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.
As an oportunistic photographer I often bemoan the fact that, naturally enough, public transport will not stop when I need it to, you know, when passing a gorgeous view as interesting light or weather conditions decorate the scene. But when you are with your own family, as driver or passenger, you can, perhaps, get the car to stop.
Not always possible, sadly. Whistling along a road with a truck right up your backside, it’s unadvisable to suddenly throw the anchor, but sometimes it can be possible.
Burrow Mump was one such situation. In the English county of Somerset, we were travelling home after spending a few nights in Glastonbury, see my recent post about photographing Glastonbury. I could see on the map that Burrow Mump was listed as a tourist attraction, and somewhere in my distant memory I had read about it.
Suddenly, there it was. Rising up over the moor beyond and the village of Burrow Bridge, a strange hill, fairly common in this part of the world, with a ruined church on top of it. “Do you want to stop?” Came the question from the driver. The answer was obvious, though...too late. We’d disappeared further up the road and the view had gone. At the next possible point a u-turn and back we went to a small entrance to a field.
Composition gave some good options. Putting the mump on the intersection of two thirds on the grid and trying both portrait and landscape, or putting the mump bang in the middle, as with Glastonbury Tor, to dominate the scene. The biggest difference being weather to include a lot of sky, using the mump on the lower third, or a lot of the field, with the mump on the upper third. The field was full of dried crop that had been harvested, but the lines of the machinery did add some foreground interest. A mono conversion also pulls another perspective to the image.
f/11, 1/100, 70mm, ISO160 & f/11, 1/125, 70mm, ISO125
Unfortuantely we didn’t have time to explore the site fully. At the other end of the village there are views of the mump reflected in a small lake. The views from the church too, on a fine day, are pretty splendid too.
What shots have you had from sudden stops? Post your stories and links here and I’ll reply and comment. Remember though...always drive carefully and DON’T stop suddenly unless it is safe to do so. Drive responsibly kids!
The Frustrated Photog.
Firstly, if you're not Turkish, you probably don't know where Eskişehir is. So...in short, it's a city in northwestern Turkey, to the left of Ankara as you look at the map! It's not a touristic city for international travellers perhaps, but it is a nice city with some pleasant areas and parks. A population of over 700,000.
The city of Eskişehir is near my home and in the city is quite a large area of Ottoman style houses, here's a link. Odunpazari is the name, it should be an 'i' without a dot on the end...but my blog editor is refusing to accept that character! Some are smaller homes, others, larger mansions. Most of them date from the 18th century I believe and many have been, or are in the process of being, restored. They’re wonderful examples of typical architecture in Turkey around that time, similar buildings can be found across the country.
When you don’t get the opportunity to travel to lots of destinations regularly for the stunning sweeping landscape shot, think about what’s on your doorstep. All cities, towns and villages have something old, something special and that, in itself, can lend interest to a photograph. Especially if you have taken it before and you are now looking to try and capture something new. That can be difficult, but it challenges you to get creative. Think about light, weather, seasons, and the way that the locals interact with it. Including people in the scene can show attitudes to it and give extra meaning, though I have mentioned before about my difficulties with ‘street’ photography, my attempts here in Istanbul.
Winding through the Past f/5, 1/400, 59mm, ISO100
I’ve found that the best time to visit these houses is early morning. Definitely not mid afternoon on a weekend when the day trippers are visiting. Although hoards of people can write extra stories about the location in your image, the masses would be too difficult for me to work in. A few locals wandering around the streets would be preferable.
Who's Walking Who - composite - f/5.6, 1/320, 85mm, ISO800
Ok, so these guys may not be the locals you were thinking of but there was something comic in the way that the larger dog (a street dog) tried to lead the smaller pet dog...only for the pet dog to take charge. To me, at least, there seemed to be some kind of metaphor of husband and wife. Honestly, I messed up the settings trying to capture these two and shot at an ISO that was far too high, but the images are worth including just for the comedic value.
Shooting at such an early hour, the low sun can also give some different and lesser seen views and colour. Most tourists wouldn’t see it in such light, even locals, busy about their daily life, may not notice it or, at least, not take particular note of it.
Lane of Memories f/16, 1/100, 15mm, ISO100
I said above about my issues with ‘street’ photography. The invasive process of capturing someone’s life, my reluctance to ask if I can take them, or to just capture them unawares, mean that I don’t often include people. But it’s still possible to capture human interaction with the area. Look for human effects that have been left or added. It could be the carelessness of dropped litter, (a common problem here in Turkey even when there is an empty rubbish bin 1 metre away), feel free to pick up the litter too, (have some gloves with you). It could be flowers planted. A box, a delivery of milk or post...anything. Here the bicycle adds the normalcy of every day life, despite the old surroundings.
