Image of the month - December 2015

In terms of photography November has been a bit of a washout with rain, wind and grey flat skies, so I thought we could all do with a bit of sunshine for a change. 

This month’s image takes us to a sunny and warm Egypt on the River Nile.  Unlike a lot of digital images this was all produced in camera on slide film, using a polarising filter pointed towards, but not into the sun.  Luckily a felucca was just sailing towards me giving a gorgeous path of golden light across the water.  

Now, by using software I could take the rip out of the sail, but I prefer to leave it as is.  Like most countries that are closer to the equator, sunset lasts barely a few minutes as the sun seems to drop out of the sky and before you know it you are surrounded by complete and utter darkness with skies lit up by stars.

If you would like to see more of my African Adventures you can find them in the Gallery, or download a free book from Smashwords which describes my first visit to Egypt.

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Image of the month - November 2015

Up to now I’ve only really used artificial light in my photography indoors, either as studio lights or speedlights but never really in anger outdoors.  Sure I’ve often used the small pop up flash that’s built into the camera to throw a bit of light into the dark areas of a picture but really that’s it.

So recently it was great to go on a workshop and find out how to balance daylight with speedlights in such a way as to make it almost impossible to tell its been used, so no harsh shadows to give it away.

Kerry did a brilliant job as our model, roleplaying an archer and a paintballer often surrounded by smoke and willing to charge through it so we could get our shots!  See if you can spot which of the images used flash and which didn’t?

If you would like to see more images of Kerry from the day, check out the Just People gallery.

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Image of the month - October 2015

Being an Essex girl and a daughter of a football loving father I was often taken to watch Southend United football club play at home and I guess that’s where my love of sport started.  However when I started at the University of Chester I discovered the wonderful world of rugby, where names like John Carleton and Graham Mourie were everyday but iconic names, (if you don’t know them, look them up!)

Photographing rugby at that time was fairly impossible for me as being a poor student, (ahhh), I couldn’t afford the camera and long lenses needed let alone the cost of the film…..yes it was in the days of film!  However just watching the games and understanding the flow of the play gave me an all important advantage now I do have the opportunity to photograph the sport.

So in honour of the World Rugby Cup, (Come on England!)  I thought I would post some images of a match that I photographed earlier in the year between Westcliff RFC v Tonbridge RFC.  Unusually it was a bright sunny day so fast shutter speeds were not too difficult to achieve and with the added advantage of a 100-400 mm lens it was quite easy to get amongst the action. 

I liked this image in particular because of the three guys standing on the touchline which helps to give the picture a storyline.

If you would like to see more images from the match then check out my sports gallery London 2012 and beyond…

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Image of the month - September 2015

Sometimes monochrome just works better than colour.

It was a glorious summer's day with brilliant blue sky and lovely white fluffy clouds....every photographer's dream you would think with good strong sunlight. Actually most photographer's hate strong sunlight, perhaps with the exception of it creating lovely shadows.

I had decided to only take a wide angle lens out with me and try to capture the dockside around the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. Working with one lens makes you think in a different way about the shots you take and can lead to some different images.

The Spinnaker Tower gave lots of opportunities for different images, but when I came home and started to look at them I felt somewhat disappointed that they didn't really stand out or have any impact. I thought this was down to the strong colours overpowering the impact of the shot, hence I had the idea of turning them into monochrome.

Pre digital, it was a well known trick of black and white workers to use filters to bring out details and change the intensity of the sky from grey for a blue sky to almost jet black just by adding orange or red filters. Now in Photoshop it is just as easy to do the same, increasing contrast to make the white clouds and the Spinnaker Tower really stand out and give a lot more impact.

Check out my Just Monochrome gallery to see other images that work well in black and white.

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Image of the month - August 2015

I’ve seen this type of shot so many times and always wanted to have a go to recreate my own.  The hardest thing was trying to find a clear bulb with a filament and I particularly wanted a screw thread fitting as I though it was a bit more interesting than the bayonet cap.  With a bit of help from my trusty electrician Mike, we managed to set the bulb up in the holder with a dimmer switch to control the amount of light.

With the camera set up on a tripod I tried a couple of different brightness settings of the lightbulb and f-stops to control depth of field, eventually settling on f20.  Next I needed a shot of the screw thread and I also noticed that the lightbulb holder hid the cap so I shot the thread from a low angle to make it easier to match up with the lit bulb in Photoshop later.

