Landscape Photography - Is There A Right Time or Wrong Time?

The Season’s

Think of where you live and how the change of seasons effect your view out of your window. If you could time lapse the seasons throughout the year, you would be amazed by the light, clouds and the sun as it comes through that one window. If you then take that thought to one your favourite spots that you love and visit so often, then your imagination is starting to run into overdrive with thoughts.

The seasons bring life and death of the vegetation like trees, flowers, and shrubs. The wildlife also changes as some go into hibernation during the winter while others thrive all year round. Our world is unique for some as the change in seasons are clear to see, while some places are not so clear.

Living in the UK, we are kind of lucky in that the four seasons are much clearer to see and feel. Some of us like the sun, while others like the cold, being in the middle is kind of a bit of both, and can hold strong backdrops.

What Looks Best.

It easy to fix on one look, one style or one colour, but if you open your mind to it all, then each day holds an image that can be captured and express in a number of ways. We all love a sunrise or sunset, but through the year the sun can be seen larger or brighter. That clear sky sunrise or sunset, is, well clear, but if you add cloud cover, then you have something unique as it ever changes through whats called the golden hour and beyond.

Example.

The weather forecaster says the day will start dry but cloudy most part with some clear sky’s at times, sound familiar? So a couple of hours before, your looking out the window and its still grey and no brakes in the cloud, and you put feet up in front of the telly, then you get up to make a cup of tea just as the sun starts to go down and the clouds part and let those beautiful red and orange colours of the sun break through. You think, why didn’t I go out when I thought about it earlier. Well if we could read the weather that well, we would all be taking amazing images.


End of day and the sun broke through.

End of day and the sun broke through.

Taking A Risk.

You see with all the best technology and weather apps, you still can’t beat just going out and waiting. Maybe most times you wont be rewarded, but when you are, you have an amazing opportunity to capture something not just beautiful, but a one off that gets everyone to admire your determination and resistance to the weather and love the image you’ve captured.

It doesn’t have to be a sunrise or sunset, but a mood created by the season and the weather, but more on the mood.

Example.

You have a single tree in a field, say a big old oak tree, would it look better with leaves or without? You could say to look pass the tree and think of the weather conditions. Maybe mist or fog, sunlight breaking through behind it, snow on the ground, dark clouds set behind the tree, do you know see the tree with or without the leaves? Maybe a single object next the tree, a cow, a horse, a sheep or even a deer if you lucky. 

You could start to think that the weather is a mood, that can be dark, grey, light, broken by the objects in the landscape that can be brought into the mood and can be singular as well a collective. 

Through the mist ones a sheep.

Through the mist ones a sheep.

Colour or Black and White?

Have you ever looked at one of your images, which is colour and tried to edit it as black and white? Sometimes I see a image that is just shouting out to me to try it in B&W, but I think you have to explore images when you edit to see if you can make it more engaging, moody, bring the image to another level.

B&W isn’t for everyone, but when you explore some of the great photographers of the pass, they only had B&W to work in, so they made works that had something that made the image come alive.

Photographer Ansel Adams called ‘The Tetons and the Snake River’

Photographer Ansel Adams called ‘The Tetons and the Snake River’

This image by Ansel Adams called The Tetons and the Snake River, taken in 1942 shows the depth of light breaking through the dark clouds from the left to right of the mountains and grading light shimmering along the river, but then think what would it of looked like in colour? Well sadly only Ansel Adams knows that, but he saw an image and figured it out to become a B&W that would stand out, that others, like me admire what he captured and the effort he went to and the many disappointment days he must of had till he came across this moment, a flicker of a second and then it was gone.

See if you think about landscape photography in a way that there is no right or wrong time to photograph, and mood and elements can make an image, if you just take the chance to explore, there is always an image to be captured, maybe you have to wait anything from a season, a change, something to trigger you to get out and see what will happen, wait just that bit longer, to get that image that makes it feel worth all the torment, it might of cause you, but makes you feel the image.

The camera is just a tool that breaks down what you can see from edge to edge, how you fill that space and how you interpret what is within that frame. It’s kind of thinking outside the box, but actually within the box, which has no right or wrong time to its outcome.

One view from a drone user…

There is so much that’s been said about drones and there use, some might read this and think what a load of rubbish, but this is just one view on the use of drones, the media input, what is being put forward by the CAA and the “2019 Drone Registration Scheme: Charge Proposal Consultation Document”, which is being put forward.

Owning a drone.

Being a photographer doing portrait work, street and landscape are just some of the things I cover, I got a drone back in mid 2018 after doing a whole load of research of what was out there, how much they cost, what regulations are involved, the kind of insurance I needed and what could I do with the images. Just some of the many things I considered for my use.

The market place is full of sorts of drones from small toy type drones, to top end drones used in film and commercial work and ones in between. Even the cheap drones on online sites like eBay can look the business, but then you read the reviews and they’re nothing but rubbish with many not being able to be controlled and fly off into the sunset. In the last few years’ drones have been able to carry or fitted with a camera. The advances in camera technology has seen new cameras that are small and light and able to film in 4K video and produce images up to 20mb at 10-bit colour, and have the same kind of manual control as a full-frame camera. Other advancements have been longer battery time and being smaller, easier to carry and quick to launch.

So after much time researching, I got the DJI Air, but then the DJI Mavic Pro 2 came out and I got that one, purely for the sturdy build and better camera. Theses drones are over £800 to £1,500 and then you buy accessories, extra batteries, ND filters and other bits and bobs that can add up to near £2,000 depending on what you buy. 

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If you’ve never flown a RC plane or drone, the DJI series has been design to be able to learn how to fly within a number of flights, but has built-in features like obstacle avoidance, maximum height and distance, GPS and a controller that is full of information that shows you where you are and controls the camera all in one, but it does take a lot of effort to learn so your £2,000 investment doesn’t end up smashed. Many take out special insurance to cover the drone for damage or being lost (as it can happen), but more importantly public liability insurance encase it damages property or person/persons.

The current regulations for hobby and commercial drone pilots are quite clear to a degree, but there are grey areas. I wanted to take landscape images so I could add them to my other landscape work on my website done with a normal camera. I don’t sell direct from my website, but I do get some that visit that ask to buy a print. The commercial side of having a drone, is being involved in work to survey, film work as just some of things that you do as a business and get contracted to carry out that work, even the idea of using a drone to film a wedding is commercial work as its contracted. To undertake this work you need to sit a course and be issued with what’s called a PFCO, this stands for Permission For Commercial Operations. It’s not a license as some think it is but it’s a permission granted when you’ve done the course by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), which cost each year. I took to social media where other like-minded drone pilots from both sides of hobby and commercial to ask if I needed a PCFO to sell prints? It seems that when you ask grey questions, grey answers or ones saying one thing and the others coming up with a different answer. 

Taken with DJI Mavic Pro 2

Taken with DJI Mavic Pro 2

So I turned to the CAA directly to get their answer, and they say that if you have taken the image for yourself at the time and then at a later date you can sell a copy of that image without having a PFCO. So this for me is good news, some might feel I’m taking work from them, but why, I’m only taking landscape images within the regulations and meeting all the criteria required, and I’m not interest commercial work in what they do or have the kind of drone needed for the work they carry out.

The Media.

There is no doubt that some, who have had a drone over the course of a few years, have use drones illegally at places like airports. As many things, drones became a thing that hit the YouTube channels in the USA, but I’m not blaming our American friends but there FAA regulations are a bit different than the CAA. But people have posted video of flying around airports and this has raise concerns that has been met with regulations with flying near airports to be no-fly zones. But people still post images of drones being flown at extreme heights to see if they can, as well as the drone crashes that make for thousands of views. But in the UK, things came to ahead when at Christmas, a drone sighting closed Gatwick airport for a number of days. The media, went with it like bears to honey, with so say images of the said drone, and then a couple were named and shamed as they were arrested only to be released without charge and found not to even own a drone! Since the incident, there have been programs and interviews that have asked questions as to why there are no images or video of the drone, not even with all the tech equipment that was rushed to the airport did they have any data to show there was a drone. People have been stupid with drones, that’s for sure as one was found and arrested after climbing the old Severn Bridge near Bristol with a drone to do a selfie. And then there was a RC model aircraft near the perimeter fence at Heathrow. Drones have been used to bring drugs into prisons, but all of this is by as small minority that will go out of their way to break the law, just like any other law breaking way. There are people buying drones and then joining social media to ask where can they fly or showing video of flying right on top of animals and of course scaring them, and the media joins these groups to ease drop on what’s being said and then writing stories without asking the person they quote what they meant by their comment. 

All of this is putting pressure on the drone pilots with new regulations have been put into place or coming into effect later this year.

Consultation by the government and CAA

The drone industry and use has grown with more looking to spend real investment money into a drone for the use as hobby pilot, and the government and CAA have been good to bring in a consultation to ask drone pilots for their thoughts on what they think is needed and should be part of the drone code. But the latest proposal by the CAA doesn’t meet hardly anything that we have put forward; instead they have come up with just a registration fee of £16.50 per a year based on 170,000 users. To put this into context a firearms license that last for 5 years works out at £18, a replacement-driving license cost £71.60 and covers for 10 years. The amount of deaths from the use of vehicles in 2017 was 1,793, yet to date not one fatality has been caused by the use of a drone in the UK, yet it cost more to register a drone than to hold a driving license!

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Making sense of their idea for registration is confusing as there are two ways to register. The first one is as drone owner or in their words responsible for the drone, you register and pay your fee and then you get a registration code for your drone, but it doesn’t state if this is just for one drone or £16.50 per a drone. The second way is you fly drones or RC aircraft, you read the rules, do the online test, tell them who you are and then you get a flyer number, but it states you only need to a single registration if you own and fly a drone, but it doesn’t state which one to do.

Its taken them nearly two years to come this far, yet its unclear, over priced and no guidelines for manufactures to point buyers on what they need to do if they buy their product, or a flight registration system that many have asked to be in a real-time app.

We are only a few months away when all of this going live, and many associations and hobby pilots and commercial are not happy with the proposal. What is needed is an open forum meeting with the CAA to invite members from all areas to meet with the CAA and figure out what is going on and to deal with the fundamental issues that effect all. Many completed the government consultation and feel their words have not been listen to and this is just another hopeless attempted to show they asked drone pilots for their views, but will still go ahead with their proposal whatever we say. 

