Welcome to the blog of the Frustrated Photog.
I am not a professional, not even an expert, just an enthusiastic enthusiast. I will share my mistakes and tell you how NOT to do it. For anyone like me who has limited time and opportunities out and about, I'll share what I can to help you maximise time behind the lens and also my photography adventures.
If you like an image in the blog that's not in the shop, send me a message!
The Frustrated Photog.
Anyone vaguely interested in landscape photography would love the Welsh coast. Picturesque beaches and villages, stunning dramatic rocks, and of course dramatic weather! The Gower peninsula had been a stop for us, but the beautiful views to Rhossili beach from the headland had been ruined. Up on the Worm’s Head we could see nothing but the grey mist in front of us, and the rain in our faces. The whole day had been planned there, so we had to resort to plan B and drive around a very wet Gower, and then return to the hotel early for a visit to a local shopping centre (my wife did not protesteth too much, me thinks!)
The next day, on to Tenby. A wonder of the Welsh coast. The seaside town has always been a very interesting place, long before my interest in taking pictures. Narrow lanes, soft sandy beaches backed by steep rock, old churches and a picturesque small harbour. It even has a gorgeously dramatic lifeboat launch. It’s a great place for photography, but, like the rest of my visit to Wales in the summer of 2017, could I rely on the weather?
We had only planned to drop in for the day, park up and then spend a few hours looking around. If it were warm enough, my wife even planned a swim, but could she? Would she? Even the Mediterranean is considered too cold in April for her Turkish blood, how would she get on with waters from the Atlantic Ocean?
Sadly the weather didn’t suit a swim, those nothing bright grey skies greeted us, and it was barely 20 degrees, but fortunately, for the photos anyway, later in the day dark clouds rolled in to add a bit of interest.
Warm enough to swim? Dogs, children, yes…my Turkish wife, not a chance! Though now, of course, she regrets not having tried! I did my best to persuade her as I lined up some long exposure shots on Castle Beach with St Catherine’s Island and fort placed in the shot, which, incidentally, you can walk to in low tide. The shots were not working, and my wife only paddling nervously. I had the sea turning nice and creamy with a long exposure but the sky wasn’t. Looking back, if I’d had the time, I would’ve returned to this beach once the darker clouds had starting massing on the horizon.
The composition didn’t entice me to keep trying. The tide far too low to use the rocks at the back and sides of the beach to any effect, without filling the shot with half naked tourists. No thank you! What it is about beaches that make us want to sit in public in, virtually, our underwear?
St Catherine's Island, from Tenby Castle Beach. f/11, 8 secs, 73mm, ISO400
What a glorious beach it would be on a sunny summer’s day! The sand is blissfully soft and clean. The view, amazing and interesting. Not a sunny day by any stretch of the imagination. Ah well. Onwards!
Around to the harbour nestled in the small bay made by the arcing headland. Beautiful scenes, clouds now added some depth and dimension. The colourful houses, mostly Victorian I guess, adding an intriguing contrast to that moody sky. If only Vernazza in Italy had been painted as well as this! I visit that lovely village in 2016 but the paint of many buildings was cracked and tatty…shame. Back to Tenby!
St Mary's Church and the colourful houses of Tenby overlooking the harbour. f/11, 1/50, 26mm, ISO100
The natural progression was of course to follow the path around the harbour and onto the promenade above North Beach towards the Croft. More of those lovely coloured houses and the gorgeously angular Goskar Rock in the bay. Twisting up the hill through the lands, all kind of folk like to look out at the view.
Down on the beach. Long exposures. If you follow this blog regularly, you’ve probably guessed that I am obsessed with water and, as natural extension, long exposures. To me it makes an image more dreamy and thought provokıng, though at the same time I love capturing the smash of a dramatic wave as I had down in Devon the previous year. Here, the usual routine. Line up without the filters to get the composition, then add the big or little stopper (depending on light levels and amount of blur needed) and then click. I also used a 3 stop grad filter on this shot to hold back some of the light in the sky so I could retain the detail in Goskar Rock.
Goskar Rock, f/16, 60sec, 27mm, ISO100
I could’ve spent hours down on the beach. My wife too as she played bare foot in the soft sand, I guess wishing it were a bit warmer to convince her that even she could swim. As always, we had a deadline to get back to meet up with family and still much more of the town to look around, not to mention more shots around the harbour. The problem with Tenby, especially with the now gorgeous, moody clouds, is that there were too many shots to get! Wonderful!
