Landscape photography with a difference!

Second Severn Crossing


Well, its 11pm Sunday evening and time for a quick update. I was hoping to have finished my review of the Canon Powershot G11, but words and samples failed me. I've never been one to express myself verbally. So, I was thinking 'what shall I do for this weekends article?'. Then, when reviewing some pictures I took a few weeks back and that had laid quite dormant on my Mac, I decided to process a few. I recalled the journey down to the Second Severn Crossing, it was a Sunday afternoon and the Sun had actually decided to show its face. I just jumped into the car and bidding my wife farewell with the words 'I won't be long' I was off to the first place that came into my mind. I really should plan locations in advance. Twenty minutes later I was wandering on a path that takes you under the bridge. I had mixed feelings about being here, but, after a few sterile months of shooting, creative frustration was making me a little stir crazy. Like the first crossing I find both bridges quite bland, lacking texture and contrast with that expanse of mud that is often on ugly display. I had with me my EOS 40D and my Tokina 20-35mm lens. Now, this is quite a nice lens, twenty years old (probably more) full metal body, nice rubber grips, internal focussing of sorts and real glass. None of that polycarbonate rubbish. I took about ten frames and selected the below three. I'm not too sure about the finished result though. I never am. Never satisfied with my own work. Even when I shoot a wedding and the clients squeal with delight when browsing their album for the first time. Still not satisfied, always restless, always thinking 'how could I do that better'. OK, there are some with which I am happy, but, generally, not. I guess that what drives me on perhaps, the drive to improve.

Return from Tryfan


Time for another update as I attempt to do this every week AND make it interesting. After looking at the Met Office forecast on the Thursday I decided to take my Canon Powershot G11 only. It was going to be bad, and I wasn't disappointed. My usual Snowdonia routine is travel up Friday, climb Saturday, return Sunday, or climb Sunday as well and return home on Monday. From where I live in South Wales, Snowdonia is a 5hr (or so) drive. Stopping at BK in Builth Wells, coffee (and a bite) in Dolgeddlau (DON'T use the Public Convenience - it's awful), coffee in Betws Y Coed (the Alpine Coffeee shop - the best coffee in Betws). Yes, there is a lot of coffee involved. And after a climb it's a stop at Cafe Gwynnant (the best coffee in Snowdonia). After a lot of coffee and pee breaks, we arrive at Ogwen Bank Holiday Park. Unload, and into the pub for a bevvy and food (it's very good as well). So the plan was Tryfan North ridge on Saturday followed by Y Garn and Elidir Fawr on Sunday. The plan went swimmingly. Drizzle and light rain above 600m or so with a steady 20mph wind increasing to 30mph on Sunday. Visibility above 600m was about 100m on average for the Saturday decreasing to 20 - 50m on Sunday. Rubbish for photography excellent walk/climb. 15hrs of it over the two days. Not bad for a fat, unfit, forties chap like myself (OK. I exaggerate that bit, I'm not that fat, not that unfit, but definitely 40's). I love it, I love Tryfan. Try it! here's a few snap shots of the day.

Snowdon - Again!


I'm drawn to Snowdonia like the provebial moth to light. I don't quite know what it is about these lumps of rock, there certainly is something very special about them. Snowdon and especially Tryfan have an alluring character and views of which I will never tire. So, off I am again this weekend. This time to climb Tryfan with a few friends on Saturday followed by Y Garn and Elidir Fawr on the Sunday. I'll be taking my EOS 40D with it's Sigma 15-30mm and Sigma 50mm f1.4, my Canon G11 and my Leica M2. That's some load. I'll make the final decision on the day and maybe take just one. I'll be trying out my new Lowepro Slingshot 302AW and see how this is suited to lugging gear up mountains. Most mountain photography, as you know, is taken from a nice safe position at the bottom, looking up. The view looking down affords you a different perspective, especially if the weather is good. At least, I'll come back with the typical tourist photos. I'm happy with that! Part of the satisfaction is making it to the top, fear of heights and all. Making a few good exposures is icing on the cake. Part of my motive is inspired by Mr. Poucher's book 'Welsh Peaks', of which I would like to emulate and produce a more up-to-date version in colour. Part of my mission is to photograph the route up the mountain and to produce a guide of safe Snowdonia walking. Too many people are needlessly killed or injured because of ignorance and sheer stupidity.

