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!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.

Original London Light Trails? Admiralty Arch

February 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I visit London two or three times whenever I go back to England.  My home town being very close and the city is famously rich in photographic opportunities.  There are so many historic old buildings, modern structures, ornate churches and also the wonderful Royal Parks.  The views along and across the Thames, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s, Parliament, The Shard, The Eye...the list is endless.  But there are many lesser known landmarks that are equally interesting and, after so many visits, it’s now these unique places and lesser taken views, that I try to seek out.

That brings us to Admiralty Arch, at the end of the Mall leading into Trafalgar Square.  It’s a gorgeous old monument any time of day, read here for more details about the structure.

London Light trails are very common.  Whether along Tower Bridge, in front of St Paul's or beneath the Elizabeth Tower, (that’s the one with the bell of Big Ben inside it).  Many people incorrectly call the Elizabeth Tower ‘Big Ben’, remember that ‘Big Ben’ is the name of the bell that goes BONG, not the tower in which the BONGs bong!

Anyway, mini rant over.  When thinking about other possible locations for light trails, Admiralty Arch came to mind.  I am sure shots exist, they must do, but I have not happened to come across them.  Though remember, when doing any light trails with traffic, always, always be careful!  You can misjudge things when focusing on your camera!  DON'T TAKE PHOTOS IN THE ROAD - STAY WELL CLEAR OF TRAFFIC!  Traffic can hurt!

After trying a couple of compositions, I choose this angled shot as it emphasises the full arch shape of the monument, not only it's arches, as well capturing the light trails moving under it.  

No filters were needed, by using a narrow aperture and a low ISO I was able to get the shutter speed slow enough to capture the light trails.  Several shots were taken to get a variety of traffic, both large and small, cars and buses for lights at different heights.  The final images were then merged, using auto align and then a lighten blend mode to allow only the lighter parts of each imageş (i.e. the light trails), to show through to the top layer.  The final flattened image was boosted for colours and contrast in Lightroom to polish off the result. 

If you have shots of lesser known landmarks, light trails or not, please share a link in the comments!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 3: Ribblesdale and the viaduct

February 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 3: Ribblesdale

Would I be able to see the viaduct?

Yes!

Would I be able to photograph that majestic viaduct without getting soaking wet? 

No!

But that’s jumping forward.  Some background:

The Ribblesdale viaduct is just on the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria.  It’s a stunning feat Victorian engineering from the golden age of steam.  It’s on the branch line between Settle and Carlisle, which for many years was closed.  Now reopened it carries passenger and freight, but if you ever visit, notice how slow the trains move over those arches.  Which is a good thing as I guess the views from the top must be impressive.  Not today though!

The viaduct opened in 1875.  This information from the Visit Cumbria website:

“Hundreds of railway builders (“navvies”) lost their lives building the line, from a combination of accidents, fights, and smallpox outbreaks. In particular, building the Ribblehead (then Batty Moss) viaduct, with its 24 massive stone arches 104 feet (32 metres) above the moor, caused such loss of life that the railway paid for an expansion of the local graveyard.”

Grim stuff!

Under the viaduct I believe there used to be some kind of old railway depot.  Now it’s given over to the moorland.  I knew where I needed to be to start my hike.  A very useful photograph online shows the road junction  sign with the majestic structure in the background.  The junction of the B6255 and B6479, near Ribblesdale railway station.

On the approach the weather was getting worse.  The grey getting thicker as drizzle hit the windows.  Here perhaps only once, and maybe never again, I had to get something.  The scenery of the high hills of the Pennines on the road up, and of Ribblesdale itself, would have been splendid, had the weather played ball. 

The B6255, the road running through the dale, was closed a few miles on.  After we turned off the B6479 ‘No Through Road – Access Only’ raised its very ugly head.  It didn’t say why, but I can guess.  There was a BT wagon in the lay-by at the edge of the dale.  BT...you +%&/()=.  Yes, they were at it here too…there were also a couple of trucks parked under the viaduct!  In August, closing roads where tourist and holiday makers want to go.  Opppf!

