Brian A Keen Fine Art

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News Archive - 2015

Monthly Photography, Painting and Website news for the year.

Photos of The Year

A selection of personal favorite photographs for the year with larger image sizes. (click the thumbnails below to enlarge).

News: Nov 2015

Photography News
Water Droplet Flash Photography (Sun 15th Nov).

Some first attempts at water droplet photography using a macro lens and a pair of flashguns.

I constructed a rig using a chemistry retort stand, clamps, copper pipe, a marriotte syphon and a 12V solenoid valve to create the droplets. A 12V DC Supply (switched using a MOSFET transistor) powers the solenoid valve.

A black baking tray filled with water was placed about 2->3 feet below the valve. A length of white cotton tied to the end of the nozzle with a small weight attached was used to set the lens focus position.

The solenoid valve, flashguns and camera shutter were all controlled using a Camera Axe. This is a microprocessor controlled programmable camera trigger. The Camera Axe makes it easy to control the water droplet size and the delays required to create two-drop collisions.

The camera mode was set to Manual. As the camera shutter is directly controlled by the Camera Axe unit, the shutter speed can be set to 'bulb'. Using 'bulb' setting does tend to drain the camera battery quite quickly.

I experimented with lens apertures between F11 and F22. This is a compromise between maximising depth of field and sufficient light from the flash guns.

One flash (Nikon SB-28 Speedlight) was fitted with a blue gel, the other (Braun 340) had a red gel. Both flashes were triggered simultaneously from the Camera Axe using a 'Y' sync cable.

The Braun 340 is an old flashgun and not very flexible. It does not allow any control of flash intensity in manual mode. This means the flash duration in manual is too long to freeze fast motion. The Braun also only has two aperture setting options in auto mode: F4 or F8. Even in auto mode, the flash duration is not short enough to freeze the motion completely so the results are not that sharp. Motion blur is evident in the small droplets thrown out during a collision.

Despite not having the ideal flashguns for the job, the initial results look promising. I really need to replace the Braun flashgun with a Nikon Speedlight to improve image sharpness.

Update: I now have a second Nikon Speedlight (SB-80DX) that should help freeze the motion.

Single droplet.

Single Droplet Single Droplet

Two droplet collisions.

Two Droplet Collision Two Droplet Collision Two Droplet Collision

News: Oct 2015

Photography News
Campbell Park (Thu 1st Oct).

The first signs of autumn. These trees in Campbell Park are always among the first to turn yellow.

Autumn Trees

The moon above the Campbell Park beacon and an HDR image of barges on The Grand Union Canal.

Moon Beacon Barges
Rugby World Cup, Milton Keynes.
Rugby World Cup

Milton Keynes hosted three Rugby World Cup matches at Stadium MK this month. A 'fanzone' marquee containing large video screens was set up in Campbell Park and The Parks Trust organised a 'Festival Of Rugby' programme of events.

The blue coloured 'fanzone' marquee with it's red flags against a pure blue sky made an interesting HDR image.

Fanzone Marquee
Clash of Drums (Sat 3rd Oct).

I photographed the night time 'Clash Of Drums' event near 'The Point' in Central Milton Keynes. The event was held on both Friday and Saturday. I chose Saturday. With hind sight I should have gone both days so that I could have figured out the best places to stand, which lenses to use, exposure etc. As it turned out, I often ended up with the wrong lens attached: I would be using the telephoto lens trying to get close up shots of the performers when fireworks appeared that needed the wide angle.

I only took a couple of lenses: A mid range zoom plus light weight manual focus 135mm lens. I decided that trying to use a tripod among the crowds would be too difficult. Although the stage was raised, it was tricky to avoid the heads of people in the audience.

Although the sensor in my D200 is a bit noisy at high ISO settings, I used ISO 400 to try and keep the shutter speed reasonably fast and avoid too much camera shake and motion blur. I set the camera to manual exposure because of the fireworks: Shutter speed and aperture were pretty much guessed.

I switched the zoom lens to manual focus as auto-focus does not work well in the dark when the subject is some distance away.

I tried using a flash gun for some shots, but found my best images were obtained using just the stage lights and light from the fireworks.

ClashOfDrums ClashOfDrums ClashOfDrums ClashOfDrums ClashOfDrums ClashOfDrums
Coloured Lights.

While waiting for the Clash Of Drums event to begin, I took a few shots of coloured lights on a street seller's stand. I tried using a slow shutter speed while zooming the lens. These were hand held as I had no tripod with me, but they worked quite well.

Coloured Lights
Shuttleworth Uncovered, Old Warden (Sun 4th Oct).

