Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Pots and Pans

I thought I'd blogged about Pots and Pans before, but looking back through my archive I can't see it, I must have dreamt about it.  Anyhow, last time I came here it was Remembrance Sunday and the place was packed with people having a memorial service and there was a brass band for the hymns.  Pots and Pans is a bleak hilltop above the village of Greenfield which is on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire.  In the past Greenfield has belonged to both counties but I think it's back in Yorkshire at the moment, although it's in the Greater Oldham Metro so maybe it's in Lancashire.

We set off from the car park above Dovestones Reservoir and headed up the path towards Pots and Pans where I took this photo.  The water was fairly still so there a a bit of reflection.  The snow from January had not been completely gone and this was the second week in February.  It was pretty cold so we were wrapped up warm.


A little further up the path we encountered a very brave sheep on it's own.  He or she posed very nicely for this photo and allowed me to come quite close up.


Again a bit further up the path and my daughter spotted a lamb with in mother out in a field in the distance.   I swapped my 50mm lens for my 70-300mm telephoto zoom to try and get a decent shot but I don't think I was too successful.  It looks as if the focus is just behind the sheep so the sheep are a bit soft but the patch of grass and the rocks behind them are quite sharp.  Not much sign of camera shake though considering the exposure was 1/60th of a second which is quite slow at 300mm.


The next image is one of the old rocks with the holes in them that hold the water and the War Memorial in the background.  On Remembrance Sunday this area was packed with people but today it's deserted.


I climbed up the other side of the rock to take this next photo of one of the water holes.  As you can see it was frozen solid.  Legend has it that washing your eyes in the water from one of these holes will cure many eye diseases.  Not today though.  You might notice that the background in this shot is the same as from the first shot in this post, looking up the Chew Valley.


As we were hanging around here a group of walkers arrived and started to talk to us.  They were very friendly and one of the men offered my daughter and me a drink of hot tea from his flask.  We declined but thanked him, we had our own refreshments, although the thought of a hot tea on this cold day did sound nice.  Three of the women from the group climbed right up onto the top of the rock and so I took this photo of them.


As we headed further up onto the hill I took one last shot of Pots and Pans.  The walkers had finished their break and were just getting ready to head off.  I'm not sure which direction they went but we didn't see them again on our journey.


The last shot of the day was taken as we headed back down a different path towards the car park.  I heard the sound of the grouse long before I caught sight of it.  I tried to creep closer and closer to get a decent shot but it had obviously seen me and turned its back toward me.  Just after I took this photo the bird took to flight so this was as close as I managed.


At home we had no hot water or heating after our boiler had been condemned by the gas inspector.  So after the walk I had a shower at my daughters house before going home.  It felt glorious after I'd had a week of daily washing in the sink full of water boiled in the kettle.  Fortunately the weather had been slightly warmer (still around freezing though) so we had just about managed at home with the help of the gas fire in the lounge and a fan heater for the rest of the house.  Next time, the snow returns.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Morning at Scout Dyke

Well I had intended to get here before sunrise but I was very cold outside the bed.  The sky was a bit too clear for ay fantastic shots but I hung around for a while to see if anything caught my imagination.  The first image is from my favourite spot for taking sunrise pictures with the old stump in the foreground, then the water, trees and then the sky.  I have some images from here where the sky is beautiful and the water is perfectly calm and reflecting the sky very clearly.  This image is OK and even tonemapped doesn't impress.


I turned around to look away from the sunrise and saw that there was a bit of colour in the sky behind me.  There was a lot more cloud in this direction for the colour of the rising sun to reflect from.   It was still quite dull so this was quite a slow exposure which emphasises the movement of the windmill blades on the horizon.


Looking back towards the sunrise the round sun was just clearing the reservoir wall and shining through the trees.


The clouds opposite the rising sun were becoming more colourful as the sun came up so I took the next shot looking across the reservoir towards Ingbirchworth village.