Cycle of Time f/6.3, 1/60, 24mm, ISO100
Have a look at the history around you and try to find new ways to capture it. See what you can include to tell stories. It can give the shots a new flavour.
What history do you have new you? Have you got any shots that tell a story? Share them! I’ll comment and reply!
The Frustrated Photo.
Puddles, yes, puddles!
Water fascinates me, something I have mentioned before, but even in a normal city scene it can really add an extra dimension to a shot, often literally.
This is probably nothing new for most of you, you’ve probably already taken a puddle shot, but to others new into photography, it is worth noting how useful it is to look into puddles. Often, when in a city, I have walked around puddles, bent down, crouched gazed side to side just to see what may be reflected. It’s worth doing! Albeit some people walk past looking at you like you are a bit strange...I can live with that!
Most people of course have taken reflections in landscapes. The sun shining on a scene that is reflected in a lake. It’s gorgeous. The same applies to puddles, whether out in nature, or in the middle of a city. Look in the puddles!
I mentioned in my post photographing the icons of Florence how a sudden thunderstorm followed by a gorgeous golden sunset meant some wonderful shots were possible, not just directly at the buildings, but also by shooting in to puddles. This shot for example. Carefully lined up in front of Il Duomo to capture the front and Giotto’s bell tower, only to find out when I’d finished that a bus load of Japenese girls had started to do exactly what I had done. All crouching down laughing and smiling at the results. I did that – partly.
Reflections at Sunset f/8, 1/30, 38mm, ISO2500
Later the same evening, different puddle, it was dark and most of the tourist crowds had disappeared. The scene at the Uffizi Museum, itself a stunning example of Florentine architecture the illuminated architecture was lit up inside a puddle. It had to be done. It was too dark, I really needed a tripod to get a sharp exposure. The handheld shot with a high ISO still gave a borderline shutter speed. It's too soft really, but here it is! I knew any higher than ISO800 wouldn't be handled too well by my camera.
Beneath your feet f/5, 0.6sec, 15mm, ISO800
Previous trips abroad have also lead to similar captures. Here in İl Campo Di Fiore in Rome, again after a thunderstorm followed by a brighter sunset. Shooting low again, this time with much brighter skies, led to an alternate perspective on the scene.
Another World Opens f/8, 1/30, 15mm, ISO160
And again in the nearby side streets to the Trevi Fountain, which itself was under serious renovation during our visit..
Gold Cobblestones f/5.6, 1/80, 44mm, ISO160
Puddles in cities can give a very different perspective, especially when brighter light follows a recent shower. If you see a good sized puddle, ideally with still water unaffected by a breeze, and strong light hitting the scene around you, get down low and see what you can find! But also get creative with it. It doesn’t have to be still water, the ripples after someone walks through to add another dimension to the shot. Something I will wait for next time I find a puddle with a good picture inside!
Do you have any good shots into puddles? Share links here. I’ll comment and reply!
The Frustrated Photog.
Glastonbury s a very special place for many people. Rich history, both pagan and Christian, and a long association with the spiritual. Just walking down the High Street you can get a sense of how people from countless backgrounds mix together. Shops selling books on Wicca, Earth Magick and the Earth Goddess rub shoulders with the world religions. The great thing is, its all peaceful, friendly – as it should be!
The town has so much history, too much for me to cover here. So here’s a link to a history page! I will just mention some highlights. One of the earliest Christian sites in England. A ruined abbey torn down by Henry VIII during his Dissolution of the Monasteries. The abbey claimed earlier to have found the grave of King Arthur and Gwenıvere in its cloistered grounds, then moved the remains near the altar in the main church. Two streams on the island from the iconic Glastonbury Tor. One bearing red minerals, the other white; both having strong symbolism in pagan cultures. The Tor itself is believe by some to be a gateway to the Celtic Underworld. Last but not least, the area was once an island, until the Romans drained the shallow waters of the Somerset levels for farming. The boggy land often causing mists that made the hills on the island disappear. Legends abound that Glastonbury is the mythical Isle of Avalon of Arthurian legend.
It’s undeniable that the town has a peculiar atmosphere, a air of reverence, silent worship and,perhaps, expectation and hope. The island has other names, Isle of Glass, Isle of Apples and of course, Avalon.
It’s true, I love the place and in my youth I spent many weeks staying in the 15th century coaching inn (haunted – naturally) that once gave board to Henry VIII. A great atmospheric place, especially if you can get a room in the old part, not the modern annex. The George & Pilgrim. I used to scribble poems in my notebook while sitting among the ruins of the abbey, up on the Tor, or in the bar at night. Strange thing is that I wrote about a monk haunting one of the rooms even before I found out that it was that very room that was haunted...by a monk. Coincidence?