We couldn’t cross the dale, as was our plan, we’d have to find another way back.  But for the moment we pulled up in the in the lay-by near the dreaded white vans.  I got out, donned my waterproofs and began to take some distant shots, before my hike across to the viaduct itself.  Depending on the weather, I would cross the dale to shoot from the other side, and straight on from distance if I could.

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Taken on LG G4

While I was there several train rolled across, sadly no steam!  What a grand sight that must make!  A couple of passenger units, and a freight train that seemed to tip-toe over those majestic stone arches was all that went passed.  It was drizzling again.  Mist was rolling across the hills of Whernside opposite.  Whernside was becoming hidden by the low cloud.  Off I went.  Over the years as a child, we’d often had picnics in the car as the weather was spoiler the day.  Make the most of it, the English holiday approach.  Today would be no different.  Would we see anything more of the Whernside hills that we're being swallowed by that all encompassing cloud before leaving?

The more I walked, the more it seemed to rain.  Across the grassy moorland for the distance square on shot was out of the question, it was boggy and the weather was getting worse by the minute.  I had to play percentages and try to get shots that I knew would work.  Onward.  A couple of shots fired from this new angle.  These had to be taken handheld.  My makeshift rain cover (plastic bag with a hole cut at one end - very effective) was keeping the rain out of my lens and camera body, but keeping the glass drip free was tough.  No, not tough, impossible!

Strangest thing of all.  I wasn’t the only lunatic doing this hike in the rain. The dogs really didn't mind, is he wearing shorts???  Must be a local!

I reached the centre point and darted off the path and fired off a number of shots to make a pano.  Again, handheld as the rain was too heavy to set up the tripod and keep everything dry.  I had no hope for this pano, the scene wasn’t what it should be as there was no detail in the landscape at all.  I am glad I hadn’t tried for the square on distance shot.  It would pick out nothing but the dim outline of the arches against an ever shifting mass of formless grey.  There was no landscape, just cloud and rain! which was now very heavy, with a strong squally wind whipping around.

I approached the arches, perhaps up close was my best (only) hope of a usable image.  A contrasty shot of the arches at a dynamic angle was my best composition.  The image below had to be cleaned of water drops.  What else could I do?  I had to photograph it today, when would I be back?  Rain was still falling, from the sky, and from me - the problem with waterproofs is that they drip! 

If anything, I think I did well to get some shots and return with a usable camera! 

Under the archesUnder the archesThe Ribblesdale Viaduct, Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. Also know as the Batty Moss Viaduct, on the Settle-Carlisle line.

f/11 - 1/1600 - 15mm - ISO 800

I am certain that the grim weather actually made this shot more impressive than it would've been on a dry clear day.  Some good can come out of bad weather!  Persist!

With the weather conditions the rest of the day was abandoned as far as photography was concerned.  After finding another route back to the hotel, with telecoms company causing us to redirect several times, we adjourned to our rooms to meet later for dinner. 

After dinner, back to that ominous churchyard.  Not as atmospheric as the night before.  It was earlier than last night and the cloud was breaking to show the sun setting, albeit out of view.  The forecast had said a cloudy, dry evening.  It lied! 

The forecast for the next day was the same.  Disappointing, it didn't look good.  The plan had been to walk from Malham village to Janet’s Foss waterfall, then to Gordale Scar, an imposing cut in the hillside with a waterfall running through it.  I had planned then to hike from the Scar through the valley to the imposing limestone cliffs of Malham Cove, and then over the top of the cove and down to Malham Tarn for some waterside shots. 

Find out how successful this plan was (or wasn’t) next week!

Got any similar stories or comments about weather spoiling, or enhancing, your shots?

Please share!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


Tips – Get out more 03: Rain Covers

February 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If you don’t have solid weather sealed camera and lenses, (as I don’t), you need a decent rain cover to be confident shooting in wet weather, which in the UK we have quite a lot of.  Even outside of summer, here in Turkey, the weather can often be wet.  Ask more photogs and they will tell you that bad weather often makes a much better picture, clear blue sky isn't very interesting...that's for holiday snaps, so if you're out in dodgy weather, you need protection!

