape photographer Peter Lik was also displayed as an example of a successful application in the book format.
The day clearly showed the excellent standard required as well as the personal vision needed to obtain a Fellowship – now if only I could find a subject…

Some of the images shown:

Andrew Kime's panel Peter Peterson FRPS Duncan Grove FRPS Gabriel O'Shaughnessy FRPS John Buttress FRPS
Tilt & Shift fun
01st December 2010
After months of research, debate and careful consideration, I finally bought a 17mm Tilt and Shift lens. Given its price and specialist nature it is certainly not a spur of the moment purchase, but after using it a few times I have to say it is quite amazing.

As a straight forward 17mm lens, the field of view on a full frame camera is great, but when you start changing the perspective, things just get silly - this lens makes me giggle! It is going to take me quite a while to fully understand how to use it properly, as you can control everything from the focal plain to the degree of rotation and perspective, but I am going to have fun getting there.

I have already found that its absolutely critical to get the camera level before you start adjusting the lens, so I have resorted to a 3 way hot shoe mounted spirit level and a grid etched view screen to correct my natural tendency to be squint!

I have attached a few of my first attempts:

Tay Rail Bridge, Dundee


Broughty Ferry Castle


Tay Bridge


Scotland Street School, Glasgow
RPS Freelanceing course
18th November 2010
I attended a most interesting and informative RPS training course in Bath on becoming a freelance photographer. The speakers talked about a variety of aspects of commercial photography, including marketing, copyright and licensing and stock photography sales.

Lisa Howe of skillset.org stressed the importance of having a clear idea of what sector you want to work in and gaining an in-depth understanding of that market, its customers, potential clients and their requirements. Developing a rehearsed personal profile, which briefly summarises your skills, and which can be used to introduce yourself to anyone in any circumstance, was felt to be invaluable for networking.
Gwen Thomas of the Association of Photographers (the-AOP.org) gave an insight into the complexity of contracts, copyright and licensing law and clearly explained the pitfalls of assigning copyright as apposed to licensing images. We were also introduced to the work of the design and artists copyright society (DACS) and the potential benefits of registration.
Finally, Howard of the Imagefile gave some insight into business sales, stressing the importance of developing Vision, Mission and Values statements for your brand, understanding its strengths as well as weaknesses and producing a strategic business plan and objectives incorporating clear and measurable KPIs.
Overall a very useful day which provided a new perspective on the commercial world of photography.
Wet and wild Scotland
16th November 2010
Just before the snow descended on Scotland, at the start of November, Mike & I took a holiday in Fife. The weather was dramatic and although we spent a lot of time dodging rain and hail storms we were rewarded with some stunning light and rainbows.

The fife Coast was wild at times and it was a constant battle to keep lenses dry and free from sea spray and salt.

St. Monans harbour.............................. Hay field outside Pittenweem............................. Elie Point


A trip to Loch Tay in Perthshire with friends Steve & Jackie (and Henry & Betsy) was a treat - and presented a few shots: