Monday, 30 November 2009

Lancaster Infirmary

These photos are only snaps. Like Dalton Square, I just took them where there was a place to rest the camera. This is Lancaster Infirmary and I was just making a visit to this building. It was taken from a post for the barrier to the helicopter landing pad.

The photo on the right is a few yards from where I took the photo on the left. It is still Lancaster Infirmary but I think we are looking at the laundry. If you want the best possible photo then please use a tripod. If you want to be discrete and don't have a particular subject in mind then it might be better to be more spontaneous.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Dalton Square

So I did get to Dalton Square in Lancaster (see yesterday's blog). These photos were taken yesterday and you can see the time from the Town Hall clock.

In the photo on the left you can see the balustrade that goes around the garden. It doesn't have a flat surface but you can modify angles with something as simple as a bean bag. You can always amend the photos on the computer to make sure they are horizontal. There really are a lot of places to rest a camera. The problem with this is that you are confined to using these places. With a tripod you can take a photo wherever you like. Both of these photos were taken by resting on the balustrade.

If I wanted the best possible photo then I would have used a tripod. I would have used an SLR. These were taken with a compact. There is always room for improvement but as I just wanted to show you Dalton Square on a blog then these photos are more than adequate. If I wanted to print a poster then they would not have been good enough.

Happy snapping.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

More from Morecambe

These photos were taken a few moments before yesterday's blog. I saw the lights and they transform the trees. I had seen Dalton Square in Lancaster a couple of days earlier and they look great there. I'll have to take my camera there.

I did mention that I don't like carrying a tripod (but I should). Well the photo on the left was taken by placing the camera on the car roof. It is not far away from the usual head height view. The photo on the right was taken by placing the camera on a bench. Just like the people in yesterday's blog, the people move so they are blurred. Notice that you don't need Christmas lights for night photography. Normal artificial lighting is more than adequate. You can even take photos of people if you ask them not to move. I am sure it is easier now to take a portrait at night than it was for the Victorians taking photos during the day.

Happy snapping

Friday, 27 November 2009

How to preserve anonymity

At this time of year it is much easier to take photos at night. I like night photography but I am lazy and it does take effort to carry a tripod. So this photo was taken by placing the camera on a bench. You can see that the view is from a lower angle than usual which is not too bad but a tripod would have given greater control. It would have also meant that I would have had to take more time to consider the composition.

This is Morecambe. There is another advantage to this time of year in that you also get the Chrismas lights. They really do dominate the photo even though there aren't many of them. I have tried to limit the effect by changing this photo to monochrome. In the background you can just see the sign for the Eric Bartholemew Wetherspoons pub.

One of the disadvatages of night photography is that if there is any movement it becomes a blur. However every cloud... I don't need to preserve the anonymity of the two people walking towards me. The camera has done this for me.

Happy snapping.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

How to improve Lancaster Castle

You will see that I am still in Lancaster. This is possibly the most famous scene that you can find in Lancaster. It is always nice to be able to step back and take the photo so that you don't get converging verticals. There are two problems here. One is that there is quite a drop down the hill which means you do get converging verticals because you are looking up. The second problem is that the walls just don't look vertical anyway.

It would have been better if this photo could have been taken from the same height as the middle of the Norman keep. There would still be some distortion (see previous blogs on converging verticals) but it would be kept to a minimum. I could have also stepped back a little more and that would have helped too. Early morning sunlight would have helped and wouldn't it be nice if there were no cars. Maybe there are fewer cars and better lighting in the morning. There's always photo manipulation!

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A planned comparison

I walked through Lancaster last week and these two photos show you the importance of good lighting. I wrote about the Trafford Centre recently and there was an example of cloud cover helping the photo. Usually sunlight helps and this is the case here. The photos show you that cloud is also important for the sky, as a third of the photo may be a bland white or an even blander blue . The cumulonimbus cloud gives extra interest to the photograph.

As you can see from the photo, you are at White Cross. The building is very nice but this in itself doesn't make a good photo. I did wait for cars to go in the first photo but if you know Lancaster you will also know that it is almost impossible to avoid cars. There are some traffic lights just to the left and there is usually a queue of traffic. I broke a basic rule to take the second photo. I was in that queue and I took the photo from the car. I have looked quite carefully and I can't see any great evidence of camera shake but I was stuck in traffic and took the photo. Let's say it was a planned comparison.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A story of the statue

About an hour later than yesterday's blog I was in Dalton Square. Lancaster Town Hall is behind me. The subject of this photo is the fine statue of Queen Victoria which is hiding Buck Ruxton's surgery.