The final airshow of the year at Old Warden and a last chance to see the Vulcan XH558 flying. Unfortunately I arrived after the show started and missed the Dakota, Huricane and Spitfire.

As usual, we found a spot in the field at the end of the grass runway along with several other photographers. The wind direction was such that the aircraft approached the airfield above our heads when landing. This made panning easier as the aircraft are moving more slowly. It also means they can be photographed as they bank to make the turn on their final approach.

I used the same lens and camera set up that has worked for me in the past:- 70-200mm zoom set to 200mm, shutter speed priority (1/250th for prop aircraft, 1/1000 for jets), continuous auto-focus. Tripod with ball head to allow panning while keeping the lens reasonably steady.

Seafire MK XVII.
Seafire MK XVII
Hawker Fury and Gloster Gladiator.
Hawker Fury Gloster Gladiator
DH88 Comet.
DH88 Comet DH88 Comet DH88 Comet and Gull DH88 Comet landing
Soviet Polikarpov U2 and Provost T.1 Trainer.
Polikarpov U2 Provost
North American Harvard.
Harvard Harvard
Extra 330C.
Extra 330SC Extra 330SC
Bristol Scout and Bristol M1C.
Bristol Scout Bristol M1C
Bristol F2B.
Bristol F2B Bristol F2B
Avro Vulcan.
Vulcan Vulcan Vulcan Vulcan
Avro Anson and Avro 405K.
Avro Anson Avro 504K
RAF SE5A and Sopwith Pup.
RAF SE5A Sopwith Pup
Campbell Park and the Grand Union Canal (Sun 11th Oct).

A colourful HDR image of barges on the Grand Union Canal.


Just a piece of rope? Afraid not.

Afraid Not

Autumn colours in Campbell Park and a Purple Acer in my garden.

Autumn Colours Purple Acer
St Mary Magdelene Church, Willen (Wed 14th Oct).

A couple of HDR images of St Mary Magdelene Church in the sunlight as dark rain clouds were approaching. Shot using my Canon G11 handheld.

Willen Church Willen Church
Graffiti, Willen (Fri 17th Oct).

Graffiti / street art under a bridge at Willen Lake.

Graffiti, Woughton (Tue 20th Oct).

More Graffiti / street art under a bridge at Woughton.

Graffiti Graffiti
Autumn Colours (Tue 20th Oct).

Some local autumn colour images.

Autumn Colours Autumn Colours Autumn Colours
Padley Gorge (Sun 25th Oct).

A day trip to Padley Gorge in Derbyshire to try and capture some autumn colour images along the banks of Burbage Brook.

As this was the first day after BST ended, it meant getting up at 5:00am to make a day trip worthwhile. The drive up the M1 was slow because of never ending road works and mile after mile of traffic cones and 50 mph speed restrictions between J15-J19 and J28-J29.

I parked at Grindleford Railway Station and walked up the Bole Hill footpath on the western side of the gorge. The path on this side is some distance from the brook itself, and I found little to photograph until I reached one of the footbridges about a mile to the north. I crossed the footbridge and began searching for photographs as I made my way back along the eastern side of the brook.

Despite it being the last week in October, trees in some areas had surprisingly little autumn colour. Many of the leaves on the trees were still green. Not surprisingly, spots where there was more colour had attracted other photographers. This made avoiding getting people in the shots tricky.

The area around the footbridge looked interesting. I tried throwing a few dead leaves onto some of the foreground rocks to add colour.

I used a polarising filter in most of the shots to enhance the colour saturation. This also slows down the shutter speed which can enhance images that include moving water. If the angle of the polariser is always set to give maximum effect, it can darken some areas of water too much and reduce the impression of movement. In some cases it's better to back off the filter angle slightly to allow some water reflections.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

Sometimes it's nice to have a figure in the shot. I asked a lady in a red coat to stand on the bridge to provide a focal point.

Padley Gorge

This ancient beech tree by the footbridge had plenty of autumn colour.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

A short walk along the path to the south of the footbridge is the much photographed discarded millstone. The gnarled beech tree behind produced some spectacular yellow and orange autumn colours. These images alone made the trip worthwhile.

Padley Millstone Padley Millstone Padley Millstone

I continued to follow the path along the bank of the brook, stopping to photograph some of the many small waterfalls. It needs a good eye to find the best compositions. The ones that tend to work best are those that are kept simple. Sometimes it's better to zoom in close to avoid too much clutter. Where there is an interesting background, a wide angle lens can give a better result.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

Further down the brook is a second footbridge with a small waterfall beneath. This bridge is a bit too new to be particularly photogenic.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

I reached a spot where the leaf colour made a wide angle shot worthwhile. I also found a nicely shaped small waterfall that needed a longer lens.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

A couple more wide angle shots.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

This time excluding the background.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

A high viewpoint using a wide angle lens.