Here's to a good weekend!  Yours as well as mine.



This year, so far, has been a little thin on the ground when it comes to work output. My output can not be described as prolific anyway. I have to be in the right mood, the light has to be right and the subject right. Everything has to be right. Right! That can be frustrating waiting for those factors to come together. Often I just find myself wandering in the hopes of something interesting appearing in the front of the lens. On one of those wanderings I just happen to be wandering around the Morris Dance event in Chepstow on Saturday the 3rd of July. I had this event in mind for a couple of weeks. Now photographing people is not my favourite past time, that's something to do with my highly aspergic persona. It's the face thing. Facial expressions and Human interaction. I avoid it like the plague. One of the reasons I love photography is that it affords me the salubrious solace that is solitude. So I had to approach the dancers from a different perspective. Now before I move on to some actual photos, perhaps a little history may be of interest. Morris is often viewed as one of those quintessential British occupations. Dressed in white, bells, sticks (or kerchiefs), music of sorts and with the the occasional ululation. Often it is viewed as quaint, queer and with pagan over tones. In fact, the origins are Spanish and the dance originated from when the Spanish kicked the Moors from out of the Iberian peninsula. The original was called the Moresco and still survives in some parts of Spain. The dance was exported to France, Italy and, of course, to Britain where, in the late 15th century, it was known as the Moorish. Moorish became Morris. It's a war dance where swords were used in stead of today's sticks and kerchiefs. Over time it has developed into a small number of distinct styles and perhaps the blackened faces of some dancers represents the dark skin of those very cultured Moors.

So, here's the pix, and if you're interested I used my EOS 40D with the Sigma 50mm f1.4 in aperture priority at f1.8 or f2.8.

Update: The 18th of May, 2010.


WOW! where has the year gone. Its almost half done. You may have noticed that I have not added much to the site over recent months. I think this is a combination of weather, work commitments and illness. I have never been able to get out when the weather actually has been suitable. Mucho frustration there. What I have done is added some relaxing music to the slide show. So, go HERE, select a slideshow, dim the lights, use a decent sound system on your PC/Mac and relax with a glass of wine. In the background I have been quite busy, what with the work commitments work as well. I have trundled over the Carneddau (Snowdonia, North Wales) taking in four of the fourteen Welsh 3000 peaks. The legs hated me. I am still processing the pix, the light was good for scrambling/hiking, not good for photography. It was very diffuse and hazy, there is also a strange reflectance from the rock. Its hard to explain, but it does effect the quality of light. On the Snowdon massif itself there's no problem, that's a different sort of rock. On the Glyders and the Carneddau which share the same kind of glaciation erosion the light can have this certain quality. I don't like it myself. Anyway, I'll process a few and see what happens. Incidentally, on the 13hr hike (yes! That's a long story) I took my Canon G11 and EOS 40D.

I am still working on the wedding and portrait gallery, I hope to have that completed in the next few months. And finally, cyanotypes. Yes, I have been producing some of these quite fascinating easy-to-do prints. This is part of my long term plan to bring 'everything' in-house, just in case film goes the way of the Dodo, or becomes more expensive than I think is economically viable.

Right, my finger aches (I'm a one fingered touch typist, with an amazing rate of ten words per minute), it needs a rest and a coffee.

All the best and ciao for now.

Update 13th of April 2010


Heck! Where does the time go! Well into spring, April already. And what's happening on the photography front? Well, not much really. Here in South East Wales, UK, we have actually had quite a few nice days. You know, Sun, blue skies, bitter cold wind. Brrrr!!! Not my thing at all, I've had the lurgi three time this year and that has contributed to me not actually doing much. When the weather becomes clement, THEN, will I venture forth. I have committed the cardinal Sin of every monochrome photographer, I have decided to start a colour gallery. I feel like a heretic. Unclean. I don't really see things in colour and the new gallery consists of photos taken from my trips to Snowdonia over the last four years. In fact, I have found that a good number of the pictures taken lend themselves to colour. I am quite pleased with result, but the acid test is knowing what you think, please take a few minutes and let me know.