I walked a bit further up the path and looked back towards the sun again to take this wide angle shot.  I took the shot from quite low but when I got it home I decided to crop out a bit portion of the foreground to end up with this panoramic looking shot.


This is by far my favourite shot of the day.  The sun was rising fast and was now lighting up this tree in the field next to the reservoir.  I cropped the image quite a bit as the tree was bit of a way away but I didn't change to my longer lens for this one shot.  I also did some digital gardening to get rid of some mole hills in the foreground which I thought were very distracting.  I left the ones near the tree because I thought they just didn't distract as much and added a bit of context to the tree.


Just a few minutes later and another tree a bit closer to the reservoir but by now the pinkness in the sky has completely gone and the light on the tree has changed to yellow.


The reservoir was no longer frozen over but it is still very cold overnight and my eye was caught by the way the ice had formed on these twigs sticking out of the water.  As the ripples moved along the surface of the water they lapped up onto these blobs of ice which were a centimeter or two above the water.  The sun shining on them and lighting them up in a beautiful way.  Now I wish that I had a macro lens so I could get really close up and make an image concentrating on a single blob of ice.


So I've only got to the end of January with my catching up so I think I need to go a bit faster with my posting.  The problem is there are too many distractions.  Maybe at Easter I'll get some time.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Rain, Snow, Fog and Sheep

In mid January we had a very small break from the ice and snow which was replaced by heavy rain.  In this first image I was trying to get the rain on the window in focus and leave the scene outside the window as a partially recognisable blur.   As you can see the snow hasn't gone but at least the road is clear for a change.


A bit later in the day the rain eased off for a while so I thought I'd go and see how the ducks were coping on Ingbirchworth reservoir.  The reservoir was still completely covered in ice with the small area of water in the middle where the ducks had been joined by a few seagulls.  The snow was damp with the rain and was now grey instead of the white in my previous port.


The following day I thought I'd go out and find some more snow up on Marsden Moor near Wessenden Head.  It was fairly clear around home but up on the top of the Pennines it was a bit foggy.  The road from Holmfirth to Greenfield had been closed for several weeks and the lights were still flashing to indicate that the road was closed, but I went up anyway.  The road wasn't closed but this next photo on the road to Marsden gives an idea of how bad it had been.  This was almost a week after it had last snowed and most of the snow had either melted or been washed away by the rain.


Evey was a bit bemused by these big piles of icy snow that had been built up by the diggers attempting to clear open the road.


Here I am climbing over a stile which is usually a couple of feet off the ground.  I had tried to take some pictures of Evey jumping over the stile but they didn't come out very well.


This next image is of a frozen pool in a rock on top of Marsden Moor near the trig point.  As you can see there is very little snow left on the top of the hill but a few yards away the snow was waist high where it had drifted against the side of the rocks.  I've just reprocessed this image in the last couple of days by tone mapping it very hard using Photomatix inside Aperture 3.  I've has a real struggle getting the Photomatix plug in to work since I upgraded to Aperture 3, but I'll keep that story for later.  I've also used some of the new local adjustments to selectively boost the contrast on the main two rocks to make them pop out of the scene.


After waking around the hill tops we headed down towards Wessenden Head reservoir when we were overtaken by these farmhands bringing some food down for the sheep.  I've tone mapped this shot as well using a single image because the tractor was moving.


As the farmers got nearer to the feeding point hundreds of sheep appeared coming from all directions.  I hadn't realised there were so many sheep up here.   I'd try counting them but I'd probably fall asleep.


We walked around for a bit more and then headed back to the car.  On the way the sheep were still still munching through the hay that the farmers had brought.  This handsome chap seemed very interested in having his photo taken.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Another Week and More Snow

As I've been unable to drive anywhere because of the snow I decided to go for a walk from my house.  First stop was the village church in New Mill.  It's quite a nice church which I have photographed several times before but not in the snow before.  I quite like the composition from this position in the graveyard so there is the back of the gravestone in the foreground.  There were just a few patches of blue in the sky but as you can see by the clock it is nearly 3pm and will be getting dark in the next hour or so.