Padley Gorge

There are some rock steps leading down to the banks of the brook that made an interesting composition. The contrast range between the dark foreground and the bright sky and leaves was enormous. Three stop exposure bracketing and HDR processing came to the rescue.

Padley Gorge

Nearby is a third, older looking footbridge. Unfortunately, the surrounding trees still looked fairly green.

Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge Padley Gorge

For something a bit different, I tried shooting some eddy current swirl patterns using a slow shutter speed.

Padley Gorge
Autumn Trees (Tue 27th Oct).

The light on this group of trees caught my eye while out for a walk.

Autumn Colours
Autumn Leaves (Tue 27th Oct).

Close up images of autumn leaves on the ground. For some of these I zoomed the lens slightly during exposure to create a soft blur effect. In other cases I added a semi-transparent layer and applied gaussian blur.

Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaves

The Photoshop Craquelure texture filter creates an interesting effect.

Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaves

Attempts to create compositions by placing leaves by hand can sometimes end up looking artificial but they can be used to make interesting mirrored abstracts.

Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaves
More Autumn Colour (Wed 28th Oct).

More autumn colour images from around Milton Keynes. Some of these have been processed using tonemapping to enhance the colours.

Autumn Colours

The row of trees next to the Grand Union Canal at Newlands.

Autumn Colours Autumn Biker Autumn Colours Autumn Colours Autumn Colours

Steps leading up to the Peace Pagoda from the car park at Willen Lake.

Autumn Steps Autumn Steps

The gate and path leading to St Mary Magdelene Church at Willen.

Church Gate

St Mary Magdelene Church made a nice image with the yellow leaves and blue sky.

Willen Church

News: Sep 2015

Photography News
Holy Trinity Church (Tue 15th Sep).

I've photographed the church many times in the past. The surrounding hedges had been trimmed which meant the light was now able to reach the north side of the church. This allowed a different view and composition.

Holy Trinity Holy Trinity
Mist on Willen Lake (Mon 28th Sep).

A minimalist image of a swan on Willen Lake in the early morning mist. This was shot using my Canon G11 and split toned using Adobe Raw. When viewed full size at pixel resolution, flat tone images like this really show up the noise in small sensors, even at 100 ISO.

Swan in mist

News: May 2015

Photography News

I didn't do much serious photography this month. As usual, I carried my Canon G11 on local walks in case something caught my eye.

Bluebells (Sat 2nd May).

A group of bluebells and primroses on the verge by The Swan in Woughton On The Green.

Bluebells Bluebells
Apple Blossom (Sat 2nd May).

Apple blossom in the orchard next to the Grand Union Canal in Woughton On The Green.

Apple Blossom AppleBlossom
Whitebells (Tue 12th May).

Whitebells in Woughton On The Green.


News: Apr 2015

Photography News
Daffodils (Mon 6th Apr).

I took a walk around Willen Lake to photograph the daffodils by St Mary Magdalene Church in the spring sunshine.

The church in the background provides a focal point for the eye. I tried both landscape and portrait compositions. I think portrait format works best. I used HDR as the clounds were very bright. This also allowed me to brighten up the church. I had to use Photoshop to clone out some annoying sensor dust in the sky.

Willen Daffodils

This HDR image of a single daffodil in the churchyard was shot using a macro lens and tripod. The flower was nicely lit by the sun and the dark background makes the flower really stand out. I decided to use HDR as the contrast was so high. In the past I have had problems with oversaturated colours exceeding the dynamic range of the camera sensor.

Peacock Butterfly (Tue 7th Apr).

Backgrounds can make all the difference when photographing butterflies. This peacock butterfly stands out against the yellow Forsythia flowers.

Peacock Butterfly

Another Peacock on a Viburnum bush.

Peacock Butterfly
Woughton Church (Tue 21st Apr).

A couple of HDR images of St Mary's Church in Woughton lit by the golden evening sun. This shows how an otherwise uninteresing shot can be transformed under the right light conditions. These were shot using my Canon G11.

Woughton Church Woughton Church

News: Mar 2015

Photography News
XScape (Sun 8th Mar).

Abstract reflections outside the Xscape building in Milton Keynes.


Reflection on the tiled floor of the Xscape Cineworld complex.

Xscape Star
North Wales (Sun 22nd - Sat 28th Mar).

I spent a week in North Wales based at Trefriw, a small village to the North West of Llanrwst.