In Photoshop I opened the two images, changing the Hue/Saturation of the screw thread image to match the colour cast produced by the lit bulb so they would match up when I joined them together.  After a bit of cut, pasting and rotating I had a whole light bulb, which despite me cleaning thoroughly before the shoot, still had an amazing amount of dust specs inside and out which needed spotting out.  I created a black background and rotated the lightbulb to look as if it was laying down, copied and flipped the layer to create a reflection.  Reducing the opacity of the flipped layer and erasing some of the image made it look a bit more real, (hopefully!)

Hey presto…No Wires!  You can see the original images used to create 'No Wires' in my album ‘Playing in Photoshop’ along with pleanty of other things to try.

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Image of the month - July 2015

I just love the way this piece of urban art has cheered up a bland wall in Chinatown, San Francisco.  Originally I took the shot with the pathway running alongside the base of the building but looking at it again I decided to crop the path out to make the art stand out on it’s own.  I liked the symmetry of the windows and the way the fire escape clearly shows that it was part of the buildings facade.

I would have liked to take more shots but this was literally a grab shot as we drove past the building on a tour.  That’s the joy of travel photography you just don’t know what to expect, so it’s always worth having a camera handy.  The down side….you don’t always have an opportunity to go back and get a second chance, so sometimes one shot is all you get!

If you would like to see more of the diversity of the West Coast of North America then please check out my album Canada and the USA.

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Image of the month - June 2015

What I love about photography is that there is always something new to learn and try out.  My recent exploration into the world of flash photography means that things I never though about photographing before suddenly become very interesting. 

For example while I was sitting by the pond feeding the fish I noticed a number of dandelions in various states of losing their seeds, including one totally complete.  So suddenly from photography being the last thing on my mind I was now carefully gathering dandelions and setting up my macro lens with an off camera flash, to try to capture the seed heads.

With a bit of experimentation I found that it was quite difficult to get a big enough depth of field so that the complete seed head was sharp.  Instead I decided to shoot five images with different points of focus so they could then be image stacked to produce a single sharp image.

Next I wanted the single seeds so I could montage them together, now this was really fiddly!  Just laying them on a black background meant that the flash produced shadows making it really difficult to separate it later in Photoshop.  However the photographer’s friend Blu Tack came to the rescue and with the aid of a pair of tweezers and a lot of patience, I managed to stand the seeds upright and photograph them away from the background.

Finally it was just a case of putting all the images together in Photoshop and converting it to monochrome to produce the final image which I called ‘Fly Away’. If you would like to see some other ideas of things you could shoot using a flash, then please see my new gallery Working with Flash.

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Image of the month - May 2015

A triptych is an image that consists of three different images that usually relate in some way. Why three? Well items grouped in odd numbers are usually more compositionally pleasing and you can use three shots of different things or split one image up onto three separate panels. Generally the image is presented so each shot is given the same space / shape to sit in on the canvas and they are evenly spread out.

Triptychs are a great way to combine multiple viewpoints of the same place into a single shot so you can better tell the story of the scene you captured. It's also a good way to present images of a similar theme you've captured over time.

The images you use need to link to each other some way but this doesn't necessary mean it has to be of the same subject. They could be linked by colour, for example, or you could have applied the same treatment to them during post production to make them appear similar.

Images taken at the same focal length tend to appear more balanced when put together, however this rule isn't set in stone as the triptych below shows.  Although all three images depict Hong Kong at night, the outside two images were taken from Kowloon with a telephoto whilst the middle image of the Bank of China was captured with a wide angle lens.

All the images were shot using a tripod with a long exposure of 20 seconds.  I liked the idea that the two tall buildings were holding the edges in and the landscape in the background moved diagonally up through the frame.

You can check out some more ideas for Triptychs in my gallery.

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Image of the month - April 2015

Photography has been part of my life for as long as I can remember but one massive hole in my photographic experience is studio photography.  It simply did not appeal to me, still life verses action, action wins every time.  A portrait of someone set up in a studio verses someone doing something meaningful in their natural surroundings, the latter of course! 

However, having said that, whatever you photograph you are capturing the effects of light, be it on a landscape, animal or insect or even a canoeist!  Studio work is not just about putting someone in a pose and saying ‘smile’ but enables you as the photographer, to have complete control of the light.

That simple fact is the one thing that intrigues me, because up to now all my experience has been capturing the image by using my camera to control the available light through aperture and shutter speed. 