Tenby Lifeboat Launch, f/16, 30secs, 24mm, ISO100
If ever you get the chance, I strongly recommend Tenby! A beautiful spot for photography or just a holiday visit. A tip though! Research before you go. With so many shots it can be overwhelming. Plan in advance, know your tide times…and good luck with the weather!
Share your photography weekends…leave me a comment and I will reply asap!
The Frustrated Photog.
Leaving Malham we would take the Cove Road past Malham Cove and then head down to the Tarn. The beauty of the valley up to the Cove, in the right weather, with the imposing face of the cliffs today was lost in the low grey cloud. I would get a shot, if I could, just from the road. There was no photo opportunity in those conditions. Perhaps the Tarn would have some decent views.
Sure enough, as we passed the Cove, it was mostly hidden. I took a shot, bracketed, just to try and get what I could, knowing the shot would only be as a momento. I couldn’t use it (except for here in a blog to show how bad it was!).
Malham Cove on a grey wet day (f/5.6, 1/100, 67mm, ISO160)
We were quickly on again heading down to the Tarn in the direction where the weather was massing again and getting worse. Another passing shower and the not-so-passing grey clouds covered the car on the way across Malham Moor as we drove past the high craggy rocks. It’s only a short drive down to the Tarn so that didn’t give the weather chance to change much, not that I think it would have. If anything, down at the Tarn, it was windier. At least, as we arrived, the rained had stopped.
As you’ll see from my Flickr feed, I like water. A bit of a photographic obsession, and with clouds like these in wind a long exposure is always tempting. Sadly the clouds were not so well defined as could be to make a long exposed sky more interesting. They were not grey clouds, but a mass of grey! From the car park to the Tarn is just a short walk, but a cold, one around pond sized puddles. The Tarn though looked dramatic. It’s a fairly large lake surrounded by the hills and some forests on the far side, with an intriguing run off down into a stream, which was running fast thanks to all the recent rain.
The colours were all muted. Monos again were the order of the day. I set up the tripod bending the knees aching after the effort at the Foss and Scar. I had to crouch over the tripod again to provide some protection against the strong wind that was pushing me over. Several compositions taken, with and without a Big Stopper, the sky was grey, but in that direction, bright grey. A lot of light had to be held back to get the desired exposure.
Moody Mono the order of the day at Malham Tarn (f/16, 25secs, 38mm, ISO400)
I altered my position again. The elements again were not helping. Water was being whipped off the surface of the lake by the wind onto the filters, and it was cold. August! Experience is a wonderful thing, as is hindsight, I know if I had my time there again I would take more images, why didn’t I? Knee pain? Vicious wind? Maybe…
There are some wonderful images of some rocks near the shore, I could’ve framed these up better but truth is I was concerned about the 70D and lenses. No real weather sealing to speak off, and by now my knees were screaming at me. Every kneel, bend or squat making them yell louder. Crouching over a long exposure, then trying to stand, hurts! Sad to say I could only do so many.
Looking back I should have taken a long exposure of the bubbling run off from the Tarn. At first I was annoyed by the oversight but then I realised that the composition would’ve been impossible. I would’ve had to fully extend the tripod to get the shot, but the wind would not have allowed anything close to a sharp image.
I walked away from the Tarn. As two folk with dogs passed me, there was a shot there. I handheld with a fast burst of shots and captured a few scenes now that humans and animals would give a sense of scale.
Dogs on the Moor (f/8, 1/60, 40mm, ISO160)
The drive back to Haworth, via Arncliffe, Hebden Bridge and Grassington, I know from previous visits to be stunning. Over Malham Moor at the start the sudden rises and drops of the dales are gorgeous, and today there were added waterfalls, seasonal appearances that are not marked on the regular maps. The wind and showers were strong and violent, I framed up one such waterfall through the car’s open window, the tripod set up on the back seat and down into the foot well. My Tamron 70-300 at full stretch on a 1.6 sensor only just picking it out through the thick low cloud. In the right weather, it would have looked gorgeous, tumbling down the hillside in a series of cascades before a long drop, it wasn’t to be.