It's November and it is mid-afternoon and it just isn't worth taking photos of most buildings because they are in shade. Buildings come to life when sunlight hits them. The sunlight hits this statue through trees and its alright, but if I could control the sun I would like the base to be lit as well (it would have been a lot easier if I had been here an hour earlier).

There is a story about a student rag week. I understand that there used to be toilets near Dalton Square and the students had painted large footsteps from the statue to the toilets and back again. The toilets are no longer there but the story lives on.

Happy snapping.

Monday, 23 November 2009

A camera helps you look up

The photo on the left tells you where I was standing. If you know Lancater you will know that the Marketgate Shopping Centre is just to the left and you are looking along Common Garden Street. If you know this much then you also know that the town hall is at the other end of the street and the town hall clock is prominent in the photo.

I was walking through the centre of Lancaster a couple of days ago and most of the buildings were in shadow. You can photograph buildings under any lighting conditions but a dull day or shadow doesn't really do them justice. Even though it was only five past two (you can see the time on the clock), I had to look at the taller buildings to see sunlight hitting them.

I know that Lancaster Cathedral, Lancaster Town Hall and the Ashton Memorial can be seen from many parts of Lancaster, but I hadn't seen this juxtapositioning even though I have walked down this street many times. Sometimes you need a camera to make you look upwards.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Possibly the last two photos of Andy Bell

Last week I wrote that I was writing a blog about the last two photos of Andy Bell. Well there were a few more blogs this week for two reasons. Firstly I was not happy with the shadows, partly caused because I didn't direct the flash upwards. Secondly I couldn't take full length photos because there was a high contrast with Andy's carpet and his curtains.

I used a small rug and the cloning technique which I described yesterday to make it bigger and I made these photos darker in order to bring out the muscle definition. These two photos should be the last two photos of Andy Bell but who knows - I may get another opportunity in the future to take more great photos.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Clone tool comes in handy

The technique that I am showing you today is similar to Thursday's blog. My black cloth is not as big as you see it on the left. I clone the sheet to fill the cropped photo, but then I wanted to use the photo in an advert for Extremist Nutrition.

Cloning is a fairly easy technique expecially when there is a plain background. However not all the black cloth is the same shade of black. If you didn't have a computer and a clone tool then you might just manage to get the photo on the right if your model was kneeling down and you background was the length and height of the wall. Thank goodness for the clone tool.

Happy snapping

Friday, 20 November 2009

An anatomy lesson

Unusual cropping can add to an abstract effect and so can tatoos and very large muscles. On the left you know you are looking at a chest but it's not usual to see such definition in pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi.

The pecs are the front muscles of the upper chest and if you cant see them on this photo then you never will. the lats are the muscles that lift you up if you were climbing rocks. They are the same muscles that pull you through the water especially if you were doing the butterfly stroke. So they are more obvious in swimmers (partly because you can see their muscles) and they are the muscles at the side that give the V shape from the waist to the shoulder. In this photo they fill the gap at the side between abdomen and arm. On the right Andy is pointing to biceps. I think you know where you find this muscle.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Can you see the join?

The rules of composition that were broken yesterday are now used to good effect. That space with nothing in it can be used to add some words. It doesn't have to be words. You could put two photos together. At weddings I like to stand back from the venue with the bride and groom and take a photo with plenty of grass or road. Basically I take the photo with space to allow for the addition of photos like photos of the bridesmaids.

I don't like spending money if I don't have to. The background last week was Andy's curtains. This week it is an ordinary piece of black cloth. It's not even a big piece of cloth. I had to work on the computer to extend the cloth and get the space for the words. See if you can find the join. I bet you can't.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Rules are meant to be broken

I have previously written about rules of composition like the rule of thirds. I have heard many commentators say that the subject of the photo should be fully included in the photo. I can almost hear some people saying why have you not included the full head?

The answer is simple, because I like these compositions. Rules are made to be broken and sometimes areas of nothing can look good. There is so much of interest in these photos that is of a more abstract nature. Sometimes you don't want the eye to be drawn to the usual places and these croppings allow the eye to wander.

Happy snapping.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Can you sense the energy?

Last week I wasn't happy with the shadow caused by the flash when I went round to see Andy Bell. I mentioned that almost always I point the flash to the ceiling to avoid these shadows. The fake tan on Andy's face made it look like he had blonde hair and this effect was increased by the flash pointing upwards, so I was pleased when Andy agreed to come round to see me. I could use my backgrounds and black doesn't show shadows anyway (I still pointed the flash upwards).