Many that have been flying model aircraft might feel that drone pilots have brought this fee onto them, but like all things, it’s a minority that don’t give a dam about regulations or will even take part in the registration. This is understandable when the media has jumped on false news of drones flying near aircraft, yet not one single image has been captured to prove otherwise. Drone pilots and model aircraft flyers do make mistakes, it happens, but not intentionally. All flight safety is taken before any flight takes place, why, because they don’t want to loose their investment.

Some would say this is being run as badly as Brexit, which says a lot about the good old British way of doing things, its got out of control when it doesn’t need to.

These are just my views on a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting solved properly and taking into account the vast industry this effects and needs a system that’s priced in a form like other things we need to pay for the use of. This comes across as another moneymaking system for the government to exploit which is unfair and unjust, which I’m not the only one that feels this way.

That Special Moment

I’ve been a photographer for nearly 10 years, and in that time I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and my photography. Being wheelchair bound doesn’t hold me back, there are times when I see something and just wish I could do more with the picture I see in front of me, it can be frustrating at times, and I’ve just learnt to just make the best of it, till now.

 

Badminton Estate.

The estate is set in the beautiful countryside of Gloucestershire, and is known for the Badminton Horse Trials held every year, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The estate is huge and has many forest areas, but a little known place off the road to Tetbury, is the Badminton Gatehouse. It’s set on a bend and if your driving, it’s so easy to miss, but the building is set 150m off the road, with its arched wall, leading to the main gate in the centre with a room either side and above, a large arched window, which must hold one of the most wonderful views down to the main house, which I would say is a good two miles down a centre green, with thick rows of trees either side.

 

I know the area well, as I was brought up in the Cotswold’s, which the main house and gate is built from Cotswold stone and weathers well. When I took up photography, I stopped at the Badminton Gatehouse to photograph, but its hard to photograph something that is solid, doesn’t move and only has one path leading up to it, only the seasons and weather can change the look of a image looking straight on at the building, this is the only way to photograph it from the track leading to the building.

 

The Drone

Back near the end of 2018, after much research I got myself a DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone. This drone is small, easy to setup and fly, the camera and its ability to capture 20MB RAW images on its 1” sensor, which can also capture 4K video, makes for a great piece of kit to have in your bag.

The drone has open up new ways of me doing my landscape photography from above, just like others are able to do. But for me, it helps me reach places I can’t get to in my chair. The drone has also introduced me to videography, this isn’t something I would consider with my normal camera, as it’s hard work and difficult from my chair.

Getting use to using a drone, takes time in learning the skill just flying, its easy going forward and sideways, but a skill to fly in a arch and film at the same time. I’m use to using ND filters with my normal camera to get long exposures, but with a drone camera and filming, you use the ND filters in a different way, and I’m getting the hang of this.

Badminton Gatehouse

Badminton Gatehouse

Going back to Badminton Gatehouse

So my idea was to photograph about 30m off the ground so I could show the estate in the background, and anything else would be a bonus.

 

There’ just enough ground to park as the track leading to the gatehouse, which is chained off. My thoughts was to go up to the gatehouse and introduce myself and ask if I could photograph the building, but with a drone. 

We know of late, us drone pilots don’t get a good press with the media, and asking if you can use a drone, comes with a straight answer no! But I think its all depends how you approach people.

As I pushed myself under the chain and wheeled towards the gatehouse, there was a car parked outside, so I knew there was someone home, but not sure if there would be a doorbell, as its turns out there wasn’t and so I had to call out “good morning”. I did this a few times and I thought I could hear a radio coming from one of the rooms as I looked the iron gate, but there was no answer and I thought maybe I was a bit early and thought I would pop back later.

As I started to wheel myself back the car, I turned round and saw this lady walk from one room across to the other room. So I wheeled myself back to the gate, and called “hello, good morning”. Finally a voice came from inside “hello”. 

This lovely lady by the name of Hillary in her late years came to the gate, and I introduced myself and said, “I’m a landscape photographer and wondered if I could photograph the gatehouse?” she said “yes of course no problem at all”, then I said the dreaded words, “but I would like to photograph it with a drone, and I would be happy to share some photos with you, if you would like to email me”, as I pulled out a business card. Then there what seemed a long silence and expecting the outcome to be a straight no, but to my surprise she said “yes that’s fine, would you like me to move my car so you can get a good shot of the gatehouse”? I said “that would be wonderful, are you sure your ok to do that?” she said “let me get dressed and I will move it for you”. Then she asked me if I could walk, as she invited me to see the room above and the view from it. I said with a grin on my face, sadly know, but allowing me to photograph the building is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. As we talked, she told me she had lived there for 14 years and just loves the place. It is an odd building, with what seems from the front two small rooms, one either side, I have no idea where the bedroom is, but it’s a very special building.

Looking down towards the main house.

Looking down towards the main house.

This dear lady was lovely to meet and chat to. I think that we are so engrossed in the idea that everyone hates drone pilots, we just don’t look at places that we could potentially photograph and show that we do care, not just about the environment we are entering, but the people that are part of it. 

I did everything by the book, by informing her that I had public liability insurance, staying 50m away from the building and above as I flew over. I registered the flight with NAT’s and I think initially a red hazard came up for high risk at Highgrove House, which of course is where Prince Charles resides, which is 5 miles away as the crow fly’s, but then I set it as permission from resident gained and the high risk disappeared, and it was landscape photography, and a non commercial shoot.

 

When I finished, I went back to the gatehouse and spent more time with Hillary thanking her for her kindness and helped close the big iron gates and went back to me car and put the chain back across, so I left it as it as it was when I arrived.

I think its the important point, in not just engaging with the people but to leave it how it was before you arrived.

I have confidence I could go back and Hillary would welcome me back, and that’s a great feeling, as I would like to go back when the season changes and maybe the trees will be in bloom.

If I had gone to the main house, or contacted by mail or phone, I would have been turned down with out a doubt. I don’t want to get Hillary into trouble, but I don’t know if she lives there as part of the estate and what they would think about it all, but if they saw my images, spoke to Hillary and saw the video, I’ve yet to put together, they would see that I did it to show the beauty of the building, the landscape that flows onwards down to the main house. I didn’t get paid to do this, and wouldn’t want to, I did it out of love of photography. The images I take are one of a kind and each one means something to me.

A view from the otherwise of the Gatehouse

A view from the otherwise of the Gatehouse

By reading this, I hope some drone pilots get a sense of what can be, you just have to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are asking to share their place with you, by offering them a copy of any images you take, as a gift to say thank you, would probably be welcomed. We all want to capture the beauty of this country, and we have to show what we can create to those that would take it all away from us. Social groups should invite the CAA to join them, so they can see on the inside of what is actually going on out there, with us capturing landscapes, coastal scenes, sunsets and sunrises, the mist that covers the dew soaked ground, this is what hobby drone pilots are mostly about.

As for me, this is one item I can tick off my bucket list of places I want to photograph. I’ve shared this story on social media and have had a great response, which I thank every single person for their like. It means a lot even if just one person likes my work, but when you have many, it’s a good feeling that I’ve done something good and worthwhile.

Trek to Hay Bluff

Sometimes landscape photography, for me is a journey into the unknown. I do my research by looking at Google Earth and other apps, but its not till you arrive that it all comes together and maybe not as you expected.

 

Wales is an amazing place and reasonably reachable from the Bristol area, but over the years the road infrastructure has got better with dual carriageways making it faster to get into the mountain regions of Wales. 

 

The Hay Bluff region sits on the border between Wales and England and stretches for over 8 miles of mountains and is used by many for the long walks and parts are used by the military. But the weather is very changeable and quickly, especially during the wintertime, so you need to be prepared for the worse conditions. Some parts you still can’t get a phone signal, so it’s worth letting people were your be and for how long.

Being prepared.

Because of my health issues, I have to be more careful in that I build myself up for the trip and what it will involve. I love driving and making sure the car is fully pumped up and has enough gas, is important. Checking the weather forecast theses days is so much easier with apps that can give you real time information (that’s if you have a phone signal). I made sure I was prepared for wintery conditions, with winter clothing, plenty of hot coffee, a couple of sandwiches.

All packed ready to go in the morning.

All packed ready to go in the morning.

I wanted to make the most of this trip and so packed my camera bag with lenses that I know I might use, light meter, tripod, the usual stuff but also lens cleaners and a t-towel to keep my lens and camera body dry as best a possible. I also took both of my drones, which is my Mavic Air and Mavic Pro 2, which gives me a total of 3 ½ hours of battery time and a couple of micro SD cards. 

Being in a mountain area, most of my images can only be taken from the roadside and I have to make the best out of that situation, but having a drone extends my view and where I can capture those images that can only be got if you climb some way up the mountain.

So the day before everything was checked to see if it was clean or needed to charged and then packed in their rucksacks.

The drive.

The weather outlook was possibly some sun, otherwise mist or rain, not the best combination, but then that’s what makes landscape photography what it is, unpredictable, just how I like it.

Sunrise was going to be about 8am and the journey was about 2 ½ hours long to my first location I had researched. I had about 8 locations set for the day and had co-ordinates to enter into my phone. A good idea is to download the map area, which you can do in Google maps, so if you lose a signal you have the downloaded map as a backup to work from.

I enjoy driving, its freedom from the shackles of my wheelchair or maybe its an extension of my chair. When going to a mountain range in the dark, you’re not able to see anything around you apart from what’s in the headlights. After about an hour of driving on the main roads, I turned onto a lane that took another hour to cover. As it twist and turns, it get narrower within places, I meet any other drivers at that time in the morning. Its an eerie feeling of not knowing what might be round the next bend or how sharp the bend is. A satnav is great tool, which can give you an idea of how long or short the bend can be ahead. You loose sense that you might be climbing as your driving along and then the road dips and then gains height again and again. As you near the end, the satnav shows the winner’s flag and say’s “you’ve arrived at your destination”. I find a place to pull over and turn the engine off and open the window, and then it hits you. 

The silence of the countryside with just a whisper of trees moving in the light wind and all you can see is pitch black. I’ve become intrigued as to what is around me, so I carry a bright torch to shine around the area. I can see trees and the verge drops down a steep bank, then I hear an owl in the distance, which I must of disturbed as I arrived and now flashing the torch in the air. Apart from the owl, there is nothing but the breeze and rustle of the trees that I can see are fern trees. 