Trefriw has a Post Office and a Butchers but you need to visit nearby Llanrwst, where there is a Co-Op store, for most shopping. The village has a Woollen mill and a water fall (The Fairy Falls) and a small Chapel.

Trefriw has two pubs although the selection of real ales on offer was limited. The 'Fairy Falls' only had Doombar on the first evening. The second day (Monday) it was closed. On the third day it had ran out of ales completely and we had to resort to drinking lager. The 'Old Ship Inn' had a wider choice of ales but they called last orders soon after 10:00pm.

Nant Ffrancon & Ogwen Valley (Mon 23rd Mar).

We explored the single track road that runs along Nant Ffrancon parallel to the A5 as you head west from Llyn Ogwen. At the end of the road near Ty'n-y-maes is a picturesque bridge over Afon Ogwen. There are also waterfalls and views looking back down the Ogwen valley to the East.

Tyn-y-maes Bridge Nant Ffrancon Afon Ogwen Fall
Penrhyn Castle (Mon 23rd Mar).

Penrhyn Castle is a 19th century lavish stately home built in the style of a mock castle. It is now run by the National Trust.

Much of the money to build Penryn was derived from slave labour used in Jamaican sugar plantations and from the Welsh slate industry. The history of Penrhyn Castle and the Pennant family who owned it can be found at infobritain.

Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle

The stable block in the courtyard now houses a small industrial railway museum.

Fire Queen Fire Queen

Reflections from one of the steam engines made an interesting abstract.

Steam Engine Detail

Flash photography is not allowed inside the castle. There are blinds over most of the windows to keep direct sunlight away from the valuables. This made it quite dark but I managed a few, somewhat noisy, images using my Canon G11 hand held. They are mostly simple record shots, although processed as HDR.

Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle Penrhyn Castle
Llyn Idwal & Pen Yr Ole Wen (Tue 24th Mar).

We spent most of the day on a walk around Llyn Idwal just off the A5 near Llyn Ogwen. Unfortunately our visit coincided with 2 or 3 coach loads of school kids on a geography field trip. For some images, this meant cloning out a few figures in the background using Photoshop.

The weather was fairly cold and cloudy for the first section of the walk. There were periods spent waiting for the light. Later in the afternoon the wind strengthened and hail and sleet began to sweep in over the mountains.

I attempted to photograph the footbridge over the stream at the bottom of the path leading to the lake. This was tricky as it needed HDR to handle the contrast and there was nowhere to place a tripod. I resorted to resting the camera on a fence.

Path to Llyn Idwal

Images of the lake from the top of the track that leads up from the A5.

Llyn Idwal Llyn Idwal Llyn Idwal Llyn Idwal

The lake has some nice views of the pyramid shaped 'Pen Yr Ole Wen'. This looks good reflected in the water when the weather is calm. I lost my hotshoe spirit level here - if you find one, it's mine.

Llyn Idwal Llyn Idwal

This is the view from futher up the slope on the western side of the lake. The clouds closed in, the wind picked up and sleet and hail began to fall shortly after this shot was taken.

Llyn Idwal

Nant Francon from the top of the ridge on the westen side of Llyn Idwal. We were hoping for a break in the clouds for this shot, but in the end I had to use Photoshop to enhance an otherwise flat looking image.

Nant Ffrancon
Festiniog Railway (Wed 25th Mar).

The weather forecast suggested Wednesday would be the best day of the week. We reserved the day to visit Cwmorthin and Rhosydd quarries near Tanygrisiau. This is one of my favorite places to explore and photograph in North Wales.

After checking the rail timetable, we decided to stop at Tanygrisiau first to photograph the one and only steam train of the day as headed towards Blaenau Ffestiniog from Porthmadog. If we waited a short time, we would also be able to photograph the train on it's return journey.

Some of my past attempts at photographing moving steam trains have not been particularly successful. I often end up with motion blur as a result of using shutter speeds that are too slow.

Another common problem is burnt out highlights in the sky and/or steam exhaust. If you reduce the exposure to avoid burnt highlights, then the loco's, which are often dark, lose shadow detail. This is not helped by the CCD sensor on the Nikon D200 which does not have a wide dynamic range compared to more modern CMOS sensors.

This time I increased the ISO from 100 to 200 to allow a faster shutter speed without introducing excessive noise. This allowed 1/160th second at F8 which is just about fast enough to freeze the motion of the train. An aperture of F8 gave enough depth of field to keep the train and background reasonably sharp.

My shots of the train as it approached Blaenau Ffestiniog had burnt out highlights in the sky. I managed to add a sky from another image using Photoshop. With hindsight it may have been better to have used a grad grey filter, although this is not easy with a moving subject.

