Journal Places

Horses of The New Forest

Just thought I would share a few photos I took on my recent holiday in Dorset.  It was the first time I had visited the area so didn’t really know what to expect.  I had heard about the New Forest Horses of course but what I didn’t appreciate was just how many there would be and how widespread an area they are free to explore.

Lone Horse in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

One of the highlights of the week for me was seeing all the horses (and cows and occasionally goats and donkeys) roaming virtually free across large areas of the New Forest.  Drivers need to be on full alert at all times although the horses themselves seem to be oblivious to passing vehicles.

New Forest Horses are free to roam over large parts of the National Park

As anyone who knows me would testify, I am pretty hopeless when it comes to photographing landscapes but put a large brown animal into view and suddenly I have something to point the camera at and use as a focal point around which to compose a (hopefully) pleasing composition.

Grazing Horses in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

One thing I have picked up from landscape photographers over the years is the best times of the day to take scenic photos.   Early in the morning (even before sunrise) is one of those times, especially if there is a morning mist as there was in April for my visit to Bradgate Park.

Mother and Foal, The New Forest, Dorset

Then in the evening as the sun goes down and the shadows grow longer, and the light takes on a warm glow, assuming of course that the sun stays out which in my experience it often doesn’t.  So it was that I set out one evening to photograph the horses of the New Forest, not really knowing where to head for, but with a vague idea of the sort of light I was hoping to see.

Lone Horse in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

I shall post more photos from my Dorset holiday soon, including my hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast.  Meanwhile my New Forest Horses can be seen in higher resolution over on my website.


Events Journal Places Re-enactments

The Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 17th July 2011

It’s fair to say that the Festival of History held anually at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire is the jewel in the crown of the English Heritage events calendar.  I had been looking forward to this event for a long time so it was with some trepidation that I watched the weather forecast for the weekend on the Friday night which warned of heavy rain showers on Saturday followed by more heavy rain showers on Sunday.

The Story of the British Army, Festival of History, 2011

As it turned out, Saturday morning was a wash-out as it rained almost constantly right up until around 1pm but from there onwards it stayed more or less fine for the rest of the day.  I had already decided to take my chance on the Sunday and that turned out to be a day of sunshine and mostly light showers so not as bad as forecast.

Roman Soldiers, Festival of History, 2011

The Festival of History presents many opportunities to the enthusiast photographer, but also some challenges.  On the positive side, there is so very much to see, so many people and events to photograph and so much going on all the time.  The enormous number of re-enactors taking part, the different periods of history portrayed and the variety of set-pieces and encampments to explore is mind-blowing.

The Boar War Battle Re-enactment, Festival of History 2011

It’s the sheer size of the event that presents one of the major challenges.  At any given time there are at least three different places you need to be.  Another problem is trying to isolate your subject from the background which at times can get a bit messy with white tents, members of the public (refered to as MOPs by the re-enactors), other photographers (grrr!), videographers (is that a word?), trade stands, caravans etc.

The challenges of taking photographs at the Festival of History

The problems continue when trying to shoot the big battle re-enactments in the main arenas.  Every photographers worst nightmare, the safety ropes – white this time, a welcome change from blue you may think – are there to ensure that almost every photo you take will contain at least some portion of the dreaded rope.

“The sheer variety of re-enactors facial hair is mind-blowing”

Despite all the above, I love this event.  There are so many photo opportunities all around you but you do have to keep a close eye on procedings and you do need to be lucky sometimes in order to be in just the right place at the right time.

German Half-Track Commander, Festival of History 2011

In the event I was very lucky with the weather, one sharp shower in the afternoon but only a few spots of rain for the rest of the day.  A very enjoyable day and it was good to catch up with some of the people I had met at previous events. 

Update January 2020:  You can find many more images from the event over on my website here.


Events Journal

“Marching On Together” for Aidan Howell 3rd July 2011

Photographers from Desborough and Rothwell Photographic Society, of which I am a member, were recently invited to photograph a 10 mile sponsored walk held in memory of the Desborough Rifleman Aidan Howell who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan in 2009.  He was just 19.

Marching On Together for Aidan Howell

Aidan was a big Leeds United fan and the walk was appropriately called “Marching On Together” the title of the famous Leeds United Football Club song.  This was the second running of this event after the huge success of the first one in June 2010.  All proceeds from the event go to the Aidan Howell Memorial Fund.

Runners from 3rd Battalion, The Rifles about to start their second run

Among the people taking part were servicemen from 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, some of whom were not content to do just the 10 mile course, but instead completed 2 runs in the same day, and others who ran the undulating 10 mile course with fully loaded backpacks strapped to their backs.

