alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘sky’ category

Keeping it simple at Langstone Harbour

langstone-skycape

In recent days I have tried to simplify my approach to image taking. Let me explain. I have been out and about walking and exploring the footpaths that surround Chichester Harbour. I have taken with me the following: A Leica Monochrom and just one lens; a Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4. A spare battery just in case. A three stop ND filter should I want to shoot wide open in bright light, a shoulder strap for comfort and finally a microfibre cloth for cleaning the viewfinder – oh, and a 16GB SD card! This limited amount of equipment has been quite liberating and if anything stirs the creative juices as I look for images which work with one prime lens and in black and white of course. There have been times when a wider or longer lens would have been useful but I rather like a more minimalist approach.

In many ways the picture which accompanies this post of Chichester Harbour from Langstone is also very simple. It’s all about the clouds in the sky, a skyscape no less. An uncluttered horizon with a band of sea low in the frame, confirms a waterside location. There is no main point of interest but there is plenty to enjoy in the sky, with the various forms of cloud constantly changing with the light and moving in the breeze. I have kept processing to a minimum as well. A minor crop to place the horizon. An adjustment for levels, whilst adding a little contrast to bring out some detail. Lastly the removal of some dust spots on the sensor.  Job done.

Bognor Regis – just being there.

Through my work and therefore out of necessity, I visit the seaside town of Bognor Regis on a regular basis. Situated on the Sussex Coast I have to say its not the most glamorous of resorts. Nevertheless the very fact that I find myself frequently in the town or driving along its seafront, it does provide some excellent opportunities for photography.

The three images which make up this entry were all taken on different days and at different times of the day.

The first image was an early evening shot taken in September of this year with the Olympus OMD EM5. I had just acquired the Panasonic 45 – 200 zoom lens (second hand from a fellow camera club member) and as I had not used it before, I was keen to see how well it paired with the camera and to see the results it produced. Its not every day that the such a beautiful cloudscape will appear in the sky, so I was fortunate to have chosen a great  evening for its first outing.

Early evening - Bognor Regis Pier


The second image is what I might call a ‘grab shot’. Taken around the middle of the day I had been driving along the seafront when I noticed a rainbow to the north. If I was quick I thought, I could park the car, hurry down to the seafront and take a shot of the beach huts in the foreground with the dark clouds and the rainbow as a backdrop. Unfortunately rainbows go as quickly as they come, so by the time I got to where I wanted to be the rainbow had lost all its intensity, and seconds later was no more. Mildly disappointed at the missed opportunity I turned around and composed the shot below, which in my view was more than adequate compensation. The couple walking along was a bonus, as it takes your eye right into the image. The Olympus E-PL3 with 14 – 42 kit lens worked a treat.

Beach huts

The third and final shot was taken early in the morning just a few days ago. Again the cloudscape was the reason for stopping the car and getting out, but I knew some foreground interest was required. I walked down to the foreshore and captured the image below, again with the E-PL3 and kit lens.

Rays of light over the sea

A famous quote attributed to the photographer called Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, is ‘f8 and be there’. None of these shots were taken at f8, but the second element is certainly true!

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‘To flip or not to flip?’ that is the question

In the past couple of weeks it has been suggested by two individuals on two separate occasions that I should consider ‘flipping’ one of my images. Their comments applied to two different photographs so it set me thinking whether or not I should apply this post production technique, as it’s not something I had ever considered doing before.

Obviously this technique could not be applied to an image with any writing or symbols, which when reversed, would no longer be legible and it would be clear to the viewer that they were in fact looking at the original image in a ‘mirror’. Neither could it apply to a recognisable landmark as it would no longer be a true representation of what the viewer expected to see. However if the image did not fall into either of these categories then what would be wrong with flipping? If the result is more pleasing to the eye, even though it no longer represents reality, then what’s the issue? After all the vast majority of my images are converted to monochrome because thats how I want my images to look. No one ‘sees’ in black and white so this change is applied for visual imapct. If I wanted my photographs to represent what people would actually see with their own eyes then frankly nearly all post production work would be a ‘no go’ area and even the choice of lens can distort what the eye actually sees, but thats a topic for another day.

Well, the only way to find out would be to try ‘flipping’ and to then compare and analyse the results.

The example I have chosen for this exercise is a shot taken at East Head in Wittering of wind swept sand dunes. The first image is the original photo followed by the flipped version. No other changes have been made.

Sand dunes at East Head

…..and now the flipped version.

