Finding those golden rays

Over the past few days I have been making repeat visits to Island Hill in Co Down, sometimes two or three times in the one day.  I often rephotograph locations that I have been to before and find that it always pays off by helping me to find the “right light”. 

As on my previous visits I left the camera bag behind and just carried the camera fitted with a 35mm prime lens.  On this visit I selected f11 as my chosen aperture and set the infinity symbol inline with f11 on the lens scale, remembering the quotation “f11 and hold her steady”!  The main benefit being that I didn’t have to worry about focusing thereby enabling me to concentrate on composition.

The other thing I have been doing is limiting my exposures to 36, just as if it was a film camera, a discipline I have been observing lately.  From my visit this afternoon I have chosen two images:

Following where the light falls!

Following where the light falls!

Chasing the sunbeams!

Chasing the sunbeams!

Fujifilm X Pro 1 and the Leica rangefinder cameras are just made for this style of photography.

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. 

The black & white print!

I am still in my monochrome phase!  By selecting carefully the right composition it can often be better to render the image in monochrome.  Some people print in monochrome simply because the colour version was weak; this is a terrible reason to choose monochrome!  So what am I trying to achieve?  The following image is Kilmood Parish Church, a five minute drive from where I live:

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What I am looking for in a monochrome image is a good dynamic range from pure black to pure white.  I want lots of detail that will almost produce a 3D image, of course a photograph can only be two dimensional but you can get a 3D look!  In this image I was focusing on the headstone in the foreground, yet with a f4 aperture I was able to achieve good depth of field to the church tower in the background.  The right light does help, weak winter sunlight – a great time to take photographs!

Of course holding a 12 x 16 inch print in your hand is the real test, the computer screen does not do it justice and even less a Facebook posting ;-)

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. 

 

Low light qualities of the X Pro 1

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A quick visit to Howth Pier gave me an opportunity to try out my Fujifilm X Pro 1 at night time.  The image above was taken at Howth when I photographed these fishermen landing their catch.  It was taken at 22.40 using only the available light from the fishing trawler and the lighting on the quayside.

I used a surprisingly low ISO setting, just 640, with my 35mm lens wide open at f1.4.  The 35mm Fujinon lens is a remarkable piece of glass, all the Fuji prime lenses are very fast! Shooting at 1/60 second the camera was handheld.  You cannot really judge the quality from the above photograph which is just 700pixels wide, so below I have selected a 100% crop from the above image so as you can judge for yourself.

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Even at 100% resolution the image is quite smooth with minimal digital noise, I have not used the sharpening tool in preparing these images, even the exposure and contrast settings have been left untouched.

What is there not to like about the X Pro 1?  It is providing a serious challenge to my Nikon gear; anyone what to buy a camera?

 

Rainy Belfast – what’s new?

Ins’t it odd that few people take photographs when it’s raining?  Some time ago I saw a photograph of a very wet Belfast street scene and it has always stuck in my mind and challenged me to go out and do the same.

Taking a walk around in the rain presents very different opportunities, such has people sheltering under cover, people taking cover in coffee shops which you can photograph through the window and people just going about their every day business with raised umbrellas.

Of course for the photographer rain produces marvellous lighting, reflections, deeper colours or if your shooting in monochrome a different dynamic range.  Capturing the rain as it falls allows you to play with shutter speeds and also adds to the mood the images. Here is a small selection of images shot yesterday.

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Next time it rains go out and give it a go!

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   

 

Strangford in winter?

January is a time when some put their cameras away during the depths of winter.  Yet this month started off with severe storms followed with lots of rain and interspersed with the very occasional sunny day.  Today was one of these occasional sunny days when I visited Strangford town.

On a good summer’s day Strangford is a place to be avoided due to sightseers and busy narrow roads.  But the height of winter is very quiet and if its a nice day its perfect for a few seeking out a few shots.  Winter sun in mid afternoon produces a gentle warming of colours and soft shadows – great for photography.

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Hard to believe that these images were taken in the second half of January.  Images captured with a Fujifilm X Pro 1.4mm f1.4 lens.

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

 

 

Product Photography

From time to time I am asked to undertake product photography.  I find this area of photography enjoyable especially when it touches on subjects that interest me.  The benefit of product photography is that generally you control the light, depth of field and background drops.  So there is little that can go wrong.  

This week I came across an old Royal Ulster Constabulary night helmet, worn in urban areas in Belfast and Londonderry during the 1960s after which it was withdrawn.  In selecting an aperture above f9 more than adequate depth of field will be achieved.  The light was provided by a single speed light fired through a large brolly, sufficient to illuminate the item and the background.

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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

 

Photography is about compromise

Compromise means embracing the constraints.

Do you use a wide aperture, a small one, set a high ISO, or a low ISO, what shutter speed should you use?  Its all very complicated and there are so many constraints, your damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Recently I was asked to photograph Brunswick Accordion Band being recorded for their new CD.  Watch out for its release!  The hall was illuminated by low energy sodium light bulbs which gave quite a harsh white light and the band were seated in rows so the question was what compromises did I have to make to get usable images?

On arrival I decided not to use a flash, it can be distracting to others, it causes shadows where you don’t want them if your not careful, it has a limited distance range and I would not be using light modifiers.  So that decision was simple, I would not be using flash.

I came equipped with two fast f2.8 zoom lenses but quickly disregarded these for faster prime lenses which proved to be a wise decision.  So the issue was what f-stop would I use?  This would be determined by the shutter speed and ISO selected.

Not wanting to set the ISO too high so as to avoid unacceptable digital noise I opted for 640 ISO and with a shutter speed of 1/80 second this gave me an aperture of f2.  In order to decrease the aperture I would have needed to reduce the shutter speed and introduce the danger of camera shake, or increase the ISO and introduce digital noise, neither option was a choice.

The outcome was f2 with its shallow depth of field.  This dictated that I shoot tight shots and to play with the shallow depth of field to produce creative images – looking for those glances, expressions and other moments of interaction.  The vast majority of exposures were taken with a 50mm and an 85mm lens, both f1.4.  The series of images were characterised by selective use of focus.

Here are a couple of examples:

Brunswick Accordion Band Recording Session

Brunswick Accordion Band Recording Session

Brunswick Accordion Band Recording Session

Compromise means embracing the constraints, this can also help you to be more creative. Who would have thought that constraints improves your photography?!

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.