Saturday, 3 January 2015

Scenes from Oxford - Christchurch College and Port Meadow

Happy New Year! I'm actually kicking it off to a good start by doing a blog post, so with any luck I'll manage to have a good year of photography both in terms of taking pictures and - the harder part - getting round to putting some of them online. Wish me luck.

Anyway, both of today's offerings are from just before Christmas, at the end of what's quaintly known as Michelmas Term in Oxford circles. This first one is from Port Meadow, a large flood plain to the northwest of the city. I went for a wander with some friends of mine one crisp Sunday afternoon just before I went home for Christmas, and managed this effort of one of the friendly Port Meadow horses.
This also gave me the chance to practice using my shiny new graduated filter to bring out a bit more of the sunset - the attempts without it just caused a lovely silhouette, which didn't exactly do justice to Dobbin. He's still a bit shady for my liking, but beggars can't be choosers. Good model though, knew exactly how to pose.

Keeping with the theme (which I've literally just decided can be summed up as Sunsets at Christmas, for reasons that will become apparent) is another sunset taken over Christmas. (Told you it'd be obvious.) I decided to be a bit touristy and take the opportunity of Oxford being empty of students to have a look round Christchurch College, home of some Harry Potter fellow. As I made my way out past the beautifully decorated Christmas tree in Peckwater Quad, I decided that a panorama of the gorgeous sunset was definitely needed.

The trick with stitching photos together to make a panorama is to take portrait photos rather than landscape ones. It takes a couple more pictures to get the whole width of the scene in, but you maximise the amount of height that the final picture can get - which enables you to get the quad and the sunset in the same final merged product. I'm quite pleased with this one.

Anyway, hope yo had a great Christmas. I'm working again from Monday, but with any luck more photos will emerge. I got a lovely new set of ND filters and a camera bag for Christmas, so I definitely want to get out there and capture Oxford in the snow!

Now all I need is the snow...

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Scenes from Oxford - Emma's visit (with Swirly Bokeh!)

It's Christmas, and that can only mean one thing...I've found time to write a new blog entry! Hopefully a couple more on their way over the next couple of weeks...anyway, here's some photos:

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I'd got hold of a "new" Helios 44-2 lens and that sooner or later I'd put some "Swirly Bokeh" shots up. Well, I finally took the picture that I'd had in mind ever since I first saw the effect! This is my friend Emma:

Emma came to visit Oxford recently and I had a great time doing touristy things with her - and taking my new lens out with me! Emma was kind enough to put up with me taking photos of her in the middle of the Oxford University Parks, and this was the result. Ever since I first saw the mysterious swirly bokeh effect I wanted to use it as a portrait photography technique, and I pretty much had this image in mind. By standing in the natural light in front of a shadowy corridor of trees, the background fades away into darkness at the edges and Emma gained a lovely halo effect - kind of like the massively overused vignetting effect you often see on Instagram pictures, only without being added digitally afterwards. I love the way the autumn leaves pick up the swirl - and help focus your attention on Emma. Which may or may not be something Emma regrets. Thanks again Emma!

The next photo, from later the same day, I absolutely love. We decided that, being in Oxford and it being a gorgeous sunny autumn day, punting was the thing to try. So punt we did.

I call this one "How do you steer a punt?!"

My favourite thing about the composition - with the exception of Emma's amazingly perplexed expression - is the way that the pole splits the frame in two. The left two-thirds of the picture set the scene, leading the viewer through where we've come from and the gorgeous scenery we've just passed. In the right hand third we get Emma, standing on the punt and looking quizzically into the future...what's she seeing? Nobody knows.

Especially not me, I was facing the other way taking pictures and hoping I wasn't about to get a clip round the ear from an errant tree branch. Between the two of us, we took an excitingly jagged route down the Cherwell.

I was going to put a couple of pictures up from my brief end-of-term touristy trip round Christchurch college which I took yesterday, but I'm going to head out for a run while it's still daylight, so I figure they can wait for another day.

Until then, have fun! And Merry Christmas in advance.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fountain and new lens!

Here's a familiar story when it comes to me and this blog: I've been a bit swamped finishing my MSc thesis recently, so updates have been less regular than desired! Never fear though: seeing as I've been doing plenty of Fluid Dynamics this week, here's a watery composition for you:

I wasn't feeling up to a ride on those standy-board things that morning, so I made do with sitting on the shore with my tripod. Upside: I got to experiment with silhouettes!

Downside: I never did get a go on the standy-board thing. It looks fun.

This is at Elveden forest Centre Parcs taken this time last year - I've unearthed it now as I thought it'd go well as a competition entry this week.


Exciting camera news though: I've got myself a new lens (Helios 44-2) this week after reading this article on DPS - I took it out this morning and had a great time testing out the "swirly bokeh" effect. The verdict: this could be really, really cost me a grand total of £24 from Oxfam online, including an adaptor to get it to work with my 600D. Bargain!

Expect photos soon!


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rome at Night

I managed to find some time away from writing my thesis at the start of July to take a little holiday, so I found myself on a cheap flight out of Newcastle Airport at 6am on a Thursday morning to the wonderful city that is Rome.