So as I’ve taken in my surrounds, I open the flask of coffee and poor myself a cup and push the car seat back and relax. 

 

From darkness into the light.

When you sit in the dark, your eyes become accustom to the light, and you begin to see contours between the land and the sky, shapes that move, the world is waking up.

The thing is, sat in the middle of what seems to be know where and a car headlights begin to light up the view in front of you, your mind turns to what the other driver is thinking as he passes what seems to be an abandoned car, is he going to stop or carry on, if he stops what are you going to say to them. It’s a sudden moment that you think what would I make of seeing a car parked at the side of the road in the middle of know where? As it passes and carry’s on going back into the dark, you have a wave of relief that you don’t have to explain yourself.

As the sun rises, it seems to get light very quickly, and your mind turns to why you are there and the anticipation grows of what view will the sunlight will uncover. 

It becomes apparent that I’m not at the top of the hill and have to drive a few hundred yards before reaching the horizon, and then I see the fog and the sun beginning to break through to show the first view of the mountains.

The fog hides the top, but snow has fallen and partially covers the mountainsides.

As this is the first location of my day, I scour the view to see if there is an image to capture. Landscape photography is like drawing a box around an area and looking to see what’s in it that can make a photo that has something about it, that mixture of land, sky and everything in between.

Drone flight.

As its dry and very little wind, I decided to setup the drone to search the area around me. But after a few minutes, the rain began and so I had to bring down the drone. Not to be outwitted, I got my camera and waited for the cloud to break so that the sun might break through. It does for just a moment and I get one or two images before being force to get back into the car out of the cold freezing rain. 

Break in the weather.

Break in the weather.

As I’ve said, weather conditions can change in a moment, which can decide on what you do or not.

From location to location.

There is around 8 miles of mountains, but today is not a day to see them in their glory, as fog, sleet and rain puts and end to being able to capture clear images of the area. But the fog can make a subject interesting, and as I drive through, images of livestock and trees become the focus of some of my work. Wherever you are if you look closely enough you can find an image. Each time I got out of the car and grabbed the camera, I would have to use the lens wipe to remove the droplets of water that formed from the fog, I would point the camera downwards so not to be in direct line until I was ready to photograph and then each time whip the lens again and again.

Out of the fog.

Out of the fog.

By mid afternoon I was tired, and it seemed that the weather was not to change for me and was against me. I had enough and was ready to call it a day, with be being muddy and wet, I found a puddle to try and clean the wheels if my chair so not to cake the inside of my car with it all.

The moment.

I had put home into the satnav and began to make my way back along the road at the bottom of the mountains, feeling slightly grumpy that the day had not turn out how I’d had hoped. But then as I got back to the second location along the road, the sky lit up with sunlight, the fog had cleared somewhat, and I could see the mountains in a line!

I pulled over and looked behind me and could see the fog rolling down the side of the mountains. The wind was light so I got one the drones up in the air and mange to get a number of images and about 15 minutes of film before the sleet began to fall.

Rolling for on the mountains.

Rolling for on the mountains.

Just when all had seemed to be a loss of the day out, it all came together for a brief moment. When I got back into the car, I sat back and thought this was actually worth all the mud and rain to get to this point. 

I was actually in a lot of pain with my body, but this moment made it all go away for a while and helped me make sense of what I do and why.

Landscape photography.

Images don’t come to you, you have to get out there and push through the weather to find amazing places and with the help of the ever-changing weather, make images that can’t be replicated. They are moments that creep up on you, and it takes time and patients to get that image. 

I missed one shot of a rainbow that looked amazing in the place it was, but by the time I had got my chair out, it had gone. If only I had waited a few minutes longer, I might have been able to of got it, but it is what it is, and that’s landscape photography for you.

You can see the video I capture by clicking on the link

Calibration - what you see, is it what you recorded?

So you have a drone like the DJI Mavic Air or DJI Mavic Pro/2, which shoots 4K video and takes up to 20MB images, you use a PC or Mac to then edit and hit problems with the images you’ve decided to send to the printers come back looking different to what you had on your PC or Mac, now your going to wonder what did you do wrong for all of this to not work out how you wanted it to.

About me.

I’ve been a professional photographer of nearly 10 years and did a degree in professional photography and I’m looking to share my knowledge with those to over come some of the problems that you might be suffering with you images and video. To be clear this is how I work and understand the problems that we all face and have learnt how to overcome them once I was given the right information and got the right tools. Some might not agree and maybe this will start a conversation on others ways to overcome some of the issues.

What you see.

Monitors, tablets, phones, tv’s are an array of screens that we use everyday to view work we’ve captured with our beloved drone, camera and watch them back on different devices. But have you noticed how bright or dark the video or image looks on different devices? This is because in the manufacturing, the brightness and colour is set by them and can be different. 

If you have a 4K TV, you might of found in the settings that you can change how the image looks, they may read as standard, cinema, sport and even HDR. So you set the one of theses outputs to your liking that suits your eyes, but the rest of the family might have different ideas on what looks right!

Different colour formats.

There are industry standards, which is sRGB, and there is AdobeRGB, and CMYK (CMYK printing format)

A photography camera will offer you sRGB or RGB, while a video at 4K will offer you D-log DLG and D-Cinelike.

All of these industry standards have a different look and with some you are able to edit in more detail than with others.

So going back to your devices and the different level of looks in screen colour and light, in most cases your editing and final output will be done with a PC or MAC monitor, and this is the starting point.

We spend on average about £1,200 on equipment to capture images or 4K video in todays market as we want the best that we can afford and with similar outcomes. But when it comes to PC’s or Laptops, the starting price can be under £400 and upwards. With a Mac it slightly different in that Apple has always been designed and sold as for users that work in film or photography and so the price is more of a starting price of a thousand pound and upwards. But they all use a monitor and there is a way to get the industry standard of sRGB the way that everyone see’s it or if you prefer AdobeRGB, which many do.

What is the difference from sRGB and AdobeRGB.

IMG_1070.JPG

The image above explains it pretty well. Both images contain only three colors, however, the colors shown in the AdobeRGB scale have more differential between them. This means photos taken in the AdobeRGB color space will have more vibrancy in their colours, whereas sRGB will traditionally have more subtle tones. In situations where you're photographing strong colour tones, sRGB may need to dull them out to accommodate, whereas AdobeRGB is able to display those colours with more accuracy. It’s all down to preference, but how do you get your monitor to be spot on with one of these formats?

Monitor Calibration.

Photographers and Videographers will invest in a piece of equipment that will calibrate there screen to match the right output that one would want so their work looks its very best, and if it goes to print, then you will get the image back the way you see it on your screen as the printers also calibrate their screens in the same way when working on your print.

One of the main calibration manufactures is DataColor, and the one I use. This bit of kit will cost between £90 - £180 and like all things you pay for what you get. The more expensive one will monitor your room throughout the day, as the light coming changes. If you have a room with no windows, and just your room light, this will be constant and a good place to work in.

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The device sits on the screen as it runs the program, it measures the different colours and the brightness, then you can the adjust in the settings of the monitor to meet the right threshold and then safe that as your monitor profile. At the end of the program it will show you the difference from what you had to what you should have and you will find it does make a lot of difference. 

Into days world you can even use this device to calibrate TV monitors via connection to the TV from a laptop, so when you watch back your images or video, it will look as you edited it.

Editing

We all see light and colour differently and we edited in our own way, which through time changes as our style changes. We view others work and something strikes accord on what we see and look to edit in a similar style. Over the years, my style has changed maybe 20 times, but also as we work, we learn new skills in the software use and elaborate as we edit. Coming up with ones own style isn’t easy and you will find maybe its not to others taste, but as a guide, if its what you like and maybe someone will also likes it. If so, then go with it until you move forward in your work to something different. 

Today there are so many different softwares to choose from. Some are apps with presets that can be applied, this is whats known as baking and coming up with a recipe. There is nothing wrong with this, but it’s limiting.

Adobe for many years now has been known as the industry standard for editing in images and film, they are extremely powerful softwares, that allow you to work in layers to make changes to parts of images and save as a layer and then build upon that. Today’s Adobe Photoshop now works in a non-destructive way so the original never loses data. Lightroom came about just around the time I started photography and is a great software and has grown in popularity in way of cataloging images and being able to work in a non destructive way with just using sliders to edit your work.

These softwares were extremely expensive and into the hundreds for the Photoshop and even more for its video editing software. But they had a change of direction a few years ago in making all its software a monthly license by subscribing, this open the doors to people who couldn’t afford the initial outlay to affordable monthly payments with the guarantee of free updates. Some softwares when they do major updates charge a lot of money and can be off putting. 

As images and video becomes more extreme in the file size because of what the equipment is able to produce, the software needs to keep up. Right now 8K is the new super video format, twice what we are currently use, but the processing power means bigger faster computers to handle the amount of data it has to consume.

My original Sony A99 was a 20MB camera, now I have the Sony A99II which is 42MB RAW images, thats more pixels to be able to work with and also allows me to produce larger prints if I wished. In photoshop I can work in 16BIT mode or 8BIT but the final file size can be over 1.2GB large and if I want to save to JPEG and a small file size, I have to convert it 8BIT to be able to do that.

Once my images are complete, I can send them to my printers via there online service and they can be sent in AdobeRGB, which is what format I prefer to work in, or I can send them in the colour format of CYMK, but that means re-editing as the colour look will change on my screen unless I put Adobe into CYMK profile before I work on the image.

Video Editing.

I have to say at this point, it was only a couple of years ago I upgraded my PC, which was a custom build to a iMac, for me it was an investment, but I do a lot of photography and now video work. But its more about understanding of how the software works and this begins on how you setup your workspace to bring your raw video into the software.

There seems to be three makes of softwares that people are using for video editing, PremierPro, DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro X, which is what I use

The thing is to make it easy to work in editing you movie is using proxy mode. This takes your raw video and makes a copy and makes it easier to work with, then once you’ve edited, it adds all those effects and to the original that it outputs as 4K. You have to make sure you are setting up in the frame rate that shot your raw footage in, this can be 25, 30 or 60fps. Unless you’re looking to slow your footage down there is no reason why you cant work at 25fps as standard, if you want to speed the film up, it wont effect the outcome, but the more frames you working in, the bigger the file size it will be.

