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.
Yorkshire is a very large area north of the midlands of England, and split 4 districts. The East Riding, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. Why isn’t the other East Yorkshire? No idea! But I know West and North also used to be called the West and North Ridings!
The whole of Yorkshire covers a large area, some 12,000 km3. It’s a wonderful region. Many wonderful cities and towns, hundreds of villages, (some among the most picturesque in the UK), and the whole area has a rich tapestry of history; castles and battlefields of the medieval wars, ruins of so many monasteries and abbeys torn down at the behest of Henry VIIIth. The history goes back even further to Roman ruins, Iron Age forts, Bronze Age stone circles and…well, it goes on.
The landscape of Yorkshire is also fascinating. The Pennines are the most dominant hills running through, together with many rivers and waterfalls and a picturesque craggy eastern sea coast. Woods and forest abound and, as in most of England, every land feature, (literally every hill, copse, crag, brook, rock etc) has a local name showing the landscape’s rich connection with rural life over the millennia.
The Yorkshire Dales roll up and down with the moors and the villages nestle in between. Each village has its own church spire standing proud. On the moors and on the hillsides the stonewalling tradition is prevalent, and dotted up and down are the old and now rarely used crofters huts for the shepherds of old. As with many other counties; once in the countryside, Yorkshire feels like the real England of old. Blake’s green and pleasant land. Well, when the sun shines that is...
This particular visit to Yorkshire was in August 2017. August. That’s UK summertime, right? Well, sadly it can never be guaranteed and the time of my visit, it was wet. Very wet!
The focus of this visit, as well as spending time with family, wasn’t the picturesque abbeys of Whitby, Fountains, Rievaulx etc, but the waterfalls around the Settle area and the landscape around the village of Malham. We had booked a hotel in Settle itself, close to perhaps the most majestic of Yorkshire falls, but two weeks before the trip…email: “The premises has now closed. Please re-book.” Short. To the point. Deposit??? But more importantly, it was summertime and only 2 weeks to find an alternative…
We did, but much further away than intended.
Haworth and the Old White Lion hotel. Well worth a stay with gorgeous food, not to mention wonderful draught beer! It’s located in an old part of the small town on top of the hill with gorgeous views. It’s a beautiful old building with a typical period bar area, but with modern, comfortable rooms.
As we travelled further north towards Haworth, the weather had become increasingly showery, the scene of a gorgeous double rainbow in front of the Pennines presented itself from our hotel rooms. What do you do with this kind of light? Take it from the hotel window? Or run and try and find a location hoping it doesn't fade?
Evening Light from the hotel window in Haworth (taken through glass)
Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were written around Haworth and on this hill is the Brontë Parsonage. It’s also one of the most eerie churchyards I have ever been in, the church of Saint Michael and All Angels.
I visited the church the evening we arrived, it was 9pm, still not dark in that part of the world, only dusk. It was also dry, and not forecast to stay that way for long. The crows in the trees that enclosed the churchyard were cawing madly at one another and periodically all shifting their perch en masse. The headstones and graves are huddled so closely together, it is definitely the most tightly packed graveyard I have seen.
Heavy drops of water were falling through the leaves of the trees from the fresh afternoon rain. This place was spooky. It had to be walked through and photographed, as it had such a unique presence. Indeed I went back every night! Sadly it was very hard to capture everything about this churchyard in one photograph, you needed all six (yes six) senses to experience it. The normal five were not enough as there was definitely an atmosphere that was beyond the corporeal. Definitely haunted!
The churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Haworth
Looking across at the western edge of the Pennines from the hotel room, the disused mills in every crease of the hills, it’s easy to imagine the landscape of Heathcliffe and Catherine...and Jane (of course). A gorgeous sky now lit up after the sun had disappeared, the colours lingered long into the evening. The forecast tomorrow didn’t promise this kind of light!
If only these clouds remained for tomorrow??? (taken on LG G4)
So endeth the first evening of the trip. Day 1 begins in the next part which should be on here in the next few days!
Please post comments, ideas, suggestions and I promise to reply asap.
The Frustrated Photog.
To filter light...that would mean to stop some coming through or to change it somehow. But what about when filters make MORE light than you want? Particularly when they reflect something else into the sensor that shouldn't be there...
I use the LEE filter system now. I used to use screw in ND filters, and variable ND filters, but I often got colour casts and strange X-patterns across the image, especially at wide angles. LEE are used by a lot of top photogs and I can see why. My own experience is that they are reliable, and any colour cast, if I get any at all, is one that is very slight and easy to fix. They are very pricey, but I am happy with the purchase nonetheless, (I just wish they were A LOT more afforable!) LEE are not sponsoring me, by the way. This is my own unbiased opinion, LEE: if you want to sponsor me...I would particularly like to try out your reverse grad filter ;^)
So on to the MUPPET MOMENT then...
