Photos Make Memories

Roundhouse

I’ve been away for a while, photographing everything I could on my travels. Photos make memories! Now it’s time to share some of them with you. This is the best use of anyones photos! Memories to shore you up through the less enjoyable times are worth their weight in gold. In July I attended a pagan camp that only happens once a year. It’s the only chance I get to catch up with old friends who, ten years ago were like me involved in building a modern-day stone circle. The owner of the land I also now consider an old friend. He turned his farm over to conservation and has done a wonderful job of making wildlife welcome.

He also makes people welcome. Since the stone circle was built, volunteers have also built a roundhouse on site. It’s a wonderful space, perfect for gathering together on a wet day or cold night. In the photo above, you can see the weather was awful and the fire lit! Laughter and music was in abundance, though, so our gathering didn’t let rain and cold in July spoil our re-union.

The roof structure is a work of art in itself. I couldn’t help myself. The camera came out even when we were sitting listening to music. I looked up and realised these were views I wouldn’t see again for another year…unless… I shot away.

Roundhouse Roof

Inside, we were all cosy. This picture is dark, but I respect people’s privacy, so the photo I’ve used gives you the flavour of the space without compromising that privacy as the people in it aren’t recognisable. Isn’t it cosy, though? Certainly much better than sitting in a wet tent! The site is a farm, not a camp site, so there are composting toilets and fresh water. Other than that, the roundhouse is the best shelter from the elements.

Roundhouse Interior

Outside, the carvings make wonderful shapes in the dusky light, as I noticed when I emerged, camera in hand, just as the light was fading, here’s what I saw.

Roundhouse Gateway

The weather was of course a key feature, as it always is when you’re living outdoors, even for a few days. Storms make for stunning skies, and I had to capture them.

Stormy Sky

We also had gorgeous sunsets. How many times do we have a wonderful sunset and it’s missed because we’re indoors? When you’re living outside, the wonders of our natural world are much more obvious and more easily appreciated. My memories of these fabulous days are now captured forever! These shots may not be the best technical examples of award-winning shots, but they’ll preserve Summer camp 2011 for me and I can revisit whenever I want. Make the most of your camera and preserve your travels, events and good times to see you through the darker days we all have.

Sunset on Camp 2011

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Magic Macro Moments-What’s in a Raindrop?

I’ve been playing again. I’m finding macro both fascintating and frustrating. Here’s what happens. I spot gorgeous raindrops on a plant. Then I rush outside, camera in hand. Set up the tripod, switch off image stabilisation, focus with all my concentration, camera on delay shutter release. The raindrop is in perfect focus. Then…whooosh. One tiny bit of breeze makes the leaf shudder and my shot useless. Try again! And again, and again. Then there’s the light, changing by the second, changing the reflections, the brightness of the shot, the sparkle appearing and disappearing. I think you need almost as much patience to take macro shots as you do to shoot wildlife. But the results are both as rewarding and fascinating as wildlife. A whole world in a raindrop! I’ve had a lot of people asking me about macro, and how to go about it. Here’s what I do.

The biggest problem, you’ll quickly realise with macro, is that you have a long lens, possibly with extension tubes, as I do. The minutest movement will be magnified, cause camera shake and blur the shot.

Use a good tripod making your camera as still and stable as possible.

If you have delayed shutter release on your camera, use it. It locks the mirror up before the shutter is released, thereby reducing any camera shake from the mirror movement.

If not, use a remote or wired cable to press the shutter, as this will also reduce any camera shake.

Spend time getting the focus as you want it. Increasing depth of field will enable more in the shot to be in focus, but increase shutter speed. Only you can decide how much time you can allow the shutter, given your lighting and weather conditions. If it is the slightest bit breezy you’ll need the highest shutter speed you can obtain, therefore the smallest depth of field. Be creative and position your main focus of interest well in the frame, allowing the blur of out of focus items to frame the shot. I sometimes underexposed slightly to allow a faster shutter speed. I can correct this under exposure in Photoshop, as I shoot in RAW.

After shot processing usually means a simple exposure adjustment, a little colour and contrast boosting and cropping to improve the framing if necessary.

Macro can be taken to different levels. In the first two shots I’ve used all my extension tubes on my Nikon D90 with a 70-300mm Tamron lens, but didn’t switch it to macro, just zoomed in as much as I could.

Macro water 1

Macro water 2

The next few are full-on maximum, with my current equipment, macro. All extension tubes, lens on full zoom and maximum macro, focussed as carefully as humanly possible. It’s another world in those raindrops! Oh, of course you can cheat. No rain? Get the watering can out and give that plant a sprinkle. This works really well on alchemilla mollis (ladies mantle), which naturally hold rainrops like jewels, due to the tiny hairs on its surface.

Marco water3

Macro water 4

Macro water 5

Macro water 6

Macro water 7

This last shot is full on macro, but I put the tripod a little further away as I liked the jewel like quality of the smaller water droplets.

Have fun with macro and investigate another world!

Playing With Light

 

zoom burst

 

 

I’ve been pondering all day what to blog about while sorting through all those files. Then it came to me. The primary necessity for photography or art is light. So that’s what I’m looking at here. I love light. In fact I’m prone to SAD in winter, I need it so much. In photography, the light, as we all know, can make or break a shot.

I also love fire. Fire IS light. So I played have played with it quite a lot. Candles, fires, fireworks. They all attract and delight us but aren’t easy to shoot well. And there’s always the question of what mood do you want the finished shot to have? This can affect the angle of the light and the shot and aperture settings as well as choice of subject matter. In the first photo, Zoom Burst, I simply Focussed on my light ball with the camera on quite a long exposure and zoomed out with the lens as the exposure was running. If you have a point and shoot, I’m afraid you won’t be able to do this one. But for those with DSLRs, this is fun to try.

