The Beauty of Birmingham - Solo Exhibition @ The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

Considering it’s been live for nearly two months, I thought it was about time I wrote about my first solo exhibition that’s on show at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. 

My mum and my lovely wife-to-be pointing at something or other...

Me + the BMAG team

I’ve lived in Birmingham permanently since 2012, and originally struggled to come to terms with living in such an overwhelming metropolis when ideally I wanted to be living up a hill somewhere in the Lake District. However, I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to make the best of a situation, so from the start of my residence I decided to make friends with the city using my camera.

Grand Union Canal in Acocks Green

Grand Union Canal in Acocks Green

I began by exploring the canals, the natural habit for someone who is drawn to the countryside. There I found a world of beauty; quiet, serene and seemingly completely detached from the buzz of the Stratford Road, or the busyness of the city centre.

Eventually all canal towpaths led to the city centre and I discovered that there was plenty of beauty that could be uncovered in an urban setting. I started to appreciate the intricacies of an evolving city, exploring how different lighting conditions could highlight various features of the juxtaposing architecture.

Two Libraries at Dusk. An image that would now be impossible to replicate.

This exhibition is the culmination of 4 years of work, with many failed mornings standing under grey skies. Occasionally the weather was on my side and the conditions conspired, and for any photographer, the skill is to know how to capture those conditions within a short time frame. Virtually all of these images show transient conditions, where the frames two minutes previous or afterwards are entirely changed by the lighting.

Sunset from the Staying Cool Apartments in the Rotunda.

The exhibition is partly a celebration of my work, partly a celebration of Birmingham, and finally it also celebrates the Museum’s 25th birthday. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never visited the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter prior to them approaching me regarding this project. In fact, I was so confused that I went to the wrong museum to attend our initial meeting (embarrassing)! The city should be so very proud of all of the museums and heritage sites that are open to members of the public, they are an insight to the great city of Birmingham that is constantly changing and reinventing itself. If my exhibition ensures that more people learn about the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and more importantly, visit the museum, that would make me exceedingly happy. These institutions are so very important, and the team who run them are unsung heroes, passionate about this marvellous city and it’s diverse history.

The Jewellery Quarter (at sunset) where you'll find the Museum (and therefore my exhibition).

It’s been an honour to be the first to exhibit in this space, and I look forward to enjoy many other exhibitions from other brilliant artists in Birmingham. I’d also like to thank the many organisations and photographers who have supported me and advertised the exhibition including Brumpic, Independent Birmingham, BrumHour, Ross Jukes, Tim Cornbill, Fraser McGee and the IgersBirmingham crew, Trevor Beattie, the Express & Star, BBC Midlands Today, and so many more who have shared, RT’d and turned up to the opening night. You’re all legends.

The exhibition is free to visit during the opening hours of the Museum (10:30am - 5pm Tuesday - Saturday) until the end of June.

12” x 8” unmounted prints are available from the Museum shop for £25 (£50 for special edition prints)

Other sizes of prints (unframed) are available here

All framed prints are available for purchase after the exhibition for £250 per framed print (20x28”) or £350 for the limited edition Cherry Blossom at the Ikon Gallery print. Please express your interest via e-mail - admin@veritymilliganphotography.com

The Bullring at Sunrise. 

On location with the SanDisk 200GB MicroSDXC Card

I’m not particularly good at traveling light, probably due the fact that I’m inherently over prepared in pretty much everything I do. When I travel, I pack all the kit I need and then some, included a myriad of storage. Of course, being prepared doesn’t necessarily mean I’m the most organised of photographers, quite the contrary, I’m prone to leaving items in the field, and have mourned the loss of several filters that I’ve either dropped or smashed (one time in my bedroom which was particularly galling). This extends to my SD cards, which invariably end up scattered across different camera bags, and when I return I can be found trawling through endless gigabytes of data. So, when the lovely folks at SanDisk offered me the opportunity to try their new, super large, yet very very small MicroSDXC Card, boasting a capacity of 200gb, I jumped at the chance. That’s a lot of storage right there. 

Happily coinciding with my photography excursion to Iceland, this presented the perfect scenario to put the card through it's paces. Although I was sceptical that it would be the only card to used through the trip, that turned out to be the case. Of course I was careful in terms of backing stuff up, and every shoot I transferred the files from the card to my back up drives. Then the card went straight back into my camera for the next shoot. No need to create space, or format, and I kept all the previous shots on the card in case either of my back up options failed. 

Skógafoss, Iceland.

Skógafoss, Iceland.

Shooting in RAW + JPEG with my 5D Mk III, I would have to capture over 5000 images before the card would reach capacity. Moreover the performance is incredibly fast and responsive, more so than some of my other SD cards, and a welcome respite from the slower wifi enabled SD card I’d been shooting on previously. It would would certainly be interesting to see how it would cope shooting video on a DSLR, however it's certainly one of the best SD cards I've used for still imagery.

Overall, I had a really solid experience with this 200GB SD beast. It enabled me to streamline my workflow, and ensure all my files were in one place. It’ll definitely be one of my go-to storage solutions for my next adventure. Check back soon for a post detailing my trip to Iceland with further images.

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik


Top 14 for '14

2014 has been a seminal year for me as a photographer, both professionally and personally. I can see the progression from the beginning to the end and I've had the help and support of some wonderful people in the industry. I wanted to share my top ten images of 2014, as well as give some thanks and praise to the people who have been there along the way.


"Relentless Optimism" - Bear Pits in Bristol, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/4. 1/50.

I've always been a photographer and a person who struggles to pick one discipline. At school I won prizes in arts and science, played sports and tried my hand at everything (except musical theatre, never musical theatre). Ostensibly, I'm a landscape photographer, but I love exploring all the different genres of photography, so this top 10 will be a mixed bag of images and disciplines. Basically, if I find it interesting, I'll shoot it. This shot was taken in the Bear Pits in Bristol on my birthday. I'm very fond of Bristol, especially it's culture, and I instantly fell in love with this piece of graffiti. As the old lady with her shopping bag turned the corner, I pushed down the shutter. 'Relentless Optimism' is one of my mantras, even though it can be sometimes hard to maintain.

"Sunrise over Selfridges" - Birmingham, England.
Canon 6D + 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/22. 1/25.

Couldn't really not include an image of Birmingham. I've done my own top list for Brum, but this one I held back for this blog. I get excited about foggy mornings, and this one was a favourite. The fog cleared quickly, making for a beautiful sunrise, and my favourite aspect of the 16-35mm, the sunstar, pretty much made the image for me. 

"Turquoise Light" - Clevedon, England. 
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/11. 1/200.

I've spent a lot of time down in Clevedon and Somerset in general. I've always found a decent sunset impossible to capture, mostly because the conditions have never been favourable. However, on this particular day, it wasn't the sunset that was the major event, it was the transient light several hours before. The colours in the sky complimented the colours on the pier, turquoise, with streams of light penetrating through the cloud. Probably one of my favourite images of the year.