You see, the problem with filters, especially the slot in kind, is that light can get between the filter and the lens. This is even more likely when you stack filters, say, using something like a Big Stopper and an ND grad. Light can get in between them and bounce around all over the place.
Have a look at the two shots below. The first, a composition before using filters. The second, the problem. You can just about make out the white writing from the front of the lens to the left of the image. I have also had examples of this problem where the numbers were readable, (but I deleted those shots long ago!)
My muppet moment, and this has been repeated muppetry, is that this problem occurred during the shoot, but even though I checked the images, I didn't notice the leaking light and extra reflections until I got home.
I recommend increasing the brightness on your rear screen and double check with your glasses ON if you normally wear them!
Yes, flag the light! Use a remote, the timer or a cable release, (we should be doing this anyway, especially with long exposures), and stand between the light source and the camera then hold your jacket or some other object to block the light. While doing this, make sure you are out of shot...vari-angle rear screens are useful as you can twist the screen and make sure you are out of shot as you position yourself.
Even holding a book next to the lens can do the same job!
Photography is all about light! So, don't be a MUPPET, get only the light you want!
Please share any comments you have about such problems of leaking light, either from filters, the eyepiece, (or anywhere else for that matter).
Also what filters do you use? Would you recommend them?
The Frustrated Photog.
Where did we get to...ah yes:
Another twist in the river gorge and down and steep bank crowded by old trees. There we saw the tributary Afon Pyrddin merging into the River Neath. Sure enough, this was where we would find a path leading west(ish) up towards Sgwd Gwladys, The Lady Falls. As feared, Afon Pyrddin was low, very low!
Nevertheless, all looked beautiful as it bubbled and ran around boulders and rocks and it was still sheltered by this never ending canopy of trees. The sun was also more courageous now, staying out longer between clouds. People too, and dogs, were more plentiful. It was getting on for 1pm, they were all coming up the ‘easy’ southern section of the trail from Pontneddfechan.
We crossed over the Afon by a small bridge and followed the path towards the falls. It shouldn’t be far. It wasn’t. There is an interesting viewpoint constructed to view the Lady Falls. Interesting because of its peculiar property of not actually having a clear view of the waterfall! Very odd! Oh well...
Oh my, this tributary of the Neath was low. The Lady Falls comes over a natural amphitheatre carved out of the rock, the overhang dropping into a bowl shaped plunge pool. There are photos with the river leading away completely awash with the motion blur of fast running water. Not today!
As you see from my image below, pebbles, lots of them making beach in the middle of the stream. The fall itself was just a quarter of its average size. The natural bowl shape allowed for more sky and light to penetrate the fall and sunlight intermittently caught the white water playing havoc with exposures.
I framed up, again down low to maximise the foreground, after all, might as well make use of the details as the fall itself wasn’t so grand. It still looked beautiful though, the thin cascade resembles a maiden’s hair more than the normal wider flow would. There are local legends about this place, and how it earned its name.
F/16 – 13sec – 24mm – ISO 100
This entry I found on World of Waterfalls.
The fall is named after Gwladus one of the 25 daughters of the 5th century prince Brychan. She fell in love with Einon whom her father would not allow her to marry and her sad spirit is said to flow in this elegant 20ft fall.
25 daughters??? Legendary already!
By the way, the website where I found that history, like many others, speaks of a waterfall centre at Pontneddfechan. I looked for it before I started my hike, (to use the loos). After my hike I learnt that it doesn’t exist anymore, (summer 2017), only the outdoor loos can be found at the bottom of the trail, which I haddn’t seen as we drove past. Forget those outside loos, go to The Angel pub! Great coffee...and probably better toilets!
The river was perhaps just 2 inches deep as it flowed away over rounded pebbles from the plunge pool. Was the middle of the water flow the best place to get a reflection shot of the waterfall falling into the pool? It was! Time to find out if the marketing around waterproof shoes was true!
I stepped hesitantly three feet out mid-stream, planted my tripod having already gauged exposure on the dry pebbles. The sun was playing games now! In, then out, then in again! Chasing exposure times as the shade of the clouds diffused the sun, only for bright sunlight to burn out the white water. I was faffing around as water, cold water, lapped around my waterproof shoes. Although no water came in, I could feel the cold around my toes.