Festiniog Railway

For the train on it's return journey I decided to try something different. To handle the bright sky without losing shadow detail, I decided to shoot a couple of extra frames exposed for the sky after the train had passed. I shot several frames as the train approached around the bend so that I could select the best one later. I then shot two additional frames with -1 and -2 stops exposure compensation.

The idea was to use Photoshop layers to merge the sky from the underexposed frames with the train and foreground from the earlier normally exposed frames. This meant using a tripod to keep both sets of images in register.

This idea worked quite well. I used the -2 stop exposure frame for the sky and the mountain. I used Photoshop's 'Auto-align' layers feature to ensure both frames were in register. Layer masks and the eraser tool were then used to merge the two images.

The only real problem was the telephone/signalling cable which had shifted between the two frames because of the wind. To avoid ending up with a ghost cable, I had to clone it out completely from one of the images.

There was little I could do to avoid the yellow digger visible in the picture. I tried to hide as much of it as possible behind a conifer tree.

Festiniog Railway
Cwmorthin and Rhosydd Slate Quarries (Wed 25th Mar).

Dave Sallery has a website full of information covering the Welsh slate mining industry. It includes many useful photographs and maps. See here.

For anyone interested in exploring old workings underground, the following link is useful. See aditnow.

During my previous visit to Cwmorthin in 2012, I used both digital and infrared film. Attempting to do both slowed me down so much that I didn't manage to get as far as the Miner's Chapel ruin (Capel y Gorlan) before it was time to move on.

This time I took my digital kit only. The plan was to walk at least as far as the level 9 Rhosydd quarry workings further up the track beyond Llyn Cwmorthin. It meant I had to avoid the temptation to photograph areas I had already explored en-route.

We decided to wear wellies rather than walking boots in case we needed to get close to the lake edge. This proved to be a good move as some of the gound was wet and boggy. Unfortunately I later discovered my Derri boots had a leak and I ended up with damp feet in any case.

I managed to avoid the temptation to stop and photograph the many waterfalls on the walk up from the car park. On the way up, we found the path on the left that leads to some interesting quarry works and relics had been fenced off. A notice indicated the path was unsafe. As we had photographed that area before, we carried on.

On reaching Llyn Cwmorthin and the ruined miner's barracks or Cwmorthin Terrace (also known as 'Tai Llyn'), we were disappointed to find a truck parked in front of the buildings. It looked like restoration or safety work was being carried out inside.

As on my previous visit, I was still unable to find the rusty winch gear wheel I had seen used as a foreground in some older photographs. The original photogenic foot bridge over the stream has also disappeared. An alternative crossing made from a couple of large slabs of stone had partially collapsed since our last visit but was still usable.

We decided to abandon attempting to photograph the barracks and concentrated on the remains of Cwmorthin House. The building makes a great subject for photography - both in colour and monochrome. There are endless compositional possibilities.

Cwmorthin House Cwmorthin House Cwmorthin House Cwmorthin House

We also spent time capturing the reflections in the lake. The reflections were perfect as there was little wind and the water was like a mirror.

Llyn Orthin Llyn Orthin Llyn Orthin Llyn Orthin Llyn Orthin Llyn Orthin

Some images needed a stone thrown into the water to create a few ripples to distort the mirror like reflections.

Llyn Orthin Reflections Llyn Orthin Reflections

We watched a cormorant dive to catch a fish after which it climbed onto a rock to dry it's wings. I grabbed a few shots using my 200mm zoom lens which was the longest I had with me. It would have made a great shot if I had a longer lens or it had been closer. Sometimes it's better to forget the camera and just appreciate the moment.

Cwmorthin Cormorant

We decided to walk around Eastern side of Llyn Cwmorthin to the old ruined farmstead of Cwmorthin Uchaf. The ground was wet and boggy and it was here I first discovered the leak in my rubber boots.

Cwmorthin Uchaf

At the far side of the lake is Plas Cwmorthin. This was the Quarry Manager's house built in 1860. It's difficult to get good photographs of the building as it's surrounded by trees.

Plas Cwmorthin

On reaching the ruins of Rhosydd Stables and Rhosydd Terrace at the end of the lake, I initially took the path back along the south western shore to photograph the ruins of Capel y Gorlan while the light was good. This turned out to be a good move as the sun later disapeared behind a ridge.

The miner's track with the slate fence works well as a lead-in to the frame.

Capel y Gorlan

I also tried using the stream and rocks as a foreground. With hindsight, I think the Chapel looks rather too distant from this viewpoint. I probably should have used a slightly longer lens for this shot.