"Light at the End of the Tunnel" - Monsal Trail, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/2. 1/50.

The Peak District is a favourite place of mine, and two of my favourite people live near it. I love visiting them just because being near such good energy is inspiring. 2014 has taught me again and again that people matter, much more than praise or success. We went on a winter walk through the tunnels of the Monsal Trail which afforded the opportunity for some dynamic monochrome silhouettes. Looking back I hadn't realised how much I appreciated the Fujifilm 18mm f/2 lens. It's fast and it works really well in situations such as this.

"In Rolls the Weather" - Crummock Water, Lake District, England.
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/11. 1/400.

I visited the Lakes several times over the year (and intend to return for my birthday weekend in January). During the first trip, we stayed in Buttermere so I had easy access to both Buttermere and Crummock in the early morning. Neither sunrise was particularly note-worthy, but the light that came afterwards made up for the disappointment. The cloud rolled over the fells above Crummock Water, and the diffused light illuminated the slopes. I'm a big fan of telephoto lenses for landscapes. Wides have their place, but looking closer has it's benefits. 

"Cat in the Afternoon" - Cognac, France
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/5. 1/450

Probably my favourite photo of the entire year. One of those moments where the three photos before and the three photos after fail to have the same impact (it's all about the timing). The cat arching into the sunlight at that moment made it work. It's a quintessential continental image, the kind I want to put on my living room wall, and reminds me of a happy afternoon on a warm summer's day. 

"Generations" - Cognac, France. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

"Generations" - Cognac, France.
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

Another example of France being a haven for interesting scenes. I went back for this shot after wondering if I should or not. That's something I really struggle with; street photography in general, but I find people wonderfully interesting. I initially noticed the old man sat on the bench, looking thoroughly French, and when I returned, his quiet solitude was amplified by the family to the left. Generations, close together put completely alone. 

"Lansdale Light" - Cumbria, England
Canon 5D MK III + 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ f16. 1/50

Taken at the end of a wet weekend in the Lakes with good friends. On the final morning, my buddy Rich and I returned to Blea Tarn for the sunrise, finally the light prevailed. We drove on to the Langdale valley, chasing the weather and the light that appeared on the winding road that descends down the scene was worth all the rain. My favourite part of this image is the hint of a rainbow on the left hand side, it's virtually imperceptible, but like the best things, if you look hard enough... When the rainbow took form, I literally jumped up and down with excitement. These are the moments, amazing to witness, whether I capture it or not, that define me.

"Purple Haze" - Exmoor, Devon, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/10. 20 Seconds.

September is a lovely time to visit the moors, and I spent time of both Exmoor and Dartmoor. The late summer sun remained throughout the week, a treat after the dampness of the Lakes. On Exmoor, the heather was just about to go over and presented some final opportunities to capture it's colourful beauty at sunrise. Looking torwards Porlock, this was a 20 second exposure on a morning filled with transient light. Of course, the universe remained in balance as I left my shutter release cable on the moor, forever lost. 

"Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

"Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

November, mid semester, the most bonkers for someone teaching in higher education like me. We took a weekend out to explore the Peak District, drink whisky, take photos and be with our soon-to-be traveling friend. On Stanage Edge, the wind was howling, but the climbers were undeterred. As the sun went down the cloud broke and my timing was on to grab the briefest of sunstars, peaking through the weather, illuminating the rugged autumn foliage.

"The Watchers" - Dartmoor, Devon, England.
Canon 5D MK III + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ f/22. 1/80.

There is something magical about the ponies that roam Dartmoor and Exmoor, especially in the golden light. The fog had lifted off the landscape of Dartmoor and the sun was creating to most glorious of atmospheres as the road winded through, back towards Yelverton and an impending breakfast. I spotted these two grazing on the roadside. When I arrived they calmly paid me the smallest moment of attention, surrounded by sheep and gorse. Several frames after they would gallop off into the morning light. I'm saving most of those images, although I'm not sure why. Some moments feel more sacred than others.

"Face in the Crowd" - Birmingham, England
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/4. 1/2500

It was the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Digbeth, and I was capturing the atmosphere. This gentleman's face caught my eye and then his hat grabbed my attention. All I can see is all the stories he must have to tell, one for each badge, each line on his face. The crowds closed around me and he disappeared into the festivities. I've been told he is a Digbeth local, maybe I'll see him again when the parade rolls through.

"Textured Nature" - Pontsticill Reservoir, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - 5.6 @ f/11. 1/60.

One of my latest. There's nothing more satisfying than clean, crisp, frosty mornings and still, reflective water. Pontsticill Reservoir and the surrounding Brecon Beacons has been my playground for the last 4 days, and each morning exploration has brought immense happiness. That's the thing about all of these images, the process, the moment, the editing, the sharing - all of it contributes to my wellbeing. Photography keeps me grounded, it keeps me focussed, and it keeps me learning. It is a curve, a beautiful, endless, unfinished curve. 

"Hoar Frost" - Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 @ f/13. 1/160

Sometimes you shoot an image and you know that the value it has is intrinsically personal. It's unlikely to be popular, but it signifies something. This image of entangled branches covered in hoar frost in the heart of the Brecon Beacons symbolises a shift, just not one that I'm able to verbalise at the moment. It's abstract, conceptual and reminds me of the interconnected nature of art and life. I'm proud of it, and I'm not even sure why... But it makes me excited to see what 2015 brings.


I want to shout out to the amazing community that have supported me through the year, and also some of my contemporaries who inspire me.

Johnny Patience and Rebecca Patience - Both intensely talented photographers working predominantly on film. I've had the pleasure of spending time with them on both of the LNDNWLKs and feel grateful to call them friends. Good energy is infectious. They are people who vivaciously encourage the community around them, building confidence, and sharing all they can, whenever possible. One of biggest inspirations from this year, and I'm incredibly grateful for all that the do and say. 

Mathieu & Heather, AKA Mirrorlessons - The Mirrorless community has some brilliant bloggers at it's spearhead and one of the finest is Mirrorlessons. It's a resource not only for the technical aspects of using a mirrorless camera, but also for aspiring photographers. The community that has grown up around the site is a great place to get feedback and generally be part of something. I'm honoured to have been interviewed for their website, and their collective belief in me and my work has been a high point of the year.

There are some amazing photographers that have influenced me this year:

Olivier Glod - What a guy! One of the loveliest people I've met in the last year. Genuine, talented, warms your heart to chat with him. 

Marco Larousse - Inspirational street photographer, all round lovely guy too. This image in particular sticks in my mind. Perfection. 

Ben Cherry - Wonderfully encouraging and supportive. Also has a fondness for the Peak District and his work from Borneo is superb.

Robert Paul Jansen - Stunning in whatever format, whether it be iPhoneography, film or digital. 

Donovon Bond - Creator of Fuji vs. Fuji and Co-Founder of FujiTuesday. An inspirational member of the Fujifilm community. Hopefully I can buy him a pint when he makes it back over to the UK!