F/16 – 5sec – 31mm – ISO 400
A couple set up a picnic on a large riverside boulder, no doubt enjoying the added spectacle of some idiot hopping around midstream. Another composition; “Morning!”, I offered to the picnickers. A sandwich was lifted by way of acknowledgment mid-mouthful. That natural amphitheatre surrounded by ancient forest is a truly a beautiful picnic spot, regardless of how high the river level is.
But onwards. We had to leave again. 30 minutes or so to our planned meeting time. It was only an estimate as we had no idea how long the whole trail would really take, but I don’t like to keep people waiting, especially when they are prone to a bit of worry, and they have reason to worry as I am known for being a little reckless when a photo presents itself, (re: that idea I had about charging headlong down a steep bank to get a photograph at the first main fall).
We followed Afon Pyrddin back and rejoined the main river. True to advertising this part of the trail was easy. Flat! Almost devoid of anything to step over or round. A couple of ruined buildings, once constructed of now blackened brick, huddled in the trees, a small farm holding, complete with sheep, and a very dank, dark black tunnel that lead underground, covered with a locked grate. Was this the fabled entrance to the faerie kingdom?
Down on this flatter, lower part, there were a few small cascades, ones that would have been beautiful to photograph but they were heavily obstructed by tree branches and there were no obvious means of approach. Despite the improved nature of the path, the river at times still cut deep down into rock that meant any scaling down the bank was dangerous, if not almost impossible. There was no more time. Sadly.
Lots more people, and lots more dogs. We were definitely closer to the end of the trail. So wide and flat that my wife even had room to dodge out of the way, thanks to her fear of cuddly canines, without the threat of winding up down a bank and in the Neath! That wasn’t the case back up on high ledges where once she had to choose between fur and fall. She had huddled behind me as I chaperoned the dog around my legs. Just a lab being nosey, then off chasing its owner.
One couple walked by, a couple of small dogs scampering around on their leashes, husband and wife...not speaking! She looked very angry! I found out later that the husband had almost flattened one of the dogs while parking his expensive motor!
We emerged to find my folks waiting by the wall by the bridge over the Neath at Pontneddfechan, across the road from the pub almost exactly three hours after they dropped us off at the top. Perfect! Tired, aching, but fully satisfied with the mornings exercise and photographic results. Well, not quite satisfied. Somethings to attend to.
Let’s go to the pub for a coffee, well, more importantly, I first had to make some room before any more liquid went in!
Refreshed, in bladder and in caffeine, we sat a few moments chatting about the experience. My wife and I agreeing that it was surprisingly easy, even on the ‘moderately easy’ northern part.
An amazing trail to walk along. I strongly recommend it. But please, work to preserve it and look after it. No rubbish and please don’t etch your name in a tree. I am pretty sure humans would not like it if trees etched their name in us!
My only regrets of the Elidir Trail are that I may never see it again and that I should have told my folks to meet us after four, or even five, hours later. If I could do it again I would definitely spend more time to make sure I have captured everything and really encapsulated the beauty of the area.
The Elidir Trail, entrance to the Faerie Kingdom? Very probably!
Next serialisation of my summer exploits will be the hike to Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar, in cold wind and driving rain (in August!) A couple of Muppet Moments from that one too!
Please post any comments, questions and suggestions and links to your photos to share.
The Frustrated Photog.
Many 'tips' sites and articles preach preparedness: using sun tracker apps to check the light, researching suitable photographic locations and angles, checking the weather etc...It makes a lot of difference!
All well and good. I use weather apps; the Photographers Ephemeris and Photopills, Google Earth to check how the land lies, and the internet for ideas. All very useful.
You know by now that I can't have my own transport, (them blumming knees of mine), so I have to rely on others. This includes piggy-backing family outings with photo opportunities. All well and good, but often the plan for the trip is a floating target! That's a feature of the culture of my Turkish relatives being a little less planned than my own anglo-saxon heritage. There's nothing wrong with it, no one cultures is more right (or wrong than another), it's just different! Sure I grumble every now and a again (time keeping, unplanned extra stops etc), things are more laid back, I wish I could be. I am English and therefore happier when following a plan, (without deviation). Difference keeps us all interested!
"Where are we going today, love?"
"Just Ocaklar for lunch."
Ocaklar, by the coast hmmm this weather, that location, no, no need for the tripod and filters.
"We're just going on to..."
"Aaaarrrgggghhhhh, rocks, sea, misty long exposure chance but no tripod...or filters."
A typical conversation that happens at least three or four times a summer. Very different locations and opportunities...add in different weather and light...
Two shots below: almost the same location, one with interesting light and filters to make a long exposure, the other, without...kit can make a difference to the images you get.