The view from the other side of the church is quite nice too.  The reflection of the sun going down in the first window is quite interesting.   There are a lot more big old gravestones at this side of the church which are a bit crowded into the foreground.  Both of the church pictures were processed tone maps from HDR images and on this second one the contrast on the stonework is quite nice.  I'm trying to keep my tone mapped images a bit more lifelike at the moment.  I was given a book about processing HDR images for Christmas (Practical HDR by David Nightingale) so I'm trying to make use of it.  I've also been looking at Trey Ratcliff's website because he is a master of HDR photography and tone map processing.  I'd like to get his new book too but I haven't finished the David Nightingale book yet.


As I walked around the sun started to set and although it wasn't a perfect sunset there was quite a bit of colour in the sky for a while.  Both of the next two images have been lightened quite significantly as it was nearly 4pm and really quite dark.  Again I've processed tone mapped images but this time with a bit more surrealism than the church images to bring out the colours in the sky.


If you enlarge this portrait image by clicking it you might be able to make out the church tower in the middle distance towards the left.


The following morning I visited Ingbirchworth reservoir again and took quite a few shots.  When I have come to review them they weren't that interesting to be honest (just more snow).  However, I thought I'd just tag this one image onto this post.  The reservoir was almost completely frozen over with a fresh layer of snow on top of the ice.  In the centre was a small hole in the ice where the ducks were congregating which made me feel quite sorry for them having to put up with this winter weather.


And there's still more bad weather to come so things aren't looking any better for them (or us).  Next time we get a bit of rain and fog but the snow is still staying around.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

New Year, More Snow

So we move on to early January and we have more snow.  My main problem is that I've run out of drive space on my computer.  The internal drive on my Mac has a 500Gb drive and then I have an external 500Gb to use as the backup.  I've cleared down my reject images a few times but the space I make soon gets eaten up again with new images.  I decided to get a 1Tb drive to use as my backup and then archive my older stuff onto my current external drive to clear the space on my internal drive.  I really need to use the internal drive as my working drive to get any decent performance.

I use Apple Aperture as my image management and post processing software and keep all my image files in a single aperture library because it's a pain switching libraries in Aperture 2.  So I had to move all my old images onto the archive drive and start a new library with my new images.  Once I'd moved all the libraries around I could then organise backing them up to the new drive.   Fortunately since I first moved all my files around I have purchased the Aperture 3 upgrade so now I can easily switch libraries on the fly (more of that later).

Anyway on with the pictures.  So it started to snow again and the first image (and most of the other ones) is out of my lounge window.  It was snowing very hard, it was quite dark and I decided to convert the image to black and white as there wasn't much colour anyway.


The snow didn't continue for long and started to melt quite quickly this time.  After the snow had stopped I went for a walk up the hill opposite the house and took this photo of the old brewery cart that abandoned in a field along with some other relics.  I had taken a picture of the dray a few weeks ago in the Autumn sun but I can't remember if I posted it anywhere.


A few days later it snowed again but this time it was here to stay.  We have a couple of robins that come to our tree in the front garden, one it quite tubby and the other is quite slender.  I don't know if there are different types of robins or whether these are two that have just lived different lifestyles.   This is the tubby one, a picture of the other one is further down the post.


It's still snowing quite hard and I moved upstairs to take some shots out of the bedroom window.  My car   is quickly disappearing below a white blanket where it stayed for about three weeks.  Mazda MX5's are not good in snow and ice so I ended up car sharing with the wife until the snow subsided.


We had a lot of visitors to the feeders on the tree while it was snowing. The next image was a little blue tit.


The we have a blue tit and a great tit sharing a ball.