Othman Kammah - The other Co-Founder of FujiTuesday, and another supportive member of the Fujifilm Community. I'm a particular fan of his 1 camera, 1 lens project. 

Rafa Garcia - A genuinely wonderful photographer with whom every interaction is a joy.

Basically owning the mirrorless wedding photography scene and generally an absolute dude, Gavin Hardy

Then there's those who are inspiring me to shoot film and helping me find the best way of going about such an endeavour, especially the lovely and talented Andy Spencer.

My dear friend Rich Jones, currently traveling the world with his camera. 

Also big love to Stacy Guiney, an old friend who took a big step to strike out on his own as a freelance photographer. Check out his shoot at the Morgan Motor Car factory.

Recent acquaintance Ugo Cei. Currently in love with his project on lighthouses. Amazing stuff.

Lots of love goes out to anyone I chatted with on both LNDNWLKs, especially this enigmatic bunch - Thomas Menk, Darren SeamarkMatthew Dowell, Matt Wilkinson, Daniel Ruffles, Sam Burton, Joe Harper, Jann Lechelle, Vincent Opoku, Mark Hales, Steve Davis 

A year ago I was without a strong photographic community, and a year on I feel very much part of a beating, vibrant, supportive family. If I've missed anyone out, I do apologise, I've been writing this blog for about 3 days and I've sort of lost the will to live at this point.

Thanks for all the inspiration, guys (and a few gals). Can't wait to see what you produce in 2015! If there's anything I can do to help, I'm ready and willing.

 

My Favourite 10 Photos of Birmingham from 2014 + Much Gratitude

It's been a rather tremendous year for Birmingham and as 2014 draws to a close, the city finds itself included in Top 10 polls. There's a huge perception change in progress, and it's really wonderful to witness. 

There have been plenty of photo opportunities over the year, and whenever I can I've been out capturing the city, from the outskirts to the centre. I thought I'd share my favourite 10 images that I've taken of the city this year and the stories behind them. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of people for their support.

Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4. 0.6 Sec @ f/18. ISO 160

Winter brings fog, and at sunrise, when the conditions are right, the colour plays on the fog and gives atmosphere to industrial landscapes. My favourite part of this image is the street light in the bottom centre, it highlights the 'Islamic Relief' centre, a metaphor for Birmingham's diversity and good will. It was taken from the top of Moat St carpark, which has now had barriers installed, making images like this all but impossible to shoot through the railings.

Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4. 1/200 @ f/13. ISO 250.

I often talk about my love for the canals of Birmingham. They are tranquil and beautiful, especially just after sunrise. The day I took this was a particularly beautiful morning, with the light streaming through winter foliage. Moments like this, they don't happen very often, so when they do, it turns a good day into a great day. This is a stretch of canal in Acocks Green, looking up towards Olton.                              

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2. 1/30 @ f/8. ISO 1250

Speaking of things that don't happen very often, you can rank absolutely epic sunsets among that category. There are good sunsets (you might get one of those every month) and there are mind-blowing, drama filled sunsets and universally bind each individual who witnesses them together. The sunset above, that was one of those, and really, you might only every get one of these a year. Just amazing to watch, and a privilege to behold. I took this long exposure on my Fujifilm X-Pro1 in Fox Hollies Park, Acocks Green. This was before I'd invested in a ultra-wide for my Fuji system, so it was shot on an 18mm f/2. 

Canon 6D + 16-35mm f/2.8. 30 sec @ f/16. ISO 100.

Those lovely folks at Staying Cool let me stay at the top of the Rotunda so I could grab some shots of Birmingham from above. Apart from being a dream place to stay, the views were epic, especially at night. A perfect dusk descended over the city centre, with the lights of the New Street Development dominating the foreground. My favourite part of this image is still the red and green traffic lights reflecting on the platform.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 14mm f/2.8. 1 Sec @ f/11. ISO 200. 

The Library of Birmingham opened in 2013, and has rapidly become one of the most photographed buildings in Birmingham. I don't think this is a bad thing at all, as there's so much of the building to explore, from the Shakespeare Room to the outdoor terraces. I wanted to capture the footfall as well as some of the features of the building, and a long exposure really gave a sense of movement. It's a great space, and I hope Birmingham City Council reconsider the crippling cuts they're proposing.

Canon 6D + 80-200mm f/2.8. 30 Seconds @ f/14. ISO 200. 

Transition is part of Birmingham's persona, and this image is a stark example of this. In the foreground, the now obsolete Central Library spirals out like an upside down brutalist pyramid. In the background, the new Library of Birmingham with it's shiny facade. Soon the skyline will change forever when developers pull down the Central Library early next year. In 2005 I worked in the Local History department of the Central Library, often knee deep in microfiche, discovering other people's dead relatives. It was a transitional year for me back in 2005/2006 and the library was a home. I'll always remember it fondly, even the leaky roof.  

Canon 5D Mk III + 100mm f/2.8 Macro. 1/400 @ f/9. ISO 100.

In August, Brazilian sculptor Nele Azevedo brought 5000 ice sculptures to the steps of Chamberlain Square. The Minimum Monument, a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives during WWI, was possibly one of the most moving art installations I've ever seen, as each ice sculpture melted into nothingness. It was an honour to photograph, and humbling to witness.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4. 28 seconds @ f/10. ISO 400.

Gas Street Basin has been a recent discovery for me. I like to situate architecture in the context of the surroundings, like here The Cube is reflected in the water of the canal surrounded by the buildings and structures that were present long before it was built. This photo is a long exposure at sunset. Sometimes it can be tough because of the movement in the water, making the boats blurry, but during his attempt, it wasn't too bad. The great thing about long exposures is that they smooth out the water and yet the buildings remain stalwart and sharp.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4. 1.4 Seconds @ f/13.6. ISO 200.

The return of the Christmas wheel provides an opportunity to explore difference perspectives on the architecture and art that encompass the Library. "Real Family", a sculpture by Gillian Wearing, has done exactly what art should do by sparking a debate and getting people talking. Many people have spoken that they find it offensive that a male is not represented (although personally this is not my opinion and I in fact find the sculpture comforting), so when I took this shot I deliberately made sure there was the silhouette of a male figure standing off the left, looking away, absent but also present. 

Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4. 1/75 @ f/18. ISO 400.

I love sunrises. I love them because instead of chasing the light, the light chases me. From dark to light, from night to day, witnessing the beginning is a powerful thing. This winter sunrise, captured on a December morning, was a beauty. My camera was pushed to f/18 to capture the sunstar, but it was only when I looked at the image when I realised I'd caught not one, but three, reflecting in the iconic Selfridges building. 


It's been an amazing year for me. So many doors have opened because of my photos of Birmingham. It reinforces the notion that good things can only come from a places of passion, honesty, positivity and truth, and it's great to see that Birmingham is getting the recognition it deserves. It's a great city to live in!