It's impractical to take all kit everywhere, all the time. So the tips then are these:
1: At least take your camera with you whenever you can. A comfy camera strap is a worthwhile investment. I use the Black Rapid RS7 which sadly I think they have stopped selling...so they must have something better now (I guess)
2: Have a good all-rounder lens attached that can do most things to an acceptable level
3: Always keep an eye on local weather and sun times. In this age of phone apps, it only takes a minute to know the general local conditions
4: Without being a bull about it, try to scope out what possibilities of other plans may occur. Remember your photography is secondary to the day's plan. Any opportunity is a gift after all. Don't push it!
5: At least have your polarizer on when you leave. I find I can take it and the lens cap off together and keep it in my pocket wrapped in a lens cloth if it isn't needed. Remember the polarizer doesn't just work on blue skies, but also any reflected light on water, bring out the colour of leaves etc. The polarizer is one of the only things that cannot, or is very difficult, to replicate in post processing
6: Think laterally. Ok, so no tripod, but is there a stable vantage point that you can rest your camera on? Make sure it is stable and safe though!
7: And very important. Make notes! If you're in a good location without the right gear. Write it in your photography ideas list. Then, when you are nearby again, try to visit with the kit
Ever missed a shot because you didn't have the gear? Write a comment and share your experience!
The Frustrated Photog.
A professional photographer can visit the right place at the right light, meaning the golden hours on a day when the weather and skies are favourable. I, like most of us, can't.
Without my own transport often I have just one hit during a family holiday to get what I can...
My visit to Wales and The Elidir Trail, (see the Elidir Trail blog posts), last summer included an overnight stop in Cardiff; an afternoon around the town centre and the following morning around the regenerated docks.
I remember the Cardiff of 30 years ago. I had family in the Splott area and one such relative worked on the trains from days of steam to the modern High Speeds out of the nearby Cardiff Canton depot. A hard life. So much of the docks has changed over the 30 years. Now it's modern bistros, swanky wine bars, cuisine from places a whole other world away. What would an old steam train driver make of it?
I can guess. But I can't print it!
He was a man who never changed political allegiance...but changed membership because the other 'side' had a larger club with better beer. Priorities sorted...it didn't change the vote. I don't think he'd be impressed with anything other than a pint of Brains and a full roast dinner.
The docks were once thriving with industry, it was among the busiest in Europe. Then the coal stopped flowing out and the area began a swift decline. Twenty odd years later and enter rejuvenation of the whole docklands area and the creation of the now iconic Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) that sits next to some restored period buildings that stand as reminders of the industrial past. I didn't capture the old buildings as the light on the day did nothing for them.
The WMC opened at the turn of the millenium? Well, no, 2004, and it has been much photographed since it's opening and it is a truly spectacular sight, both inside and out.
I am no photographer, just an enthusiastic enthusiast, but I still wanted to get more than just a memento snap of the place. I always try, often fail, to do something creative when I point my lens at something.
How though, when the light it as flat as it was that morning? There had been no real sunrise: cloud! The light when I reached the centre was bright, grey, almost white in fact: high cloud, with little or no definition.
The whole 7 day trip through Wales was either cloudy or rainy, or both. This was late July 2017. Clouds gave some good definition in Tenby. There was scattered cloud on the Elidir Trail, which was a diffuse blessing, but the stunning Gower Peninsula had been a total wash out. Cardiff was grey on both days which was a shame as it is an attractive city. Posts from Tenby will follow in the not too distant future.
The sky on my visit to Cardiff meant one thing: black and white. I was thinking something bold. A contrasty conversion to show off the shape of the WMC. It's a bold, strong building with chiseled features, (which sounds like John Wayne, or Tom Jones in this part of the world). The strength of the structure is what I had to capture.
Front on my view was obstructed by works. Side on from front left: traffic: I fancied the buses wouldn't wait for me to do my thing. Side right was my chosen shot to emphasise the form. Shot of the Millennium? Well, in one meaning yes...in the other, no.
I find with architecture shots it's necessary to find pieces that demonstrate why the structure is special, especially when light doesn't help. An image of the whole building from afar will only be interesting with a unique, or at least, attractive light. The day of my visit was definitely a day for finding an aspect of the structure that spoke of its essence and shape. I hope I achieved that!
Do you prefer to photograph the whole or part of a building? Why did you choose the compositions that you have taken? Share your thoughts here!
I believe you need a license to use images of the Millennium Centre for commercial use (both internal and external). Something for you to research if you get a shot of portfolio quality.
The Frustrated Photog.
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