Yellowstone National Park

Lodgepole pines, pictured near Fountain Paint Pots.

Last week, during a short visit to Idaho Falls, I had the time for a quick trip into Yellowstone, possibly my favourite place on the face of the Earth. I’ve visited the Park on five previous occasions over the last twenty years, usually for a stay of several days. This time I managed only four hours in the park, but it was enough to briefly re-experience its extraordinary beauty and power. The tranquillity, contrasted with the enormous force of the geysers, the sights and sounds of natural beauty, the amazing colours of some of the thermal features, it all touches me deeply.

The extraordinary colours of Silex Spring

This was not a photographic visit, but I did manage to get a few shots (three of them here on this page), which will be featured on this website in due course. Meanwhile it inspired me to revisit the photos that I took on an earlier stay in Yellowstone, in May 2008, and improve a few of them with better post-processing. Nothing in Yellowstone has changed, of course, except that last week there were many more visitors than during my previous visits out of high season.

The star of the show, Old Faithful geyser

In the busy summer period most of the wild animals retreat into the hills, and I didn’t have time last week to go exploring. But just to be in the environment of the Park, feeling close to natural creation at its most raw and most beautiful, soaking up the atmosphere; it was good for the soul.

Click here to see my photo collection from Yellowstone 2008

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Photoshop training

I’ve been using Abode Photoshop for over 20 years. It was at Version 3 when I started, and even then I thought of it as the best-designed software that I had ever used. Since then, of course, it has been developed enormously and together with the huge increase in the power of computers, it has become a quite incredible tool for image manipulation. New features continue to be added that are so intelligent and sophisticated. But at the same time, not surprisingly, it has become extremely complex.

I regard myself as a pretty experienced and skilled Photoshop user, but nevertheless there have been gaps in my knowledge, particularly when it comes to some of the newer features. And although there’s lots of training material available on the Web from Adobe and many others, I decided that a traditional classroom course was what I needed to fill in these gaps.

So I’ve spend this weekend at the Bath headquarters of the Royal Photographic Society attending their two-day Photoshop Workshop. The trainer, John Roe, is a true Photoshop guru, and also a very effective teacher. It was a proper hands-on workshop, with each of the nine students equipped with a powerful laptop to explore the techniques being taught, and with John’s PC displayed on a huge 83-inch screen so we could all easily see what he was doing. The course covered a vast range of the features of the software and good advice on their most effective use, with example images for us all to work on and get to grips with the techniques. John was very patient as he was asked many questions and there was a very pleasant relaxed atmosphere amongst the class. A good environment for learning.

As I expected, some of the course covered things with which I was already familiar, but as I hoped many gaps in my understanding were filled in. And there were plenty of instances where I learned a better way of doing things. With an application as complex and full-featured as Photoshop, there are often several ways of achieving the same goal, and it’s always useful to know which is the most efficient and time-saving.

I would thoroughly recommend this 2-day course for anyone looking to improve their Photoshop skills. And if you’re a complete beginner, there’s a 1-day Introduction to Photoshop also taught by John Roe. See the workshop schedule on the RPS website for future dates.

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Florence

The Kidnapping of the Sabine Women, a sculpture by Giambologna. Unusual in it’s day (1582) as being intended to be viewed from different directions. So that’s what I did.

On a short visit to Florence (Firenze), the capital of the beautiful Tuscany region of Italy, I had just two hours free to try to capture the essence of this magnificent city. Not just the much-photographed fine architecture and sculptures, but some of what I saw as I walked around in the sunshine. Sights on the streets that reflect how the city felt to me.

A delivery of Chianti, the ubiquitous local wine.

I had with me only my small compact camera (an Olympus Stylus-1S), but it does a pretty good job. And there’s one shot taken with my phone.

I hope one day to return for longer and picture some of the many attractions that I missed. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy some of these images.

Click here to see the collection

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More wedding photography

Models Sarah and Mark pose as my bride and groom

Continuing my development in wedding photography, and preparing for a wedding I’m shooting later this year, I spent this weekend on a two-day wedding photography course. It was run by the Royal Photographic Society and was led by Terry Hewlett, an accomplished wedding photographer with many years of experience.

The course covered all aspects of being a wedding photographer, including everything about planning with the couple, understanding what they want, how to organise yourself on the day, the key shots you need to get. All the opportunities one might have and also the awkward moments likely to be encountered. About post-processing, presenting the images to the couple and about getting albums produced. Also the business and marketing aspects. Plus the photography, of course. Really a very thorough and comprehensive course.

And we had two models, Sarah and Mark, as bride and groom, to practice some of the photographic techniques. We were in the charming village of Lacock, Wiltshire, so had some attractive locations to shoot. The village was swarming with tourists, who were a bit surprised to see a bride and groom walking around!

So, this was a very useful weekend for me, consolidating what I have already understood, adding a lot of new information about the business side, and of course adding some good images to my portfolio.

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Selecting images to show you

Terracotta warriors
Four of the sixteen replica Chinese terracotta warriors at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

In the first few months of this year, I’ve shot rather a wide range of subjects. From icicles and catkins dangling from a bush in the Munich winter to yachts on the Thames in London on a glorious Spring day. From replica terracotta warriors to wooden/cast iron seats in a listed football stadium. From pretty Spring flowers to gorgeous brides. From the interior of Gaudi’s magnificent basilica to a 13th century barn. And other things.