Just wanted to use the end of this blog to thanks some of the amazing people and organisations who have promoted and supported me over the last year;

Brumpic - For always sharing my work, and encouraging me. It's ran by two brilliant people who have bought me numerous Gin & Tonics (thank you)! It was amazing to see the website go live and watch it grow. I hope 2015 is even better for the Brumpic team.

Birmingham Updates - For endless shares, encouragement and to Luke for being a stunningly awesome guy, always ready with a kind word. One of Birmingham's finest sons. 

#BrumHour - Such a great resource for Birmingham based *anything*. Again, someone who has supported, shared, encouraged and generally been amazing to me.

I Choose Birmingham - If you're Birmingham based and you're not subscribed to "I Choose Birmingham" you're missing out. Legendary e-magazine that brings the best of Brum to your inbox every week (one of the first places to feature my work, and kinda started this whole roller coaster year. Thanks Tom Cullen, you superstar!)

Impact Hub Birmingham - My Birmingham family. Doing amazing things, and set to be an great resource for the city. Currently embroiled in a Kickstarter campaign with some of the rewards involving photo workshops with yours truly. Have a look, pledge if you can - Impact Hub Birmingham Kickstarter 

Independent BirminghamAnother great Brum based organisation that has faith in my work and is doing amazing things for the independent scene! 

SomeCities - It was an honour to be part of the SomeCities 'Our City' exhibition earlier this year. Great organisation that has done and is doing great things for photography in the city.

Created in Birmingham - Great blog that is always worth a read for things going on in and around Brum. Huge thanks to the lovely Rob Green wrote an article about me for the blog earlier this year. Rob, I still owe you pint!

Birmingham Mail - For featuring my work in a double page spread. That was a pretty awesome moment!

BBC WM - For having my on the radio to talk about my work, and for sharing it whenever they could. Although, they're still not quite forgiven for making me talk to camera at 7:30am ;)

Thanks also to all the people who have RT'd, Faved, Liked, Shared and Commented on my images over on Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully I thanked you at the time, if not, my apologies, I can get a little forgetful at times. I'm truly grateful.

Also, check out these brilliant Birmingham based photographers who have inspired me over the last year:

Tim Cornbill Trail blazing Brum photographer. All round awesome guy. It's always a pleasure to chat with Tim, and I would like to thank him for constantly inventing brilliant hashtags, including #brumrise and #brumset. 

George Daley - George has an amazing eye for lines in architecture. His black and white work is particularly brilliant, and it's always a joy to see his latest discoveries pop up on Instagram.

Barbara Gibson & Marta Kochanek - Magnificent portrait work. Stunning aesthetics, bringing a different perspective of the city. Makes me jaw drop every time. Haven't had the pleasure of meeting the women behind the work, but it's great to see other women photographers in the city doing their thing and making brilliant art.

Ross Jukes - Another Brum based photographer out there doing his thing, showing off the city. Over the year Ross has just gone from strength to strength. I chased after him one Saturday to say 'hello', always good to bump into another photographer, especially when it's sunrise and they're carrying a Fujifilm!

52 Weeks in Brum - Great project from a lovely guy, trying to capture a different aspect of the city for each week of the year. Also, he was kind enough to offer me a camera when I managed to smash mine. Still bowled over by that act of kindness.

IGersBirmingham - Less a person, more an instragram account, run by McGoogle (I'm not sure of his real name, but I know that he's a Scot, which makes him awesome, not that I'm biased). Great place to look for other brilliant Brum based photographers.

My final thanks goes to my wife-to-be (I swear we are organising a wedding, we're just going for a reallllllly long engagement), who supports me, gets up early, facilitates my randomness, helps calm me down when I'm being ridiculous, reminds me that being a champion for someone is way better than being an opponent, and for buying pretty much every copy of the Birmingham Mail that I was featured in. Without Rachel there to share in all this, none of it would really mean anything.

If I've missed anyone, really sorry. You can yell at me in the comments if you like (although I'm a girl and I will cry).  

I'm hoping that 2015 will signal a change from 2014. More collaboration, more projects rather than single images, more helping other creatives. So, if you want to collaborate, if you need my help, or you just want to have a chat, get in touch, I'd absolutely love to talk with you, especially if you're a female photographer, because there has got to be some more of us out there... 

Thanks for the amazing year, Birmingham!

 

 

 

All The Fun of the Fair

Sometime in May the fair rolled into my home town of Corby. As a teenager, whenever the fair would arrive, it would carry an almost mythical status, and we would flock to it the blinking, flashing neon and thumping music like moths to a flame. Mostly a place for enjoyment, we'd lose at shooting games and take home goldfish (one of which lived for a staggering 15 years). It was also laced with danger; fights, scuffles and stolen kisses.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO 200. 1/3200.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4. ISO 400. 1/1800

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO 200. 1/3000

I’ve always been intrigued by the people who ran the fair, traveling from town to town. I love the juxtaposition of their boredom compared to the fun experienced by their patrons. As children joyfully scream with excitement, whizzing round in on the rides, the ride operator looks off into the middle distance or plays on their phone, unaffected by the frivolity. 

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4. ISO 400. 1/150

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.5. ISO 400. 1/1500

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/3.2. ISO 400. 1/1500

I only had a few hours to grab some shots, whilst treating my goddaughter to some of the rides, but I can see a wider project emerging focusing on the ride operators and owners. It was also one the final times I spent with my X-Pro1 before it met it's demise inside my camera bag. Everything was shot with either the 35mm f/1.4 or the 18mm f/2 and edited using Lightroom + Rebecca Lily Pro Set III presets. 

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.8. ISO 400. 1/1250.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/2.8. ISO 1000. 1/500.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/2.8. ISO 1000. 1/750

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO 200. 1/300.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO 200. 1/340.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO 200. 1/170.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.8. ISO 400. 1/3000.

Meandering on the Moors

Earlier this month I took a trip down to Exmoor and Dartmoor, two landscapes that I've often wanted to explore, both are uniquely different and yet share a certain wildness and beauty. Exmoor is the master of variety with its hills, heather and the moorland sweeping towards a pebbled coastline beyond. Dartmoor is rugged, with it's tors and sparse, expansive terrain. Both have wild ponies roaming the moorland, adding to the mystery and atmosphere, but my images of them I'm saving for a separate post. 

This photo set is all about the landscapes, captured on my Fujifilm X-T1 with my newly acquired 10-24mm. I hadn't realised how much I missed an ultra wide until I buckled and purchased this lens, and I'm so glad I did. The 14mm was sharp and beautiful, a prime to it's very soul, but the 10-24mm has a versatility that cannot be denied, and I really need that when I'm in the field. The weather was ideal, with the autumnal combination of mist and sunshine in the mornings at sunrise with the transitional colours of the moorland turning purple to orange. The evenings brought great light, but really, for me it's always about the mornings. I hope you enjoy.

