Nikon D750

The Norfolk Coast (the unusual case of Britons wanting less sunshine...)

Ah, bank holidays.  Bank holidays are those wonderful British creations that are basically a permission slip from the government that excuse us from work (we won't mention the countless people that actually do have to go to work...sorry...).  The first bank holiday of May prompted a trip 90 minutes up the road to the Norfolk coast in the hope of creating some lovely landscape images.  We were at a slight disadvantage in that we would be on the coast at the worst time light-wise for photography but, hey, it made it more of a challenge.

First stop - Caister-on-sea

Pebbles-1620

Light was very harsh on the beach (unsurprising, but still annoying), so I first started looking for details instead of wider vistas.  The tide was rushing out (or in, we couldn't tell as every time we thought we had decided our feet were drowned) and using a Lee Little Stopper I played around with some extended shutters.  There were some nice colours, with the frothy white sea and the (very clean) sand dotted by dark pebbles.

Groynes-1628

The only real option when shooting the horizon was a black and white conversion.  The colour raw looked OK, but pretty contrasty and full of shadows, washed out colours and  caused weird artifacts when processing to try and correct.  I'm not a massive fan of the image above, but I thought it was useful to show, not least for the fact that it reminds me to try and make something, even if the light is not ideal.  I do like the strong contrast and the movement of the sea, which was enough for me to include it here.  I used a Lee Little stopper and tripod to introduce motion (the Big Stopper was too much as you lost the pebbles on the left completely.  For some people that would have been preferred, but that's what makes photography great - do what you like!).

Ocean fisherman-

There were a surprising number of sea fisherpeople (there was a woman too - surely you cannot call her a fisherman?) on the beach.  I think this person was actually in the process of fishing, but it was almost impossible to spot the line stretching into the water.  He had some friends to the right who were setting up, but I really liked how alone he looked, but also how happy he was to just sit and wait for a bite.  This conversion was actually done with the Nik Silver Efex software (which is now free - see Nik Collection) and it added some grain, a slight vignette (which I actually toned down) and a nice colour cast.

Second stop - NT Horsey Wind pump

The wind pump at Horsey is currently being renovated and so there's the little brick stump building, and not much else.  At least that's what I thought.

Flooded by a sea of wheat-1646

You can walk either side of the waterway, and down the right side there is a trail that leads round a field full of wheat.  I really like this image (possibly my favourite from the day) as it appears as if the little boating hut has been flooded by the wheat.  The colours were also great due to the sun being softened slightly by some wispy clouds.  Again, the trusty Lee Little stopper was great for introducing the motion, which I really wanted here to add to the flooding concept.

There was also a very small boarded walkway through the field to that hut, but it was behind an old barbed wire fence along with the sign.  It seemed a shame that people cannot go and explore, but I can see why - the water snakes its way round and through the land here and you don't want to take a summer dip... I couldn't decide which image I liked more.  Maybe it is the landscape version (right) as it looks a little brighter, but maybe the vertical composition of the left one suits the foreboding sign and, you know, leading lines and all.

Norfolk spring-1658

Time was getting on, so just before we headed for home, we explored the other side of the walkway.  This side ends in a lovely seating area complete with benches and a little grassy jetty-like square.  I set up my tripod there (to avoid including lurking dog owners in the image) and again got to work with, you guessed it, my favourite accessory the Lee Little stopper.  I try not to overuse it, but not only do I enjoy shooting the motion it creates and I love the colours it produces.

So, that was our brief day on the coast.  It was a struggle at times to find images, but it was still great practice to get out and use my gear.  And it was fun, which is the point, isn't it?

Wandering in Wicken Fen

Finding time to go out shooting is usually my problem.  With limited free time, sometimes that motivation to go out with the camera is missing.  But every time you do, you remember why, and this trip to Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire was one of those times to remind you not only how enjoyable making images can be, but also that we are so lucky in Britain to be surrounded by such varied landscapes. Wicken Fen is a National Trust property between Ely and Cambridge.  There's a good variety of things to shoot, with an old wind pump, wheat fields, waterways and Konik ponies.