Uploading 4K video.

So you’ve worked on you video and 4K mode output so everyone can see your work in 4K, wrong!

So you’ve worked on you video and 4K mode output so everyone can see your work in 4K, wrong! Did you know that it you upload your 4K video to Facebook, the standard output is set at 720, but they did set up Live 360 to play back in 4K. YouTube output is set at 1080p, but if you watch the video on a 4K TV then you can watch it back in 4K mode. This is all very disappointing in that you’ve have gear producing 4K video, but very little in the way of social media can you show it in its full glory. But even with television stations, there is very little content that can be watch in 4K, which is mostly sport on Sky. 4K has been out a few years now and you would think that most content would be in 4K. Even if you have a 4K DVD player, there is very little content being produced in 4K format and will cost you around £25 for a 4K DVD, while a BlueRay film maybe only £15. Recently Samsung launched a 8K TV with only one film made in 8K mode, what is the point?

You could say we are being ripped off, but by who? Well its not the manufactures that make 4K cameras, it’s the sites and television companies that are letting us down as well as the providers of broadband as still lots of areas still don’t have fibre optic in their homes, like mine!

Really its a bit of a waiting game, so till then it still worth producing your 4K output video so you don’t have to go back and re-edit. Technology moves fast in some areas and less in others, why I don’t know. We have 4K, OLED, Retina, all selling us how wonderful and realistic the colours are, but without the social media and TV production companies catching up, we’re groomed into the idea of buying this gear with not a chance of getting out moneys worth. But as they say we can live in hope.

I hope this blog has been helpful to some, and if you have questions, then please ask and if I don’t know someone will.

Photographing a Sunset - DJI Mavic Pro 2

About Me.

I’ve been a Photographer for nearly 10 years and done a degree in professional photography. Like any hobby or business, it takes years to build up your equipment and can cost thousands of pounds. I started off with the basics, and as I my interest increase so does the spec of you equipment. As I’m wheelchair bound, landscape photography at times can be challenging, and I bought the DJI Mavic Air, the DJI Mavic Pro 2 came out. I understand having a better sensor and larger image size, gives me better quality in the images I can take and then edit, and is the reason I got the MP2.

Landscape photography, for me, is about passion, the excitement of the unknown. The UK has some beautiful landscapes and coastal regions, and if you look around you might find it on your own doorstep.

As a photographer, the main things one I would carry with me is a camera, tripod, and remote control, light meter, phone app.

I work in manual mode and have the lens focus in manual mode; this gives me the ability to work within the conditions that I want to control. A camera like my Sony A99II has some great built in feature, like being able to increase magnification so in can focus manually on the a horizon so everything is in focus and sharp. Using a tripod and remote, means I can reduce the risk of any vibration.

Using a light meter allows me to set the iso and f-stop to give the right shutter speed, this can be reverse and set the iso and shutter speed to give the right f-stop. I use the Sekonic NP Finder 5 Degree on L-478DR, which allows me to focus on the brightest spot in the composition so I can get the right information. I can also set the shutter to bulb mode, this means I can control how long the shutter is left open to let the as much light in as possible to make the image stand out and give that creamy look to water and sky.

Having this much flexibility to photograph a sunset is great, but with a drone, you do at present have limitations, but there are ways round it to get the best out of the drone.

Using the DJI Mavic Pro 2

Drone photography and filming.

You can’t get away from the fact that using a drone comes with a lot of responsibility and regulations that you have to adhere to. So some of what you're about to read might seem like overkill but sadly we have to justify using a drone in places that might be deemed as a place of caution, which just about covers everywhere.

Sunrise - Golden Hour.

It doesn't matter if you photographing or filming sunsets or sunrises, there is a thing called the golden hour where the light produces some amazing colors, which can produce great images. This changes at different points during the year as to what kind of effect you will get within the color range.

Research Proof

It’s worth mentioning at this point, having screenshots, Nat’s flight plan log and copy of your public liability insurance for your planned shoot with you is a good idea, so if someone questions you, then you have the all the relevant info to put their mind at rest.

This might seem like over kill, but is it? Many who have a PCFO at times have to produce a flight plan that will look at flight risk, etc. Sadly it might become a requirement in time for hobby pilots, so getting use to building your flight plan to photograph something like Glastonbury Tor or some other place of interest, is worth getting use to.

Your Location.

Finding places of interest is so much easier in today’s world of technology. If I've come across an image, I Google to see where it was taken and then use Google Earth to see how I might make an image differently to what I've seen.

Sample Shoot

So I’ve looked at Glastonbury Tor to photograph at sunrise.

I’ve used the NAT’s app to check if I can fly in this area. So looking at the image, I can see there is caution of people may congregate, but as this will be at sunrise, there shouldn’t be very many people around, but I still need to cautious.

NAT’s app location takeoff point.

NAT’s app location takeoff point.

Hazard and Caution information.

Hazard and Caution information.

Using Google maps, I’ve found a place where I can park my car (I have a disabled badge) and access the field to take off from. Looking at the two images I can see a good place to access a field with a path that leads up to the Tor.

Google Maps Search for access to Glastonbury Tor.

Google Maps Search for access to Glastonbury Tor.

Google Maps View of road to park.

Google Maps View of road to park.

Using Google Earth, I can measure from my takeoff point to the point of top of the Tor, which are 226m. But I also need to know the positions, which at least 50m from the Tor from North, East, South and West, so I can use the measure tool to see where I need to be on the land as a sort of marker. I’ve also Goggled to see what the height of the Tor is which is 521m high. 

Using Google Earth to measure from takeoff point to Tor

Using Google Earth to measure from takeoff point to Tor

Measuring distance from Tor.

Measuring distance from Tor.

Measurement from behind the Tor.

Measurement from behind the Tor.

Measurement from in front of the Tor.

Measurement from in front of the Tor.

The regulations are that you have to be a maximum of 120m high, but as this is a Tor is 521m, I need to add the 120m to the 521m, which is a total of 641m. This is because the regulation does take into account how the land can rise which is in article 94A - 400ft height limitation interpretation. So in my App settings I need to adjust my maximum height, which is currently set at 120m to 640m to be safe.

CAA description on how the land can undulate and can be taken into account.

CAA description on how the land can undulate and can be taken into account.

With all this information, I can also use a 3D image of the Tor to be able to see where I can be and take all this in and have to hand, when I actually go and do the flight.

3D image taken from Google Earth as a reference.

3D image taken from Google Earth as a reference.

PhotoPills App

By entering your location for your shoot, it will show you when and where the sun will rise, as well as time of the golden our. But it does a lot more, if you want to be creative with your shots, you can see where the sun will just sit just on top of a ridge or at some other point of interest, it opens up your creativity as the drone allows you to move 360 degree around a scene.

Since the Tor is on a hill, I can angle the drone to have the tor in the image with the sun behind it. If the conditions are good, it might give other images to create from this point.

Here's a link to their website where you can download the Android or iso version.

Link to PhotoPills

PhotoPills tell’s me the sun rises at 05:47, so I can work out my journey time to arrive in plenty of time to setup.

PhotoPills tell’s me the sun rises at 05:47, so I can work out my journey time to arrive in plenty of time to setup.

PhotoPills can also show me how long the golden hour will last for and direction the sun will travel from my point of interest.

PhotoPills can also show me how long the golden hour will last for and direction the sun will travel from my point of interest.

The DJI Mavic Pro 2 has some amazing features like f-stop from 2.8/11 and a shutter speed of 1-8th/ 8000sec as well as manual mode of the lens, and tripod mode. It would be great if DJI could build into the software bulb mode, as this could really make the drone a real camera experience. The software does have bracketing mode of 3/5 shots, allowing you to take different exposures that then can me blended together in editing. This will give you a normal exposure, over exposure and under exposure. It allows you to pick up elements you bring together to make a powerful image and give it the pop effect. You can create HDR images, which is known as baking, but can look over saturate and you can see lines on top of edges that can make for a bad image, but third-party software’s has got better and makes the images look more natural, but editing is another story. 

 

ND Filters.

The use of ND filters is great, but they will darken the whole image, which at times you need. But using ND/PL (polarizing) can really useful, as the glass is a gradient from dark to clear. So you can darken the lighter area that would normally be over expose like the sunlight and clouds and keep the ground looking as normal exposure. 

PolarPro ND filters, have designed an app, for video and photography. It’ very simple to use with setting your frames per second, then putting in the current shutter speed which will then tell you the best ND/PL to use for those settings.

The app is available in Android and IOS

Camera ISO

One thing that you need to keep as low as possible or maintained always is the iso at 100 if you can. You may have wondered what does iso actually stand for; well it's the International Organization of Standardization, which is the main governing body that standardizes sensitivity ratings for camera sensors. But the higher the iso the grainier the image will become. Some professional cameras are good at handling higher iso; my Sony A99II is good up to 1600 before the graining becomes more apparent. But in post editing this can be correct to a degree.

Ever Changing Light

The thing with sunrises or sunsets, the light changes and it’s been mindful of this and you will have to adjust your camera settings every 10/15 minutes.

As the golden time is 60 minutes, you can bring your drone back, change the ND/PL from 4ND/PL to 8ND/PL or 16ND/PL and launch the drone again and again.

Final words.

This is just one way of researching and working to do a sunrise image, and may seem a lot of planning, but photographers work in a very similar way, but are not governed by regulations like drone pilots. It’s all a preparation and planning that can save you time and effort. Check all your gear is prepped like batteries and controller is charged, latest firmware update, all the leads you might need, phone tablet updated and charged and then double check and the last thing you want is to drive for hours and then find you’ve left the most simple of things like your SD card!

Update - Drone Photography

Into today’s world, technology moves so fast that by the time you’ve got use to your new piece of tech kit, something else has come along to replace it as soon as.

When I got my first DJI drone, the Mavic Air, which has a F2.8 aperture giving 12MP RAW and JPWG images, and 4K video with 30-120 FPS. I thought it was great. 

DJI Mavic Pro2

DJI Mavic Pro2

But within two months DJI brought out the DJI Mavic Pro 2, with its 1” Hasselblad gimbal camera giving 20MB RAW and JPEG images with an f-stop from F2.8/F11 and 4K video with 30-120 FPS.