I didn't see any warm-up last time because Andy was ready for his photos. This time I was there for the warm-up and as with yesterday's blog, I was able to use a tripod. On the right you can see the blurring effect caused by putting the camera on a tripod and not using flash. Normally you don't want blur but I think here it gives a sense of the energy used in the exercise.

Happy snapping

Monday, 16 November 2009

Take more photos

If you read yesterday's blog then you will see how the use of a tripod and a long exposure means that you can blur movement like a hand on a guitar. The difference today is composition. Compare them yourself and you will see a different angle and the reason for that is no tripod was used here. The camera was just placed on a table and set to timer.

I prefer the composition in today's photo and the irony is that it is pure luck. I wasn't looking throught the viewfinder when this photo was taken.I did crop the photo later on the computer but I wouldn't have thought to use this angle. The moral of this story is take more photos.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The camera lies

If you didn't know already, when you use flash you capture a moment in time. The extra light means that you don't need a wide aperture, the shutter opens and closes quickly and you generally get a brighter photo. You can see the brighter picture on the left was taken with flash.

The difference between the two photos is that flash wasn't used on the right, but to get enough light into the camera there had to be a slow shutter speed - too slow to let me hold the camera so it had to be on a tripod. In fact both were taken with the camera on a tripod. This allows for ambient light to be used in the photo. Just look at the difference in the lights. There is a saying that the camera never lies but you don't get a true picture of the lighting whenever you use flash. Finally, did you notice the right hand? With long exposures movements become blurs, giving the impression that the camera couldn't catch the image.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Three generations

There are many reasons why I write photography blogs. Themes range from composition to the use of the colour or it could be effects like blurring. The subject of the photo may be the main reason for the blog or I could write about famous photographers, but in this case you will have to find the photos yourself because it would be their copyright.

For this photo I would point out the three generations of my family caught candidly. I have often written about the use of timer in order to stop camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button. On my camera the timer can be set at 2 or 12 seconds. Unless I am getting in the photo then 2 seconds is fine. This method is more hit and miss than just taking the photo and I wouldn't recommend it for portraits but you are more likely to get a candid shot.

Notice the branches coming into the top of the photo. You may like this as a 'frame' for the subject, you may have no opinion about it, but I have heard strong opinions expressed that do not like branches if you can't see the trunk. I think it looks fine.

Happy snapping

Friday, 13 November 2009

New Ideas

I like new ideas. Usually I get the groomsmen to walk in line. I understand this is a scene from Reservoir Dogs but all I know is it gives natural smiles when people are preoccupied with doing something else. For this wedding I was asked to take a photo of the bridesmaids and bride walking hand in hand and this is one of the photos to feature in the Graphistudio album.

These two pages show something else that is new for me and that is the use of poetry on the same page as the photos. I think it works really well and I will be using this technique myself. One of the Graphistudio techniques is to use blocks of black. I have done this myself and I thought it was my idea but I suppose that nothing is original. You can see one of my photos with this technique on the home page of my website at

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Graphistudio albums

I received my first Graphistudio album yesterday and I want to share it with you. The photo on the left shows you the main album and three copies of the smaller 'parent' book. This is an exact copy of the main album only smaller. I am really pleased with the results,and in the future I can show prospective brides and grooms how their photos could look in an album like this.

Getting these albums has also taught me about the complex nature of Italian pricing including a different VAT. You can see more detail about these financial lessons in my politics blog at The bottom line is that not only am I very pleased with the photographic results, I am also very pleased that I know the costs which are less than I had thought. Prices will come down for next year but you can see my full moral dilemma in the politics blog.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Last two photos of Andy Bell

And so for the final two photos of Andy Bell. It is always nice to have a willing model and Andy was also willing to advertise his sponsor, Extremist. The name seems to fit. I wrote about Andy seizing the day which he has done for 29 years and that takes some dedication. He seized the day by working in the gym and by looking after his diet. I understand that the Extremist company make dietary supplements.

The photos have generally been good to show off muscle definition and tatoos. Neither can be seen in the last photo. I just liked it for the composition, which doesn't quite follow the rule of thirds but looks good to me. The other thing that I like about it is that your eye is drawn to his eye. There is a little more interest in the photo but basically it is his eye and then you are trying to read his thoughts. You don't need to read thoughts on the left as it is spelled out for you, but did you see that I superimposed another background? This is one way to get rid of the shadows as seen in yesterday's blog.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

More remarkable photos

I make no apologies for writing about Andy Bell again. It isn't everyday that you get the chance to photograph a former Mr Britain. Andy took 29 of his 43 years to get like this and this includes a setback involving afractured left arm and left leg. The scars have healed well but you can still see them even if they are not visible on these photos. In fact doctors told him that he would never walk again. This makes these photos even more remarkable.