Windmill-1506Wheat-1541Fenland skies-1555

The boardwalk around the marshy fens takes you around the old windpump.  A light breeze added a nice bit of motion to the wheat in the foreground of the shots I was taking of the pump.  Not being a full-time pro, it is a lot more difficult to get the (cliche?) sunset/sunrise shots, but luckily the April weather was being kind, providing some lovely clouds and rain storms on the horizon.  It was actually a blessing in disguise, as recently I've been trying to move away from the traditional thinking of landscape photography - the more you look on sites like 500px, the more the landscape shots begin to look the same!

Tree-1530Wind-1563

Looking to the skies also gave me some different looks.  The D750's much derided flippy screen is so useful when trying to get alternative perspectives...and without looking like a prat bending over in less than flattering positions!  Shooting at f/8 with the highly recommended Nikkor 16-35mm f/4, the images I was getting were brilliantly sharp with lovely contrast.

Solitary konik-1595Konik portrait-1607

The absolute highlight of our visit to Wicken Fen was seeing the wild herd of Konik ponies.  These were absolutely beautiful animals who seemed completely at ease in their environment.  In the case of the stallions in the herd, perhaps too comfortable...The horses were curious to the point of following you along the fence, which made them great subjects for some portraits.  Of course, coming here on a landscape shoot meant I did not have anything longer than 35mm, but they got so close that ended up being the perfect focal length.

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Wide angle lenses can actually be great for unusual portraits of animals.  The image above is not right - the focus is on the middle of the snout and not the eye, and there's a hand on the right.  But, actually, there's still something charming about that horse.  If only the focus point had been in the right place...

A day among the (virtual) clouds

A few weeks ago now, we spent some time with Virtual Aviation at Cambridge airport.  They have a couple of Boeing 737-800 simulators that trainee pilots (and occasionally, newbies like us) use to practice flying - they are genuine simulators, set up to give you the same feel that the real aircraft would.  Very cool! Obviously, photographing in this environment would be very challenging, due to the low light and bright screens simulating the view out of the window.  But, I do enjoy a challenge, and luckily the low light performance of the Nikon D750 is just fantastic.  I dialed in an ISO of 3200 - easily manageable by the D750, producing very usable images - and started shooting.  Luckily, with it being a controlled environment, once you have the settings in manual, you can just shoot away as they are unlikely to change.  This makes it much easier to focus on composition and trying to get some more unusual looks.  My time was limited, as I was quickly roped into being a co-pilot for my husband!  However, I did get some nice documentary images of his first take-off, flight and landing at Heathrow.  So, as a slight change I decided to present these images as a photo story.  I hope you enjoy.

(A big thanks to Virtual Aviation for their hospitality and great tuition during our afternoon)

learning the ropes-1487Accelerate-1488Pete-1491Taking the controls-1489Easy, right--1494LHR landing-1501

The Lizard, Cornwall

Day 2 - The Lizard Peninsula.  We woke up to a clear blue sky and warm sunshine.  Great for the holiday, but it does make landscape shooting more difficult.  Battling high contrast and washed out colours makes this a less than ideal day for making images, but as is the case with most amateurs, you have to shoot when you have the chance, often at times of day landscape photographers try to avoid.  This was probably one of the days on this trip where I wish I had a decent polariser in the bag... The Lizard Peninsula is the most southerly point in the United Kingdom, and it consists mainly of a relatively rare rock called serpentine.  Because of the nature of this rock (it is actually metamorphic, and was pushed out of the mantle during tectonic plate movement), there are many dramatic outcrops and bits of rock jutting out of the sea.

