alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘olympus OMD EM5’ category

West Dean Estate – walking the dog plus some shutter therapy.

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At about 3.30 yesterday afternoon our cocker spaniel wanted to be taken for a walk. He always does at this time of day, and the temptation is to revisit one of many well trodden paths because it’s familiar and easy to do. On this occasion I decided to go somewhere new. So I took him in the car, and with a camera in my coat pocket we headed towards a part of The West Dean Estate to the north of the village of Chilgrove and walk from there. There was some lovely late afternoon sun mixed in with light and dark clouds. I just love these weather conditions for both walking and photography.

 

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By way of some background, The West Dean Estate covers approximately 6,400 acres (2,590 hectares) along the Sussex South Downs. It stretches over 6 miles (9.7 kms) from the South Downs escarpment overlooking the Sussex Weald to the edge of the Trundle Hill overlooking the English Channel and the Isle of Wight. While much of the village of West Dean and West Dean College is sheltered within the Lavant valley, the Estate rises to its highest point of almost 750 feet (280 m) on the top of the Downs. The estate is a mixture of farmland, commercial woodland and is home to West Dean College and the village of West Dean itself. There are about 20 miles of footpaths and bridleways, including a section of The South Downs Way.

 

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Interestingly all of the heating and hot water needs of West Dean College (and parts of the village) are met entirely, and on a sustained basis, by using wood fuel grown on the West Dean Estate. The biomass district heating scheme was one of the first, and remains one of the largest of its kind, in the UK.

 

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I was pleased I made the effort to walk our spaniel along some new tracks. Wherever I go I always find something to photograph and in the space of just an hour or so, I was able to return with some images hopefully worth sharing on my blog.

All of the photographs were taken with an Olympus OMD EM5 and 1.7mm f1.8 Olympus lens and processed in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro2.

Another year over……

It’s the last day of 2013 and tomorrow it will be 2014.

Another year over….. a new one about to begin.

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Inevitably it’s at this time of year when we all reflect on what has happened in the past 12 months and start to look forward to what we might hope to do and achieve in the next 12 months. From a purely personal point of view 2013 will never be forgotten and I have already been mentioned the reasons why in an earlier entry called ‘Three Crosses’.

On a happier note in September I realised a long held personal ambition and walked the South Downs Way with my nephew from Winchester to Eastbourne – a total of 100 miles. This was never intended to be a photographic expedition, but the camera came out on a regular basis so I was able to capture the beauty of this part of the world.

Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters
The ‘home’ straight of The South Downs Way
 

I do not think that I have spent as much time developing my photography this year as perhaps I would have wished but I do believe my work has continued to improve. I certainly learnt some new techniques and skills when I spent a few days in the Lake District in the company of Paul Gallagher and many of the images made during this time have given me a great deal of pleasure.

Wastwater Rocks
Wastwater in The Lake District

If my Flickr stats are anything to go by I have certainly continued to take a good number of images and in the process I have endeavoured to take a more creative approach, a trend which I am sure will continue into 2014. Almost without exception all of my photographs this past year have been in monochrome. I expect this will also be the case next year, but who knows, colour may start to feature.

And so to 2014. In the last few weeks I have been giving some time and thought to what I would like to do phtographically in the next 365 days, so here goes!

1. More photographs and less ‘GAS’! (Gear Addiction Syndrome – to the uninitiated)

I have to admit that I spend a lot of time reading reviews about the latest camera equipment, particularly cameras, their makers lenses and the pros and cons of one system over another. It’s all very interesting and I have found that the internet is full of very opinionated people which makes for good reading. On the downside ‘GAS’ can be very expensive and as I have often said in the past, it is the photographer who makes the image, not the equipment.

A famous quote by Ansel Adams reads – “The most important component of the camera is twelve inches behind it.” Enough said!

I am fortunate to have some excellent equipment so I shall be using what I have and try not to fantasise about what I don’t have. It wastes time which could be better spent taking more photographs, improving my processing techniques or studying the work of more talented photographers. This research into other cameras and lenses has though helped me decide on my system of choice for the future which brings me on nicely to my second point.

2. It’s time to ditch the Nikon gear

In the past year I have been using two camera systems but during this time I have found that only one system really works for me and the other frankly does not.

