What makes a strong image?

Here I just want to discuss my thinking behind an image I made this week, taken at Donaghadee Harbour in Co Down.  We have just experienced extremely stormy weather and high tides battering the coastline.  I did not venture out over this period and this image represents the calm after the storm taken on Wednesday of this week.

Donaghadee Lifeboat and Lighthouse

Donaghadee Lifeboat and Lighthouse

Taken around 3.30pm on a beautiful January day I wanted to ensure I had some strong colour to dominate the scene, I was essentially after a strong image rather than just a general scene.  Seeing the lifeboat I moved in quite close so that it filled a prominent position in the frame.  I wanted to include the lighthouse as part of the composition and so a portrait format was chosen.

I liked the vertical force coming out of the scene, notice the red handrail, the superstructure of the lifeboat and the lighthouse in ascending height from right to left!  The strong colour immediately draws your eye to that part of the image the vertical force draws your eye upwards.  Both the colour and this vertical force gives the image added strength and only after these attributes were identified did I release the shutter.

My point of focus was on the front of the lifeboat superstructure and using a f5.6 aperture I obtained sharpness throughout the image.  I wonder how it would have looked at f1.4? Should have tried this!  The important factor in making an image is to pre-visualise what you want to achieve.  

The image was taken with a Fujifilm X Pro 1 fitted with a 35mm f1.4 lens produces faithful colour and beautifully sharp images and its light weight makes it a joy to use.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

Looking back on 2013

So far this month I have not done very much photographically speaking, mostly due to a flu bug and then a persistent cough, which I still have!  However the close of the year is usually when most photographers look back over the year to take stock and assess the images they have made during the year.  I have tried to pick just one image for each of the year and have found it to be a difficult task.  After some deliberations this is my selection:

A cost wet January night

January: a wet night at the Titanic Signature Building

 

February flag protestor at City Hall

February flag protestor at City Hall

 

March - uniforms not in sync!

March – uniforms not in sync!

 

April snow at Spelga Dam

April snow at Spelga Dam

 

May and looking like Spring has arrived

May and looking like Spring has arrived

 

Installing the Clinton Exhibition in advance of the G8 Sumitt

June exhibition for G8, its the shadow that does it!

 

July at Craigavon House

July at Craigavon House

 

August, Lambeg Drum at Dundonald

August, Lambeg Drum at Dundonald

 

September: autumn on the horizon

September: autumn on the horizon

 

October mist at Spelga Dam

October mist at Spelga Dam

 

November at Ballintoy, but not looking like November!

November at Ballintoy, but not looking like November!

 

December with Brunswick Accordion Band

December with Brunswick Accordion Band

 Now looking forward to see what 2014 will bring!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographic development

Out of nothing comes nothing!

I think most photographers have gone through the phase of devouring photographic magazines and drooling over new gear in the belief that a better camera or that new lens would help them make better photographs, wrong – making images is a creative process.

My own photographic journey has taken me down many avenues and probably the single most important influence on my photographic efforts has been the Canadian photographer David duChemin, it’s worth googling his work!  My interest in photography has been a life long interest, but it’s only been since 2004 that my interest became more serious and my approach more planned.  

Deciding to concentrate on photographing Ulster themes has been an important step in developing my own photographic style.  Having a vision was also an important step forward, so I hope my vision comes through in my Ulster Photography blogs. The missing stage is creativity, which most certainly is my weak spot!  

By being creative does not mean producing original work, but rather using your own particular vision to bring influence to bear on your work and by asking a different set of questions, other than the normal technical considerations, in order to achieve a particular result.

Now for the image featured in this blog, Elephant Rock off the North Antrim coast.  Taken in early evening it was shot straight into the setting sun which presented some technical difficulties.  But from a creative point of view it looks much better in monochrome.  It’s more dramatic and illustrates the unique beauty of this part of the Antrim coast more powerfully than in colour.  I wanted to show smooth water lapping the beach in the foreground by using a slow shutter speed, but not too slow to render the water appearing unrealistic.  To control  the brightness of the sun a ND filter was required.  

It’s not a perfectly taken image, but it’s a true reflection of what I saw and it creates the mood and atmosphere which I felt at the time. Recently filming for the Game of Thrones was undertaken at this location – you can see why!  Making photographs of what you feel is very different from taking photographs of what you see.

Ballintoy Coastal Shoot

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Learning to improve

In the quest to improve my photography, I have learned that it is not about reading endless photography magazines, although informed articles can play a part.  Nor will acquiring all the latest photo gear make you a better photographer, although it too can help.  What is important is to keep taking photographs and to keep experimenting this alone more than anything else will improve your craft.

This blog site is primarily for my own purposes, although I hope you enjoy it.  Writing about recent photo shoots helps sharpen the learning process.  In photography the learning process never stops and being self critical and receiving feedback from others is crucial, so do feel free to criticise, constructively of course!