Lizard Point

It was such a bright day that even with a Lee Big Stopper the shutter speed was still a relatively fast 5 seconds (I used the filter more to blur out any people walking round by the lighthouse, and to get rid of the seagulls drawn to this area).  The exposure was balanced with the ND grad, producing an image with relatively nice colours.  This area is a geologist's dream, with the fascinating rock colours and shapes on the cliff, but the steepness of the cliff did claim a single victim of an inflatable ball while we were here...

Steps out to sea C-0877 Steps out to sea BW-0877

You can take the coastal path past the old lifeboat station which will take you west and then north towards Kynance Cove.  Along the way there were plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the view.  As the sun was more or less in front of us the whole way along the path, it made for some more challenging conditions.  The contrast was so high between the sun reflecting off the sea and the dark rocks poking out of it, the dynamic range of my Nikon D750 really had to help me out!  During editing, I couldn't decide if I preferred the black and white conversion or the colour (if you have an opinion, I would love to hear it in a brief comment below!).

The road in the sea

With a longer exposure, this location gave some interesting wave breaks which almost took on the look of the lines on a road.  The rocks also helped create a leading line from bottom left to top right, making it more of a classically pleasing photograph.  Which is one thing that slightly annoys me about some landscape shots being produced at the moment.  If you flick through 500px or Flickr, many of the landscape images will look very similar - sunset or sunrise, magenta tint, some path or road going through etc etc.  And on the whole they look great, but similar.  Because of this I find myself on trips trying to do the same thing!  As I learn more about shooting landscapes, I hope will get better at seeing more unusual angles and viewpoints to make my images a bit more standout.

Big skies - using the new pano stitching feature in Lightroom

Southern Cornwall has some lovely horseshoe coves along the coast, and some big skies that sit above them.  With such a clear sky, the colour was being reflected wonderfully in the sea of the cove.  This view was a perfect opportunity to try out the panorama stitching mode recently introduced in Lightroom CC.  As this method produces a "RAW" panorama, it still leaves you with plenty of data in the file to produce a good edited image.  It's a great feature!

Coastal wander

Overall we spent around three hours exploring this little part of Cornwall, and I came away with a load of images which I'm relatively pleased with.  I'll be honest, I would have been happier if the weather had been worse, or if the sun was a bit lower in the sky, but as I said at the beginning of this post when this is not your job you sometimes have to shoot when you have the chance. And actually, facing these challenging conditions is surely better practice, right?

Mousehole, Cornwall

August in Cornwall - normally ice creams, packed beaches, sunny skies and cream teas come to mind.  Maybe not such a great location in the height of summer for a landscape photography trip/summer holiday....or so I thought.  Over the ten days we were in this beautiful county, the weather (and lack of crowds) made for some great shooting, and I came away feeling pretty satisfied at the images I managed to create.  Over the next few posts I will be showing some of those images (including ones that in hindsight didn't work so well), and talking a little about how I went about shooting.  I hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for more... Day 1, Mousehole.  Mousehole is a tiny village in the south west of Cornwall, more or less as far south and west as you can get in Britain (Land's End is only 20 odd miles away - more from this location soon...).  Its lack of sandy beaches and its exposed position on the east side of a peninsula actually makes it pretty perfect for some landscape shooting.  And luckily, the weather was a bit naff, cloudy enough to give the images a moody, more interesting look (a lot more interesting than a clear blue sky anyway!).  I had treated myself before the trip and added a Lee Filters ND Grad to my kit, so I was keen to see what difference it would make to my images.  I also dug out my Little and Big Stoppers, as my style seems to be veering towards the calm, more minimal long exposure look.  Lots of photographers dislike this kind of smooth water shot, as they think it is overdone and a bit cliche.  Sometimes I agree, but I'm trying to add extra elements to these kind of images to create a bit more interest...

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There were a few things that drew me to make this image.  The bright green algae on the pebbles in the foreground, which leads your eye to the stepping stone layout of the rocks in the smooth still sea, and then the island in the distance, almost appearing to have a halo of light surrounding it.  I was a big fan of this stretch of coast, and the overcast skies created an appealing tone.  One of my favourite images I have taken in the last few months.