Thursday, September 29, 2011

SS Great Britain - A Photo Tour and Essay

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.

 Back at Home

Below the Waterline

Thursday, September 22, 2011

England - A Shooters Paradise on Steroids

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.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Topaz Coupon Code

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.

Daily Dose - One Shot HDR

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Daily Dose - Blue Moon

Do you ever look up after 4pm, but before it is dark and see the moon in the sky and think wow that is cool it is not even dark yet.  It seems to usually only happen when the air is super clear and this week in Dallas has been one of those times.  The fact it has the "it doesn't belong feel" makes it even better to see and I was determined to try and shoot it.  Not an easy exposure to get right but worth the effort.  Hope you like it as much as I do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Daily Dose - Open Sesame

First time post on the blog for my Daily Dose - this is my one shot per day effort.  I have been doing this for about 3 months on Facebook and Google+ but I figured it belonged here as well plus maybe a little what and why will be provided and help.

This is the Brunel Locks in Huntsville, Ontario. A blue sky sunny day would have been awesome for shooting, but this was our one cloudy day of our entire summer vacation.  Oh well still a magical spot.  I went there early in he morning to try and get magic hour but unfortunately had solid cloud.  However, no rain which was a possibility according to Mr. Weatherman on Mr iPad.  In that small area there is so much to see within 50 yards of walking: river, a dam, locks, rapids, wildlife....  All very peaceful and picturesque.  Since my family lives in Huntsville I will keep going back until the sun shines and I have my camera with me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Photomatix Coupon Code

As some of you know, I have mentioned HDRSoft's awesome HDR software, Photomatix,  multiple times.  

Now I am also able to offer anyone who uses my Coupon Code - "ABWPHOTOS" -  a 15% discount from HDRSoft when purchasing the software.

HDRSoft is awesome enough to give the discount to readers of the site. At the Photomatix 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 HDRSoft website.

If there are any issue with the coupon code contact me and I will get it fixed.

My review of Photomatix is located here - PHOTOMATIX REVIEW

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Topaz B&W and Shooting In The Heat

Just maybe we might be done or very close to it. What I mean by that is the 100F Texas weather for 2011 might be finally behind us.  I love taking pictures, but taking most landscape shots in the middle of the day has harsh tough lighting.  When you do it in the middle of the Texas summer at noon the problem is magnified 10X worse - way to much sweat and 100X to much sunlight.

However here was the challenge.  I knew that I could not go at sunset or sunrise to shoot some straw bales that were all over the area around McKinney Texas before they got picked up - the sweat I could take but the light yuk.  I had to do something as the strawbales were way to inviting to not shoot.

Now let me say categorically that there is no substitution for awesome light.  However, I was able to get the shots wrt decent composition standards of at least for a hack like me and get the quality to at least pretty cool by two methods - Photomatix HDR processing and Topaz B&W Effects.  I would not rate myself as awesome but I am pretty happy with the results.

Photomatix 3 shot Bracket

Link to Topaz - coupon code for 15% discount "ABWPHOTOS": 

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Little Inspiration

It's moments like this that got me motivated to try and really figure out my DSLR.  Trying to shoot sports with a point and shoot is useless more or less unless your close and it is bright light and they are playing chess.  They all have a sports mode but sure enough you get into a high speed low light moment and the flash is going off from 200 yards and the subject has already left the frame before the camera fires.  Of course still shots, family snaps etc point and shoots have come leaps and bounds and I do love to have one in the family but camera phones are getting closer all the time and especially when you have apps like Camera+ to trick them out - thanks Mostly Lisa and Tap Tap.

Now the flip side is leave a DSLR on full auto and I think is marginally worse than a point and shoot and that is what made me take the leap and try to become user of the DSLR - always wanted to be a photog.  Tons and fun later and finally I am starting to get it after 7 months and I end up with some ok shots.  Plus I can actually do a little something in post.  It is so fun to look back at the older images and cringe and I am sure I will continue to do that forever, but in another 5 or 8 years I may actually be good vs purely tolerable but I think the journey is the real thing.