Long Exposure on Porlock Hill, Exmoor. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ 10mm. f/22. 20 Sec. 

The Road up Porlock Hill at sunrise. Exmoor. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ 10mm. f/22. 1/18.

Sunset or Porlock Hill looking out towards the sea. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ f/22. 1/3.

Wind Weathered Tree. Exmoor. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ f/22. 1/10.

Sun breaking through the morning mist. Exmoor. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ 13.2mm. f/22. 1/8.

Diffused mist on the hills of Exmoor at sunrise. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ 15.9mm. f/22. 1/40.

Mist and light across Dartmoor. Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm @ 10mm. f/18. 1/320.


Kinship: The Fusion of Formats - Rebecca Lily Pro Set III Presets


In this blog post I'll be reviewing Rebecca Lily's Pro Set III Presets for Lightroom 4/5. If you'd like to read more about how to install presets there is a simple tutorial here

All shots taken with the Fujifilm X-T1.


I'd like to start this blog with a small disclaimer (although it's not necessarily needed). I write from the gut. I tend to evaluate things from an very personal perspective, concentrating on my creative and emotional response rather than the more technical aspects, and I appreciate that might not be for everyone. I'd also like to point you, the reader, in the direction of these two excellent reviews of Rebecca Lily's Pro Set III Presets from Mathieu Gasquet over at MirrorLessons and also, Robert Paul Jansen, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. For now, I'd be most grateful if you'd join me on this tactile and immersive journey into my own responses. 


I’m probably what you might describe as someone who ‘fiddles’ with her images. I like post-processing and it’s part of the joy that comes with photography for me. Lightroom has become an integral part of my post-processing workflow, and presets definitely play a part in this, especially as a jumping off point for further explorations, and I’ve regularly dabbled with VSCO, amongst others. They’re a time saving device, but also very useful for demonstrating different perspectives on an image.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Bright Color | Limoncello III + Soften Color I + Violet Tint + Outer Glow + Minor adjustments.

With this in mind, when I was afforded the opportunity to try out Rebecca Lily’s Pro Set III presets and tools, I decided to set myself a challenge; minimal editing, using only the presets and very small adjustments, to see what I could get from my images without compromising the original integrity of Rebecca’s filmic version. There is a certain quality to these presets that I haven’t really witnessed in others for Lightroom and each feels carefully crafted with love and a passion for the art form. 

Presets encapsulate the preferences of another photographer in malleable form, designed for manipulation, the combination of personalities, the fusion of vision. This is especially prevalent with presets that emulate the beauty of film. On a personal level it immediately evokes an bygone era, a sense of powerful nostalgia; memories of long forgotten boxes of negatives where you see yourself as a child, surrounded by your family, caught in a moment of frozen encapsulated joy.

In the above images, the ice cream van is a perfect example of this sentiment. The Limoncello present softened the harsh blue hues in the sky, matching the shirt worn by the man buying his ice cream. The original image seems somewhat garish in it's starkness, but the adjusted image is softer, pulling the viewer into another world, the suggestion of a story and the willingness to buy wholesale into our own sense of time and identity.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Candy III + Shadow Save + Outer Glow + Inner Glow

It was an early July day, warm in the best kind of way, when I wandered the streets of Cognac in the South of France, and I knew this would be the perfect set of images to test out the presets and unify the set of images into a coherent whole, documenting the day, visualising the adventure. Combined with the quintessential continental scenics captured the day before, the presets began to shine. Each preset comes with three versions that strengthen or reduce the effect, and I found myself often veering towards the former, opting for the strongest form due to my own personal preference for bright highlights.

The above image of the Cat in the box demonstrates the neutral, exquisite colour palette, pulling the lighter tones into the foreground, eroding the gritty, flat feel of the original. One of my absolute favourite features of the tools is the Inner Glow, which works so wonderfully well with the image of the cat above, pulling out the delicate tones of it's fur and the expression of mild distain flashing across it's face. There's a classical quality to the presets that brings something timeless to the image.

Before 

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Candy III + Highlight Save I

If you've never experienced the amazing work of the woman behind these presets, I would urge you to visit her blog - Poems Without Words - and I warn you, keep something soft beneath your jaw, because it will drop. The sheer grace of Rebecca's work has been an inspiration to me (and no doubt many others). The symbiotic relationship between Rebecca and her love, Johnny Patience is the stuff of Hollywood movies from the 1940s. I see that affection, that mutual respect, shining through in these innovative presets.

The overwhelming characteristic of the tools and the presets is their subtle power. That might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually something rare and sought after in the photographic world. The effect on the image is minimal but it’s all the better for it in ways that you wouldn’t have noticed before. It's something that can be difficult to appreciate in these times of over-processing (something which I feel even more guilty of after this challenge of editing in a minimal fashion). In the view above, the small but effective enhancements emulate the darks and the lights without contrast taking over the whole scene. In the processed image there is a sense of a quiet, summer's afternoon. I can almost feel the sun and the breeze, hear the sound of local cafes and bars buzzing with the brilliant sound of lunching locals.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Kinfolk III + Inner Glow + Shadow Save

This photo of a cat in a window is possibly one of my favourite images I've ever had the pleasure to capture. It did not need too much adjustment as, to me, it was near perfect on it's own. Again the Inner Glow played it's part to highlight the cat, arching backwards in a bid to catch a few of the afternoon rays, the picture of bliss and tranquility. All I wanted was to make the image cleaner, and Kinfolk in the Mid Color range worked perfectly.  

I predominantly work with colour and the the bleached whites and blues of that summer’s day in Cognac beg to be presented in such a fashion. High in contrast, it’s easy to overdo such a delicate balance, but the presets shined with their empathy towards the available tones. For the street scenes, I tended to remain in the pastels, switching between Candy and Epiphany for the most part. These brought out the shadows and highlights just enough to satisfy me, and in the image below, the real power can be seen in the light that is cast across the gentleman's face, imperceptible in the original, but a focal point after processing.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Epiphany I + Highlight Save I + Soften Color I

When the light dulled, the black and white presets are called upon to provide some dynamic range and give an ernest and authentic feel to the image. The barrels below, shot in the historic vaults of Hennessey's Cognac distillery, present themselves as perfectly apt for exploration of the black and white options. In the distillery, the barrels lose, on average, 2% of their alcohol content per annum. They call this 'la part des anges', or the 'Angel's Share'. The invisible is sometimes more poignant than that which can be plainly seen. This sentiment is remonstrated in the beautiful rendition of black and white, the silent beauty of the colours fading into something more powerful -- the 'Angel's Share'.   

Before

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Audrey I

I can imagine in the coming months these presets will be my absolute go-to when it comes to wedding photography. Their timeless and classical qualities will compliment the celebratory beauty often found on a couple's special day. 