My recent obsession with Ballintoy has also been part of my quest to improve my image making skills.  Repeat visits also play an important, particularly in learning about light and how it changes and the effect it has on the final image.  So here is another image from Ballintoy!  This time retaining detail from immediately in front of me into the far distance was the objective and maintaining as much detail in texture throughout, including the sky.

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So with less emphasis on photographic gear and the latest gizmo I want to turn the attention to the image itself.  Why do we take a particular image, what are we trying to say, and how have we tried to be creative?  In reality this means learning to see things in a way we have failed to in the past, to notice those things we have always overlooked, maybe because we have taken them for granted!  Perhaps next time experimenting with slow shutter speeds could be fun, we will see.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Reading a photograph

You may have noticed that I really like Ballintoy!  There are so many opportunities for landscape photography there and my often repeated visits always present new challenges. I have learned that staying in the one place for a while improves the chances of getting quality light, and helps developing patience that is necessary for better photography.

Assuming you have great light then we are left to concentrate in looking for mood!  Seeking out colour, angles, shapes and then trying to simplify the composition.  In the image featured in this blog the contrast between the basalt and limestone rock outcrops was interesting, the subtle colour rendered from the wet limestone rock in the foreground against the colour of the sea and the sky provide an overall balance to the image.

If you can read a photograph then I guess it works!  The image below seems to be made up by horizontal layers; rock, sea, rock and sky.  Within these layers the colour hues blend together in balance.  As I see it this is how the image works.  Maybe it reads differently to you!

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

Staying in the one place!

Recently I seem to be spending a lot of time in Ballintoy on the north Antrim coast, but then it is a wonderful location for photography.  This time I stayed for nearly three days and one thing which interested me was watching how light changed, even how clouds changed in look and how morning light differed from evening light.  Even during mid morning or mid afternoon  some pleasing lighting conditions were produced.

I came equipped with my Nikon DSLR gear and the Fujifilm X Pro 1 and must confess that all my images were taken with the X Pro 1.  The Nikon gear never left the bag, there is a lesson in there somewhere!  One of the joys of photography is learning light and how it effects the image, seeking out colour in the landscape and looking for the right angle.

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The above images were taken between Thursday and Saturday, week ending 9 November.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

That special autumn light

I am still processing images from my visit to Ballintoy on the Antrim north coast.  The rocks in this image caught the light beautifully bringing out the colour.  It was taken at 10.15 in weak morning sunlight and the figures on the beach add to the scene.

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 All being well I will return to this location soon.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

Photographic patience

For this blog I have returned to Ballintoy Harbour and the theme is to persevere.  When I left home to travel here it was raining and half way up the M2 it was raining stair rods and I considered returning home.  Thankfully I persisted and arrived at Ballintoy Harbour around 3.30 in glorious sunshine.  The hour before sunset provided some excellent light and I concentrated on a number of seascapes and I was looking forward to what the morning light would bring.

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The following day produced a mixture of rain sun and storm, wonderful for photography.  Staying put in one place can provide a variety of opportunities and no mobile phone connection or email is a decided advantage!

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 All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

 

Are you waiting for the right conditions?

A landscape photographer needs to have patience, something I don’t possess for most of the time.  However if you want to get that photograph that is above the average holiday snap then you need to do two things!  Watch the weather forecast and secondly wait for the right conditions.

This is what I did at Spelga Dam in the Mourne Mountains yesterday.  Thursday was the only decent day weather wise in the week and wet weather was to move in over night, which it did.  So the perfect opportunity to make my trip to Spelga and wait for the rain to move in. 

Arriving mid afternoon in what was a lovely sunny afternoon I waited until the sun was about to set when I was rewarded with mist descending, could not be better!  Mist and fog add atmosphere and this was what I was looking for.  The following images were taken between 5pm to 6pm.  The shutter speed of the final images were 0.5 of a second aided with the use of a tripod.

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Photographs taken in mid afternoon would just not have captured the atmosphere I was after. I did stay overnight in an attempt to get early light in the morning, but the mist completely closed in accompanied with heavy rain.  Was it worth the effort?  

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

Sunset at Ballintoy

Spurred on by the sunset featured in my last blog I decided to make the journey to Ballintoy on the north coast.  This location is rather spectacular, especially if the light is right.  I knew from previous visits that the sun sets over the sea and a projecting headland.
 
Arriving at about 5pm the sky was overcast, nevertheless I decided to wait until sunset.   Surprisingly the overcast sky began to break up revealing the setting sun.  There is no substitute for patience in landscape photography.
 
In trying to find the optimum position to shoot from I pulled a calf muscle while climbing over rocks, which reduced my mobility.  So these images was taken from a bench at the car park, as indeed where most of my images.  Photography is not a painless process in more ways than one! 
 
Shooting straight into the sun does present it’s challenges.  I used a 0.9 hard graduated filter to try to balance the extremes of light.  The biggest problem is lens flair and it was not always possible to avoid it, we just have to live with it I think!
 
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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.