Checking on Amazon.co.uk, you can buy rain covers from as little as £8, without spending over £100 for Canon’s own!   Really Canon? £100?  That’s what Amazon sells the Canon ERC E4L Large EOS DSLR Cover for.  What does it do?  Automatically dry your hands at the same time? 

Anyway, back to my own solution.  I don't claim to have invented this, and I am sure many others do the same.

The solution below may not be 100% waterproof, I am not sure even the expensive Canon option guarantees that.  The idea below is what I do; I am not recommending it, just saying it’s what I do!  Hope that’s clear!

All I use is:  1 medium sized clear plastic bag; 1 pair of scissors; 2 elastic bands

Yes, it is that simple!

I used this approach several times in the UK last year.  On the Elidir Trail in Wales, and especially up in Yorkshire in rained a lot!  I had to keep my gear dry.  My 70D doesn’t have rain seals, nor do my lenses.  I wish I could afford kit that did.  Even if it did, I am not sure I’d be happy with so much water falling on expensive gear as it would've done up in Yorkshire...

The solution of cutting the bottom out of a plastic bag, placing it over your lens and pulling it over your camera works perfectly. The only problem I had was rain drops falling on the filter glass from me while drying the filter glass, a slight adjustment in bag position was needed, 

  • Use a bag big enough to get your hands under. 
  • Use a clear bag so you can see the buttons. 
  • Put one elastic band over the front end of your lens, you shouldn’t need the second (but it’s good to have a spare)! 
  • Leave enough bag in front of the elastic band so that you can fold a peak over the lens and cover filters.
  • Leave enough room at the back that you can lift it and see your rear screen. 
  • Eh viola – rain cover! (Less than 50p)

Sorry I didn't include a photo...but do you really want a photograph of a camera in a plastic bag? Well, let me know if you do! :)

My clear plastic bag, that now goes with me everywhere, came from Simmonds Bakery, where they make extremely fine bread and cakes!  No sponsorship, just if you’re passing and fancy a sausage roll ;)

Got any other photo hacks like this?  Please leave comments to share your solutions!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


In-Camera Filters???

February 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

In-Camera Filters???  Let's call them ICFs (As there are so many acronyms in photography already, another won't hurt!)

Mr Frustrated Photog., what are you talking about?

Well, let me explain.  Over a year ago I sent this thought to Canon via there 'contact us' web link. I have had a stock reply thanking me for contacting them...Nothing else, maybe not surprising as this is perhaps the insane musings of a frustrated photog's brain.  Anyway...

Filters, they're something extra to carry.  On a photo mission maybe you have your standard zoom, a wide angle, perhaps even another zoom, (like a 70-200), to help you pick out details and composition in a landscape.  So carrying filters as well, that's extra weight and something else to hang round your neck or pack in the bag.  Not to mention more glass to try and keep spot and blemish free.

We know that most effects that filters give us can be applied in post-processing, though purists like to capture the scene in camera, by using filters:  

  • ND filters to reduce the shutter speed and block out light by a few stops
  • Graduated (hard or soft) with 1, 2 or 3 stops of graduated density  
  • There's even a reverse grad, placing the darkest point on the horizon and becoming light towards the top, for sunrise and sunset images when the sun is on or very near the horizon.

So, carrying all of these? 

  • Polarizers, we'll talk about those in a minute

The grads are less than perfect unless you have a completely flat horizon.  Even with a soft filter there'll be some degree of overlap on hills, tree lines or what-have-you, maybe only visible to the pixel-peepers out there.  The ND filters apply the same effect across the scene.  E.g. to the river as well as trees.

The shots below of Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf in Wales were merged to allow me to use the silky water, but stationary tree detail.  In the first you can clearly see movement in the trees, movement I didn't want.  Of course, I blended these two images to make a composite.

