ALASTAIR'S PHOTO WALK. This never ending story is an attempt to document my photographic learning and sharing journey. Most of the time I am sure it will be about photography and my results. I fully intend to comment on and review products and outlets I actually use. Other times it will be about something unrelated, but who knows.
I spent the 2011 XMAS holiday season in Huntsville Canada north of Toronto with relatives. The weather started out very drab for the winter season - no snow and just around freezing and very damp. Fortunately after a couple of days the weather changed and the snow started flying and the weather dropped like a rock to 0F. I have always loved the silence that accompanies snow especially in the woods. I have visited all of the places shown in these photos many many times in the summer and have lots of shots from last summer but winter definitely transforms the environment and makes it almost dream like.
Little Red Riding Hood
The previous shot and the one below are both from Ragged Falls near Algonquin Park in Ontario. The difference from the summer time is startling with the rush of extra water, the snow, ice and almost complete solitude. The photo of my youngest daughter walking through the woods in her red jacket sums it up for me.
Below as I walked through the woods towards Ragged falls and further up the river it struck me how surreal everything felt. Nothing actually felt permanent and I am sure it was the snow and ice giving it a temporary air such that it felt it could vanish at any time. The trees felt very 3D.
In the next shot the starkness and the muted colors were amazing to see while the roar of the water was impressive - very much a contrast between sight and sound
Very interesting day Saturday. My great plan was to go shoot the Celina hot air ballon festival on Saturday, November 5th with a good friend of mine Stephan Terrill.
I got up at 5am well before sunrise and headed off to pick up my friend and I was pumped as I had not been out shooting for a couple of weeks and I had never shot hot air balloons with anything other than my iPhone. It was super cold for good old McKinney Texas in early November - 42F, but there was a great sunrise to make it worth while.
Now it was stand and wait time for the anticipated launch of the balloons. Weather looked great except one little problem; it seemed a tad windy for hot air balloons but the wind did seem to be dropping so fingers were crossed. The balloon trailers were all lined and looked ready to go.
After standing around and freezing for another 45 minutes the balloon pilot spokesman came over and declared there would be no launch due to the wind so we hung our heads and packed up our gear. My partner in crime, Stephan, declared "Lets go shoot the barn" so oh yeh grab a Starbucks and lets go get the barn. Not shooting the balloons was a big disappointment but at least we were going to push on the shutter and still have fun and the I am pretty happy with some of the results. Also we did get the joy of having the property owner asking us what we were doing even though we were shooting from public property in the open. We of course said heh we like your barn and just wanted to take pictures and our names are Alastair and Stephan. Pretty sure she thought we were nuts but she drove away after that.
Ok the one below is not the barn but there are some very cool old signs in McKinney Texas and they are rapidly disappearing so we thought we would grab this one of Bill Smith's Cafe before it too went away.
You know I love to shot anything almost with my camera - building, landscapes and sports maybe favorites, but I will try anything.
Well this weekend was a trip quite literally. I went from shooting my daughter cheerleading at High School Football, to Volleyball, and on to the Homecoming Parade. What was frightening though was I was at the parade to take pictures of my kid's teams and the organizer of the local High School weekly Program Guide came up to me and said the school contract photographer wasn't there and she needed some parade shots. Hmm interesting wasn't going to be for money but I have never had that request before so I agreed. Heh no one has ever asked to print one of my shots before except as a photo in a frame so in the interest of my kids and my ego they got the pictures. I do agree free shots are not a habit I want to have anything to do with, but I do feel this was really work (more fun than work) for a charity setup. Also I ended up with 4 out of 6 shots on the cover of the Football program guide for that week
What is interesting is with the three events I ended up shooting offer and require different photography dynamics and some common elements.
1) Cheerleading requires pretty high shutter speed to capture movement and given the game was at night low light requirements and then finally being in stands and after closeups obviously means a zoom or telephoto
2) Volleyball in a gym is low light and movement means a faster lens and therefore my 70-200mm f2.8 which in a gym is a bit crowded
3) Last but not least was the casual shoot for the Homecoming Parade that turned into a command performance fot poor old, but lucky me as well. Big downside was no monopod and only a 18-55mm kit lens in hand so that forced me to really think. Some ok shots and a bunch of satisfaction
Wow I spent 90 incredible minutes on the SS Great Britain in Bristol, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company as a successor to the SS Great Western for luxury transatlantic crossings. I felt like I was literally running around to see her and try and take some interesting shots with no tripod, but worth and it and I am going back if I get a chance and hopefully more time.