Marching On Together with Fully Loaded Backpacks

The course took the runners and walkers from the start at Desborough Town Football Club through the villages of Arthingworth and Harrington, and back to the finish at Desborough via Rothwell.  Three photographers attended the event;  myself, Trevor Rudkin who is the Chairman of the Society, and Philip Gott.  The society’s auditor, Richard Coe, took part in the walk itself.

Marching On Together for Aidan Howell

Our photos of the walk can be seen here:

Photos by Geoff Oliver

Photos by Trevor Rudkin

Photos by Philip Gott

I’m really glad that we supported this worthy event.  I must confess to feeling a little apprehensive at the starting line as I don’t live in Desborough and I never knew Aidan myself.   Once we got out on the course though, it definitely felt as though we were supporting the walkers and, for the most part, they appreciated us being there to cheer them on.


Journal Places Re-enactments

Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011

The 1940s weekend at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire is one of my favourite WWII re-enactment events on the calendar.   My good friend Barry and I have photographed it for four of the last five years, and it was great to see some familiar faces from previous years.  Not only that, I even plucked up the courage to speak to some of them!

British Soldiers at the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011

From a photographers point of view, I thought this was one of the best I can remember, with an assortment of colourful characters and some small but interesting set-pieces to photograph.  We caught the train from Loughborough and travelled south stopping at Quorn, Rothley and finally Leicester North Stations. Unlike previous years there was no “battle” as such, but the demonstrations on each station made up for that to a certain extent.

Re-enactors at the Great Central Railway 1940s Event 2011

One set of photos that I am particularly pleased with is of a group called DasHeer Living History Society who portray German conscript soldiers from the late 1930s and early 1940s.  They have asked me to send them some of my photos to put on their website, which is great, so I will be taking a disc of selected images to Kelmarsh Hall in July where they will be taking part in the Festival of History.

Members of DasHeer Living History Society at Rothley Station on the GCR 2011

Mixed in with the uniformed re-enactors were many people in civilian outfits from the same period.  Some of these were also doing small set-piece presentations throughout the weekend.  My favourite had to be Mrs. Day with her 1940s washing demonstration, a wonderful character to photograph and she played the part beautifully.

Mrs. Day notices a Photographer in the Crowd…

If you love taking outdoor portraits and environmental portraits as I do, these reenactment weekends provide great subjects to photograph and, with the odd exception, the volunteer re-enactors are willing models for the many photographers who tend to congregate at these events.

1940s Shopkeeper complete with Handlebar Moustache and Cigar

You can see more of my photos from the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011 on my website here.

Update June 2012:  Photos from the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2012 can be found on my website here.


Journal Places

Bradgate Park re-visited: Up close with the Fallow Deer

Last weekend my very good friend Barry and I had an opportunity to go up to Bradgate Park for a couple of hours.  I wanted to show Barry the park as he had never been there  before.  It was a very different morning to the first time I visited the park with Janet.  There was no mist this time around, only a clear blue sky as we made our way into the park.

Young Male Fallow Deer Grazing, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

At first there was no sign of the deer but as we moved further down the path I spotted what I thought might be a group of Fallow Deer sitting up on the higher ground.  I decided to try to get nearer and to my surprise they didn’t seem bothered by my presence at all as I moved closer.  I managed to get quite a few shots of this group of young males, including the three photos here.

Young Male Fallow Deer Resting, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

It was great to get so close to these beautiful creatures and the thin veil of cloud that suddenly appeared from nowhere came at just the right time to give me some lovely diffused light for these shots.  I appreciate that some people might not like the amount of vegetation that is obscuring parts of the deer but I’m just happy to have captured them looking relaxed.   Click here to see some more of my photos from Bradgate Park.

Young Male Fallow Deer, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

This is definitely a place I look forward to visiting again, especially in the autumn and winter.  Just for the record, we also called into Rothley Station for an all-day breakfast (Woof!) before heading back to Leicester to see an exhibition of photography hosted by Leicester and Leicestershire Photographic Society, which included no less than seven of my prints.  A very enjoyable day!


Exhibitions Journal Places

The Long Walk

I was pleased to hear at the weekend that my monochrome print “The Long Walk” had  been accepted for the Midland Counties Photographic Federation (MCPF) Travelling Portfolio 2011.  This is a travelling exhibition of prints from members of all the photographic clubs affiliated to the MCPF, and it visits my own club, Desborough and Rothwell Photographic Society, on 28th October 2011.  The exhibition includes a CD recording of the judges comments so I will be interested to hear what they thought of my print (I already know they must have liked it).