Capel y Gorlan

With the images of the Chapel in the bag, I doubled back to photograph Rhosydd Stables. You can see that the Chapel in the distance is now in shadow. The stables were use to house the ponies that pulled the slate waggons.

Rhosydd Stables

I took a few shots of the remains of Rhosydd Terrace before heading further up the track. This is a group of six one-up one-down cottages used by mine workers and their families. The light on the face of the building suggested a trying monochrome image. I toned the monochrome version to give it the same blue-grey colour as the slate.

Rhosydd Terrace Rhosydd Terrace

I continued up the steep path to the level 9 Rhosydd works. This section is quite hard going when carrying a heavy backpack and tripod.

The path runs past a hidden entrance to a mine adit cut into the hillside. The adit is open but the water inside was about nine inches deep and I did not fancy venturing in with leaking boots and without a decent torch.

At the top of the path lies level 9 of the abandoned Rhosydd quarry workings. Here there are the crumbling remains of the mill and barrack buildings including a dry stone archway. Rusting quarry relics and discarded slate lie strewn on the ground. There is the rusting chassis of an old lorry, converted to operate as a winch and the skeletons of slate wagons.

Rhosydd Rhosydd Rhosydd Rhosydd Rhosydd Rhosydd Rhosydd Arch Rhosydd Arch Rhosydd Barracks

The old 2 foot gauge horse drawn tramway originally used to transport the dressed slate to Porthmadog via Croesor is now used as a footpath. The path continues beyond the quarry works giving some spectacular views of the valley towards Croesor.

Rhosydd View Rhosydd View
Fairy Falls, Trefriw (Thu 26th Mar).

The Fairy Falls at Trefriw are nice to look at, but I struggled to find a particularly interesting composition.

Fairy Falls Fairy Falls Fairy Falls

This small clump of trees not far from the Falls at Trefriw was nicely lit by the morning sun. The dark background helps make the trees stand out.

Sunlit Tree
Llanberis Pass (Thu 26th Mar).

We drove though the Llanberis Pass as far as Llanrug before turning south towards Waunfawr. The plan was to try and photograph Welsh Highland Railway steam trains in the mountain landscape.

We stopped along the way to photgraph Llynnau Mymbyr with the mountains in the background.

Llynnau Mymbyr
Welsh Highland Railway (Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert, Pont Croesor) (Thu 26th Mar).

The Welsh Highland Railway timetable showed two trains that pass each other at Rhyd Ddu. We found a spot on a curve in the track where we could photograph the trains in each direction.

The south bound Welsh Highland Railway steam train on it's way from Carmarthen to Porthmadog approaching Rhyd Ddu.

Steam Train Rhyd Ddu Steam Train Rhyd Ddu

The north bound train at the same location a few minutes later on it's way to Carmarthen.

Steam Train Rhyd Ddu Steam Train Rhyd Ddu Steam Train Rhyd Ddu Steam Train Rhyd Ddu Steam Train Rhyd Ddu

We chased the south bound train and managed to get some more photographs just south of Beddgelert where the A498 crosses the railway track. The railway crosses a bridge over Afon Glaslyn at this point.

Steam Train Beddgelert Steam Train Beddgelert

We continued to follow the train south for more photographs at the small un-manned station of Pont Croesor near Garreg.

Steam Train Pont Croesor Steam Train Pont Croesor Steam Train Pont Croesor

The bridge at Pont Croesor has views of the Snowdon mountain range in the distance.

Mountains From Croesor
Gelli Lago & Nantgwynant (Thu 26th Mar).

Instead of returning via the main road through Beddgelert, we decided to explore a single track road through the Nanmor valley. This is a remote and isolated area that must get often cut off by the snow during winter.

On the way, I spotted an interesting looking ruin on the hillside next to a farm building being renovated. I initally walked up the track carrying just my camera, thinking it might not be a public right of way.

As I got closer I realised the photograhic potential of the location. I rushed back to the car for my tripod and kit bag. I later discovered this spot has the strange name 'Gelli Lago' and is the base for the Nantmor Mountain Centre.

The late afternoon golden yellow light was perfect for photography.

Gelli Lago Gelli Lago Gelli Lago Gelli Lago Gelli Lago

The path carries on upwards past the farm giving some nice views over the Nantgwynant valley.

Gelli Lago Gelli Lago
Llyn Crafnant (Fri 27th Mar).

Llyn Crafnant is a small lake to the South West of Trefriw. In the right light, it can produce some nice images of the mountains in the background. We had to wait some time for the sun to light up the mountains.

Llyn Crafnant Llyn Crafnant
Bodnant Gardens (Fri 27th Mar).