To go to the Gallery.

Leica Lust?


The name of Leica is synonymous with the histrory of the miniature 35mm or small format. The Leica is many things to many people. Almost worshipped by some, denigrated as an elitist rich man's toy by others. I have two Leica cameras, a 1946 IIIc and a 1959 M2. Leica M2. I had to flog some gear, but, finally, I bought an M2. I love it. The smooth film advance, the solid feel, the bright rangefinder, easy to use with glasses and that wonderful shutter sound. Heaven! So superior to the Barnack cameras but many of the sentiments are the same. I do love the finder. It feels as if you are looking right through the camera and directly at the subject. In fact, the camera melts away and become an extension of the eye. It is, without doubt, the best rangefinder I have used. Like the IIIc mention below, the M2 is so tactile, the milled metal, the vulcanite. Love it! The M2 is a huge leap from the Barnack cameras. One word of caution, the 50mm frame on the M3 and the 35mm frame on the M2 are difficult to use if you have, what Leica succinctly calls, 'defective eye sight' (1950's manual). To the rest of us that means you are a genetically inferior glasses or spectacle wearing specimen who should not really be using a Leica in the first place. Can I conclude that only perfect Human specimens can use the perfect camera? Sorry, Adolf, I didn't quite catch that...

Leica IIIc I have wanted one of these cameras for years and when one was offered at a very good price, well, mine it became, and disappointed I am not. It came with a 1936 un-coated heavily scratched and slightly hazy f2 5cm Summar. It just had to be replaced and this was with the f2 5cm Summitar (1949). The venerable Summar still has its place, it's soft and it flares. Some would call it the Leica glow, and yes, the lens has character. It has low contrast (Hello photoshop), but, even so, the sharpness and resolution isn't that far behind the Canonet (below). I just love it. The IIIc is so tactile, the milled metal knobs, the satisfying weight, the feel in the hands, it's so right. It says shoot with me. Even the separate VF and RF is just brill. No light meter, no plastic, no battery, no electronics, no controlling micro computers. REAL PHOTOGRAPHY - YOU in control. It's slow, it forces you to THINK, to STOP, to ANTICIPATE.

Of course, both have no light meter so either an external meter or the use of the Sunny 16 (or Overcast 5.6 if living in the UK) rule will have to do. I would recommend becoming practised at the Sunny 16 rule as it does liberate you from inherently misleading light meters.

So, briefly, how does it compare. I can only make a comparison with my Canon Canonet GIII QL17 and Fed 3 rangefinders and quite a number of Japanese and Russian SLR cameras. Mechanically, the Leica is way ahead. Solidly built with very smooth gearing. You can not only tell by the physically smooth action but also by the sound. The Leica just sounds indescribably smooth. On the other hand, the Japanese and Russian cameras just do the job. Inherently, the horrid and ratchet sound to their mechanism is indicative of an inferior design, build, materials and mass production. My Yashica Mat 124G sounds like its about to make an espresso.  The Japanese and Russian cameras feel functional in the hand, whilst the Leica (and to the same degree the Rolleiflex) feel reassuringly pleasurable.  The Japanese and Russian cameras just get the job done, the Leica adds to the pleasure and experience.

Optically the same thing applies. I have had 5 Leica lenses, 4 from the R system and 1M. All superb, especially the 50mm f2 that was on my R camera. The bokeh was so good it gave some images an almost 3D like quality that seemed to pop from the print. My M Summarit is a 1949 screw lens with an M adapter, it performs slightly behind the exceptional lens on the canonet. I put this down to the fact that the Summarit, being a 1949 vintage is showing its age with some internal markings. I think when I have a more recent lens on the M2 I will be able to produce a better comparison. One characteristic I find among my Japanese lenses is the fact that they commonly have a very sharp centre and a soft edge (which improves until you reach equilibrium at f11). The Leica lenses on the other hand are much, much more consistent in sharpness across the frame. I actually prefer this.