The drone is larger and does make a difference in being able to see in the sky, but apart from the battery use time, which is around 30 minutes and longer than the Mavic Air, its the camera for me that makes all the difference and why I invested in the Mavic Pro 2.

The Gimbal Camera

When you look at the image of the Mavic Pro 2, the camera looks small and uninspiring, but it actually has all the features of an SLR camera.

  • White Balance

  • ISO100-12800

  • Shutter speed 8-1/8000s

  • Single shot

  • Burst shot 3/5 frames

  • Auto exposure bracketing (AEB) 3/5 bracketed frames t 0.7EV Bias

Screenshot live feed and camera controls

Screenshot live feed and camera controls

It’s unbelievable that such a small camera is packed with all these features, yet the control is done by the app on a phone or tablet connected to the drone controller and works wirelessly. You can do some clever shots like stitching images together, HDR, long exposure, bracketing, just to name a few. It’s like having a real camera in your hands, but being able to photograph from up to 400ft high off the ground and choosing your composition from 360 degree angle, the camera sits on 3-axis gimbal and allows you to move up and down, but now also left to right. DJI believe the drone can work in a stable position in winds up to 22mph.

As a photographer, the drone gives you new possibilities on how you photograph the landscape, but also structures by being able to be above and pointing the camera directly down on the subject. Also it allows you to access places which you can’t reach be foot or by chair. The camera comes with a 10-BIT Dlog-M Colour Profile that gives amazing colour to your images right out of the drone, the images are sharp and crisp, giving 20MB RAW or JPEG and gives you a whole lot of image to work with when it comes to post editing, but the image quality is really good out of the camera. It even comes with histogram and over exposure warnings.

4K Video

The DJI Mavic Pro 2 comes with a number of features like ‘tripod mode’ that makes your drone move more slowly, giving that smooth and more accurate movement, great if you flooring a person. Also Hyperlaps video, something that in the passed you needed special equipment and a large camera being able to process so many images taken within a space of time. Now you can be above your subject and have incredible steady footage. The 4K video is smooth and with the use ND filters, you can make professional looking footage that only the most expensive of equipment has been able to do in the past.

This small but powerful drone, gives new life to photography and videography and is a great addition to your kit, which is compact easy to setup within minutes.

Test Flight

I’ve always worked in manual mode, so I set the f-stop to f5.6, ISO 100 and 24fps. The first thing I noticed was how much faster this drone flies, you can get up to a speed of 20mph, which is quicker than the Mavic Air and allows you to get to your point of interest in a shorter time and saves of the battery, so you have more time to film or photograph your subject.

When you take your thumb off the joystick, it comes to a halt really quickly. Being able to see your drone at all times, is part of the regulations and in this test I went out about 800ft, and I have to say I had no problem looking at the drone, then looking at my screen, then back to the drone. This was half the maximum distance, and I'm sure if I gone the max, I would still be able to see the drone clearly.

With the Mavic Pro 2, you have the ability to move the camera up and down, but also left and right by touching the screen on the device app with your finger. You can move the position at max but you can see the front leg of the drone, which is a shame it doesn’t stop before that, but you can edit this out or just be more responsive to correct the camera away from the leg.

The controller comes with buttons which you can customise, but one allows the camera to look directly 90 degrees downwards, clicking again returns it back to its original position, this is really useful and a time saver as the camera moves slowly so not to seem jittery in footage.

Things like I’ve mentioned, saves a lot of time in trying to do it yourself, this means more time in the air and not wasting valuable battery time.

Final Thoughts

Yes the drone is over £1,000, but DJI is at the forefront of hobby and professional drones. They pack so many great features that it literally can fly itself if programmed to. Its safety features means you're not going to crash very easily. It’s been widely reported that it doesn’t use the full 1” sensor but it still is an amazing camera and great quality of images and video. 

You can always if you want to find fault with things, but for the most part, I love this drone and I know its going to add to my workflow and allow me to create interesting images and video that I couldn’t do with my DSLR without having special equipment, but I'm not going to get the great views from ground as I can from the sky with some of my photography. I don't see myself making movies that involve people, as I got this purely for landscape photography. There are limitations as you I can’t use it within a city and unless it's an open area. Rules and regulations are tight and may get tighter, but I'm sure that they wont effect the kind of use that I have in mind for the drone. 

I’ve posted a number of videos on my website already, which was done with the Mavic Air, and to me they look amazing and this new drone is just going to add more time in the air, a real camera control and a bunch of advance features that I'm sure in time will get to use at some point.

Group Working Together - The Dream Team

Being a photographer at times, can be a lonely path if you're trying to do everything yourself. In the early and middle stages of trying to become established, can be a make or brake situation. Being able to work on a shoestring, can be hard to get the right look for clients, its like using a mobile phone to shoot a wedding, at the moment, you can’t get the quality into images of light and shadows in my opinion, some would say it is possible with the new phones, which can produce RAW images, but the file size is what allows you to get the very best from an image in post editing, which is maybe why most semi or professional cameras now offer 42MB’s per an image, have large ISO that doesn’t show pixelated images so badly, which means if your working indoors, you can use the natural light coming in through widows. Lighting is an important factor in the studio and not so much outside, but gives great effect to images.

All of this can be expensive initial outlay, not including lenses, triggers and reflectors, to mention a few things. But you need to build that portfolio and get it out there to be seen by potential clients and most importantly, learn your trade and fine tune your USP style. if you have all the kit, you need a subject, a location, and unless your looking to pay for both of these, you need to look at alternatives that can work for you and others, via collaboration with models, MUA’s, hairstylist and photographers.

The Dream Team

I think the story goes, that a few photographers got together and looked at how best to get people together and work on a project, that everyone benefits from. Today the group has nearly 90 members, made up of photographers at all levels, models new and some just been doing it for shot time, MUA’s that maybe just qualified, hairstyles building on their talents, all looking to get better and build that all important portfolio. 

As a group, your sharing ideas, knowledge, learning, building friendships, and as a group you support each other and always act professionally in every situation. Everyone is giving their time with the ultimate goal to make stunning images and as a group share them with each other.

I joined the group earlier this year, I’ve been to two events, which one was a stately mansion house, and recently the Wells Cathedral Bishops Palace. There's been a lot more events, but for health reasons I’ve not been able to attend.

It takes a lot of planning, and most of the group get together for a face to face meeting once a month to look at ideas, work out what the theme is going to be, sort out the schedule, all the kind of things that a big shoot needs to have covered.

Model: Erika Milankavo MUA: Leilani-Chyna Thomas

Model: Erika Milankavo MUA: Leilani-Chyna Thomas

When it comes to the photographing in a place thats new, we all scout out the place to make our own decisions on where we want to photograph the models when they arrive. Everyone looks after each other, so we make sure that all the photographers get to work with all the models and mindful not to take all the time up with just one model, everything works in sync and calmly.


Model: Meggy Stiby MUA: Bonita Osborne

Model: Meggy Stiby MUA: Bonita Osborne

The group gets new people all the time and for some models, this could be their first real shoot, and the same can be said of photographers and MUA’s, and it can be overwhelming, but everyone makes each other feel comfortable and makes the new ones feel like they’ve done it before as theres never any awkward moments, this is because we all work to the code of being professional at all times.

When the day comes to and end, we go out separate ways, an then wait for the photographers to post their images. When everyone has had a chance to look at the images, its nice to get feedback and if someone feels you could do something to improve upon what you’ve posted, then its taken onboard. Critique is something a photographer needs to be able to take and process, but you're not forced to make changes, but it's good to see anothers perspective on an image.

Model: Jessica Stiby MUA: Bonita Osborne

Model: Jessica Stiby MUA: Bonita Osborne

Having a group like this, is great, because it brings all sides of photography together who have the best qualities of being able to work together in a professional way. There are times when views or opinions are not shared by all, but as a group it's not about pushing things to one side without listening and seeing if there is a compromise that can be got.

Model: Keith Bristow

Model: Keith Bristow

The Dream Team is like a real production company, the difference is that non of us get paid, but the group is getting recognise for its work. I believe an online magazine has shown interest in doing a page per a month with the teams work, plus doing a bio once a month on a member of the team, also to be added to the magazine. It’s only by the hard work thats done by all that the group has got to this stage, and it speaks volumes on the work thats created by them for them.

My Bucket List For 2019

I guess we all at some point in our life, for whatever reason, think about things we want to do and I think I’ve got to that point with my photography.

Part of the team.

I’ve been on Facebook since it ever started. I’ve used it to make friends that have the same kind of interest as me, but when you change what your doing thats part of a wider group, you feel sort of on the outside, and so friends you’ve made, you start to loose contact with. When I was target shooting, I had thousands of so-called friends, because they were doing the same as me, but most I didn’t really communicate with. Then when you change to another area of interest, you make new friends, and so the process starts again.

Becoming a photographer and doing portrait work and collaborating with people, doesn’t just allow you to make new friends, but you get invited to join groups, which they are involved with, which can lead to you making new contacts and friends. This can be models, hair stylist, makeup artist and photographers. 

I have five groups on Facebook that I'm part of.

Bristol Models Group

This is a great group, which is all about the above about working together with others, and a way to do collaborations with people within the group. We all might not be paying each other for their time and work, but I’ve seen so many get in to one area or another and get recognised in magazines, or competitions etc. and they end up doing really well and move towards if they want to doing it as a full-time business. 

Bristol Photographers Group.

This is a group of local photographers at all different levels, that share their images, which can range from Street, Landscape, Portrait and almost anything else and others will tell you if they like your work or you can ask for advice about anything to do with photography and get an answer. The thing is with a group like this, that some have had no sort of training in photography, but have an amazing eye for detail and thought into their work, that they should be doing it as a business in my view. But photography as many will agree is hard to setup as a business, and hard to find clients that want to pay for your skills as a photographer, it takes a lot of work and investment above what you’ve paid for your camera equipment.

South West Street Group.

This group I helped setup with a fellow photographer and good friend. We saw that there were plenty of street photography groups, but none covering a certain area. So we set this up to cover the SouthWest of the UK. It’s only been going since June 2018, and has over 40 members, but theses guys are supper talented, and is a great place to show off their work in a place thats related to where they live, instead of being more over open to the whole world and maybe get lost in the shear numbers. I have to admit, that I’ve not contributed much myself to the group because of personal situations, but happy to help others to show their work.