Now by learning to use speedlights under controlled conditions, a new world of photographic experience is opening up to me.  This means I can capture movement and moods in objects and people that would be very difficult to do under ‘normal’ conditions.

So this month’s image is of a musician called If-E doing his thing, lit by a softbox and a flash in the background to create a bit of rim lighting and give the image some mood.

You can check out some more images from this studio shoot in my gallery Just People, as well as some environmental portraits!

For more information on If-E please visit his Facebook page.

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Image of the month - March 2015

With the advent of digital photography, people have got used to the idea of manipulating and changing images in post production using software such as Photoshop. However this is not a new idea, photographers have always manipulated images, either as black and white prints in the darkroom or using slide copiers to montage and create new images.

The digital revolution just means we can do a lot more of the same and even push the boundaries further than before. The main advantages are that it is easier to see the effects as we create them, undo or modify them further until we are happy with the final image. In the darkroom you were working on a white surface and projected the images into the space you judged to be appropriate, only to see the final result when the print was developed. If you got it wrong, you did it again....and again until it was right at great expense of both time and money.

Now digital photography means that getting that final image is more forgiving than before, however one thing that never changes is the importance of getting a good image in your camera first, rather than trying to make it good in Photoshop!

The image below is actually four images put together from a studio shoot, involving lots of coloured water being flicked in the air out of a wine glass and being captured using flash. The flicking motion creates the half a heart shape, (sometimes!) so flip another similar image to create the other half. The final job is to remove the hand holding the glass and replace it with a photo of just the base.

The four images used to create the final 'Love Wine' image can be found in the 'Playing with Photoshop' gallery along with some other examples of Photo shopped work!

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Image of the month - February 2015

Often as photographers, we travel vast distances to get a different perspective for our photographs and capture something new.  However we often ignore what’s on our doorstep, as it’s familiar to us and we see it everyday.
However one advantage of this is that we see our local environment under many changing conditions as it endures weather and time.  Sometimes when we are looking for an image and the light is dull we find something that we may have ignored any other time, in this case fishing nets taken at Old Leigh.  The brightness of the woven rope and the intricate patterns just called out for a close up shot, carefully arranging the main strand across the frame to give the chaos a bit more structure.

Please check out my other images in the gallery Beside the Seaside, all taken within a short distance of Southend-on-Sea.  We are so lucky to have such a wide variety of coastline, woodland, parks and nature reserves within the surrounding area. So don't be surprised if you see a wide variety of images.

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Image of the month - January 2015

One of the advantages of having the Olympics in 2012 is that we now have a wonderful range of top class venues on our doorstep. The Olympic Velodrome is now known as the 'Lee Valley Velopark' and was the host for the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Cup where these images were taken.

Although the medal sessions are good for the atmosphere of the event the qualifying sessions are just as intense and run all day rather than just a couple of hours in the evening. This gives me a better opportunity to get lots of different shots as well as a bit more freedom to move around the arena.

This shot was taken during the Men's Keirin, first round Repechage. Only one place is available to progress through to the next round and this is the start of the final lap where riders are powering up to the big sprint finish. The current World Keirin champion Francois Pervis of France is gritting his teeth and fighting to hold off Jason Kenny of Great Britain who is coming through on the inside line. Kenny crossed the line first to progress to the next round.

The amount of available light make it difficult to get the fast shutter speeds required, riders here are travelling well in excess of 50 kph. Hence the ISO was pushed up to 2500 which makes the image a little grainy. As I was shooting right against the edge of the track I found my 70-300 mm lens to be a bit closer than needed so switched to my medium telephoto of 24-105mm which ensured that the frame had a bit of breathing room around the riders.

If you would like to see more of my images taken at the Track World Cup, then check out the gallery London 2012 and Beyond.

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Image of the month - December 2014

Back in the days of film photography I always had a yearning to try some infrared photography, but it was quite time consuming and fiddily. Firstly the exposures were long with a really low ISO, which meant a tripod. Secondly the focussing point was slightly different and was shown by a mark on the focusing ring, you couldn't just focus as normal. Of course then you also had to shoot a whole film and then develop it yourself.

Now in the world of digital you can get the infrared effect in a number of different ways, for example in Photoshop or adding a glass filter to the lens. In my case I had an old Canon EOS 50D body sitting around not doing anything so I decided to send it away to be converted into an infrared camera. Hence now when I take a shot I can actually preview what I am getting and the focussing is as normal.