The image below is from a friend's wedding. It was a day filled with poignancy, a celebration of life, love, loss and the indomitable human spirit. I caught Sarah, the bride, turning, moving in from the incessant drizzle that permeated the sky that day. In colour it seemed too bright, too warm, but the way Rebecca has designed the presets, especially with regard to the light, meant that the image took on a new quality when I applied the Black Jack preset. The perfect combination of dark and light to show a beautiful soul at her finest. Enduring. Amaranthine. 

Before

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Black Jack I + Creamy 

My final foray textually into the majestic nature of these presets involves the ethereal beauty of Dartmoor Ponies, captured on a windy, overcast day, my first experience of these elegant creatures. In the examples below you can see how the use of different presets can dramatically alter the scene and the mood, the black and white demonstrating the diversity in tones, emphasising the celestial grace of the pony.

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Orion III + Innre Glow + Highlight Save + Outer Glow

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Chardonnay I

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Epiphany II

[RL] Pro III | Bright Color | Limoncello III

For someone like me, who fell in love with photography in the digital age, the eclectic beauty and timeless nature of these presets is simply wonderful. Evoking filmic tones and colours underlines the real potential of Rebecca's approach and I'm almost tempted to clear out my cluttered shed to turn into a rudimentary darkroom. Ultimately, the challenge I set myself has permeated into my creative consciousness. Less is becoming the new more.

Finally, the real triumph is that Rebecca has managed to forge a bridge between two close relatives, Film and Digital, who share the same blood, but always remained in tension with each other. Here, little of that animosity remains, just a gentle and overwhelming affection for both formats, combining without any pretentious or precocious undertones, a resplendent and pulchritudinous alliance.

Do please check out Rebecca's website, and thank you for coming on this journey with me!

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Amethyst III + Highlight Save I

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Innocence III + Highlight Save

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Avalon III + Outer Glow + Inner Glow + Shadow Save II


Straps with Style

When it comes to camera accessories, there’s a plethora of options out there, especially where camera straps are concerned, and for the most part they tend to lack a certain style. You could say that I’m the kind of person who likes my camera to look the part as well as act as a tool, not that I would opt for style over substance, but as a photographer I tend to think aesthetically. 

I’ve been intrigued by 595strapco’s cohort of leather straps since they launched on the market earlier this year and I’ve been meaning to add one of their neck straps to my collection ever since. I really like the vintage design and the restrained classical design. I also want to try them out because I have incredibly sensitive skin that takes a huge amount of daily management to keep under control, and can often be irritated by outside influences, especially camera neck straps. The generic rubber and plastic straps often rub and cause discomfort, so I was intrigued to see how my skin reacted to a more natural material.

The first thing that I noted about the Laverton neck strap is it’s wonderful tan colour (it's also available is brown and black), which incidentally matched by brogues perfectly. It just looks good and contrasts perfectly with the jet black of my X-T1. There’s a quality about the leather that feels great in your hand, and of course you get that unique leather smell, which is just as precious as the smell of fresh cut grass, or the ground after it rains. There’s something natural and tactile about it’s texture, something authentic about it’s aesthetic. It slots perfectly into the cultural undercurrent of simplicity and vintage styles of camera design, and it compliments the new wave of mirrorless bodies, as well as numerous decades of film cameras that preceded the digital revolution. 

The 42” example I used fitted perfectly onto my Fujifilm X-T1, and allows me to swing it over my shoulder. I’m rather short, clocking in at a humble 5ft 1”, so the 42” sits on my hip, possibly not quite it’s intended location, and I missed the ability to adjust on a few occasions, but this is a minimal quibble that would likely be rectified by using a smaller size (the 36” or 38” for example). The strap has already suffered through some intense weather conditions, included a deluge of rain in the Lake District, without showing any signs of wear & tear (although leather just tends to look better when it's a little weathered), and my skin has remained unharmed, which is definitely a bonus! 

I'm impressed with the quality as well as the style, and it feels like a excellent fit for my mirrorless camera body. Also, after several weeks of use, I've noticed that the irritation caused by the generic Fujifilm strap is much improved. For now it seems that leather is the way forward, and the Laverton is staying firmly on my Fujifilm X-T1. 

Check out the selection of neck straps and also wrist straps on the 595 website at http://595strapco.com.

Running Wild with Dartmoor Ponies

In the 1930s there were nearly 30,000 Dartmoor ponies roaming the moors, now there are less than 800. Yet, as you drive through the landscape, they appear, windswept on the horizon, mythical and magical. 

In between bouts of permeating cloud, I waited for the light to appear, for seconds at a time, and captured some of the ponies, majestic in the their surroundings. Shot on the Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 & 14mm f/2.8. Processed using Rebecca Lily Pro Set III for Lightroom, I've tried to stay true the the muted tones, and the dramatic setting.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/5. 1/600. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/320. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/200. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 14mm f/2.8 @ f/10. 1/420. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/320. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/140. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/450. ISO 200.

Fujifilm X-T1 + 60mm f/2.4 @ f/9. 1/450. ISO 200.

Lakes and Mistakes

It was a Wednesday evening, two days before I was scheduled to travel up North and spend the weekend exploring the Western Lakes in the Lake District. I unzipped my camera bag to find the LCD screen of my beloved Fujifilm X-Pro1 had cracked behind the plastic. I was gutted to say the least, we'd just become good friends, myself and the X-Pro1. We'd just started to cement a tentative relationship, we were beginning to understand each others strengths and shortcomings. I was producing work that even my intensely critical eye was mildly pleased with and I was considering giving up my bulky DLSR for good. However, sometimes even good things come to an end, and within 24 hours, I was making moves on my new love; Fujifilm's flagship camera, the X-T1. Some might say that's fickle, but honestly, it's all about luck and compatibility.

The Lake District is a special place for me, somewhere I've forged more than just relationships with my cameras. On a winter's evening back in January 2012, as the snow fell softly across Windermere, and the silent streets quietly iced over, I walked with my love down to harbourside, and amongst the curious geese and swans, asked her to marry me. This has forever cemented my sentimental feelings towards a place already so beautiful. We return whenever we can, determined to explore as much of lakes and landscapes as possible.

Rachel, my love, after a walk around the Buttermere. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8. ISO 200. 1/200.

Nestled on the western side of Honister Pass awaits the village of Buttermere, presiding over both Crummock Water and it's namesake, Buttermere. Often my biggest stipulation of accommodation is it's proximity to the great outdoors. Sunrise and morning is my favourite time of day to shoot, and in the summertime, when the sun is above the horizon before my clock hits 5am, the more I can reach in the shortest amount of time becomes a priority. The Bridge Hotel in Buttermere, which maintains it's airs and graces in an age of consumer power, fitted that profile, and they were happy to accommodate my early morning explorations.

Buttermere in Black and White. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/11. ISO 250. B+W ND Filter. 28 Second Exposure.