To conclude I would say that the Leica is a status symbol, its an elitist trade mark, you buy into the culture and the elitism, the feeling. The cameras are better quality than the 'compitition' beyond doubt and together with the best lenses available for the 35mm format make an irresistible allure. BUT, their price point, even second hand, is BEYOND their worth. It is this fact that makes the Leica the afore mentioned elitist rich man's toy. Should you buy one? Perhaps! I suppose it depends for what reason you want to buy. Is it to own a piece of camera history? or the simple pleasure of use? or to join that exclusive club? or is your ego so weak you need to feel better than everyone else by the power of camera bling? or perhaps you feel your photography is so inadequate that owning a make used by Cartier-Bresson or Salgado will somehow make you feel better? One thing for sure, no matter how good a camera it won't make you a better photographer!

2010 and thoughts of the decade.


Can I believe it! The start of a new decade. How has yours been? When I started photography in the early '80's with the Praktica MTL5 things really didn't change much for years. That all came to an abrupt end in 1999 with the launch of Nikon's D1. I think the last decade has see more camera launches than the previous 3 at least. Perhaps more.

I bought my first digital in 1997, I think it was the Casio QV-10. I was hooked. The fact that I was also hooked on Macs made it even sweeter. I think the QV-10 had a resolution of 640 x 480  - something like that. The results were - well, pretty interesting. I have distinct memories of the camera getting really hot and draining the batteries very quickly. How things have changed! I purchased my first professional digital camera in 2003, the Canon EOS D60. Of course, it revolutionised my small photography business, even better, my beloved Mac became part of that business. I was in paradise. Computing, designing and photographing all day. It was a happy obsession - for a while.

I used the D60 for all my personal work as well. Following a discussion with a fellow wedding photographer I switched to a Fuji Finepix S2, mainly for the wonderful colour and skin tones so vital to wedding photography. Finally, the S2 was joined by a Nikon 1Dx and then later, an S5. I didn't use film for quite a few years.

Yet, there was an intense dissatisfaction with digital. On the professional commercial side, yeah, no problems, very happy there. It was in my personal work where I was suffering. There I am a monochrome shooter and I was rather sick of 'converting' to monochrome, or people commenting "that's a nice 'conversion' ". It felt 'impure'. So I started shooting film again. Out came my favourite film cameras, my Leica, my Fujifilm GA 645Zi, my XA, my Canonet QL17 GIII, my Rolleiflex and my Yashica Mat 124G. Oh! and a few others recently added.

What I had missed was the gorgeous tones, the subtle way film renders light, that wonderful grain structure, the texture, the dymanic range, the bokeh, the incredible resolution and sharpness of medium format. So film has been fighting back over the past few years, especially in MF. I think I shoot more with film now than with digital. I have nothing against digital. It clearly doesn't suit all applications and tastes.

It's nice to know some things haven't changed though. Amateurs are still obsessed with 'tech specs' and data charts 'immediacy' and all that crap. It is an insecurity fueled by amateur photography magazines and manipulated by the subtle language they use. It is a bit like a carpenter obsessing about his lathe or chisels. No! The carpenter focuses on the finished result. In our case it is the picture be it produced by a Box Brownie, a Holga, Pinhole, Large Format or a Nikon D3.

Another thought struck me as we ended the decade. And that thought is that I feel sorry for the Research and development departments of the camera companies. It must be an incredible pressure to come up with the next gimmick that will make you guys rush off to replace your month's old camera. Remember how reviewers derided the first implementation of 'Live View' in the Olympus E330? OK, fledgling technology now De facto. What will they try to sell to you next? Remember! The purpose of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus etc. is to MAKE MONEY.

It makes me laugh when people say, as did a work colleague did recently "I can shoot all day and it doesn't cost me a penny". The fact is, I have spent more money on digital than I ever did on film. Take into the count of the cost of your computer (and its upgrades) the associated software (and their upgrades) the camera (and the upgrades). How much?