So selecting some images for a collection on this website has not been easy. In the end I’ve put 23 shots together; I hope you like at least a few of them.

See the collection, click here.

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Spring is sprung

A few weeks ago I went into Betjeman Millenium Park here in Wantage to find it awash with delicate snowdrops. I went back a week later to photograph them and they’d been joined by a host of golden daffodils. It was a gloomy day so I back-lit them with an off-camera speedlight.

Now Spring is really under way and beautiful blossoms and spring flowers are popping up everywhere, even poking out of old walls. And finally they’ve been joined by the bluebells. Perhaps, like me, you find this a really uplifting time of year.

The bluebells at Badbury Clump were looking just great when I visited, thanks in part to the efforts of the National Trust in discouraging people from walking amongst them and causing damage. These bluebells I also lit with an off-camera speedlight. Some of my other shots were taken at another National Trust property, Buscot Park, which was ablaze with blossom when I was there.

See my collection of 25 spring photos, click here.

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A different photoshoot

This was not my usual kind of photoshoot, but yesterday I had a lot of fun shooting these three lovely young women.  I’d been asked to produce some images to be used in publicity for an entertainment venue.  I took along my studio lights, but it was quite a challenge because the background really wasn’t great.  Nevertheless, we produced some very pleasing images, but only after I’d spent several hours working in Photoshop.

You won’t be seeing these images on this website, I’m afraid, but suffice it to say that I achieved what was required and I think my client will be very pleased with the results.

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Wedding photography

Models Alex (bride) and Sam (groom) posing for my camera at Froyle Park today.

In preparation for a wedding that I’m shooting later this year, today I went to a wedding photography “bootcamp” run by the acclaimed wedding photographer Robert Pugh. We were at Froyle Park, a country house in Hampshire, with two models as brides in very different beautiful dresses, and one very smart groom. So I had plenty of time with these models to practice the techniques that Rob was teaching us, which maximised the use of natural light.

We mainly worked inside the house, which is a wonderful location for weddings, and has a very bright airy feel in some of the rooms. The day started sunny – a perfect day for a spring wedding! But by the time we went outside at the end of the day (above) it was overcast and a little additional light was needed from a flash with softbox.

Model Sophie, wearing her own wedding dress for the shoot.

I’ve worked with Rob before in some of his other workshops, and I really like his approach to photography. He’s also a good trainer and revealed many of his tricks to getting great shots, using Olympus OM-D cameras and lenses like myself.  Plus he’s a really nice guy and very easy to get on with.

There were also the lovely Clare and Claire from Olympus UK on hand to assist, and they brought lots of kit with them, so I was able to borrow a new lens (50mm equiv. f/1.2) to try out for an hour or so. I did some comparisons with my own lenses, and was very impressed with it.

So, I learnt a lot of useful stuff today, as well as getting some good shots for my portfolio. And it was a lot of fun. Did I mention they served us a really good lunch?

I have some more training lined up next month, so I can be ready for the real thing later in the year.

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Photoshoot – Lulu Lockhart

Lulu Lockhart
Lulu Lockhart in The Loft at Image Red Studio today.

I spent today at Image Red Studio in Tamworth, Staffordshire, shooting the very lovely model Lulu Lockhart. This was a workshop run by Simon Walden of Film Photo Academy. Although we spent some time doing shots in the studio with low-key lighting, most of the day we were shooting in The Loft, a derelict space in a nearby building. This had interesting features and very pleasant natural light through windows on both sides of the space. Lulu looked really great in there!

Lulu is an experienced professional model, and apart from being very beautiful, she poses well and naturally, and also responded accurately and quickly to my directions. She is also charming, relaxed and easy to work with, as well as being highly intelligent – she’s soon to start her PhD in biochemistry (in parallel with her successful modelling career).

I’ve done two of Simon’s workshops in the past. I really admire his photographic style, and he’s keen to pass on his wisdom, giving good guidance, but only when it’s needed. And as always at these workshops, I enjoyed the interactions with the five other photographers participating. Brian from Image Red kept things running smoothly and plied us with tea and coffee.

I have some pleasing images amongst my many shots. There’s a collection of my 18 favourites on this website.

To see the photo collection, click here.

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The Photography Show 2017

Albert Watson
The inspirational Albert Watson talks about his work. (Photo: The Photography Show)

Last weekend I visited The Photography Show at the NEC. I’d set myself a pretty full agenda, and had little time to get around many of the trade stands. I did stop by at the Olympus stand and had a play with the new OM-D E-M1 Mk.II.  It seems wonderful, and is certainly on my wish list to supplement my existing E-M1.  I also checked out some of the lighting suppliers, and was able to find out more about some of the new portable lighting kit that I’m thinking of investing in.

Highlights of the show included the presentation by Albert Watson, a truly inspirational photographer.  Wonderful images and so good to hear about their background from the great man himself.

I also learnt some new Photoshop tricks at a lecture in the Adobe Theatre, and spent most of the afternoon in a workshop for photographers looking to develop their business.  Some useful talks there, and some good advice, including that I ought to have a blog on my website!  Well, here it is!

It was also great to meet up with other photographers and models that I have worked with in the past.  Good networking!  Looking forward to next year, when I’d better go for two days to fit it all in.

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