Anyway, to the photography!
I’ll post separately about the abbey, for this post, let’s give the Tor the attention it deserves. I mentioned earlier that it is iconic. Is it a natural hill, or man-made? Either way it’s shape, which some claim from a particular angle resembles a lady in the pose of giving birth (I kid you not), not really seen that angle myself but apparently so – further enhances the pagan connections. And, literally, to top it all, the ruined tower of an old church on the summit. Long ago the Church of St Michael’s was seriously damage by a massive earthquake in the 13th century, a new church was built that was then torn down during Henry VIII 16th century Dissolution of the Monasteries, the tower is all that remains and was later restored. Why does the UK’s Royal Air Force refer to the hill as ‘the nipple’? You decide! Anyway, a link to a bit more of the history!
Back on one of my trips, 1999 I think, I took a photograph of the Tor with my Kodak digital camera. My first digital. 3.2 mp I think it was! I wasn’t into photography at the time, it was just a camera to me. But the photograph had to be printed. It was taken in early December on one of those bright crisp winter days that we get in England. About 10 in the morning and the sun was low. I was walking across one of the bridleways across a field next to the Tor with the sun silhouetting the shape of hill and tower. I lined it up...snapped the shot. The effect blew me away when I saw the image on screen later. The sun haloed like some spiritual burst of power emanating from the Tor. Yes, this blog post could get very, very poetic! I’ll try and hold it in.
Sadly the image is far too low resolution and quality to do anything with now but it still serves as an inspiration whenever I think about going back to Glastonbury. The weather conditions, my location, the time of year were all perfect for that shot. Now that I am just an opportunistic travel photographer who takes what he can, I don’t believe I will ever catch those conditions again. I will visit Glastonbury again, I have to, but it will be rarely. Such a shame!
Here then is the image, taken back in 1999. Low quality but what can I do?
A spiritual power?
The great thing about photographing the Tor, is that the shape, Mother Nature or man-made, has done most of the work for a photographer. There’s some much to use compositionally that in most weather conditions good shots are possible. The bright day shot, see above. Night shots, there are many online of the Tor backlight by blood moons, super moons, thunderstorms, fireworks...you name it!
On my last visit to Glastonbury, the last morning was my scheduled only time to walk up the Tor. Never enough! I could spend days up there! I woke to grey skies, not bright white flat skies, but moody dark ones which are perfect for atmospheric Tor shots. We had stayed two nights at the George & Pilgrim and this was our last morning. Generally, sadly – especially for my wife – the weekend had been a bit of a wash-out weather wise, it had also been chilly. The summer temperatures only in the mid teens and lots of drizzle that didn’t make Glastonbury, or the old small city of Wells up the road, shine – more 'shiver' actually. But for the climb up the Tor, I didn’t mind.
As I mentioned, the Tor has lots of connotations with myth and legend, as has the whole landscape of this area. Dark moody skies and that strange solitary tower atop the peculiar shaped hill can make for some great photographs. The other advantage of cool damp grey mornings: fewer tourists – which makes for a happier me (see my old posts for how shooting in public makes me nervous)! For the most part I pretty much had the hill to myself on the way up.
Going up the hill, you have two choices. The steep back path, or the long path (which is steep enough in places). It’s the long path angle you usually see in photographs given that the shape of the hill and the path work so well in compositions, leading the eye to the tower. Needless-to-say, I took this opportunity.
Avalon - Sun Rays on the Somerset Levels, f/11, 1/100, 15mm, ISO100
As is always the case when I plan to try long exposures to get water or cloud blur, I always line up the shot on my tripod without the filters first. I guess this is best practice, you have a better chance to see what you are doing without a thick piece of black glass in front of your lens. The clouds looked great, patches of sunlight and rays falling through on to the Somerset Levels beyond. Gorgeous. The pathway leading it’s way up to the tower. The tower so silent, obviously, but there is something about that tower, something magical...
LE’s had to be tried. The Lee Big Stopper was fitter and the tripod set as low as possible to emphasis the angles and shapes, and also to get some detail in the grassy landscape.
Portal? f/16, 30secs, 16mm, ISO100
I had to take my time, though conscious that figures were starting to appear at the entrance gate far below me, though they’d add perspective and scale, I wanted these shots empty and silent. Compositionally, spoit for choice. Which third do you put the tower, and the horizon? Or do you break the rules and stick it in the middle, to be bold and dominate the shot. The sun rays to the right, as in the second image above, emphasis the curve of the hill and path and capture the flat land to the left? The simple answer was...do them all!
Given the dark skies, mono was an obvious option for some of the images, but also I am liked the contrast given by the green the hill in the scene too.