Next we have the slender robin standing and watching.  The robins don't do too well on the hanging balls an only occasionally use the feeder.  They tend to rely on the other birds throwing food onto the ground for them.


Then finally with the bird we have a great tit and a female robin sharing the feeder.


The snow eventually stopped and the ext couple of photos are into the back garden.  The first one is out of my study window.


And the second is out of my kitchen door.  Most of the plants and shrubs are totally flattened.  Even now, two months later, the garden is looking pretty flat.  Quite a few pants are going to need to be replaced.


In the final image is looking across the valley and the sky is almost blue and the sun is shining.  Everything looks quite beautiful.  Next time, more snow.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lensbaby Fisheye

Long time, no blog.  But I'm back and making up for lost time.  I've had lots of issues and excuses and as I do a catch up I'll maybe mention them.  So my last post was the snow on Christmas Eve, and since then it's snowed a lot more, in fact there's still the remains of the last snow up on the hills near to home.  For Christmas I got a Lensbaby Fisheye attachment and a few days after Christmas I took it out for a walk around Ingbirchworth Reservoir.

So what is a fisheye lens, well it's very wide angle at around 12mm and it's heavily distorted, especially around the edges.  On a camera with a full frame sensor the image from the camera would be circular but on my cropped frame camera I just get the corners with an extremely dark vignette.  This first image is one straight from the camera with just the standard adjustments.


Now I do have a normal wide angle lens which will go even wider than this fisheye, so why would I want to use a lens with so much distortion.  Maybe I'm being fanciful, but let's call it art.  On the rest of the images I have cropped out the corners as much as possible but there's still quite a bit of distortion on some of them.

It was a beautiful day on the walk with no wind and a clear blue sky.  Still some of the Christmas Eve snow was on the ground and pretty much frozen solid.  One of the other things that the Lensbaby Fisheye has is very little protection from glare so on this next image I've used that characteristic to enhance the sun and its refection.


The surface of the reservoir was like a giant mirror and was making perfect reflections of the sky and the trees on the opposite side of the reservoir.  The next image has a bit more glare and also some chromatic aberration around the tree on the left of the image.  If you click on the image and look closely you can see that one side of the tree has a red line and the other side of the tree has a blue line.  This effect it caused by the effects of frequencies of light bending at different amounts through the lens and could be processed out, but I decided to leave it.  The image also shows the distortion a bit more where the straight airplane vapour trail is curved across the sky.

 

The next image is at the top end of the reservoir where the main stream comes in under the bridge.  Not much distortion visible on this image but a but more evidence of blurriness around the edges in classic Lensbaby fashion.  Not as much blur as a normal Lensbaby but it's still there.


Here's another similar image in portrait this time.


 The next image is really showing how the lens bends the straight lines at the edge of the frame.  The trees on either side of this picture aren't bent anywhere near the amount they appear to be.  I love the way the son and shadows have a big effect on the colours and contrast in this image.  The curved tree trunks feel to push the eye into the centre of the image and hopefully down the path through the trees.
The final two images are a couple of trees that I took the following day near to home.  The weather had become a bit overcast and grey and misty but the snow hadn't returned just yet.  The fisheye lens really do make the tree look a lot rounder in shape than they really are.  In this first image the wall in front of the tree is actually straight.



And the final image is another tree, this time in front of a wall.


So what are my thoughts on the fisheye lens?  I think in the landscape shots it's often hard to distinguish from using a normal wide angle lens and it doesn't give as good a quality image, but sometimes the distortion can help the composition.  As with all the Lensbaby system it gives the photographer (or me) something to think about when creating images.  I don't think I'd want to overuse it but it's always there if I want to try something different.  Well I guess I need to do some more experimenting.  I've found it's possible to focus very close to objects so I think some very odd looking distorted macro shots might be possible.

Next time we move into 2010 with some snow, some more snow, and even more snow.  The coldest winter in the UK for over 30 years plus several issues stopping me processing my photos for a while.