The Lake District suffers from the same affliction as North Wales; the frequent proliferation of dense and impenetrable cloud that seemingly gets hung up on the fells, failing to properly move on. The first morning, I awoke at 4:30am to grey skies and drizzle, but rejoiced that I had the lake to myself. I left the hotel in the rain, but there was always a hopeful glow in the sky, as the sun tried desperately to burn off the cloud. Heading around the lake, I was kept company by the call of the cuckoo from the forest, echoing through the trees, and the scampering of red squirrels, surprised and alarmed by my presence. This was my first time out with the X-T1, and I was ready to make friends. When the cloud obscures the colours, long exposures are my default, and these we made distinctly more manageable by the X-T1's articulating screen. I never thought I would find such a feature at all useful, but I really enjoyed the differing viewing angles, it's intensely helpful and kind on my knees.

The fells over Crummock and Buttermere as the weather rolls in. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/11. ISO 200. 1/140.

Returning for breakfast, the light began to change, dissolving from grey to blue, sunshine illuminating the fells with the warmth hitting my face. Avid walkers were out now, nodding a 'good morning' my way, pleased with the weather. I looked up and witnessed the clouds rolling over the hills above, like dry ice. The formations mirrored the peaks creating ghostly extensions to the landscape. The 35mm f/1.4 on the X-T1's cropped sensor makes it more or less at 50mm, a focal length I find rather endearing for landscapes, as it gives a sense of vastness and yet also a certain degree of intimacy. The clouds pictured above brought in the weather, and with it, our decision to spend the day exploring the intricacies of the local pub.

First light over Buttermere. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/13. ISO 200. B+W ND Filter. 30 Second Exposure.

Buttermere is one of my favourite lakes. It's small enough to walk around and the variation in foliage adds a diversity to images. The layers are further enhanced by the clarity of the water and the fells that rise up in the distance, reflecting in the water on calm days. In autumn, the colours are rich and alluring, but summer also has it's appeal, drenched in greens and yellows. The second morning brought a false start. Too much wine the night before and less sleep than I would like rendered me unwilling to face the rain at 4:30am. I crawled back into my bed, deflated, and waited for sleep to reclaim me. Alas, when I'm awake, I'm awake, and after an hour rueing the weather, I decided to give it another try, and I'm glad I did. 

The sky was folding in warm colours to the darker clouds, and the rain had ceased. There was little breeze, ensuring Buttermere's waters remained still and reflective. Again I was ready with the 18mm with an ND Filter attached, perching my X-T1 on my Manfrotto Pixi on one of the stones for a low angle and once more using that articulating screen to great effect. Sadly, I had not yet been able to invest in a shutter release cable, so I was limited to either 30 second exposures or holding down the shutter in bulb mode and keeping really, really still, so my results could have perhaps been better. 

Crummock reflections.  Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/16. ISO200. 1/25.

As the sun rose, it was clear it was going to be a beautiful morning, so I decided to take the streamside path towards Crummock Water. However, I found that a herd of cows and their calves were taking the same road and they were less than impressed with my presence. I'm not overly fond of cows, mainly because they're huge, and any mother protecting their child can be a force to be reckoned with. I was forced to clamber up the steep sides of the valley, wading through bracken and tripping over hidden branches, cursing like a sailor for my bruised and battered shins. Finally I was a safe distance from the herd and on the shoreline of Crummock, bathed in morning light, tumbling down the fells like liquid gold, with the stillness of the water acting like nature's mirror.

Crummock Water bathed in morning light. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/16. ISO200. 1/250.

The light is everything. It changes the dynamic entirely. Half my job as a photographer is to learn the art of patience without getting frustrated and to read the light. Ultimately this is a distilled version of many life lessons that I've had to learn the hard way. You cannot force it, and you cannot bend it to your will. It is what it is, and if you're lucky, it will be everything you never knew you wanted, and some of what you hoped it would be. For me, photography is the art of preparation and the joy of being surprised.

Streamside in Buttermere village.  Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/9. ISO200. B+W ND Filter. 20 Second Exposure.

I thought that my trip to the Lakes would be ruined by smashing my X-Pro1. On the contrary, that one incident changed the entire experience. I was offered the use of an X-E1 from a friend on Twitter who had no obligation to help me out, so in breaking one camera, I not only experienced an act of human kindness, I was able to push the boundaries of my practice, and (thanks to insurance) have fun with a new camera. The X-T1 sits much more naturally with a child of the digital age such as myself; I love the ergonomics and the dials, especially quick access to the ISO, metering and shooting modes. In my small hands, it feels right. In essence, it's becoming my favourite camera, although I haven't used it enough to give a decent overview. 

For now, I'm grateful for the mornings where Crummock and Buttermere were bathed in light, reminding me that that every cloud has a golden lining. 

Sunset over St Bees on the Cumbrian coast. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/10. ISO250. B+W ND Filter. 28 Second Exposure.

Seasons and Sight: Photographing Bluebells

The older, and the more invested in photography I've become, the more I've noticed the turning of the seasons. The world has a rhythm; it flows from birth to death in a continuum, and for me, everything is intrinsically linked to this cycle.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/10. ISO800. 1/50.

It was three years ago that my eyes began to open, notably after I'd partially lost my sight. On my 28th birthday I painfully lost vision in my left eye and it took three months, nights of agony and several misdiagnosis to regain my sight.

Losing my vision, as a photographer, was one heck of a wake up call. When I regained full vision, it was springtime, and after the fear of permanent damage, I felt like I'd be given a gift; a chance to perceive the world in it's full glory. 

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.5. ISO200. 1/40.

I became aware of the blossom, the fresh spring smell and the vivid greens that began to cover the bleak branches of the wintering trees. Life was awakening after a frosty sleep, the world was welcoming me back into it's abundant array of colour, scent and scene. The planted seed of wonderment grew in me as the daffodils and snowdrops grew against the green. Ever since I can sense the changing weather, I can see the blue of the sky dip from deep to crystal clear. It's my honour to witness the glorious march of nature, always in the moment, indifferent to the frivolity and occasional ridiculousness of human struggle.

Fujfilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/10. ISO800. 1/60

For me, the seasons are signified through colour and the lack thereof. In spring, living in the UK, it's evident in the rich, ethereal hues of the bluebells as they cover the forest floors, creating scenes straight from enchanted fairytales. This year, they were on time, even a touch early than anticipated, compared to last year's late show. And this year, I wanted to explore...

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2. ISO200. 1/90.

Much like the partial loss and return of my sight, and erring on the ever positive side of this existence, I believe that the best of things can be found at the end of long journeys. The images of Bluebells you can see came through both luck, perseverance and a desire to see where difficult roads might lead. This woodland is a proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, except the rainbow was an uphill struggle through sloppy, slippery mud. One might have been inclined to stop upon sight of the first batch of bluebells, nestled amongst the ancient woodland; but to keep marching on, to believe that there's something special at the top of the hill, that's where the reward is.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/13. ISO200. 1/8.