So what is infrared light? Well normally we see what is called the 'visible' spectrum of light and this is what our cameras pick up when we take photographs. The infrared spectrum is invisible to our eyes, but when we take a photo with a camera that can see infrared light the world can often look very different from that we are accustomed to seeing. Colors, textures, leaves and plants, human skin, and all other manner of objects can reflect IR light in unique and interesting ways, ones that cannot be mimicked with tools such as Photoshop.

Below is one of my first images taken with IR at Hanningfield Reservoir, just to try it out and see the effect of the greens turning white. Plenty more fun days to come experimenting with how to get the best subjects and images.

A wide range of my monochrome images can be seen in the gallery Just Monochrome.

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Image of the month - November 2014

During last month I took part in a 31 day Photo Challenge organised by Wild Arena. Each day you were given a different theme which you then had to submit a photograph that reflected that theme.

The first day's theme was 'The World I See'. To reflect this theme I wanted to show an original image and then the post production that turned it into the final image, (which I hoped I might get when I pressed the shutter button).

I decided to use the original image of 'The Walkers' taken at Hockley Woods for my backgound image. Next I took a photo of my camera on a tripod, cut it out and placed it within the background so that it looked as if it was actually taking the shot. Luckily now all digital cameras have a preview screen on the back of the camera, so I decided to drop the finished image into this, giving both views in one frame. One final touch, adding a smaller image into the viewfinder and making it slightly opaque so that it looked right.

The full set of images and themes can be seen in the gallery 31 Day Photo Challenge.

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Image of the month - October 2014

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Colonel's Review which is the full dress rehearsal to the Queen's Birthday parade Trooping the Colour. The salute was taken by Prince Charles and the only difference was that the Queen was not present.

The weather forecast wasn't brilliant but stayed dry until the first guardsman stepped onto the parade ground and then the heavens opened! I have rarely seen rain like it and couldn't even get my camera out of the bag to put it into it's own little rain jacket. After a good hour and a half of solid rain the clouds departed to give a small burst of sun enabling me to get my camera into action.

The Horse Guards and Royal Artillery horses had been so well behaved standing on the fringes of the parade ground during the ceremony, but this one brown officers horse kept raising its front hoof as if to say 'are we going yet?' I wanted to make the horse stand out even more from all the things going on in the background so colour popped it. Don't you just love the British weather?

Some more images of London can be seen in the gallery Just a bit further from home.

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Image of the month - September 2014

Sports photography is one of my favourite topics, simply because the camera gives me the ability to stop the action in an instant. Canoe slalom has the added element of being able to show the battle of the canoeist against the water, in such a way that you would never be able to comprehend without being able to stop time with a photograph.

Lee Valley White Water Centre, which was built specifically for the 2012 London Olympics, provides an excellent venue to enable me to get close to the action with few restrictions. Luckily the weather has been very kind, with glorious sunshine which really brings out the colours of the water and the competitors canoes.

This image was taken during the 2014 GB Canoe Slalom Selection Trials and features Jasmine Royle. She has just come down the first major drop at the top of the course and just been hit by the backwash of a huge stopper creating water splashes everywhere.

You can find some more Canoe Slalom images in the gallery, Wonderful White Water, or check out Jasmine's website.

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Image of the month - August 2014

In total contrast to the bright and vivid colours of last month, this  image relies on texture and contrast.  The weathered door was almost a monochrome image before I converted and toned it to enhance the texture and detail even more.

This image was taken at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, which is a historic Spanish Catholic mission located 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona.

It would have been easy to walk past this, but I just loved the simplicity of the image, cropping in close and using the rule of thirds to help composition.

If you would like to see some more monochrome images then please check out the gallery, Just Monochrome.

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Image of the month - July 2014

Welcome to the new Image Chasers website, with lots of new areas for activities and updates, I hope you enjoy it?

This months image is of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, (Aglais urticae) , which was taken at the RHS garden, Hyde Hall. It just proves you don't always need macro lens to take good wildlife or nature images, this was taken using my 75 - 300 mm lens at the full focal length of 300 mm.

When it's warm, butterflies are difficult to take pictures of as they are always moving around. So set your cameras autofocus to servo, (continuous focusing), and continuous shooting. Keep a fairly high aperture of f8+ and a quick shutter speed of 1/500 second. (I was lucky, as this butterfly was fairly settled and not moving around much, so got away with 1/200 second).

Now is a good time to find these lovely get out there and make the most of it!

There are more butterfly and other wildlife images in the gallery, Flora & Fauna.

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