Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015: The Review

2015 has been a mixed year. A year where I've found myself frustrated and in a bit of a rut photographically, a year that I've explored new locations and found my distance from hills difficult to live with and a year that I feel I've finally begun to find my style - whilst, on the other hand, diversifying at the same time. From the endless train journeys and the odd sense of pride I felt in the whole of my portfolio coming about through public transport and lots of walking, I now have a car. The Dales have become my playground once again, since living in York, and more recently, the North York Moors too. I've lost the ease of the grit stone edges of the Peak but gained much more in learning just what I want from a photo. I may not have been as prolific this year, but I feel the quality has gradually increased.

My aims at the start of the year were to double my Facebook following, sell more calendars than last year, begin to get my greetings cards out there and finally push on with the tuition and workshops - all of which have been achieved alongside the relief of completing my PhD... so I really can't complain too much. Now to repeat this for 2016 and hopefully I can make this my proper job with a decent income for 2017... I'm sure you'll all help me along the way, and I could never do it without you lovely people!

For any new viewers - you can find me at the following places:


So... on with the photos! Just a selection of my favourite landscape photos from this year, with a few words explaining why, saving the best until last.

Higger Tor - the smallest of gaps turns a hopeless trip into a perfect evening. 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Photographing people... how?

I have to admit, I have a knack for finding beautiful, unphotographed people to model for me for free - from browsing Instagram and getting past that first, awkward message to stumbling across them in town and asking for their photograph... so I can't complain too much. But with such openness and generosity on their part, comes a sense of responsibility on my part to give them something for their time and therefore, often, a lack of opportunity for experimentation.

I love the photos I have of random, beautiful people and the subsequent shoots we've done - and I'm more than confident in shooting in a number of situations. Give me a setting sun, a pretty face and a reflector and I'm a happy man. Equally, a white wall, a window and a bit of space... all is fine. But neither of these are ever guaranteed. I have no idea where to find white walls and space in York, and the weather is never predictable enough to organise a shoot on it. 

So how can I change this? There are a number of things that I'd love to either own, get to grips with or have the chance to use... but all are limited by expense or practicality. I already own a couple of flashes and softboxes - all very useful, but all somewhat unreliable and certainly unusable outdoors in the slightest of breeze. So what are the other options that intrigue me and problems I currently have?..

  • Continuous lighting 
    • Would be great for learning and knowing exactly what you're about to shoot. Flashes are useful and portable, but when you're a relative newcomer it's always nice to have that extra certainty that comes with a continuous light source. These are more expensive and heavier though... so is it really worth the investment? Where do I even start?
  • Backdrops and stands
    • I already have some cheap stands for my lights - but is it worth investing in a backdrop, and how much should that cost? You can get them for £30-50 on Amazon but reviews are not great, with creases in the backing fabric being a major problem. 
    • So my questions are... what do you look for in a backdrop? Which materials are good? How much do they cost? Is it worth getting the cheap stand and buying a better fabric?
  • Where do I find the space to use this stuff?
    •  I've spent the last week trying to find empty flats, cheap studios or village halls in and around York and they just don't exist. York is a crap place to live as a photographer. So if I were to invest in the studio setups, where could I use them in a cost effective way? I used to have room to shoot in my flat in Sheffield, but that would be very tight here. Even ignoring the space, it's difficult to have control over the light in a regularly sized room - as the light reflects around and ends up ruining any ideas you had - you really need a large room to have full control over this.
  • Even the empty buildings in York seem to be well protected. 
    • Terry's is now being rebuilt as flats, the empty carparks are all very well fenced off (I've checked) and the other abandoned buildings are either well guarded or somewhat dangerous to be exploring. 
    • Where do I find large, empty spaces in a posh city?

So where do I begin? How did any of you learn? Is it worth buying some cheap stuff? I don't need a workshop, I just need some space and/or equipment... but how do you do this without wasting a load of money?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Wasn't Expecting That.

A short and (as usual) somewhat ill thought out post - but bear with me whilst I ramble. I often write these things as the ideas pop into my head... but it's hopefully an interesting one nonetheless. Here I was, sat listening to the generic new releases and on popped a recent number 1 (maybe it still is?) - I Wasn't Expecting That... by someone vaguely linked to Ed Sheeran. Anyway, it's a nice song.