I remember quite a lot of work going into this print so I thought it would be interesting to post before and after versions of the image to illustrate the changes.  Here’s my original  shot of Saltburn Pier taken with my 5D and a 17-35mm zoom at the 17mm end, 1/200 sec @ F/16, ISO 200.

Saltburn Pier
The Long Walk - this is my original shot of Saltburn Pier

The first thing that hits me comparing the two versions is the considerable crop from the original.  Although the sky is quite good, I remember I wanted to maximise the perceived length of the pier so as you can see I cropped most of it out.  Looks like I straightened the horizon too (whatever happened to getting it right in the camera? ;o)  Then it was a trip over to Photoshop to clone out all the unwanted items from the shot.  I wanted the figure to appear totally isolated so it was really  important to remove all other traces of life, both from the beach and the pier itself.  After that, it was a fairly straight forward conversion to monochrome and the only other thing I did was to add a gradient filter to darken what was left of the sky, and a touch of vignetting to darken the corners a little and add a bit of mood.

Saltburn Pier - Final Image
The Long Walk - this is my finished version

My favourite part of this image is the fact that the end of the pier is out of sight and gives the impression of going on forever.  I also love the way the horizon line of the pier matches up exactly with the horizon of the sea.  This might seem like a lucky break but it actually was my intention when I took the shot.

How could I improve the shot?  Well, if I had only framed the shot correctly while taking it, I wouldn’t have needed such a serious crop later on and there would have been a little bit more detail in the finished print as a consequence.  Looking back, I also seem to have lost some contrast in the sky during the mono conversion so that is something that could be improved next time around.

To see a gallery of my previous prints accepted into various exhibitions, click here


Journal Time-Lapse

Lyveden Time-Lapse Take Two

After the disappointing outcome of my first attempt at Time-Lapse photography, I decided to have another go but this time using the lessons learned first time around.  Back to Lyveden New Bield then but on a very different day to my previous visit.  Where it had been blue sky and whispy white clouds previously, this time the sky was filled with grey clouds but at least there was sufficient wind to keep them moving long nicely.

I wanted to shoot straight into the wind as I had last time but getting the direction proved to be really tricky as the wind on the ground was coming from one direction and the clouds appeared to be moving in a different direction.  Once I settled on a location, more or less facing the wind, I set up my tripod as before but this time I set my camera to manual exposure to ensure that every frame would be exposed exactly the same, no matter whether the sun came out or not.

Lyveden Time Lapse - original image showing underexposed building and wonky horizon

Setting the correct exposure wasn’t easy as I was shooting into the light and the building itself was in shadow.  I knew that if I had exposed for the building, the sky would have been burned out.  Knowing that I could recover the buiding using the “Fill Light” slider in Lightroom, I exposed for the much brighter sky while using the clipping indicator on my camera’s histogram display to ensure no areas would be burned out.  Then I set my timer remote to take an exposure every 10 seconds and let it run for around 30 minutes giving me 188 frames in total.

Lyveden Time Lapse 2
Lyveden Time Lapse - the same image after Lightroom adjustments

One of the great advantages of working in Lightroom is the ability to change the settings on one image, and then transfer those settings to every other image in the sequence.  For these images, “Fill Light” was needed to lighten the shadow areas, a tweak on the “Blacks” slider to bring back the contrast, and a little tone curve adjustment was all that was needed.  Oh, and a tweak in the “Lens Correction” area to restore the verticals on the building.  I deliberately left in the wandering people to give a little scale to this massive building but I carefully removed any stray flying birds using the “Spot Removal” tool to ensure no black specs appeared in the sky.

Click here to see the finished sequence (YouTube)


Journal Places

A Night at the Museum

Every landscape photographer knows that the best times to shoot landscapes are usually first thing in the morning before sunrise and just before or just after sunset.  I’m not a landscape photographer myself but I can still appreciate that the quality of light varies dramatically depending on the time of day.  When I heard that the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley were hosting “A Night at the Museum” and that tickets were half the normal price, it seemed like an offer not to be missed!

Canal Boats, Black Country Living Museum

It was a cloudy evening and spitting with rain as the doors opened at 6:30pm.  Thankfully for the visitors, the rain held off for most of the night although I was secretly hoping a swift downpour would render the old cobbles into a miriad of highly reflective surfaces.

A.Hartill Motorcycles, Black Country Living Museum

Right from the start, it was obvious that there wasn’t a lot of light so I bumped up the iso to 400 to prevent any danger of camera shake.  Later, I would have to switch to iso800 as the light faded.  With 1400 tickets sold, I felt that a tripod would not be welcome at the event and so it remained in the car all night.  I did have my trusty speedlight though for when the light levels fell below hand-held levels.