How cool would it be if we could just affect the water in a single image?

Most enthusiast level cameras already have some 'effects'.  They also already take and blend multiple shots in their HDR function. All cameras change an image with white balance or some form of picture styling (neutral, mono, landscape etc). Are ICFs just a step on? Most digital cameras now have a rear screen and many are touchscreens. 

How about using all of this to apply a filter when looking at the live image of the scene in front of you?  

For example:

  1. Display the live image on screen
  2. Draw a line from any point on the LCD with a fingertip to select the area that the effect should be applied to
  3. We then adjust a tonal range and/or colour tolerance parameter that tells the camera to only apply the effect to certain tones/colours within the selected area and whether it should be continguous or not
  4. We choose how many stops we want to apply to the effect
  5. We choose how much we want to feather the result, i.e. how soft the transition should be
  6. The LCD would display, in real time, what the finished image will look like (updating as we change the parameters) 
  7. The camera would fire the shutter two or three times, similar to HDR functions, one for the normal shutter speed at the standard exposure, and one or two for the filtered area. 
  8. The images are then merged together by the camera and displayed as a single image.

Why stop there, why not apply multiple filters to different parts of the image, maybe even spot lighting via radial filters with feather control?

Maybe some bright spark in the R&D dept at Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Sony or whichever are already tinkering with the idea.  With faster, better processors, could this happen?  Holding back the ND grad from the leaves covering a waterfall could take a bit of clever thinking, but our digital camera are already pretty blumming amazing machines when you think about it.  Why not?

The polarizer is perhaps the only filter that has to be a physical object, I guess that lens technology to ignore light coming in at a different angle would make lenses even more expensive and heavier.  Grad filters; Ok, perhaps not as good in post-processing as when applied to the front of the camera, but is it so different? 

ND filters, like the big stopper, can be imitated by applying blur to selections, though I find using the physical ND filter much better and smoother than the post-processing route.

Could in-camera filters mean we only need to buy and carry a polarizer in the future?

What do you think?  10 years?  20 years?  Never?

Let me know, write a comment!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 2: Scalebar and Stainforth Force

February 03, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Day 1 set the pattern for each of the two full days that we would be here.  English summers can be beautiful, and I truly believe that on a sunny day England can be as beautiful as anywhere in the world, but the weather in England is like a spiteful child and cannot be trusted. 

Mornings started promising and bright, but rain was forecast, late evenings it would clear.  Not exactly waterfall photography friendly weather.  Showers are one thing, but these were going to be HEAVY showers.

On the plus side, plenty of rain filled the rivers, (almost to overflowing), so that avoided the low levels that I found on the Elidir Trail (see blog entries).  On the down side: it was wet, very wet, and with a lot of low cloud.  My poor 70D is not sealed well enough to cope with such constant rain.  Add to this that many of the landscape views would be shrouded in a blanket of grey and totally hidden.   Very sad.  The landscape we had come to see is stunning.  I promise!

England, I love you…but aggghhhh! 

Anyway, being English, we’re used to this kind of problem.  We know we cannot let it stop us enjoying a holiday!  So it didn’t.  It just meant for some creative shots out of car windows in the persistent heavy drizzle cloaked in low cloud, (see part 3 to be posted shortly).

So Day 1 then. 

Up to Settle. Scalebar Force.  I had seen many shots of this beautiful place so I had to include it on my list.  It’s one of the most stunning falls in the country.  The Ingleton Waterfall trail is nearby, but it’s a four-mile circuit.  Four miles and lots of waterfalls and features, it would take me maybe six hours to get around.  No, not this year.  Another time perhaps.

You’ll see that I have only included a link to Google Images for Scalebar, because I didn’t make it. 

Thank you BT!  Yes, British Telecom.  For some unknowable reason, except to their infinite wisdom, the main national provider of communication cables had their Broadband vehicles working on roads all over the county, and many country roads were closed.  Why, why, why???  In summer???  When people visit!  Oppfff, BT ya! 