View from the gangplank as I boarded
This ship is now on display in the original drydock where it was launched in 1843. The drydock itself was in use until 1977. The ship has the most incredible history and is one of those stories that is almost to incredible to believe. She is the first all iron hulled ship powered by a propellor and at 320ft and over 3200 tons was over 1000 tons bigger than anything else at the time.
2 X 500HP Engines
She was being built as a bigger successor to the Great Western which was a oak plank & iron strap paddle wheeler but after seeing the propellor powered SS Archimedes in the river Brunel decided the SS Great Britain not only would have an iron hull but would go the propeller route.
Long elegant lines
As can be seen in some of these shots the SS Great Britain really was large and still leaves one with that impression as you walk around her. The SS Great Britain finally went into service in 1845 and for some period of time had the transatlantic record crossing record of 14 days between New York and Liverpool. After only 2 seasons of service she ran aground off the coast of Ireland where she sat for a year before being refloated by Brunel himself. After repairs here owners went bankrupt and she was sold into service for taking immigrants to Australia at 700 passengers per trip and she served in this role for 30 years with two brief periods as a troop ship.
During the 1880s she was converted to all sail and served as a bulk hauler of coal and finally after a fire in 1886 at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands she was sold there as a floating storage an quarantine facility. She was finally scuttled in 1937 and even then some of her iron was scavenged by HMS Exeter's crew to repair Battle of the River Plate damage.
Ultimately the SS Great Britain was salvaged in 1970 and was placed on a salvage pontoon and towed back to her original Bristol home port on the River Avon for conservation and to be setup as museum.
I just spent three whirlwind days in England on a work trip travelling between London and Bristol.
The funny thing is it was a crazy trip for work with tons of meetings and 100s of miles of driving, but I took my camera and somehow crammed in some great shooting - I am very happy with the results in general. What was also very frustrating and close to a disaster is I left my camera on the backseat of the car of my colleague; first I panicked as to where the camera was and then after remembering I sheepishly called him and asked where he was after dropping me off at Gatwick airport. Hmm he was two hours away already and almost home so DHL had to be the answer. It took five days, but I finally got the camera, memory card and all and fortunately all was good and no harm done.
I stayed in a hotel in a little town called Nassington and the sights within 5 minutes were amazing for someone living in Dallas.
The church in the picture below was built sometime in the 1300/1400s and was a photographers feast. I spent 30 minutes there and had no tripod but could have easily spent 2 hours
This two shots below were taken 5 minutes from town as we crossed a one lane stone bridge and I got my friend to stop the car as I had to shoot this. Finally he pushed on me and said we had to go work awaits and watch out a bus is about to run you over.
Then all within the same town is this huge church from an old Eclesiastical school. I couldn't get any closer but it was an unbelievable structure in a tiny town and awesome weather to boot.
Probably need to go back with tripod and time all in hand.
As some of you know, I have mentioned TOPAZ Lab's awesome Plugins, Photomatix, numerous times.
Now I am also able to offer anyone who uses my Coupon Code - "ABWPHOTOS" - a discount from Topaz when purchasing their software.
Topax is awesome enough to give the discount to readers of the site. At the TOPAZ webpage, you can get a free trial or buy it. The coupon code has to be entered in the 'Coupon Field' of the order form that shows after having clicked on one of the "Buy" buttons of the purchase page of the TOPAZ LAb's website.
If there are any issue with the coupon code contact me and I will get it fixed.
Love HDR or Hate HDR it is definitely controversial. Personally I have tons of fun with it and sometimes it can produce a wow photo and sometimes it just doesn't work and it should not be done - eg HDR in skin not so good. Now for me you often I get a single non-bracketed shot that is interesting for me composition wise but it is just sort of dull so playing one shot tone-mapping can be at least fun and interesting at least for another version. This is exactly what I did with the shot above. The original is below.
A great tool for this is Topaz's Adjust. I use it for a couple of uses. I find HDR often drains some pop and color and makes the shot flat and Adjust is super useful to help address that and also for working on single photos to add some overall interesting alternative.
Also I use my coupon code for Topaz products and get a TOPAZ LABS