Sand dunes at East Head - version 2 'flipped'

So which one works best? Well in my view the flipped version is the better photograph, it’s more visually pleasing. So why should this be?

In my opinion its down to two main factors. Firstly when we look at an image our first inclination is to start from the left hand side and our eyes then move to the right hand side. Our eyes naturally follow this path as we read from left to right……it therefore feels comfortable to look at an image in this way. Our eyes are also drawn to the brightest areas of an image; in this case the sand in the lower half of the picture. So when the image is flipped, the bright area is now on the left and not on the right. The lead in lines of the sand, take our eyes to the right, the grasses are also being ‘blown’ from the left, and our eyes find it much easier to move around the image. In the original shot this does not happen and our eyes find it difficult to settle, with the result that we see a ‘busy’ image and one that really doesn’t work that well, or not as well as it could when flipped. As there is nothing else in the image which would give the ‘flipping’ game away, the final result is in my opinion perfectly satisfactory and an acceptable form of post manipulation.

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Gathering storm at East Head

Last Friday was the second time I didn’t need to go into the office. It’s still a strange feeling working a four day week, but a very pleasant one all the same!  Having decided that I would try and devote some of my time every Friday to my photography, I thought that I should rekindle the Nikon D90 DSLR and perhaps visit the coast – attach a wide angle lens and see what I can produce.

Breakfast over, I packed everything I thought I might need in my camera bag and headed down to West Wittering, with the specific intention of exploring East Head. The sky was blue and completely void of clouds. A beautiful morning but as I drove to my destination I thought the weather was just too fine for the type of images I had envisaged taking. The weather forecast had indicated that by lunchtime clouds and maybe the odd the shower, would arrive from the west. I thought better of a morning shoot, turned the car round and headed home to do some gardening!
By lunchtime the weather forecast proved to be accurate; so back in the car and I headed south. As I parked up, the cloud formations were taking shape and I knew the decision I had made earlier to postpone my ‘shutter therapy’ (a phrase coined by Robin Wong – read his blog here) had been the right one.
By late afternoon the rain clouds appeared to the north and the wind moved them swiftly across the South Downs from west to east. In the meantime East Head itself was still bathed in glorious autumnal sun, which resulted in the three images below.

I returned home, downloaded the images using Lightroom and converted to monochrome in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Storm approaching.
Nikon D90 with 16-85mm @ 19mm f18 1/80 ISO200 hand heldStorm clouds at East Head

Sand dunes and wind blown grasses
Nikon D90 10-24mm @10mm f10 1/160 ISO200 hand heldSand dunes at East Head

East Head – the gathering storm
Nikon D90 16-85mm @16mm f18 1/125 ISO200 hand heldStorm approaching East Head at Wittering

Photo opportunities – always have a camera with you

So often when out and about, I see something and say to myself if only I had my camera with me. Every photographer will have uttered those words at some time and probably more than once! Well from now on I will try and avoid that mistake. I will also follow the saying which states – ‘the best camera, is the one you have with you’. How true is that! The next couple of images were taken on the way to somewhere else, with no intention whatsoever of releasing the shutter on the journey but on both occasions I did have a camera in the car.

The first is a shot of the late afternoon light on the South Downs in West Sussex between the villages of Amberley and Storrington. This was captured with the Olympus EM5 and 45mm 1.8 prime lens. Its not the best landscape photograph I have ever taken but I think its quite pleasing and I wouldn’t have it at all, if I hadn’t got the camera with me.

Afternoon sun on the South Downs


The second image is a sky scape taken on my way home from work. The dramatic clouds and light were crying out to be caught on camera. On this occasion the Olympus E-PL3 was in the car with nothing more than the standard kit lens and attached EVF (electronic viewfinder). An almost essential extra when in bright light.

20120925-P9251310.jpg

Once downloaded into Lightroom on the computer at home, I wondered how well this image would convert to black and white. Well here is that version using my favourite ‘plug-in’ for Lightroom – Silver Efex Pro.

Late afternoon sky on the south coast

Which one do I prefer? Well I’m not sure, they both have their merits, I think its down to personal choice. If I had to come off the fence then the ‘black and white’ version would win the day. All I do know is that had the little Olympus E-PL3 not been in the car, there wouldn’t be a choice, as there wouldn’t be a photograph to look at!

Olympus E-PL3 with 14-42 kit lens
The Olympus E-PL3 which started my love of the micro 4/3rds format.