Castle Fields Boat Dock, Black Country Living Museum

I was surprised at just how busy it was and the number of brightly clothed visitors did make the business of taking photographs quite a challenge at times.  If I’m being honest, I didn’t get quite as many good photos as I hoped, and the lengthy queue for a cone of delicious chips and batter scraps was also a  distraction, all of my own making I might add!

Rolling Mill, Black Country Living Museum

One thing I definitely wasn’t expecting to see on the night was a fully working demonstration of a steel rolling mill.  This was probably the highlight of the whole  evening for me, although I could have done with a slightly longer lens with hindsight.  The men working the furnace and rolling mill actually do the same job in real life as they were demonstrating here, albeit with more modern equipment.  It was a great sight seeing red hot metal emerging from the furnace and being worked through the machines.  I feel very fortunate indeed to have witnessed the skill and expertise of these men first hand.

I finished the night at the funfair which was still going strong even after the official 10pm closing time.  I love using slow shutter speeds to record fast moving subjects but all I was getting from the roundabout was a coloured blur.  Enter the speedlight set to second curtain sync and with a shutter speed of 1/15th second to record movement prior to the flash.  This is the best of the shots I took.  It’s just a pity that the white safety barriers have caught the full force of the flash…

Funfair Ride , Black Country Living Museum

I really enjoyed my night at the museum and I will definitely look out for more night events at this venue.  To see more of my photos from this event click here


Journal Time-Lapse

A First Attempt at Time-Lapse Photography

I just uploaded part of the time-lapse sequence I recorded on my visit to Lyveden New Bield last weekend.  I will be honest and say that it didn’t turn out nearly as good as I had hoped.

Although I am pleased with the movement of the clouds, I clearly made an error in shooting the sequence because I had the camera set to Aperture Priority auto exposure (or Aperture Value as Canon like to call it), whereas I should have set the camera to Manual Exposure so that each frame had exactly the same shutter speed and aperture.

The change from bright sunlight to shade caused by the passing clouds affected the exposure to quite a large extent.  I only realised this after loading the images into Lightroom and noting the change in exposure between the sunlit shots and those taken when the building was under cloud cover.  The difference in exposure varied from 1/3rd stop to 1 whole stop and that was sufficient to make the sky change from a deep blue to a much lighter blue between frames.

To counteract that effect, I have manually adjusted the exposures in Lightroom using the exposure slider to reduce the exposure by 1/3rd stop, 2/3 stop, or 1 stop according to each exposure.  In theory, all the exposures should now be the same, but in practice there is a clear colour shift in the sky on the frames that I have adjusted.

It’s a lesson learned…

Here’s the video any way:

Lyveden Time Lapse Sequence (YouTube)

Journal Places

Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire

One of my very favourite places to visit in Northamptonshire, Lyveden is a National Trust property situated between the historic town of Oundle and the village of Brigstock.   The dream of Sir Thomas Tresham, and built between 1595 and his death in 1605, the lodge and adjoining gardens were designed to entertain and delight the guests of his nearby manor house, the site of which is part of the estate.  The garden, which incorporated orchards, terraces, moats, and viewing mounts formed a journey from the manor house to the garden lodge (New Bield).  Unfortunately, the lodge was never completed but the fact that so much of it remains in such good condition after 400 years is testament to the quality of the construction.

Lyveden New Bield - Looking South

I visited Lyveden over the May bank holiday weekend in 2011.  It was a sunny day but with a cold and blustery wind, so much so that my camera was being blown about even on my fairly heavy manfrotto tripod.  I wanted to try some time-lapse photography to capture the fast-moving clouds for an audio-visual project I am working on.  I tried the location above looking South to begin with but the clouds were moving sideways which was not quite  what I was aiming for so later I moved round to the West side of the lodge looking straight into the wind coming from the East.  This was much better with the clouds now coming up and over the lodge and disappearing off the side and top of the frame.

Lyveden New Bield - Looking East

Finally, when I was happy that I had enough shots to complete my A/V sequence, I moved over to the garden to take a few shots looking across the moat.  I am reasonably pleased with the pictures I took.  It is a much photographed building and it is not easy to find a new way of shooting it.  It was late afternoon when I arrived and the evening light really helped to light up the stonework of the lodge.  Another time, I would like to stay a little later in the day, and also try some longer lens shots from across the water.

Lyveden New Bield - View across the moat

As you can see in this last shot, the wind was breaking up the surface of the water and spoiling the reflection of the lodge, as well as moving the branches and leaves on the trees.  However, I do like the position of the shadow areas either side of the foreground grass with the brighter area in the middle.  I’m hoping it gives your eye a natural starting point before following the sweep of the moat to the lodge beyond.