I won’t / can’t post all the shots as I took so many. Each was captured as a single shot, but also bracketed just in case I needed to rescue some shadow or highlight detail. Portrait and landscape were also tried, perhaps the portrait gives more empahsis to the path, whereas landscape fits more of the sweeping scene beyond.
Ascension f/11, 1/160, 15mm, ISO100
Eventually I reached the tower. I took some close up momento shots showing the old carvings of abbots and bishops then sat on the stone bench inside the tower listening to the wind. It’s always windy up on the Tor. I’ve gone up many times and regardless how still the day is in the town below, the Tor will always be windy, is it the effect of a gateway? Or just a big hill surrounded by relatively flat land?
Tourists and dog walkers were now milling. That’s ok. I had got what I came for and was now just enjoying the sound of the wind and the air of the Tor. I waited. My family were all waiting down at the bottom, there was no rush, this time it was known that I can’t rush the Tor. I waited, peaceful, despite the milling people...most are respectful and silently observe the strange atmosphere and magical sense. If you’re quiet and calm, you can feel it.
Eventually, however, I had to leave. I descended by the shot path and took some handheld shots of the tower and hill from this angle, deliberately allow the perspective to distort the angles for emphasis.
Towering f/4, 1/320, 15mm, ISO100
I also couldn’t resist some long exposure side on shots, about 50 metres from where the shot was taken in 1999, but I didn’t cross the field via the bridleway, too muddy and my feet were not equipped for it. The shots though were not working as I’d hoped from this angle, the Tor was too dark and lost in the blurred clouds, even a normal exposure didn’t do it justice. The dark clouds were hanging above, but beyond the hill the sky was much brighter, even with bracketed shots, I wasn’t feeling it! It wasn’t right from this angle, not today, or perhaps it was just that I had such a treat on the way up, that now the shots just couldn’t compare.
Without doubt the Tor is one of my favourite places, if not my most favourite place, on this gorgeous planet of ours. If I could, I would spend days each season catching it in different light, from different angles, but sadly that isn’t possible. At least on this visit I was able to use the weather to get some interesting shots of a very special location.
Do you have a favouite scene or spot for a photograph? Share the shots and links here. I’ll be sure to comment and reply!
The Frustrated Photog.
In recent years the influx of swallows in late spring around the holiday town of Erdek has been something of a phenomenon. In previous years I hadn’t really noticed them, yes, I guess there were a few, but last year, and now too this spring, it was almost a proverbial biblical plague of the sprightly fellows flitting around...and as for when the fledglings, well, fledge, the skies and streets, become full of them!
The buildings of Erdek, like many in Turkish towns and cities are perfect for swallows. Doorways with empty plastered recesses that make it easy for the swallows to build their nests secluded from natural predators.
Nest of Singers f/5, 1/500, 175mm, ISO800
As a result, stand on any street and the birds will be swooping around. Stand too long photographing them...and prepared to be dived bombed! This actually happened to me. The shot below features an adult bringing food to a fledgling, shortly after one of the parents hit me on the back of the head. It seems they took offence at the sight of a 70-300 lens attached to a Canon pointing directly at their young ones – as any decent parent should!
Feeding Time f/5, 1/6400, 130mm, ISO1000
Previously, on many spring trips, I had tried to capture swallows, especially on the wing. Something about the shape makes them interesting subjects, but so difficult to capture. The autofocus on the 70D is not the most advanced, my technique, even less so! It proved tough, though in Erdek I managed a system of catching shots with the wings outstretched. It's obvious now, but the technique was to wait near the places they frequently perch upon...pre-focus and just wait for them to come and go. As you watch you’ll see the ticks and jerks they make just before take off, and the way they approach just before landing.
This summer the fledlings should be out again. The Tamron 70-300 has now gone, replaced with a newer, shorter Tamron 70-200 G2. Honestly, landscapes are more my area, so the better picture quality of the new lens appeals over the reach, perhaps I will invest in the x2 converter to lengthen the new – we’ll see.
I enjoy photographing wildlife and Sigma have a rather appealing, though not exactly cheap or practical, 650mm lens. One day maybe! At least these swallows, do not require a long reach to capture them as they fill the streets close to our heads. Speed is the nature of the game, not least to avoid dive bombing parents!
Ever had a wildlife attack you mid-shoot?
Share your tales!
The Frustrated Photog.
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Recent PostsSTOP!-Slam on the brakes (carefully). Photographing local history: Ottoman Houses, Eskisehir Puddles - an extra splash of creativity! Photographing legendary landscapes - Glastonbury Tor Capturing flighty fellows - Swallows! Crossing the same bridge, again and again! Been there a hundred times before...no excuse! Into the forest – Rushmere Country Park Muppet Moment 10 – Missing the shot – not adjusting the plan! Do photos need titles?