Drone Flyers UK Group.

This group I only recently joined since getting a drone myself. It's a great group with over 7,000 members, which speaks for itself how well run the group is. But you can post images and video that you’ve done yourself, and get information on everything about drones and importantly the regulations that we have to adhere to. It can get heated at times, as some post shows the misuse of drones, but then thats what makes it a good group to be part of, so you know what not to do. If your looking to upgrade your gear, then just like the other groups, you will get real positive advice and real views on whats good and not good.

The Dream Team.

This is really special group, as it involves models, MUA’s, hairstylist and photographers. As a group we come up with a theme and find a location and all turn up to do a location shoot. It involves people from all levels and we help each other come up with work that we then showcase to the world. I’ve made some great friends and its great if you are on a budget to do a location shoot that you couldn’t do by yourself. We get to some amazing locations in the UK, and s I'm writing this, on Sunday we are going to the Bishop’s Palace at Wells Cathedral in Somerset. If you were trying to do this alone, it would cost a fortune, but as a group, we get discount on using places like this. 

Being part of theses groups, builds up my work within my photography when I don't have anything set myself. It’s easy to loose your mojo when you run out of ideas, but being in groups like this give you ideas of projects you might end up doing yourself. 

Bucket List for 2019

Wales

I want to explore new places and some places that I’ve been to before, but not just with my camera but with the drone. I’ve mention this before, that a drone is a great addition to my equipment. 

I want to cover more of Wales as its not far for me to drive to, and has some amazing places that I want to explore. Through one of the groups, I was told about a place called Hay Bluff near Llanigon, Wales. It looks an exciting place and I’ve already made enquires about the place.

Lake District

It would be nice for me and my partner to take the dogs with us for a long weekend up into the Lake District, then she can go on walks with the dogs and I can stop and photograph places that are of interest to me. I’ve photographed some lakes and reservoirs in Wales and would like to do them in the Lake District.

More Studio Work

I have ideas and need to come up with new ideas to do more studio work at home. I’ve spent time building up my gear, and portraiture is my main work, and I love the creative feel to working with lighting and the people that I have sit for me. Each give a different idea of how to bring the portrait to life. 

Street Photography

I need to get out and into the streets and practice what I preach. Street photography is one of things that I did a lot of when I first started doing photography, but health, weather and life in general has put me off getting out and about. One place I want to go back to is Templemeads Railway Station, as I spent time getting info on who to contact to allow me to do this, as you cant just turn up and shoot as its classed as private property. Photographing people that have two things on their mind for most part, is getting to work on time and getting home on time. Between the two are the moments they spend standing or sitting looking at the schedule aboard to see if their train is on time or not.

The long term view

It would be great to get some of my best work printed up and maybe hold a small exhibition of my work, I know many have done this in the pass and has lead to other things, so its something I'm going to consider for the future and if next year feels right, then I will go ahead.

The Mystery Of Landscape

I have a set way of using technology to find places that might be mysterious. It starts with looking at Google Earth. The app shows so much detail, that you can see from above and look at the landscape at any angle. I’m lucky living in the South West of the UK and just across the bridge, I’m in Wales. The Brecon Beacons is just two hours away, and even if the weather forecast says it going to be clear or fine, it’s environment changes within a couple of hours.

Sunrises are a great start to the day, but in October, the sun doesn’t rise until 7am, but taking into account travelling time and getting up, still means I’ve have to rise and shine at 3:30am. 

I find that theres an air of excitement of the not knowing what to expect, as I drive in the dark and head across the Second Severn Bridge, which lights up like a ferris wheel, you feel that you’ve entered another country. Wales has beautiful countryside, mountains, and local communities that if you're a traveller, the people are warm and welcoming and eager to help. Local knowledge, is golden  and has helped me on many a time to find interesting areas to go and photograph or a way to get to the place.

The Martians Landscape

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Just outside a little village called Nant Trefil, lays an old quarry thats been closed down for a number of years. But it's been used for filming of television programs like Dr Who and blockbuster films. It’s a long gravel road that runs for about 3 miles and full of potholes, so you cant drive more than 15 mph, but once you enter the quarry, it all becomes eerie with high black cliffs and green coloured ponds.

I only knew about this place from a local man, who cycles nearly everyday up to the quarry, to sit at the top and look down the valley. He told me he did a bit of photography himself and often goes up to photograph the sunset that I’m sure is amazing. Sadly the road has a gate and is closed at sunset and if your driving like me, you can end spending the night looked in. 

I’ve only covered a small part of the quarry and know that I know how to get up to some the more interesting points, from this local knowledge, I intend to go back.

The Unknown Objects

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Even though this was at onetime a working quarry, for visitors like, there are things that baffle me to what objects, which are huge and manmade where used for. This concrete object stands out at the top the quarry and looks alien like, which is why I can understand that programs like Dr Who was filmed here.

Changing of the weather

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It’s this excitement of the not knowing, what the weather is going to be like when you get there, how moody the landscape can become. You can set up your camera, and watch the fog close in and down the valley and up the mountains, then suddenly there will be a break in the clouds and then the landscape comes alive with colour.

The Brecon’s is an ever changing place, when it comes to the weather. One minute you can see, then next you can’t. To get a good image take time and patients, you can take a load of images and then think to call it a day and as you pack up, the scene comes alive even more, and so you set up again and carry.  This is how I got this image after sitting for over an hour at the top of the quarry, looking down into the valley, it's a moment that makes all the waiting worthwhile to get an image like this.

Ariel Drone Photography

Not sure if the term Ariel Drone Photography is a thing or not. Good drones that don’t go up in the air and fly away for ever, have so much scope to photography in where they can go, how high they can go, and what angles they can achieve.

As I’ve mentioned in pass posts, that I use Google Earth to search out areas that I can spend the day travelling around to. But what Google Earth gives, is an image taken at some point that can only give you a glimpse of what could be. This all depends on what time of year, what season, and even how the weather has acted during the year before you visit the place.

Pontsticill Reservoir - The Brecon Beacon’s, Wales, UK

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There are two points of interest on the Pontsticill Reservoir, each giving a different perspective, but for me one is more accessible than the other, as the one is used by canoes and other boating activities. But the other point where this image was taken, has a high wall, that makes it impossible for me to see over from being sat in my chair, but has more of an interest point to the reservoir. This is where the use of a drone allows me to see over the wall and gives me a better perspective of whats possible.

When I looked at the Google Earth, I could see the water funnel and small tower at the end of the walkway that runs across. I’m guessing that the funnel is connected to the water pump house thats on the other side of the road, but not sure if its still in use. Since my visit was at the end of one of the hottest summers on record, the water level is low, and so the funnel lays bare as well as the cobbled stone work that surrounds the funnel.

I’ve seen many images of the funnel and its tower taken from the wall of the reservoir, but only one from above, taken by Photographer Matt Thomas, who also uses a drone in his photography, but he got lucky with the water level high and so gets a totally different image.

Drones have a time scale of how long they can stay in the air, as some its only 20/25 minutes per a battery like with the current DJI Mavic Air that I have, but the latest DJI drone has a time scale of 30 minutes. It’s a bit like working with the golden hour of a sunset or sunrise, you have to look and and see what you can make of an image within that time scale, with some of the best taken right at the last minute.

The great thing about a drone is that they use a 3-axis gimbal, which means your image you capture is not going to have any camera shake, even with a gust of wind. And they can be manoeuvre with such precision, that it allows you to move with small movements, but also turn around to different angles, not something you can easily do with a normal camera.

This image was more about lining up over the top of the funnel to capture the lines. It’s not till I got to post edited it, that I saw what lines and curves the whole image has, and it reminds me of an owls eye, as their large and have this kind of strong brow above the eye. Yes I did a bit of cropping to the image, but thats about it. But the main thing is I couldn’t got this image any other way than with a drone. Without it, you would have to have some sort of scaffolding above the funnel to get the shot, how expensive would have that been. Drones are just another tool and in the photographers bag, that are small and only takes minutes to setup and get in the air, probably quicker that setting a camera up on a tripod. 

The drone is not a replacement, like some think the mobile phone camera could be. It just allows you to get above your subject and come up with exciting images, that you didn’t know you could achieve.

Drones are flying objects, and you need to know how to control a drone, which does take time and flight time to learn how to fly a drone safely. Sometimes because of interference, drones can become disconnected from your video feed or from the controller. This can be scary when it first happens to you, but if you’ve done your preflight checks, and you have a drone that uses GPS, then it should return back to you, and at some point it will reconnect to the controller and video feed.

The are laws and regulations that you must follow that are set out by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and governed by parliament. Today there are till those that flout the law, and post video of flights that break theses regulations. 

This is sadly doing harm to the drone pilots that have spent a lot of money on drones and do follow the code. In 2019 new regulations will come into effect, but we don’t know how this will effect those that use drones for personal use. At the moment is advisable to follow the code, have public liability insurance and make sure you are not in a regulated airspace.

Drones are allowing new photographers and videographers to make amazing photos and videos, and its bringing new art to the world of photography, it would be a shame if drones are stamped out or made harder to have and enjoy. We can only hope that the consultation thats taken place over this year will be in favour of those that have skills and follow the regulations to carry on to doing their art in the world of photography and videography.

The Bristol Landscape

I've lived in Bristol for over 30yrs now, and its only through my photography that I've found the true beauty that the city holds. We live such busy lives at times, that we don't see what truly beautiful sites we have around us. 

The city has seen much change over the time that I've spent here, some for the good of the city, some which a few think has been a waste of money. Our park and commons, are a few of the places, which has survived and is cared for by the city. 


Frenchay Common.

Frenchay Common.

The common sits on the edge North East Bristol. The road that runs along the edge of the common, use to have Frenchay hospital on the other side, by the design of the old buildings, the hospital was originally a US hospital during 1942 that sits in the grounds of a Georgian Estate, which started life as a tuberculosis hospital (Frenchay Park Sanatorium) in 1921 and then was handed over to the Bristol Corporation in 1931. Before the hospital closed in 2014, it was one of the major brain injury hospitals in the UK that covered the South West. I myself had a number operations carried out at the hospital and it was great to get out of the ward and go to the cricket pitch that sat alongside the road with the common on the other side. The cricket pitch was often used for as a helipad for urgent medical care, and I would be amazed at these helicopters landing and taking off.