My Mac cost me (and I am rounding figures for ease) £1000 plus £250 for a 22"monitor, software £600, printer £300, camera £750, lenses (10-20mm, 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8 all Sigma) £1300. Total £3900. That doesn't include the number of upgrades over the last ten years or consumables or my back-up bodies. OK, I'm a pro and I had to buy the kit that does the job (portrait, social, but mainly wedding), you are probably an amateur and probably have spent less. You may have bought a EOS 5D, in which case you may have spent a good deal more. Why not calculate your expenditure for the decade right now! I won't tell your wife! We'll keep that secret! For convenience we'll use a contemporary figure of £3000. Neither can you say you don't upgrade at some point. You all do. I do. I've spent like you wouldn't believe. My income is less than £20,000.

So that £3000 equates to 600 rolls of colour film or 1000 rolls of B&W. Half that if you have, say 7x5 prints as well. 300 rolls of colour film is 10,800 prints. On just some very rough figures that is an incredible amount of film/prints for all your current digital 'stuff'. Take into account that to manufacture your digital hardware is incredibly un-un-green. A computer has a huge carbon footprint to manufacture. Shockingly so in fact.

So, film is cheaper, greener and has better all round quality than digital.

So why digital? Yes, its very convenient. The hardware/software companies have you locked in a perpetual upgrade cycle. They are making more money than ever. This is not an argument against digital, I use it exclusively for all my commercial work. These are my thoughts of the decade. So, to conclude, I would like to leave you with the thought on the next 10 years. What cameras will we be taking about at the end of this new decade?

And finally. Despite the computerised control device (aka camera) you may be using, what goals have you set yourself. For me, it is to improve the portfolio, sell more prints, get more visitors, build up a reputation.

All the best.

New Images for 2010


Welcome again!

The past few months have been reasonably quiet. You know, weather, dull, overcast, grey and pretty miserable all-round.  I haven't been doing that much shooting. Really, not much for the last two or so months. So I decided to save what I had to a do-it-all update. Funnily enough, on the few 'good' days we have had here I have been unable to make the best of it. I blame that four lettered word most people don't like using. WORK. Normal bread-and-butter work. So here is my offering from the last few months



It's funny, you spend 20 years with a camera in front of your face and then you come across something that makes you realise how ignorant you are. This happened to me recently when, by accident I found the Sunny 16* exposure rule. I never really thought about how exposures were made in the time before light meters. I remember about five or six years ago a friend telling me his uncle used to 'guess' exposures without a meter. I just thought that was utterly ridiculous. How could anyone make any good exposures without a meter? So, here I am, and having eaten a rather large humble pie, making exposures without a meter. So, what is the Sunny 16 rule? Simple, the following table demonstrates aperture with the subject being photographed...

f16: Bright Sun with clearly defined or sharp shadows. f11: Bright with soft or fuzzy shadows. f8: No shadows. f5.6: Overcast but bright. f4: Dull.

Notice, the aperture is dependent on, basically, the intensity of the shadows cast. What about shutter speed? Simple use the reciprocal of the EI of your film. This means if you rate your film at EI100 use a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second. Say if you were using Neopan 400 at box speed. then. your shutter speed would be 1/400 of a second. "WAIT! My camera doesn't have that shutter speed". No problem. Use a shutter speed of 1/500th. Well, what about using Tri-X at EI 200. Again, no problem use a shutter speed of 1/200, reducing your development time accordingly.

Hmm, Chris, does it actually work, I mean, no meter? See for your self from the following pictures. In order from top to bottom, f16, f11, f8 and then f5.6. The negatives are Kodak Plus-X developed in HC-110, then scanned with only 'Level' adjustment. Voila. It works quite well.

Above: f16

Above: f11

Above: f8, No shadows.

Above: f5.6, overcast.

