Search the site

15/01/13 A Bell-ting Day on the Plain

A slow morning on Everleigh produced nothing more than a Squirrel. The afternoon provided some great light with a range of aircraft with an Army Gazelle using the Eastern end of Everleigh, a JSFAW Army Lynx and lots of action from two Bell 212s.




The Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) are currently using the new full face protective masks on the rear crewman as can be seen on the crewman below. It is most commonly seen on U.S crewman in their helicopter operations and is currently being used on crewmen on the JSFAW and Lynx operations abroad before being rolled out across all Army Lynx squadrons in the coming year.




After some superb flying by the crew in the Lynx another Bell 212 from Middle Wallop joined Everleigh for some time. The late afternoon light is fantastic here and the Wiltshire countryside silence was once again destroyed by the infamous sound of the "Huey"!



09/01/13 Snowdonia 

A friend asked me to show him how to use his filters and where better to go than North Wales on a crystal clear Winters day. Arriving just before sunrise in Snowdonia at Llynnau Mymbyr. This is quite a famous shot but not one either of us had done before. On a windless day you can get the Snowdon Horseshoe reflected in the lake and today was one of those days. Filters used in this shot were a LEE 0.6 hard grad to retain the detail in the sky and LEE 0.6 neutral density filter to smooth out any ripples on the surface. The light was soft so the image lacks any contrast but below is the end result.



The next location was to be Llyn Gwynant just at the foot of Snowdon but as we travelled along the road, there was a huge inversion layer of cloud covering the valley which made it extremely dark and it wasn't shifting either. So a drive back in the other direction and along the A5 through the Ogwen valley presented a reflection I have never even seen on this lake. I've driven past Llyn Ogwen many times and always found it one of the most lack lustre lakes to photograph in North Wales. Being surrounded by a road, the inaccessibility of getting to the other side, little option for foreground interest or there's been a breeze in the valley but this the scene that greeted us as soon as we rove round Tryfan. The lake was that still I didn't need to use a neutral density filter. All that was used was the LEE 0.6 Grad to hold back the sky and cloud detail.



Following a brief walk around Cwm Idwal and forgetting the light never really gets into the corrie we headed for Anglesey and rocked up to Penmon Point Lighthouse just out of Beaumaris. The light was still quite harsh but very quickly it turned soft and with a tide that was well out it forced us to look for some new angles and compositions. I had never shot it from the pebbled beach that lies to the West of the lighthouse and a low angle provided a great viewpoint and still allowed for all the elements of the location to be included such as the pebbles, waves, the lighthouse and Puffin Island which is situated half a mile off the shore. I used the neutral densitiy LEE 0.6 to allow be to slow the shutter speed right down to get some movement in the small waves that were incomming and the LEE 0.6 grad held back the detail in the sky and more importantly in the whites of the lighthouse where detail would have been lost.



So after a long day photograhing North Wales and Anglesey it was time for the 3 hour drive back in the fog but a great day was had by the pair of us. These are just my 3 favourite shots that I got from the locations we visited and I think we both came away having learnt something. 



01/01/13 Kit review: LEE Big Stopper

First of all, a Happy New Year to everyone who's bought prints, left feedback and got in touch over the last 7 months since this website has been running, it means a lot so thank-you all.

Before Christmas I purchased a LEE Big Stopper - a 10 stop filter that is barely see through. When put infront of the camera it allows the shutter speed to be slowed right down to several seconds in bright daylight to several minutes when in shade or on overcast days.

Whilst still in Scotland and having recovered from the Hogmanay celebrations I took a short drive up to North Queensferry to see the Forth Rail Bridge which spans the Firth, just outside Edinburgh and decided to test the Big Stopper out as the the clouds were moving fast and the water was choppy. I've owned a ten-stop piece of glass before, the B+W ND110. This had a slight colour cast which was better than most others on sale as the cast was slightly warm and easily correctable in post processing. Having upgraded to the LEE slot in filter system though, the screw-in B+W became redundant and I'd heard poor user reviews from those who had owned the Hitec equivalent saying that the colour casts were too extreme and hard to rectify in post processing.

First impressions were good. There was no glare on the image when viewed back on the camera and despite there being a very cold colour casts it looked like it was easy to correct. Below are two screenshot thumbnails. The one on the left is the RAW image loaded into Adobe Camera RAW with the original colour temperature and ACR defaults whilst the one on the right is with the colour corrected temperature which has been warmed up to counter the cold colour casts the Big Stopper gives. Other parameters which I've adjusted are the "recovery" tool to bring back some detail in the white clouds and to boost the saturation to bring out the colours in the surface of the water and the reds in the bridge.








As you can see, the changes required to turn the image back to one with the correct colours and white balance is fairly straightforward. Once you're happy with the colour temperature, white balance and the colours are near enough correct it can then be opened up into Photoshop and processed using a whole range of plug-ins and other features and eventually sharpened and resized. I've created an overlay to show the difference in the image of an image without the Big Stopper on it and then the other half of the image has the Big Stopper on. 



So, my overall first impressions of the Big Stopper? I feel it produces much sharper images than my old B+W and although the colour cast is worse than the B+W it's easy and straight forward to correct. It's certainly a lot more fragile than the B+W as there is obviously no filter ring to hold it by but the fact it can be used with other filters like the LEE graduated filters (which I couldn't do with the B+W) means this will be used a lot more often. Below is the same shot used in the comparison above with the Big Stopper attached and final processing completed.



30/12/12 Gloomy Glen Etive

Like last year, me and the other half were spending the New Year break away in Scotland with a couple of days in the snowy highlands before heading to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay celebrations. As I don't get up to these parts very often it's always nice to get out with the camera as much as possible. I tried to get out with it on Rannoch Moor, visually it was perfect. Pools frozen solid, icy grass and wild deer running across the landscape and nobody else around. There was good reason. The wind was horrendous. 70 mile an hour winds across the moor. Not even the deer were hanging around. Another trip where the weather was beating me it seemed.



I tried to photograph the famous Buachaille Etive Mor with the waterfall but it was snowing, cloudy, and at one stage down right dangerous. The road heading into Glen Etive looked impassible in a little city car but I battled through it and then as it descended into the Glen the snow thinned out and the roads cleared, to the point there was no snow on the low mountainsides and as the river was in full flow we decided it'd be a good idea to stop here. Foreground interest was provided by this circular feature in the rock and the sky was held back with a 0.6 LEE Hard Grad postitoned so the graduated part of the filter overlapped the mountainside and the sky to stop the highlights in the snow from being blown out. The eagle-eyed reader might recognise this location from the latest Jame Bond film, Skyfall!


18/12/12 Brize Norton

One of the closest places for aviation to me but one of those places I visit the least. Winter probably isn't the best time to visit brize Norton at this end of the runway. The sun is in the wrong position all day so if you're trying to photograph anything taxing then you're shotting into the sun. However, it makes great light for anything on approach to land. I was treated to my first A330 Voyager (AirTanker) which landed in beautiful light with a moddy dark background.



The aircraft I really wanted to see was a VC-10. These aircraft are famous for their ear-splitting roar from thier four Rolls-Royce Conway engines when they take off and for the plume of smoke when they do it. These aircraft are due to be retired and have just recieved a service extension for an additional 6 months to see the six remaining aircraft through until September 2013. A VC-10 departed and came back for circuit before heading out elsewhere in the country. It was the special-tail aircraft with markings to commerate 101 Squadron on their 95th anniversary. It came in for a touch and go in stunning light with a dark, moody backdrop, a shot that may never be created again.