As for the photos, I have increased contrast again and made them darker for the same reason as in previous blogs - to increase definition of the muscles. When I am indoors I generally point the flash to the ceiling. I started like this with Andy and although it stops the shadow, it does make the head brighter and because the fake tan didn't go on his head there was quite a contrast between head and face. It's not a bad rule to follow and my first thoughts will continue to be point the flash upwards.

Happy snapping

Monday, 9 November 2009

Andy Bell 3

If you met this man in a dark alley then you would think that all associations with dark alleys are over. Compare that image with the smile on the right and you start to see the man behind the tongue.

I heard the phrase carpe diem recently. You may know it as 'seize the day' and it means make the most of the time that you've got. Well here is someone who has seized many days and has so much self-discipline. It takes discipline to get into a gym and work hard but even his dietary needs require discipline as his supplements are fixed at regularly intervals. During the time I was taking these photos he had to stop for a moment and take a drink.

As for the photos, the darker variation and the increased contrast bring out detail. A close crop on the left ensures that you concentrate on the subject, if you weren't concentrating already. On the right the sepia has a similar role to a tan. Muscle definition is enhanced. The added benefit of sepia is that colour distractions in the background (not that there were many) have been reduced. An added effect to concentrate on the subject is the vignette. Basically you spend less time looking at folds in the curtain.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Andy Bell 2

No there aren't two Andy Bells but it is the second blog. The obvious difference between these photos and my usual portraits is the pose. Andy knows how to pose. I didn't need to mention a thing. I just kept taking the photos.

Andy is used to different poses which show off different muscle groups. On the left you can see him pushing his fists together. The pectorals perform this action. If you don't know where the pectorals are then take a look on the left.

On the right the left hand is pushing upwards and so biceps is working. To some extent tricep is also working. The main thing about bodybuilding poses is that they are isometric - the muscles don't move and this makes the poses easy to photograph.

Happy snapping.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Mr Britain

This is Mr Britain 2000, otherwise known as Andy Bell from Morecambe. Following injuries that put him in a wheelchair for four months he recently came back to competitions and was runner-up in the Mr United Kingdom competition 2009.

These photos were taken on Friday 6th November and it was fairly easy for me to move some furniture (that's because Andy did it). The background is nothing more special than a set of curtains. As for the difference between the left and right photos, you can see the closer cropping and the monochrome. As well as this I made the photo a little darker which brings out the definition of the muscles in much the same way as tanning does.

Happy snapping

Friday, 6 November 2009

The answer is take a lot of photos

There are some advantages to being near the back of the cathedral with a pillar behind me. I wasn't going to disturb anyone by taking photos. I did take a couple with flash and one of them is on the left. The advantage is that the aperture is open for only a short space of time which means that blur from movement is much less obvious. The great disadvantage is that you light up the backs of heads near to you and this means that the exposure is affected and the background is much darker.

Just compare the exposure of the altar on the left with that on the right. The image is transformed, but if you want to use the ambient lighting then you have to use long exposures and this means you have to use a tripod. Even then if anyone moves they become a blur. Look at the two people on the right. They were obviously clapping their hands but the person in the middle also moved his head. What's the answer? Take a lot of photos and they may even stop clapping.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A more typical pose

I described yesterday's pose as traditional but this type of photo is more typical of a portrait. Get the subject to dress up, look at the camera and have something significant in the background. As I also mentioned yesterday, the background is Chester Cathedral where the degree ceremony had just been held.

The photo on the right is one of the common changes that I make when I like a photo. Some people like sepia and a vignette. It is not to everyone's taste but it's my blog and I like the changes.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

This is a blog

A blog is a word which is short for web log. It's a diary so here is what I was doing today. My youngest son graduated from Chester University and the ceremony took place at Chester Cathedral today.

It is traditional to throw the mortar board in the air so this must be a traditional photo. He hasn't put too much effort into the throw because it is expensive headwear and it was caught off camera. If you don't recognise it the background is the cathedral and the photo on the right brings the emphasis to the foreground. The techniques to change this photo are fairly basic. Mask the area to be changed to monochrome and change it. A little work had to be done to 'feather' the border between the colour and the monochrome. Too much feathering blurs the boundary and too little means the boundary is not accurate and is obvious. This applies particularly to areas like hair. So it's not all about snapping - I should tell you how a great deal of skill is required rather than finishing with...

Happy snapping