In this next one, I was simply working towards very ambient, quiet images for an agency who sell photos for book covers. They wanted soft, darkish pictures that could be used for fiction.I liked the shadows cast by the candle and the softness of the overall image. I played around with the colour settings in Photoshop as rendering natural colours was not the focus here.

 

Candle Sconce

The next shot is totally different. Here we see a friend wielding a length of Kevlar rope, soaked in paraffin and lit. He then whirrs it around to give a brilliant light show. I set my camera up, resting it on the back of a chair and took long exposures. In Photoshop, I used curves to accentuate the light and lose the surrounding grass etc so that you get the vividness of the light show without the distracting background.

 

Light Show

And below, you see an extract of the flames because I zoomed in as much as I could. I stayed well back physically, of course. My friends playing with fire should be treated with caution. 🙂 Once back at Photoshop I simply boosted the contrast a little so you can see the patterns. This has been used as a background shot.

 

Zooming In

 

There are many, many more ways of playing with light, of course. There are no sunrises and sets here (except my parting shot). No clever sparkles or smoke glares. But there are a few ideas to get your juices flowing and, as it is Saturday night, I’m off through the gate into the sunset.

 

See You Soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macro Play For a Cold, Wet Day

experiment in macro 1

Well, I started thinking about those of you who can’t get out because of the snowdrifts, or don’t wish to go and freeze for the sake of a picture. I bought some pot pourri in a charity sale a few weeks ago that I’ve been displaying on my coffee table (smells gorgeous). And I’ve failed to get out today because the snow was too heavy and the sky too dark to get effective shots. Frustrating or what? So, I got my camera out, mounted it on my trusty tripod and put on my Tamron 300mm macro lens and started playing. I have a couple of small lamps fitted with daylight bulbs. I used one of them for these shots. I’m hoping my experiments will be useful to you, especially if you’re new to macro, your camera or just experimenting. I’m no technical genius. But I do know about looking, playing and learning from experimentation. So here goes. I’ve been wondering what these shapes would look like close up for a while and here was my chance to find out. It took several attempts to get the colour, depth of field and texture I wanted, but this shot (above) I’m really pleased with. Remember that your photos should please YOU. What you learn about your camera will be really useful when you take it out and want to get a good shot of, say, a mushroom close up, or a flower. It’s great practice.

For the techies, My camera was set at aperture f5.7, focal length 300mm, spot metering, no flash. I had the camera set to manual. Auto leaves no room for creativity, so ditch it and play! Otherwise you can’t control the results as the camera makes all your decisions for you.

I quickly moved on to more of the objects in my bowl. This next series of shots shows what happens if you play with your white balance settings. I’m looking for abstract images here, not accurate, real life rendering of the objects. In this next shot, the metering is set to pattern, flash auto, white balance auto, exposure auto. A dull, predictable result. It’s worth mentioning I’m looking for abstract, not perfect focus.

macro experiment 2

Now one with white balance set to cloudy weather. Note the huge difference in colour. If you were taking a life-like shot this would be unacceptable, but when you’re getting arty, what works is what works. I’m not sure this does, but it shows you what can be done.

macro experiment 3

And this next one, the white balance is set to tungsten.

macro experiment 4

In this last shot of the pine cone, I changed my approach completely and decided on a different angle, different focussing and different light balance. I’ve used the natural daylight setting, which is closest to the lighting I was using, so  rendering a more natural colour (the cone is dyed black and sprinkled with glitter). I was looking for the texture and pattern of the cone and more sharpness to define the edges. I think this one suceeds in my aims.

macro experiment 5

Satisfied,  I moved on to the next object.

macro experiment 6

I really liked the colours of this object as they were, so again the white balance is set to daylight. I’m not sure if the focus is as I’d like it, though, and may well have another go at this later. But the result is fairly pleasing, and I do like the diagonal flow of the pattern. It’s all about playing with what you’ve got. There are a lot more photos of these things, but I don’t want to bore you. So for this final shot I pulled back a bit and took a group shot of some of the contents of my bowl. Again, I’ll probably play some more before I decide I have my perfect shot. But I quite like this one.

macro experiment 7

Once I’d done all these, I got bored with the subject (that happens quite frequently to me) so I moved on to a skull my partner bought for me some time ago. It was from a company that finds road kill and natural death animals and cleans the skulls (so don’t worry, no cruelty involved). But that’s for my next blog and more about expermentation.

What have you got in your home you could get creative with? I’d love to know.

Ghoulish Fun

 

ghoulish moments

 

 

Last month I travelled up to Yorkshire to join friends for a Halloween party. We’re a bunch of pagans who see this time as special, Samhain. The veil between our world and the next is thinnest, the winter truly begun. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We spent time just being together, chatting, laughing, remembering those of us who have already gone to the other side. My friends have a great sense of humour.their garden became a magnet for me because of course, I’d taken my camera. Someone brought fireworks, and my hosts had ‘decorated the garden. So today some ghoulish shots that we had to have some fun with. Here they are to share with you. As the ‘models’ were plastic, I’ve found the slightly blurred shots more convincing than the completely in focus ones.

 

It's cold outside!

Can I have a toffee apple?

The fireworks were quite funny, as some were from last year. We stood waiting for huge explosions and sometimes only got a fizzle. All the funnier after a few party beverages, of course. The party animals thought this next idea was hilarious. As I was taking long exposures I couldn’t see the results until I reviewed them. It’s time we all smiled more!

 

I wonder what they were trying to paint with light?

One firework that worked

 

 

 

 

 

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