And where does the liberation enter the picture. Well, the above pictures where taken with a Leica M2 (1959) and a Leica IIIc (1946). No electronics whatsoever, no controlling computer, no clever software, no battery. Just YOU! True liberation.

*or, if you live in the UK (as do I), the 'Overcast 56' rule.

Tintern Abbey


The 13th C. Cistercian abbey at Tintern is one of my favourite locations and I am always looking for an opportunity to take a better photograph. On this particular morning I had a dental appointment in Caldicot, so, having only one car, I had to give my wife a lift to work. On my way to Caldicot I was passing through Tintern. The mist was thick and it was still quite dark. With a some time to kill I decided to visit my 'old friend' the Abbey. There it loomed from out of the mist, an ancient shell, a monolithic mausoleum of times past. Grabbing the camera I thought 'here we go again'. Generally I 'convert' to monchrome, but the subtle and muted colours added to the mood. So. in colour they stayed. P1020456





The Leica M2 and the Dorset Steam Rally


Saturday the 5th of September was a pretty interesting day. The Dorset Steam Rally or fayre or whatever it was actually called. Travelling from Chepstow took a mere two hours, the traffic wasn't too bad either. It was out of bed at 6am though. I took with me my Leica M2 (1959) with the Summarit 5cm f2 (1949). This is in fact a screw lens with a Leica M adapter. It works just fine. The Leica M2 is a pleasure to use. With a parallax adjusted bright line finder the M series is a huge leap from the Barnack screw cameras. My Leica IIIc is still a great camera, but, the M2 is just so much better to use. Even after 50 years and a recent service the film advance is still very smooth. Oh! and that satisfying shutter sound. Sad. I decided to use one of my favourite films AGFA APX 100. One needs at least two full days to cover the event in anywhere the amount of detail it deserves. Upon immediate arrival one could not fail to be impressed with the sheer scale of the event. I'm not really 'into' steam engines per se, but I think I can appreciate the appeal. They are alive, hissing steam, the gentle or no so gentle rhythm of action, the smoke and that characteristic, timeless smell. I had to be here with the Leica, no other camera would do, certainly not digital. The youngest engines were a not that much older than the Leica, and both from a better forgotten time. A time of when machinery was made by hand, a time of no plastic, no electronics and no control by faceless software engineers. A time where people were actually polite to each other and said "How do you do?", and doffed one's hat. Now all gone in a cloud of consumerism and obsessive materialism. I shot two films, developing one in Rodinal and one in Pyro. The frames I have selected are the ones that came from the Pyro roll. I was after a vintage feel, to be in tune with the idealism of the day. Pyro certainly provides that being a developer popular in the 19th and early 20th century. Pyro does have its disadvantages. It can be erratic and unrealiable, but, notably strongly compensating. See what you think.

Pic one


Pic two.


Pic three.


Pic four

Sitting on a boxPic five.

Untitled-7and finally Pic six.


For those of a techie disposition, the negatives were scanned using the excellent Vuescan and a Nikon LS-50 with only minimal Photoshopping, just levels, burn, dodge and heal. Really simple.

Out with the Panasonic G1


What has happened to Summer. Gone, its just gone. What happened to all the glourious Sunshine I seem to remember from when I was much, much younger. Perhaps I only recall the good. But, I think you would have to agree the recent 'Summers' have been pretty bad. Overcast, flat diffused light, no shadows of which to speak, fleeting at best. It leads to incredible frustration. We have had a few days recently which were ideal. You know, that brilliant bright Sun with well defined and strong shadows. I really love that. So here are a few pix from the Panasonic G1 taken fleetingly in those precious fleeting moments of brilliant light.

Tryfan in Profile

Above: Tryfan in Profile.

Castell CaerdyddAbove: Castell Caerdydd (Cardiff Castle) from Bute Park.

The Bridge

Above: Chepstow Bridge.

and finally...

Tryfan in Profile

Above: Back to my second favourite 'hobby', the summit of Tryfan.

During the brief visitation of Mr. Sun I did take out the Leica IIIc, so the next post will have a few of these pictures, mainly taken at the Abergavenny Steam Fair a few months back.