When I first became serious about photography I started using a Nikon APSC DSLR and various lenses, but since buying the Olympus OMD EM5 some 18 months ago, together with some truly excellent lenses for the Micro 4/3rds system, the Nikon gear has been gathering dust. So after much deliberation it’s time to say good bye to Nikon.  All of the equipment has been packed away in their original boxes ready for sale. In its place I will be investing in the new Olympus OMD EM1, the first truly professional specified camera for Micro 4/3rds. I will probably also add a couple of prime lenses to my collection and keep the EM5 as a spare body. Luckily these two cameras share the same battery which is an advantage.

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The Olympus OMD EM5, and Olympus 17mm f1.8
My system of choice for 2014
3. Work on a project

Since achieving my LRPS Distinction in December 2012 I have been saying to myself that I must start to concentrate on a specific genre of photography and quite probably a specific subject or theme. It did not happen in 2013 but I plan to change that in 2014. I believe this approach will both hone and enhance my skills and in time provide me with a portfolio which I might want to consider as an appropriate panel of work for an ARPS submission. This plan also leads me to my next point.

4. To publish a book

This sounds rather grand but in truth you can ‘self publish’ a photo book pretty easily these days using one of many online publishing companies. I have already considered two possible suppliers – Blurb and Bob Books. I have downloaded their software which is required to design the book. I shall compare these and others before making a final decision as to which to use, taking into consideration, possible book sizes, paper, quality of reproduction, the software itself and of course the cost. I may even decide on a couple to ‘test runs’ with both companies of the same series of images to see which I prefer.

5. And talking of publications

There are many photographic magazines and to date I have never submitted any work for publication, so this has to be on my wish list for 2014. If it were to happen then yes of course the publicity would be great  but my incentive is a very simple one – an acknowledgement that my work is considered good enough to appear in a magazine. Now that would be fun!

6. Visit more locations specifically to take photographs

I do find that being an enthusiastic amateur photographer requires both time and concentration. This can best be achieved when I am on my own as this gives me the chance to really think about what I am doing. Photography is also about expressing your feelings through a finished image. To accomplish this aim I believe you have to be able to recognise how you feel at the time of taking the shot – again, I can’t see how this can happen if you are not alone. This sounds very selfish but I am sure other photographers, artists or authors would all say the same thing. All of which makes me think that to improve my photography not only do I need to devote more time but I also need to be in a place on my own without any distractions – just me, my camera and the subject in front of me. Where and when shall I go?  Well that I don’t know but I am looking forward to coming up with some answers.

7. Take inspiration from other artists

This is not really an objective, but a recognition that there is so much to learn from other artists not just other photographers. Going to exhibitions or galleries, reading books or watching television programmes about other artists are all good sources of inspiration.

At Christmas I was fortunate to have been given three books which I know will inspire me in the future. I was given two ‘self published’ books by the Welsh photographer Chris Tancock, one called Beating the Bounds, the other named Wildwood. He calls himself a ‘rural documentary photographer’ not a landscape photographer. If you look at his images on his website I think you will understand why.

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Another person who’s work I greatly admire is Norman Ackroyd CBE RA. As a landscape artist and printmaker he captures the meeting of the land and the sea in atmospheric aquatint. His book ‘A Line Above the Water’ is a wonderful collection of his work coupled with evocative poems by Douglas Dunn.

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I can now draw this post to a close. My summary of the year was short but complete and my ambitions for 2014 have been listed. In twelve months time I will know whether or not the wish list was too long, I doubt it is too short!

And finally my favourite image from 2013 is –

Buttermere
‘Solace’
Buttermere in The Lake District

May I wish everyone who reads my blog a very happy, peaceful and healthy New Year.

Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at Cowdray Ruins

Cowdray Ruins
Cowdray Ruins

Faced with the choice of having just one lens what would it be? A prime lens or a zoom lens? If it had to be a prime lens then the vast majority of photographers would choose a focal length of either 35mm or 50mm. The latter is closest to the same field of vision as the naked eye, whereas a 35mm lens is a moderate wide angle. Both are very versatile but of the two my personal choice would be a 35mm lens.

I use a micro four thirds camera, the Olympus OMD EM5, which has a crop factor of x2, so the equivalent focal length for this camera format is 17.5mm. Although I can cover both 35mm and 50mm full frame focal lengths using the Panasonic 12 to 35 f2.8 zoom lens, there is nothing quite like having a compact, fast and sharp prime lens attached to the camera. Any prime lens encourages a more creative approach to photography. You have to frame your shot by moving your feet as opposed to twisting a barrel on the lens. A wide aperture can give a more limited depth of field, throwing backgrounds out of focus. In this respect it will never be a match for a full frame camera, but for my requirements this lens more than serves its purpose.