This was my first visit to the National Trust gardens at Bodnant. For horticulturalists, March is probably not the best time to visit. Camellias and early Rhododendrons were some of the few plants in flower. The swathes of daffodils in The Old Park are probably the best attraction at this time of year.

Bodnant Daffodils Bodnant Daffodils Bodnant Daffodils

I struggled to find many other interesting images in the grounds.

Bodnant Tree Bodnant Bodnant Statue
Conwy (Fri 27th Mar).

This was my third visit to a Conwy and I had visited Conwy Castle and photographed Conwy Suspension Bridge in the past. As it was late in the afternoon and the light was not that good, we decided just to walk around the top of the town wall.

I didn't find much to photograph until we arrived at the harbour. This old boat wreck made an interesting image that works in both colour and monochrome. By now, the light had improved and the clouds helped with the composition.

Boat Boat Boat Mono

The peeeling paintwork on the boat hull works as an abstract image.

Boat Detail

News: Feb 2015

Photography News
Snow (Tue 3rd Feb).

Some potential Christmas card shots of my tame robin posing in the snow.

Robin Robin Robin

HDR images of thin ice on the pond and the oak tree at Woughton.

Cracked Ice Oak Tree
Circus (Wed 4th Feb).

A few colourful images of circus trucks at Willen Lake.

Circus Circus Circus Circus Circus
Willen Lake (Wed 4th Feb).

Willen Lake HDR, viewed from Willen Hospice.

Willen Lake
Graffiti (Wed 4th Feb).

Graffiti on a bridge at Tongwell Street (V11) near the motocross park.

Arches (Wed 4th Feb).

Some more HDR images of the concrete arches under the M1. This time from the south side of the river.

The M1 crossing at Pineham is a desolate area of floodplain and wasteland, part of which is used as a Motocross track. It is not the sort of place you would expect to find anything interesting to photograph. However, the concrete arches and graffiti do have a certain grim urban look to them. Using HDR and tonemapping to increase detail and colour saturation, it is possible to create interesting images.

Pedestrians can't actually cross over the river at the M1 itself. To reach the south side arches, you have to approach from the south bank of the river via the Pineham BMX track off Tongwell Street (V11). The entrance to the BMX track is usually closed by a locked barrier - presumably to deter travellers. I approached on foot from Willen Lake.

The arrangement of the arches on the south crossing is different to those on the north. You have different composition options. The south side has a wider span and more supporting beams. Up to five layers of single distant arches are visible through each near arch.

Last month I photographed the northen section where the main river flows under the motorway. On that side, the supporting beams are further apart. This means a group of three distant arches on the opposite side of the river can be seen though each near arch.

I had no tripod with me, so I improvised by resting the camera on a flat topped wooden stake driven into the mud.

Arches Arches Arches
Red Phone Box (Sun 8th Feb).

This shot is all about the complementary colours of the phone box and sky. I chose a low viewpoint so that the blue sky appears directly behind the red. It also allowed me to rest the camera on my knee during the 3 exposure HDR.

Red Phone Box
Blue Tits (Wed 18th Feb).

I photographed blue tits investigating a nest box in my garden. I used a Nikkor 300mm IFED lens set to the maximum aperture (f4.5) to give the fastest shutter speed available. Focusing on a moving bird using a manual focus lens was not easy.

BlueTit BlueTit BlueTit
Peace Pagoda (Tue 24th Feb).

The clouds and golden light on the Peace Pagoda looked spectacular during an evening walk around Willen Lake. Some of the nearby trees had recently been thinned which allowed dappled light from the setting sun onto the foreground. I took some hand held HDR images using my Canon G11.

Peace Pagoda Peace Pagoda

News: Jan 2015

Website News
Gallery Selection.

Until now, there was no sensible scheme to define the order in which each gallery is visited when using the 'Prev Galley' and 'Next Gallery' buttons. The same thing applies to the order of the galleries in the 'Select Gallery' pull down list. To avoid reordering the list when new galleries were added, they were simply appended to the end of the list.

I have now added some Javascript to sort the gallery list alphabetically using the name that appears in the 'Select Gallery' pull down list. As all the gallery names are prefixed with either 'B&W' or 'Colour', all the monochrome galleries now appear together before the 'Colour' galleries (as 'B' comes before 'C'). After sorting, the first gallery is now 'B&W Abstract' instead of 'B&W Infrared'.

Gallery Navigation Button Help.

A 'name' field has been added to the gallery navigation buttons. Browsers display the name text in a 'help' pop up when the mouse hovers over the button.

Photos Of The Year Titles.

Previously, image titles only appeared when the mouse hovered over the thumnail. This has been changed so that titles are always displayed.

News Gallery Links.