An unnamed (seasonal?) fall near Malham Dale (f/9, 1/60, 218mm, ISO100)
Back to Haworth was much of the same, stunning ‘if-only’ views. Had I been on my own with endless time, I would’ve stopped in one or two places and waited to see if light would clear just enough, but I can’t expect drivers to hang around like that, and in truth, not even my British weather optimism saw any real sign of breaks in the cloud. A circular route to Haworth was taken to ‘make a day of it’ as no more wandering was possible in such grim weather.
Haworth was, once again, annoyingly dry! The weather over the Yorkshire Dales varies greatly town to town, here, on the edge, the skies break, unlike up on the moors. Before dinner I wandered around the hill of Haworth, around the old churchyard once again and captured a few more scenes. The village there, typical Yorkshire, beautiful streets, rich in history and colour.
Haworth Sunset (3 shot HDR, f/11, 17mm, ISO400)
Down the Hill of Main Street, Haworth (f/4, 1/30, 24mm, ISO125)
It’s an area so much more than just history, scenery or villages and people, it’s the whole and the sum of its parts, each affecting and affected by the other. Despite being ‘a southern’ I have Yorkshire in my family and it always feels like home and a part of ‘real’ England. Whether here to the west or over on the east coast, on the North York Moors, or in the rolling Yorkshire Dales, it’s such a rich and varied area. I will always try to visit as often as possible; Yorkshire, a truly beautiful part of the world, in any weather!
Do you have an area that feels special to you? Let me know in comments and share links!
The Frustrated Photog.
There are many ways to understand which season we’re in, even though in the UK it can be confusing when grey cold wet days can assail you in summer.
You can: a) look out of the window b) look at a calendar c) look at your photofeed on websites like Flickr.
If you have an account on a photo sharing site, I can guarantee at certain times of the year you’ll be inundated with the same things. I'm also guilty, I will take and post these shots too! For example:
You get the general idea!
Overexposure of the subjects (pun intended), I do it, we all do it. Most of us are not professional photogs, so we take what we can when we can and yes, these things are beautiful so, when they are there, naturally we take photos of them!
My tip, if you get too many of them in your photo feed, don’t follow so many people J or don’t look at it…or just don’t worry about it. Plenty of other things in life to worry about after all...
Whichever J Personally, although the similarity of subject matter can be a bit monotonous, use it to your advantage! Look at all those shots, what do they have in common? Which are the better ones? What makes them different? Why are they better?
You can see where this is going...
By understanding what makes one shot stand out above the rest, you can improve your own technique and your eye for composition. Improve yourself!
Now, I am not saying that the pictures of snowdrops below are particularly special, actually far from it, but, by looking at many shots I tried to find a different approach. Compare the two. Which do you think is better? Why? The first was taken in 2016, the second, 2018. Just by examining two shots you’ll start thinking about your own images in a new way, and that can only help you find more compositions to try in future.
She who hangs her head, snowdrops Feb 2016, f/2.8, 1/1000, 105mm macro, ISO400
Snow drops on snowdrops Jan 2018, f/5.6, 1/500, 105mm macro, ISO1250
(a very windy day, high ISO used to combat movement)
Share links here to your images of snowdrops…or other similar objects that suffer seasonal overexposure. Let’s have a look!
The Frustrated Photog.
Ok, not raindrops. But seaspray keeps falling on my lens doesn't sound like a good song...
If it was only raindrops my high-tech plastic bag rain cover (blog post here) would have saved me. Ortaköy at night, in January, was worse than rain…much worse. Rain comes down, this was coming upwards, perhaps at a 45 degree angle!
Firstly, for those who don’t know it: Ortaköy is an area of İstanbul almost immediately under the first Bosphorus bridge. The name of the place literally means middle village, I guess because it is about halfway up the (or down) the straits. The famous shot is of the Ortaköy mosque standing right on the edge of the water. The narrow side streets are famous for trinket shops, small bars, and jacket potatoes stuffed full to the brim (called cümpir). Now, just to make it clear, here in Turkey, an ultra-plain jacket potato still has butter in it! A normal cümpir has everything from peas to sweetcorn, from olives to mushrooms…and butter of course.
Anyway…back to the problem.
As always I had to photograph Ortoköy when I had the opportunity, impossible to plan for the right light and conditions. It was windy, very windy. At night gales were whipping the water of the Bosphorus onto the low sea wall spraying everyone around and it was tough to keep the tripod upright in such conditions.