The common sits proudly in front of Frenchay Parish Church, also known as St John the Baptist, which in its graveyard holds the graves of servicemen of WWI and 6 of WWII. It has a beautiful cross with Chris at the side of the church and sits in the grounds with beautiful trees of different descriptions. 

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I've photographed the church a few times, but you have to arrive early in the morning to have the small carpark empty that sits by its side, and also has a school alongside it.

With the drone, your able to fully appreciate the common and church and its surrounding buildings. It obviously was a wealthy area to live in, by the design of the huge houses around the common, but it's a natural beauty of the place that has been kept, yet the hospital has now been taken away and lays bare for new housing to sit on its site. 

Blaise Castle Estate.

Blaise Castle sits on the site of the Blaise Castle Estate which has its mansion house sat at the end of the estate. The folly castle is grade II listed, and the word 'folly' transcends to the range of garden ornaments usually associated with the class of buildings to which it belongs, so it shows it was an extravagant addition to the estate that sits high on a hill of the grounds, which looks over the Bristol Channel with Wales in the distance. It has rich woodlands and a small lake in the valley, that attracts locals for walks and picnics and a great location for photography.

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I've only been able in the pass to photograph the house and woodland from a distance, and the gradient of the paths leading to the castle and woodland is too much for me in my chair.

Thankfully, the park estate allows flying of drones and small remote control plane, so I took up the opportunity to go one early morning before sunrise to capture the landscape, castle and woodland.

The Drone has not taken over my photography, even though I have done more with it than my camera of late, but it allows me to put a new view on theses places that has been photographed so many times, but not from above so much. You can make technology your friend instead of your enemy, and use it as part of your tool kit. Confidence in flying is something you have to learn first, before you take to the camera aspect of the drone. 

Drones are becoming a big part of technology and has so many uses, which are being used by the emergency services and search and rescue as one aspect, to budding film makers in combination with normal cameras with both producing 4K video. Photographer's like me, are seeing the potential of drones, but with so many in use, there is the worry of the skies being filled too much with them. Sadly drones have been used for criminal purposes and this has made authorities look at who and how drones are used. They can be dangerous in the wrong hands, as some try to fly straight out of the box without looking are the regulations that have been set out. This might lead to extra cost to fly drones or use them from a hobby point of view, rather than from a commercial use that cost to get on top of the cost the drones, which are not cheap for a descent one. But till then I will carry on using my drone and have a bucket list of places that I want to visit and photograph.

To see some images taken click Here.

To see videography taken click Here.

Through The Lens - Part 4

Street Photography.

 

Street photography was something I was doing when I first got my first camera. I would go along East Street, Bedminster, Bristol, UK, looking for interesting people and things to photograph, its fare to say back then I would just be clicking away at anyone or anything, without thought of why I was photographing. 

Street Photography comes in different formats for me. Obejects and places can look so different in the light or shadows that occur on the day, reflections can be stunning, but you have to look deeper into the surroundings to find something unique. Theses days, I can travel along a street without my camera out of its bag, and I just stop and and observe. To me this is a huge part of street photography in observing, you see a reflection and look deeper, you start to see other things that you only notice if you observe for a time in detail. Same can be said of an object, if you look pass it to see the shadows and where they fall, or the light reflecting, looking from below or above, can make the object seem more relevant.

When we talk about the observer in photography, normally we are talking about the person looking at the image we’ve taken, but in street photography, the photographer becomes the observer in the  first instance. Its whole new way of viewing, letting time stand still and focusing on whats around you in more detail.

Street photography and people, works in the same way by observing. We are all different and have unique things about us. We all for the most part dress differently, some in more outrageous ways than the norm. We don't just dress different, we style our face, hair, skin, we wear jewellery, which penetrates our skin, like war paint we have ink engraved with the paws of our skin, all of this to be different and not fit the mould of ordinary. 

When we are alone within the confines of the street, we are constantly thinking about things, holding objects in a certain way, etc. that makes our mannerisms independent of each other. From a photographers point of few, theses are all things that makes them watch people and see how they fit within the surrounds, that make for a good street image. 

Street photographers have to be able to see things before they happen, with the hope that the person they are following is going to so something extraordinary that will make a good street image. It takes time and patients and some days you can get nothing, while others you can get many good images. Different seasons of the year, also make images more interesting from one season to another.

When it comes to editing, a photographer has the choice like any other to make it colour or black and white. Some will say that in black and white, you can cut out all thats not of importance and captivate the viewer to the central character or object, I think this can be true as I look at images and see them in black and white in my mind, I find that a lot of my work is seen in versions in my mind before I take the image. It comes back to vision, vision of the subconscious part of my mind.

I love street photography, but find I have to be in the right frame of mind to go out and do it. Building oneself up, saves a wasted of a day and hours observing and coming away with nothing because I don't have the feel for the job, a bit like writers block but from a photographers point of view.

 

The Dollhouse In A Street.

The Dollhouse In A Street.

The Dollhouse Reflection.

This image is one of my favourite of Bedminster. I was in the right place, on the right day and time. Looking into the shop window, I saw the dollhouse, but then I looked pass and began to see the street behind me become part of the dollhouse. I move myself from one angle to another to see how the dollhouse fitted within the shopwindow reflection. 

It was a one off moment as the dollhouse has been removed from the shopwindow the next time I visited the street. I don't believe it would work in black and white as it needs the colour of the street and dollhouse to connect with each other. It was a moment, that can never be replicated and makes it for a one off, which gives it meaning now.

Through The Lens - Part 3

Learning

For those that get the idea, they want to learn about photography, do it because they want to make it better, or expand the idea into a business, something which people have a number of avenues to go down.

 

The Camera Club

It’s fare to say I don’t know much about camera clubs, and would be unjust to pass judgement, but they can be a good starting point, if you like the idea of meeting likeminded people and there is no critical side to learning photography. People are a good source to ask questions of, but you need to ask the same question of many to see if the answers are the same, if not then it can be confusing to which to point of view to go with. Photographers will admit they have strong points and weak ones, but some might not acknowledge this, as they been doing it a long time and believe they are right, that can be said of anyone, and not just belonging to a club. For the most part you need some sort of camera, and if your looking to get a camera, you can be pushed into a corner because many will use the same make and model, which doesn’t mean thats the best for you.

The Course.

You can go onto the web and find courses of all types from one day, a number of weeks to part-time and full-time degree courses. The one day or more courses normally only cover a certain aspect from beginner mode and teaches you the basics of a camera, which you would fine within the manual, but find it better being hands-on, but they may offer another course to move up on, which can be expensive way to learn. 

The college of University course, can be done as part-time or full-time depending on your circumstances. But theses courses can be set to news or sports photography, which is photojournalism and maybe what your looking for. Or a course in professional photography, that covers al types of photography and historical attributes that are part of the course. This will lead to learning the pass and and now of photography and give you the openness for you decide where you want your photography to go in the end.

It is structured, but you don't need to have your own camera for the most part as these types of course have full equipment to use and borrow. This is great as it gives you the opportunity to try gear you might not thought of, as well as learning old school large format, medium format, 35mm film and digital and medium format digital. The course will cover location as well as studio based and photo editing.

Ive spoken more about this, because this was the way in with my photography and how I learned and eventually adapted to what I do now.

My Time At Uni

The course I chose was based in my home city and was part-time, which suited my needs. The course was done at a local college but was part of Plymouth University but done at college level. This was great because those that know the difference between college and Uni, know that for Uni you are left to your own devices, where as college has more support, which for me having slight dyslexia did help when it came doing a research paper, otherwise I would failed that part.

 

Being wheelchair bound did bring up some challenges for the course, college and me, but we worked together to make the ability to do things possible. 

 

The course was great for me, even though at times I felt I loss my way, but exploring the different avenues of photography, gave me vision, ability, focus. I came a way, not just knowing the ability of my camera and other equipment thats now part of my gear, but the future of where I wanted to take my photography. It open my eyes wider than the lens, towards the end I knew why I saw things in a detail that made an image to me. It gave me the tools, experience of those tools, to know where I was going at the end of the course, without, I would of been lost and probably had given up the idea of a photographer.

 

The idea of having a degree, for someone that didn’t do well at school all those years ago, does make you feel good, and to pass with a merit, meant I had done better than good, and something that I'm extremely proud of. I did have low points because of my health, but the support of the college and the mainly the tutors and staff, helped me to keep the focus and pushed me to learn more than what was called for in just a pass. I'm very grateful to them. In my home, my degree certificate sits proudly framed next to one of my portraits, which was part of my final pieces of work for the end of the course. It reminds me why do what do, and gives me strength when health pushes back.

My Degree Certificate.

My Degree Certificate.

Through The Lens - Part 2

Remembering The First Few Months

When you go out to get an SLR or DSLR, you have some knowledge of what theses cameras are about. For many, start out with a lens kit, its a way the retailers can get you hooked up with a camera body and lens to start out with. 

I had done a lot of research by reading forums, reviews and watching YouTube videos. When you look at whats out there, certain names comes to the forefront like Canon and Nikon. But at the time I had read about Sony mirrorless camera and sort of grabbed my attention, it was an all new design, and today Sony Mirrorless cameras are only just been replicated by the likes Nikon and Canon, as they see the advantages.

So my first real camera was the Sony A65 with a 18-55mm lens, this was my starting point in my photography. If I was truthful, I had no idea what to photograph, but I found that looking through the lens I could see the world differently. My first outing was down to the docks in the city centre of Bristol, and I would go along the waterside and photograph wide across the river, the dockside cranes, the boats, all the usual kind of stuff. But I read about the different modes like aperture, shutter, auto modes and for most would say stick with aperture mode, which I did for sometime. Aperture is great for during the day, but as you get into the evening the shutter speed at f8 and above gave a slower shutter speed so my images became blurred and just looked awful.

Then I looked at the manual mode, the option that allows to change all the setting to help bring out the image you were looking for. 

The first few months was about learning about the camera, and as I learned the images became more normal to a degree, but they were still not perfect. But the more I looked through the viewfinder the world became almost microscopic in detail, I began to see light and shadows, colour and detail, angles that made things become objects of interest. Then I began to see people, their faces with lines and age, colour and texture of cloths, hair that whispered in the wind, everything was becoming magnified in my vision.