Then, browsing Facebook I came across this wonderful photograph by Mark Rasbeary from Willance' Leap in the Richmond group... of those amazing autumnal bursts from stormy skies. The kinda thing you can take many trips out for on moody looking days and come back with nothing... always unexpected and always spectacular. But is it really unexpected? If it truly was, why would we keep putting ourselves there?

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Mystery Workshop

It's an odd idea - but one I think may have some legs in it, based on the trust of both the general public and all those who know me...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

2016 Calendars - The Northern Landscape, Richmond and York.

It's that time of year again where I've got to try to sell some calendars, they've gone down ever so well for the last few years so it's good to push it and keep expanding them! It's always nice to know that so many people will get to look at my pictures day in day out.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Purple Haze

Year after year, heather blooming seems to be something I look forward to the most (along with the first snow) and year after year it always seems to coincide with a period when I can't get out as much as I'd like - usually falling bang in the middle of holiday weeks where I'm travelling to visit family and things, or going to Edinburgh for the Fringe. But this year, I'm coming to the end of this glorious moorland season and I'm actually content... partly because it came late this year and partly because I had fewer distractions... but it seems I've actually made the most of it for once.

Plenty of images for cards and calendars and some of my most popular photos of the year. So here's a very small selection of what I've got, coming from all three of Yorkshire's National Parks... the Dales, Peak and Moors... having visited Sutton Bank, Beamsley Beacon, Embsay Crag, Grindsbrook and Kinder Scout, Higger Tor and Froggatt Edge.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Haze: Friend or Foe?

So often on these warm summer evenings we are confronted with a thick haze obscuring the distant views - we can often guess when this is going to happen and the forecasts are pretty good when it comes to air clarity, but it wouldn't stop us going out even if it was supposed to be horrific. But I often wonder if it really is a bad thing? When the sun is higher in the sky during the first part of the golden hour then I can only agree with the general consensus that it's a horrible thing... contrast is lost, the colour gets blurred into the general whitewash of the photograph and it's difficult to process back to how you saw it. But is it always bad?

I'll begin with something from a little while before sunset - this view out over lower Wharfedale. The first thing you always wonder, and get told endlessly about, is whether or not a polarising filter will help things. This was especially true on this occasion when I wanted to pull every bit of colour possible out of the late blooming heather... so I tried both to see the difference.

It's a close call... you can hardly even see the difference (not hard to guess which is which!)... and this was after much twisting of the filter to get the optimal effect. So this is my first point, polarisers so often do very little in such situations. Mine hardly ever comes out of the bag unless it's wet and the ground extra reflective, which may be controversial amongst landscape people!

The other main problem I have with haze is knowing just where the sun ends. It's okay to let the centre of the sun blow out entirely, it's so bright it's inevitable, but it's much more difficult to find a smooth transition from blow-out to the surrounding sky and even more difficult to decide just where this transition is. As you'll see in the later photo, this is made much easier as the sun gets lower in the sky, and is often much easier in less hazy conditions - but the haze tends to blur the brightness of the sun to an arbitrary extent. In the end I took a couple of exposures to blend together - but when merging them it's always difficult to know just what weight to give to each layer - our eyes adjust so naturally but the camera simply does not, and cannot.

In the end, I ended up coming up with this final image, which is - to my mind at least -pretty much how it looked at the time. It looks unreal, it looks lacking contrast, but it looks how our eyes could see it. 

Overall though, it was horrible to process and still looks a bit dodgy at the end! In contrast to this, however, the later light was indisputably helped by the thick haze - taking the power out of the sun, increasing its pinkness and helping with the exposure no end. The dynamic range, whilst still being too great for the sensor, was much more workable and resulted in some very lovely photos - with the pink colour helping to enhance the heather. The problem here is that the haze takes out a large portion of the direct light we're all used to, but it's still there, just more diffuse. It won't do much good to show you the breakdown of images in this case, but the end product, with much easier processing, looks like this...
The sun-sky transition is much more natural and much more obvious to locate, the colour the sky holds is greatly enhanced in comparison to a non-hazy blue sky day and lens flare is much easier to deal with. 