This place, near Wotton Wawen in Warwickshire, is magical. Just standing amongst the bluebells we witnessed a tawny owl, deer, rabbits, but mostly the eerie quiet created by the stillness of nature. My trusty X-Pro1, with the gorgeous Fujifilm tones, accompanied me to capture this magical quiet, this brief display of beauty. I deployed both of my lenses, the 35mm f/1.4 and 18mm f/2, but mostly the 35mm covered everything, from the vast expanse of forest floor to the details in the individual flowers against a background of beautiful bokeh. Not once did I yearn for my bigger DLSR, although I should really invest in some Seven5 filters, as I did miss the flexibility of my Lee Filters.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/8. ISO800. 1/50.

The low light lay across the sea of blue, purple and occasional white. Rich warmth mixed with cool tones, the sun splitting through the trees, long lengths of sunlight drenching swathes of the scene and ignoring others. The conditions were perfect; a spring evening that felt more like early summer with little cloud cover. We stayed until the light faded and the comfort of fish & chips spurred us back down the hill towards home.

I am graciously part of this continuum. I will happily take the long, muddy road if I can witness such glorious scenes of nature's best. I'm grateful to be part of collaborative community where I can share these shots, my methods, my locations and hope to engage with others. Mostly, I feel lucky that I was reset into the seasons, that they are my sundial, that I can see the beauty in each of them.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ 14mm. ISO200. 1/3.

Splitting the Slate: Exploring North Wales with the X-Pro1

Wales, especially Snowdonia, is a special place for me. My mother was born in Llanberis and grew up amongst the glorious expanse of mountains and landscapes, until economic survival forced her family into the industrial heartlands of England, hundreds of miles east. 

During my childhood, each summer we would return to Llanberis and the surrounding areas. The landscape and the mythology became ingrained in my very being; each time I return it feels like a homecoming. Even now, if my Taid's (Welsh for Grandad) name is mentioned, it is instantly recognised and greeted with smiles and stories from the locals, a testament to a man who died some 30 years ago.

My mum during dinner at The Royal Victoria Hotel. Shot with the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.6. ISO200. 1/1500.

This year, for the first time since I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to visit with my mum, making this excursion even more memorable. We stayed in The Royal Victoria Hotel which sits at the foot of Snowdon and was the scene of many a family wedding. The faded glory of this landmark is reminiscent of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel. The stairs creek as you succumb to the complicated corridors filled with cupboards and crevices, romanticised by my own childhood memories. 

Having my mum with me and experiencing the connection to the land and my heritage inspired me to think outside of my usual photography comfort zone and explore with the Fujfilm X-Pro1, especially as grey cloud colluded with the sky to hide the sun behind it's jealous density. 

I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with long exposures using the 18mm f/2 and B+W 52mm +10 Stop ND filter. I was kindly advised by Dan to purchase Nikon AR-3 Shutter Release Cable which works perfectly, and I picked up a Manfrotto Pixi to ensure my kit was a light as possible. The results have been continuously enjoyable (although my knees are not overly happy with all the crouching down).

Dinas Dinlle - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B+W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO200. 3.2 second exposure.

The beach at Dinas Dinlle was my playground as a child. Predominantly full of pebbles with only a small sandy section, it's expanse was perfect for me, the adventurer, always drawn to the vastness of the sea and the historical surroundings (it was once an Iron Age fort, a third of which as now been reclaimed by the relentless waves). I would scramble out across the rocks and survey my watery kingdom, imagining what lay beyond.

Dinas Dinelle - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B+W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO200. 3.5 second exposure. Converted into monochrome in Lightroom.

The tide was coming in which allowed me to capture some of the fast moving waves in motion. In the image above I'm particularly fond of the impending wave caught mid flow, suspended just prior to the rush. In the monochrome shot, the peppered sky fanned out across the horizon mirroring the coastline below, symmetry in nature.

The weather in North Wales can be unpredictable, but I often find that once you put distance between yourself and the mountains of Snowdonia, there is a high chance of finding a break in the cloud. With this in mind we heading towards Trwyn Du Lighthouse situated on Anglesey. As we drove through the picturesque town of Beaumaris, and up towards Penmon, the cloud began to shift, and the sun illuminated the lighthouse, alleviating the eeriness of the bell that regularly tolls from it's top, echoing out over the Menai Strait. 

Penmon Point, Anglesey - X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/8. ISO200. 1/850

Trwyn Du Lighthouse, Anglesey - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B&W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO400. 6.5 second exposure.

The shoreline was busy with fellow photographers and walkers alike, all enjoying the brief warmth of the sun as the cloud once again began to reclaim the sky. I slid out onto the rocks for the shot to the right. Not my favourite of this structure, but I like the still, deep rock pool in the foreground contrasting with the sweep of the sea behind. The land to the right of the lighthouse is Puffin Island, somewhere I would love to visit soon.

Back on the mainland, Llanberis was the destination for Dinorwic Quarry, one of the largest in the world. The blasted scars of the surrounding landscape are still visible, creating pools of deep water, still and quiet, revealing none of the danger and difficulties faced by the quarrymen long since gone. Remnants from that era are visible everywhere, like the rusted wagon suspended above Vivian quarry, reflected in the calm water below.

Vivian quarry, part of Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis, North Wales. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4  @ f/16. ISO200. 1/10.

My Taid was a quarryman until he moved from Llanberis. The connection I felt to him as I wondered through the ruins of this once stalwart industry was intensely tangible. He would have walked the paths I walked, felt the breeze that I felt, lamented the cloud the same way I do. He was a skilled slate splitter, and this talent took him all around the country to exhibitions.

The National Slate Museum situated on the site of the quarry offer demonstrations of slate splitting, so I was able to gain some insight to the practise. Afterwards I spoke to the gentleman, who had been a quarryman himself and he let me take some photos of him during the process.

I'm not particularly brave when it comes to pushing the ISO on the X-Pro1, probably because I have been spoiled by a full frame Canon sensor that shows little noise, even over ISO1000, and I'm always aware that this just isn't achievable on a cropped sensor yet. Still, I happily pushed it up around 500 for the image below and used my trusty XF35mm f/1.4 to capture this dying art. At ISO500 there's virtually no noise, and although I've pushed to ISO1200 previously, this encourages me to go further and relent in my obsession with noise.

Slate splitting at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4. ISO500. 1/140.

Slate splitting at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4. ISO500. 1/50

National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/60.

The journeys that take us back through not only our past, but through our history tend to have a huge impact on how we conceptualised our identity. Although brief, my existence has been split from the slate and crafted in what it is today. It's a privilege to photograph these places, experiences, coastlines and memories, moulding the old with the new. My craft used to document the craft of my forefathers, the playgrounds of my youth.

Throughout these explorations, there's something about the X-Pro1 that makes me want to shoot with it, that feels less like it's just a means to an end, but more an extension of my intentions, coupled with both our imperfections. We're working together in a collaboration, exploring these moments and these memories; a companion who shares in the sentimentality. Each scuff and shot is another piece collected, place explored, hope ignited in this vast puzzle of existence. 

Stacks of slate at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/110.

Stacks of slate at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/110.