Links to gallery images from the news pages are now displayed as semi transparent when the mouse hovers over them.

Image links in navigation panes on the gallery pages now behave in the same way.

Photography News

Another year rolls by. Images from 2014 have now been moved into the 'news archive' pages.

Robin (Thu 15th Jan).

This is the same robin I photographed in the Holy Trinity Churchyard at the end of last year. For a few days, I left scraps of bacon fat, earth worms and bread crumbs on top of some of the gravestones as bait. The same robin would usually appear within five minutes of setting up my tripod so it must have learnt that there would be free food. The bird became tame enough for me to get in close wih my 105mm Macro lens. It almost seemed like it was deliberately posing.

Robin Robin Robin
Woughton Sunrise (Sat 17th Jan).

The weather forecast was for early morning frost with the possibility of snow. When I woke it was still almost dark but there was a hint of light in the sky that looked promising. I grabbed my camera kit and tripod and went out before breakfast. I headed to Woughton and used a wide angle lens to capture the sunrise over the frozen water.

I shot 5 frames with one stop exposure difference between each and processed them using Photomatix software to create an HDR image.

Nikon D200 Focus Mode Switch guard (Sat 17th Jan).

After uploading the first set of sunrise images to my PC, I found that some were not in sharp focus.

I discovered the focus mode switch on the D200 was set to 'manual'. The switch is located near the lens mount and I must have knocked it when I changed lenses. Luckily, for some images, the manual focus position was set to infinity. The depth of field on the wide angle lens meant I just about got away with it.

The position of the focus mode switch is an annoying design flaw on the D200. I have accidently knocked it several times - usually when changing lenses or when taking the camera out of my backpack. I think the camera strap sometimes catches on it.

Sometimes it is obvious when looking though the viewfinder that the lens is not in focus. The missing focus 'beep' from the camera also provides a warning but you don't always notice.

I decided to fabricate a guard for the switch made from a sheet of 20 tho' clear PVC. The PVC is thin enough to cut with scissors. I attached the guard to the front of the camera just below the lens mount using double sided tape. Hopefully it will shield the switch from being moved by accident in future.

Focus Mode Guard
Sunrise Revisited (Tue 20th Jan).

With another morning frost forecast, I decided to get up early once again for the sunrise at Woughton.

This time, as there was less cloud, I balanced the exposure for the sky and frozen water using a graduated grey filter. I tried using ND4 and ND8 filters.

I also tried some shots in portrait mode with the tripod set low to the ground to get some foreground detail. The images were processed as HDR.

I think the sky looks more interesting than my previous attempt at the weekend when I had the focus problem.

Sunrise Sunrise
Oak Tree (Tue 20th Jan).

After shooting the sunrise, I decided to try using a nearby oak tree while there was still some colour in the sky. The images were also processed as HDR.

Oak Tree Oak Tree
Golden Church (Tue 20th Jan).

On my way back, I couldn't resist photographing the Holy Trinity Church reflected in the frozen fishponds. The early morning golden light was perfect. Although I've taken a similar shot in the past, the clouds improved the composition.

Robin Revisited (Tue 20th Jan).

Some more macro shots of the robin in the same churchyard location. As before, the bird posed nicely for me and allowed me to get close enough to fill the frame using my macro lens. The results are pin sharp when viewed at full size and resolution.

Robin Robin Robin Robin Robin
Willen Lake (Fri 23rd Jan).

Another frosty morning and another early start. This time to catch the sunrise at Willen Lake. It was bitter cold (-5degC at around 07:30am).

Although there was some colour in the sky, Willen Lake itself is not particularly photogenic. It really needed a focal point such as a boat or tree. There were wild fowl on the water, but they usually end up blurred when using slow shutter speeds. I took a few quick shots using a grad ND8 filter to darken the sky before moving on to the Peace Pagoda.

Willen Lake

I was hoping for a better sky at the Peace Pagoda. Shooting into the light meant combining 5 bracketed frames using HDR to avoid ending up with a silhouette and burnt out highlights. The result was ok but nothing special.

Peace Pagoda
Arches (Wed 28th Jan).

HDR images of concrete arches where the M1 crosses the River Ouzel.

Arches Arches Arches Arches Arches Arches

I added some water reflections using Photoshop's 'flood' plugin.

Cave (Thu 29th Jan).

My take on 'The Cave' sculpture in Campbell Park by Heather and Ivan Morison. The empty beer can, cigarette packet and discarded lighter were already there. They add to the sense of urban desolation and emptiness. I used HDR and added noise and heavy unsharp masking to create a gritty image.

I tried a monochrome version, but I decided I prefer the muted colours.

Urban Grit Cave
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