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The Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime lens

So in the past few days I decided to buy the Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens. In no way is this a review, but the all metal lens in black looks wonderful on the camera, is very fast to auto focus and has a ring which can be pulled back for manual focusing. It also reveals a distance scale which combined with the Depth of Field markings allow ‘zone focusing’, a technique often used by street photographers.

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The 17mm on the Olympus OMD EM5

Having only had the lens for a few days I have not yet had the chance to put it through its paces but I already think it could well become my default choice when I want to travel light with just the camera and a single lens.

I did though have the opportunity to take a couple of shots of Cowdray Ruins in Midhurst. I set the camera to take both RAW and JPEG (Fine). Set to f8, ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, the JPEG straight out of the camera is I think very pleasing. Sharp across the frame and good colours from the Olympus processor.

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Cowdray Ruins – JPEG straight out of the camera

The RAW version was of course just asking to be converted to black and white…….

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The first mono version
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This is the same image as the one at the top of this post
but with a ‘coffee’ tint added in Silver Efex Pro2

Of the four versions I have my own personal favourite (it’s at the top for a reason) however this post was intended to be about a superb lens which I know will give me many hours of pleasure in time to come. With luck I will get out and about in the next few days to see just how capable it is in different conditions.

As an aside the Ruins at Cowdray in Midhurst, West Sussex are truly magnificent and I will definitely be returning to explore the photographic opportunites at some point in the future. 

A walk from East Lavant to The Trundle

It was such a beautiful morning on Sunday that I decided to take a circular walk from the West Sussex village of East Lavant to the Trundle at Goodwood and then return to the village via Chalk Pit Lane. Whilst I did not go out specifically for photography, I fully expected to stop and take one or two images in the lovely downland countryside to the north of Chichester.

I wanted to ‘travel light’ so I simply took the Olympus EM5 and two Panasonic zoom lenses – the 12-35mm and the 35-100mm, both of which have a constant f2.8 aperture. Packed away in my Billingham Hadley bag with a bottle of water and an OS Map (just in case), I had everything I would need to enjoy the walk.

The only other essential was my iPhone; not so that I could make or receive calls or emails but to use an App called Walkmeter. This great exercise App would plot my route on a map, tell me how far I had walked, my pace and also ascent and decent distances. Yes, I admit to liking gadgets but this particular App is going to be an important tool in the weeks and months ahead, as I have decided to walk the length of the South Downs Way later in the year. The Way is approximately 100 miles long, and walking West to East, it starts in Winchester and finishes in Eastbourne. Whilst I enjoy walking I don’t consider myself to be that fit, so expect some more blog entries in the future about walking in the South Downs National Park coupled with photographs of my travels. It should be fun!

Hayes Down looking West
Looking west from Hayes Down
Hayes Down post
An old post alongside the footpath which runs across Hayes Down
between the River Lavant to The Trundle
Chalk Pit Lane
A chalk path leading to The Trundle from East Lavant – aptly named Chalk Pit Lane
Hayes Down from Chalk Pit Lane
A view over fields from Chalk Pit Lane 
Church of St Mary East Lavant
The Church of St Mary in East Lavant, close to the start of the walk.

For the record this circular walk is 4.75 miles long and in actual walking time it took about one hour and thirty five minutes. In reality it took quite a bit longer as I did stop from time to time to take some photographs!

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Easter inside Fishbourne Church

In a departure from recent entries, I could not miss the opportunity to record the glorious interior of our local parish church at Fishbourne near Chichester in West Sussex, which was decorated with some quite stunningly beautiful flower arrangements this Easter. I wanted to photograph the work of many wonderful and gifted volunteers, as well as having a few images which could be published in the next edition of our Parish Magazine.

All the photographs were taken using the Olympus EM5 and Panasonic f2.8 12-35mm zoom lens, mounted on a Gitzo tripod and ball head.

Fishbourne Church at Easter
The east window behind the altar of Fishbourne Church
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All the pillars were decorated with flowers and Easter chicks!
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Crosses and primroses beneath the altar
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A floral decoration on the font
…..and just because I can’t resist the temptation, I have converted a similar image to the first photo in this entry to mono. Although the beautiful colours have been removed there is still something about the black and white version.

Fishbourne Church at Easter - in mono

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