Hand held day shots were not as bad. The wind wasn’t as strong and the golden hour gave a nice tint to the marble of the mosque. I bracketed some shots as the sky was very bright, the paving dark and wet. The water on the floor meant that reflections were bouncing all over.
Ortoköy as the sunsets, 3 shots bracketed, f/11, 15mm, ISO400
After the sun fell, cue the increased wind…decreased temperature and wild sea spray. Oh, and my muppet moment!
Do not call me names for I know that I am muppet, and this is one of my best to date and, as a results, not one of my best shoots.
I had planned to get shots of the mosque lit up at night with the glowing lights of the bridge in the background...that, at least, was the plan. Very long exposures would also help me blur all people out of the shot, even the ones lingering for the umpteenth selfie.
As always, before trying long exposures, I took a test shot to make sure I had things lined up. Checked it on the back screen and there were a few spray spots spoiling the light stars. Only now did I release that I had left my remote and my lens cloth, in my camera bag…which, unlike me, was nestled in a warm restaurant nearby with my wife.
I know now that I shouldn’t have persevered trying to clean the lens and filter with the inside material of my filter pouch. Albeit it's made of the same material as the lens cloth, I know now that it was unable to clean the lens properly. In the dark by the street lights it had looked clean…but it wasn’t. I know...muppet!
I took another test shot, a quick look, not bad! I really did look clean! Glasses? Where were they? Yep...you guessed.
I didn’t want to leave the spot I had gained. A few other photogs were prowling around for the best spots and many tourists, even on this cold January evening, were milling about. I persevered to get what I could though annoyed that the spots never seemed to be cleared no matter how hard I wiped the filter. ISO was increased to allow the shutter speed to use the max 30 seconds, I couldn't use bulb mode without the remote or a cable release. Filters then were not going to work.
Was this a lack of planning? I had planned it. Or was it just being too keen to get on with taking the images? Honestly, both!
I moved away from the water’s edge to line up some different compositions, damn, it was cold! The spot problem decreased, but it never went away. After about 30 minutes freezing in the cold wind trying different alternatives, I gave up. Huffing in the restaurant to my patient wife drinking her tea.
After looking through the images in the restaurant I contemplated going back out…with the right kit. Or better still, waiting for the next time in Istanbul when I hopefully won’t have to contend with the spray lashing up from the water’s edge. Living in Turkey I usual have a stop over in Istanbul before flying to the UK, so a return in more amicable conditions looked the best option. Most shots I had could not be saved. If not deleted right there and then, they were after importing into Lightroom. I did however manage to get one or two that, when merged to b&w and with a lot of cleaning, I managed to get almost spot free-ish. Believe me, such a gritty black and white had never been my intention, but it made something out of a disaster.
Ortoköy at night, 3 shots bracketed, f/16, ISO100
And there was one, yes one, that I managed to keep in colour. Though sadly heavily flawed.
f/18, 8secs, ISO100
So, don’t be a muppet!
1) If you forget your kit…stop. Go and get it! Spending 10 minutes to collect and reset up is better than losing almost all your shots. Obviously! Doh!
2) Before you charge in to get your top shot. Take a deep breath. Check everything!
This ever happened to you? Share your experiences!
The Frustrated Photog.
St Mary's Church, Ross-on-Wye, from the village of Wilton, Herefordshire. f/11, 1/80, 21mm, ISO100
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, is a beautiful small town set in the picturesque Wye Valley near the border with England and Wales. For me Ross represents the very essence of the problem that tortures the soul to create frustrations in a wannabe photographer.
As I mention on my about page, and have touched on several times in other posts, I would be a landscape photographer, if I could. If I had the talent and...well, I won’t go into details now but a knee problem other factors that prevent me from having the freedom of being in the right place at the right time for that, often elusive, perfect light. Not to mention perfect weather condition. See the recent posts on photographing Yorkshire in heavy summer rain and dense low cloud. Typical...ah well!
So I am not a landscape photographer. Am I a travel photographer? Well, no. Not really. Travel photography really needs to include people, the locals, while telling the story. I’ve never liked taking a picture of a stranger in a street. Am I too reservedly British to do that? Many Brits are excellent travel photographers. No. It’s just me!
What am I then? An opportunist photographer! One who takes what he can, when he can and prays that the light and weather conditions when he arrives at a cracking location are, if not magnificent, at least benign.