The road leading out from Settle to Malham passing Scalebar was closed, from both ends.  I assume at the same time.  We tried both.  No access.  Scalebar would be a five or six mile hike, in wind and rain. 

Catrigg Force is also near Settle, but again not on my list due to hiking distance and the weather conditions.  Stainforth Force was closer to the road…and no BT wagon closing it.  Success!

Stainforth Force 2Stainforth Force 2The three sections of Stainforth Force, the River Ribble, North Yorkshire

Stainforth Force on the River Ribble: f/8 - 5sec - 15mm - ISO100

The River Ribble, (what a lovely name), was raging.  The deluge of the previous days and the heavy intermittent showers of the morning had it full to the brim.  Some online official images show it as a fairly low flow, but today it was roaring.  The falls are in three close stages, the bottom dropping some two or three feet into an almost black, narrow gorge.

It’s impossible to get a head on shot of this waterfall without drone or drowning.  I don’t have the former, and certainly didn’t fancy the later.  I got as close to the edge as I would dare, (NB for my wife: don’t worry, not that close). 

The rain had stopped.  Barely even spitting now. The sky was cloudy so no sunlight burning out the highlights in a silky long exposure.  As always, I framed up a composition without filters first at normal shutter speed, to check framing.  Then took several shots at different shutter speeds to see the effect on the water.  It was hard to capture the scale of the fall from this angle.  Further back, trees and the craggy rocks would block the view.   I settled on a panorama of three images to get as much of a view as I could, see above, using manual settings to ensure the exposure didn’t change.

The bottom section was the most aggressive plunge down into the river, the middle section has some interesting abstract patterns in the flow, but the top section has more details in its side channels and almost horseshoe shape.  I moved up closer to focus on this part.

Middle section: f/11 - 3.2sec - 50mm - ISO 100 

Top section: f/16 - 6sec - 38mm - ISO 100

You know, I think I am obsessed with water!  My star sign? Nope, I’m not a water sign, not that I believe in that anyway…and no, I wasn’t dropped in a river as a kid, (at least, my parents never mentioned that I was…).  I find waterfalls mesmerizing, indeed water generally.  Check my Flickr feed, and it seems like 70% of my shots feature water in some way, even my shots of flowers often have rain on them.  Thanks to the UK weather again! 

I framed up a few more shots to get details of this upper section.  I could photograph it for hours.  Wow it was a loud river that day! 

Ok, just about done.  A couple more shots needed.  Looking upriver from the force you can see the old stone bridge of the single track lane leading from the main road to the village of Lower Stainforth.  The lane has a great name: ‘Dog Hill Brow’!

Could I get a shot of the falls, the Ribble and the Bridge?  It would have to be HDR, or at least blending images.  The grey clouds were very bright compared to darkness of the forest on the bank.  Framed up, Little Stopper on plus a polarizer to take the glare off the wet stone in the foreground, I bracketed for 3 shots covering almost 4 stops; it should be enough.  Indeed, it was, just enough to keep some detail in the cloud and water, yet allow for the shadows in the trees.

Stainforth Force 1Stainforth Force 1Stainforth Force, top section, on the River Ribble, looking towards the bridge on Dog Hill Brow, North Yorkshire

Stainforth Force (top section), The River Ribble, and the bridge on Dog Hill Brow:

3 shots Lightroom HDR f/8 - 1-3.2-10sec - 24mm - ISO 100

Thank you weather (and BT), you behaved enough for me to get this waterfall, all done I packed up my gear and headed back to the car. 

The drive up to the Ribblesdale Viaduct would have been gorgeous, if the hills of Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough were not shrouded in low cloud.  It rained hard, frequently!  There was no point stopping the car for views.  If the low cloud would clear a bit, there would be some beautiful atmospheric monos.  Not a chance.  The weather was set in!

Would I be able to photograph the majestic Ribblesdale viaduct)  Would I be able to SEE the viaduct?  Part 3, next week!

Has the weather (or telecoms engineers) ever done something similar to you?

Share your experience with a comment or two!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.