So whilst I totally agree that haze is very often a difficult problem to deal with... you have to admit, it can sometimes be lovely too.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Yorkshire 5 Peaks

The three peaks just wasn't long enough for me - so I added on Little Ingleborough and Plover Hill to the usual route - along with a detour down to Ingleton Waterfalls and Twistleton Scar. Okay, so Little Ingleborough and Plover Hill are just alternative routes and sub-peaks of two of the main three peaks - but the Little Ingleborough route in particular adds a good amount of extra descent and ascent as you pass near Trow Gill... and dropping down almost to Ingleton adds loads more climbing to the summit of Whernside! So realistically, this is much more comparable to 4 Peaks in terms of both ascent and distance (31.5 miles rather than the usual 24 mile route)... and I rather miraculously -beyond any kind of expectations - completed it in 10hrs exactly. Before I go on, you can see the route below (backwards)...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Realisations upon losing.

Each year I submit my photographs to Landscape Photographer Of The Year and each year, two cruelly short weeks later I get the reply informing me that my photos are just not up to scratch. My initial  reaction is usually anger with a good dollop of confusion - but then it moves on to wondering just why my photos might have missed out.

Friday, 24 July 2015

That time I went to Barcelona

A couple of weeks ago I went on holiday... abroad... a rarity for me. Growing up in a less than wealthy family (too many bloody siblings) and then dragging on this student lifestyle for as many years as possible, I've never been flush with cash. So this holiday would be my first ever aeroplane flight (turns out it's boring) - so we headed off to Barcelona and these are the tourist snaps. It's difficult to have any sort of order with so many photos, so I've just done it chronologically, with descriptions to go along with each day. 

In summary though, Barcelona is an amazing place.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Women In Photography

Over the years I've witnessed numerous conversations, blog posts and articles on the subject of women in photography - but every time those involved seemed (to me, at least) to miss a key point. 

It's good to own a woman for many reasons, but an important one is the blocking of lens flare in telephoto situations... when your long, manly arms just don't have the reach required to do the job adequately. This has been a problem for me, despite being roughly 6' 5", more times than I can count on both hands (one more reason to bring your woman, and her fingers along) - but was never more evident than on my recent wander along the south side of the Swale...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

New Images!

I've just spent an afternoon uploading a 6 month backlog of photos to my site - so thought I might add a wee blog post to summarise what has been changed/added. All of the photos below can now be found at - so please do take a look. There's also a buy button underneath each image taking you directly to the page relevant page. 

There's a selection from the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Lake District, Yorkshire Coast, York, Richmond and some general North Yorkshire ones - so quite a nice range! 

Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales - buy here.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Rachel: Part 3

I know, I skipped parts one and two, but you can see the photos from those on my Facebook Page... so here's part three. There are few people I'd want to photograph this many times in such a short space of time - having only ever even seen her for the first time busking in town about this time last year... but it's hard to get enough of this face. Quite a nice person to go with it too!

So, to summarise, she was originally one of my 100 strangers, I subsequently asked if she'd fancy some photos taking, and she has turned into a bit of a regular. She's also a somewhat (ha!) talented musician... for evidence you can watch this... (keep in mind that this is live, and filmed by some random tourist!)... 

You can find her, and a few more of my photos on her Facebook page

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Finger

A few times in the last few weeks the conversation about avoiding lens flare has come up - so I thought I'd just put up a quick post about this well known, but underused technique...

I'm not going to go into the details of merging photos and whatnot, there's plenty of information out there for anyone wanting to learn more about that, but I am going to show you how important this is even when the sun itself is not in the frame. When the sun is in the frame, there are often obvious flaring problems visible in the image - made worse when adding further pieces of glass to the front of the lens when using filters... which is just one of the many reasons I prefer to blend exposures instead. For example:

Excuse the blown out sky!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014: People

I've split my 2014 summary into two parts, you can find the landscapes part over here. This section is focused solely on people - mostly of the model variety. Whilst my photographing strangers has slowed down somewhat this year, I've still captured a few and met plenty of other lovely new faces. Instagram and Twitter have proved an endless mine of pretty faces yet to be photographed - to the extent that I now have quite a backlog to get through (there are worse problems to have!). I'm constantly amazed at the oddly positive responses I get from what I would class as being a weirdo - sending random girls messages asking if I can photograph them - but I suppose the beginnings of a decent portfolio now at least help me with that initial contact.

2014: Landscapes

2014 has been a busy year for me, so I've decided to split my 2014 summary into two parts - the first of which will be concentrating on landscapes and the second on people. It's always interesting to do these posts, just so that I know that in a year's time I'll have something to look back on, cringe a little, and see how much more I've come on in the past 12 months. That, and it's also fun to look back through my year of pictures - something I don't do often enough - and remember all those amazing, fleeting moments of beauty that I've been lucky enough to enjoy.