One side of being a frustrated photographer, (insert landscape in there), is, usually, passing through an ideal location in ideal conditions but unable to stop. Drivers of public transport are not obliging to such request as “Stop the bus! Stop the bus! Can you give me 20 minutes to set up and take some photos of this scene, please?” I wonder why?
The other side of the rough rusted low-denomination coin of a now defunct currency is being in the ideal place with conditions that aren’t ideal. But at least this is better than conditions that prevent photography at all…isn’t it?
Is a bad picture of a good place better than no picture at all? Well, it depends.
a. take every picture expecting it to be portfolio quality in order to sell
b. enjoy the process of taking photographs whatever the outcome?
Well, for me it’s b), it has to be b). Frustration, and hunger, would be extreme if I was trying to make a living from landscape photography without transport.
I enjoy the quiet time with a camera. The process of finding shots, adjusting settings, seeing what I can get. The process of trying to make as good an image as possible is my hobby and I adore being close to the beauty of the world while I do it. Ultimately the 'means' are my hobby and if the ‘ends’ are nice images, that’s a bonus. But, how I would love to increase the value of the end result but having the ideal conditions. <sigh> Ah well!
So Ross. My family and I had scheduled a stop here for one night on our way through to Wales. Ross, being known as a nice spot in beautiful countryside, was ideal. The image above was taken on the banks of the River Wye from the nearby village of Wilton. It’s nice and colourful, just nice...not outstanding by any means. Mid-afternoon sun, not the greatest light, but some puffy clouds around add depth and dimension.
Naturally I cannot expect the driver and the rest of the family to fit travel and meal plans all around sun times. Nor can I expect them to wait around twiddling thumbs until the light changes, when it probably won't. As an opportunist photographer, you take what you get and hope you can return to the location if there’s a change…though that’s rarely possible.
I did have another shot (pun intended) at Ross though. The next morning we’d pass the spot of the classic view of the town by taking the A40 road into Wales. The view is of the town using the river to lead into the shot with the spire of St Mary’s Church reflecting in the water. There are shots of this view but with the spire reaching above ethereal mists glowing gold with the morning sunlight, go find them on Flickr or Google Images now. Definitely end results to be really happy with!
What did I get?
Roll the dice of weather luck and see if you get a 6 or a 0. I know zero is not on a dice but you know the type of weather I mean: the 'nothing weather'. The forecast wasn’t good. It predicted a 1 at best. Certainly not the time of year for the mist, but grey cloud was expected. Stormy angry looking clouds could add a bit of mood, but no, perhaps that would be a 4. But summer drizzly clouds were expected! High, bright grey, blankets of boringness!
Naturally I still tried to get the shot. Mono was always going to be the choice for this. The grey sky and lack of any real light had sucked a lot of the colour out of the Wye Valley, but at least it wasn’t quite a 0, perhaps it was a 1.
I had to work hard to maximise what cloud definition there was in the sky and with Lightroom tweaks I was able to bring back even more. I bracketed 3 shots, to try and get more detail in the sky than the tonal range of my 70D would normally give. I even used a 3 grad filter to hold in the sky. f/11, 38mm, ISO100, and HDR merge and black and white conversion in Lightroom resulted in this. That cloud definition was barely visible with the naked eye. Amazing what RAW files can do with a bit of jiggery-pockery, perhaps a 2 on the dice after all.
St Mary's Church, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. 3 shots bracketed, HDR, f/11, 38mm
I know it's not the portfolio quality of a professional, but I was happy enough to put it in my gallery. Perhaps to serve as a reminder that optimum light isn’t needed to get acceptable images, if not exceptional ones, and to remember WHY I am doing what I do? For the love of doing it, or the love (and glory) of £-$-€- that the results could give? Sure, the latter would be nice, but as a hobby, the former is a wonderful pastime.
Ever had a shoot ruined by weather? Or have you ever had to alter your plans to get a result in a difficult situation?
Share your experiences here!
The Frustrated Photog.
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Recent PostsDestination - Tenby! Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 5: Malham to Haworth and the end TIP05: Finding difference in the same subject: snowdrops Muppet Moments 07 - Raindrops keep falling on my lens… Frustrating a photographer in the Wye Valley Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 4: Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar Tips - Get out more 04: Tripod strap! Muppet Moment 06 – Castled? Original London Light Trails? Admiralty Arch Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 3: Ribblesdale and the viaduct