There were 7 of us altogether, and full credit goes to everyone else for putting up with me pausing for photos every 30 seconds. Especially with the following shot, of the Piazza del Popolo on the Saturday night before we flew home:

We only took hand luggage to keep the price down, so my tripod was left under my desk in Durham a few countries away...fortunately I had my little GorillaPod with me (it really is awesome) which gave me the chance to do some long exposure shots. Unfortunately the perfect position for what I had in mind here was in the middle of a road to the Piazza del Popolo which, despite it being 11 at night, was still pretty busy...

It took quite a few rounds of diving in to the middle of the road, quickly composing, exposing, and running away again before I finally got the photo that matched what I seeing in my head - and an oncoming car at just the right time provided the icing on the cake in the form of that sunburst at the base of the pillar!

When everyone else finally dragged me away from the side road - which was seemingly never-ending, at least while we walked up it - in to the square at the end of the road, we were not disappointed:

Despite it being late, this was clearly the cool place to be in Rome on a Saturday night - the square was filled with locals and the odd tourist, with people playing chilled out music and generally enjoying the gorgeous summer nights. I found a nearby bollard which brought my GorillaPod up to a decent height, and opened the shutter up as wide as I dared. This was a 25 second exposure, which really gave time for the detail in the hieroglyphs to come through and let the milling people become a lovely indistinct crowd.

Just one more before I go, because it's compulsory to take a picture of the Colosseum when you're in Rome. It was about a 2 minute walk from our Hostel, but I couldn't convince a car to come round and leave me some nice light trails at the right time! I did have some more success elsewhere with light trails - but that can wait until next time...

Watch this space for more from the wonderful city of Rome next week...


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sea Fever

In my neverending and futile quest to share my backlog of photos, I thought I'd take the opportunity to string together a theme for this week. So all three of today's photos have a slightly nautical theme going on. Unfortunately the identity of the third picture is Top Secret, so it's not here. (I've left my hard drive in Durham while I'm home for the weekend and the picture I want to share isn't on my laptop...typical! I'll add it in a later post.)

They're all from the last 12 months, But from different parts of the UK. First up, Tenby Harbour in Wales:

Tenby is somewhere I've been to quite frequently with my family; my Grandpa was born and raised there, and we've spent many (often rainy, but often gorgeous) summers there since I was young. Watching from the terrace of our holiday house, a break in the rain coincided perfectly with the return of this red boat and the vibrant rainbow overhead.

Unfortunately someone stuck a crane on the end of the harbour, which might well be a permanent fixture. You can't have everything.

I should also point out for the record: Tenby and South Wales are not permanently immersed in constant rain. Most of the time it's absolutely amazing, especially in the summer. Rain is not a prerequisite.

But, since we're in a week of heavy thunderstorms, let's have some more rain to finish off!

This is Sidmouth in Devon; by happy coincidence, my Grandpa's current home. It's an absolutely lovely town which is often bathed in glorious sunshine.


During a little wander in the rain on the beach, this boat gave me a chance to take a picture of the seafront a little bit differently to how it's often seen. I regret to this day that I don't have a really wide angle lens that I could have used to get the same picture from the other side of that irritating little shrub. No matter where I moved, it was there. I think it might have been following me.

That's all for now; once I get back to my hard drive I'll start posting some more. Watch this space!

And you might even get to see the other sea picture if you're good. Now there's an incentive.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Return of the Blog!

 As you may or may not know, I've had a busy couple of years since I last posted here. They sort of mysteriously petered out around the time I started my MSc up at Durham, which, I now know, coincided with a tumour growing on my pituitary gland getting big enough to start having an impact on my memory! Don't worry, I'm absolutely fine - but it did make it a bit difficult to do anything. Including keeping up with blogging.

When they started treatment last summer, I decided to experiment with having a proper website. It was nice, but expensive, and the year is now up - and with it, I'm letting my subscription go. Which means that I'm back here! Hooray!

I'll start posting here regularly again now - hopefully at least weekly, but it does depend on timings. I'm starting a PhD at Oxford University in October, so it's likely that periods of free time will be few and far between. But never fear, I'll do my best to keep up!

In the meantime, I've got some fun images which haven't really made it to public consumption. So here's two of my favourites from about this time last year.

The image at the top of this post is my current home, Ustinov College. I've been living here for nearly two years now, and it's a fantastic and unique community. Not to mention in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world on the outskirts of Durham. I took this photo last September when I moved back in after a summer at home. It's one of my personal favourite images of Durham, mainly because I felt so happy to be back!

This is also from a place very dear to my heart, though for completely different reasons! It's a footpath on Caldey Island off the coast of Tenby, Wales. My family has very old roots in Tenby, and we find ourselves going back there again and again. Visiting Caldey Island is something that never changes - it must be 23 years or so since I first visited (OK, maybe 20 or so since I've been old enough to remember what's going on), and it seems just as I remember it the first time.

And it's gorgeous.

Anyhow, there's many more brand new photos waiting to make their way up here - why not put your email address into the box on the right and you'll get a message when I post them? Don't worry, it won't be anywhere near frequently enough to clog up your inbox, but it will mean you won't miss a post...and we wouldn't want that now that I've started again, would we?!

Thanks for sticking it through to the end,


Sunday, 8 July 2012

A Taste of the North... (part 2)

I felt it in my fingers. I felt it in my toes.
The Lake District was all around us...and it was indeed Wet Wet Wet...