Showing images I had taken, to the world of social media, is a big thing that can make or break you. Having people you don't know say something negative about your image that you are so proud of, and saying you’ve made mistakes in the way you’ve taken it, or how you’ve edited can be crushing, as there is always someone that knows better, because of experience, but if its done in a positive way that makes you look at what their saying, can make you want to do better next time.

One of HDR images, I need to go back there are re-photograph this place.

One of HDR images, I need to go back there are re-photograph this place.

When I got my camera, HDR was the new in thing, and software was available to explore doing HDR images. At the time I thought HDR was cool looking, but when I look back and see how over baked my images were, it almost feels embarrassing to look at.

I guess at that point, I had lost my way to what I was initially seeing that was paramount to making good photos. People on social media that I had grown to know became social media friends, they were just names with avatars, where polite about my photos and encouraging, but I didn’t really know them, I saw their work and was inspired by many of them.

It hadn’t been a year yet since I had my camera, but one day I guess I woke-up and thought if I was to carry on taking photos, I needed to learn properly what I was doing and what possibilities were out there for me to get better and where I could take my photography. So I embarked on a FDA course in photography that would give a degree at the end of it, and hopefully make me a better photographer and use that vision that I first saw through the lens to make me better and  images that others would love to view.

Through The Lens - Part 1

Photography in the manual side of things is having a camera, with a lens attached, choosing some settings that suits your need of what you see through the viewfinder and pressing a button, then you have a copy of what you saw through the viewfinder. It’s as simple as that with the manual side  of the machine thats made up of things made by man and constructed together to make the device we call a camera, but how did someone work out that all theses things would make something that millions would use to capture a moment for themselves, or as part of their business and become established for there images? ‘Vision’.

Over centuries, people have had the vision to see pass the paintbrush, to figure out with many obstacles how to capture a scene and put it onto glass and then, to paper, to film and to digitally make an image thats based on 0’s and 1’s, which is the bases of computers that we know to today. All have had a vision of photography as the end product to make images. 

The image, is not defined by anything, its not singular, its not based around any form and can even reach outside our own planet, solar system and near into space itself. But it’s the vision of each of us on how we see things, its an individual thing based on how we think about something that makes sense to us firstly, which we then try to then get others to see same way we do. For the most part, the viewer sees lines, textures, colours, shadow and light, motion, things that they relate to, but its a snippet of the original scene that the photographer has controlled within the space that is limit by the lens and camera used in the first instance.

The thing is today, everyone can take a photo, and to them its a good image, if not then they can hit delete and retake, but the retake has to be better than what has just passed and deleted, and is the vision of what they see that has to be better. Vision is everything in an image.

The Selfie.

The word selfie hasn’t actually been around that long, it was first recorded back in 2001 when a group of Australians created a website and uploaded the first digital self portrait onto the internet, and then on the 13th of September 2002, the first recorded published use of the term “selfie” to describe a self portrait photograph occurred on the Australian Internet forum (ABC Online). The word selfie was crowned Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year in 2013. 

 

This word, this idea of the image, has allowed companies to form or utilise the word and idea of the selfie, to have smartphones to have forward facing cameras to take selfies, social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn just to name a few. The selfie is probably the most taken image around the whole world, and there are those that have made their fortune by selling the idea of how best to take a selfie, and actually uploading the selfies numerous amounts of times per a day, that makes them extremely influential in the social media platform. Some have even had exhibitions laid on to show off their work.

Some in the world of photography, would not call this photography, but then when photography first began there were those that thought photography had no place in the world of art or exhibitions around the world.

In less than 20yrs, there has been this explosion of images in the billions or more that has taken the world by storm in photography, and is seen as part of photography that is excepted as photography to many, yet the vision is of oneself or with a small group of other people expanded by the selfie stick, because of the maximum distance one can hold the device away from themselves to capture the image. Some have taken to push the boundaries of the selfie by way of a mirror, as bizarre as it may seem for one to photograph themselves taking a selfie, the new dawn of the selfie it may be.

The selfie is a moment in ones life, which can be spontaneous or critically made with thought of the background as way to show “I was here” moment. A snapshot that put together with hundreds if not thousands, tells the story of ones life, day by day, hour by hour. A celebration for that person that documents in a way that photography was really never thought of to be used in this way.

The popularity of the selfie is not for everyone, as the younger generation are the ones from 2001 have grown up with the introduction of the self portrait image.

As I look back at my own history of images, it was my parents or other family members that had taken images of me as I grew up, with less and less as I got older, maybe because my parents were not into photography in such a big way unlike other people I know, which are of the same age as me. It seems a bit hit and miss to how much of your childhood is captured by others. I have just a couple of images of me as a baby, yet today I see my children taking photos of their children at least once a day if not more. There seems to be an importance to photograph our family and the moments that document their lives that they can look back on, in such fine detail, which can be of the morning, afternoon and evening of each day, from the day they were born. To me this is fascinating because its a form of photography that has no care about the how, where, light, shadow, depth of field, composition to the image, just that its taken in that moment to document a life as it grows and grows, to only look back on as a vision of that moment. Being the vision of oneself or as a member of something like a family or group.

Landscape with the use of a drone.

My photography isn’t that straight forward and people know me understand, but see that it doesn’t hold me back. I’ve been in a wheelchair since 1995, but I’ve never seen myself as one that won’t push the abilities of being in a chair, and my photography has also been about pushing the abilities.

Landscape with a camera.

Living in the UK, we have some amazing landscapes, from right on the doorstep of Somerset, the beauty of the Cotswolds, and the breath taking views of the Brecon’s and Snowdonia, which are all within a days drive from Bristol.

But I can only capture scenes from afar, flat ground or the roadside. Even though most of my landscape is taking from these positions, I try to make them as original as possible. What I mean by that, is the viewer wouldn’t know where they were taken from.

But I’ve always seen places, photographs by others that have climb hills, mountains or places that from a chair are just out reach, this is frustrating, to say the least. 

Chew Magna Lake.

The lake or reservoir is a beautiful spot just outside my city of Bristol, about 20 minutes or there about’s. it use for sailing, fishing and has many different types of wildfowl. One spot along the side of the lake has a wonderful tea rooms and climbing centre for the kids, that pulls people from the city to the lake for a cream tea. 

At the other end of the lake is a roadside lay-by that many bird watchers park up to get out the binoculars out or the long lens cameras to watch and photograph the wildfowl. On sunrise, the sun rises across the lake and I’ve photographed it many times with the mist just sitting on the water from this very spot.

Getting a Drone.

The last couple of years, I’ve seen more and more people taking images or film with the use of a drone. After doing lots of research, looking at images captured with a drone as well as film, I can see the potential for my own photography to take me to new heights without having to climb myself.

The price is something I did consider as some of the top end drones are into the thousands, but there has been a new bread of affordable drones for under a thousand pounds that have the capacity to capture quality images and 4K video. 

One of the top drone manufactures, DJI has tried to reach not just the professionals, but those’s that do it as hobby or for photographers to get into drone photography at a reasonable price. Some may say a thousand pounds is still a lot, and yes it is, but what you get is good and safe quality drones that are easy to learn to fly and can be used for those moments when a normal camera, just quite get there. Of course for me landscape is a love, where my portraiture work is my main work in the studio.

DJI builds in sensors that can detect obstacles and go round them, GPS for spot on navigation, wifi controllers, Sony sensor cameras as well as Hasselblad lenses, batteries with over 20 minutes of fly time, and app that runs and controls the drones with features that let you know how much battery you have left and the ability to bring your drone back to where you took off and land within a foot of that original place of flight. To me this is amazing with powerful and quality features that are packed into these small drones that you can stick in a backpack and take up very little space.

The Law.

Over the years with drones becoming affordable and sometimes really cheap and what many would call useless, and many people using drones in a dangerous way, has lead to laws on the use of drones become what some would call extreme and punching out the hobby flyer. There has been well document cases of people flying drones near airports to film plains landing and causing very close calls of damage to aircraft that could lead to plain crashes. Flying drones extreme heights in places where airforce training takes place with close missy’s. drones that so cheap that they end up flying away and out of control into crowded areas, all these kind of events has meant a crack down on where and who can fly where.

Drones are in the main air space as any other aircraft, man or unmanned. So the National Air Traffic and Civil Aviation Authorities have had to right rules for the use of drones and come up with a license for commercial drone pilots that film, survey or photograph as part of a business, that requires training and licensing. This is not cheap with training starting at £500 - £1,000 and license £285 first year and £175 every year after. If your doing as a business then it’s worth the investment, but then your going to want the high-end drones to do the work. As a hobby, there are still strict guidelines and each flight has to be registered with the NAT, but if you stick to them, you can still have a lot fo fun and get some great images, even though 2019 might see some new laws brought in as more and more people get drones, means the sky’s are going to get fill even more.

I’m not a commercial drone pilot or do I need to be for what I do, which is for myself, but I’m happy to put the images up on my website to show what I can do.

A New Perspective.

There is a great difference from photographing from the ground to photographing from above, the is a view that neither one can replicate and makes them unique. Photographing the lake from above shows the reflections of the sky on the water, which is amazing and just couldn’t be shown from the a ground shot, so they both had there perspective of the same scene, but from different angles. This allows to make maybe 30m from the place my chair will only take me and above or maybe just a couple feet from the ground. This my reason for getting a drone and allows me to look towards film as a videographer, that I never thought of. Maybe one day if I have to, then I might look to become a commercial drone pilot, but at the moment my work doesn’t call for it, and by then there probably too many of them all fighting for a share of the market, who knows.

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From the side of lake.

This is an image I took back in 2015 from the same spot I took a still image from the drone.  It’s kind of ok, not my best work but gives a view that you can get from this one spot.

 

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Still Image from drone.

This is the same spot but has a much different perspective of the lake and land, which I feel has more to the image. Just been from a birds point of view, see the lake and land in a much more realistic view.

 

Chew Valley Lake Movie.

This is a six minute movie I made with the drone, and I just love the colours of the clouds reflecting off the water and you move from one point to another, you see the clouds stand still. I can see why people look to using a drone to capture a scene, either in an image or as a film, its quite breath taking to me, and gives me the ability to be somewhere I can’t get to any other way.

Early morning over Chew Valley Lake - taken with DJI Mavic Air