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


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


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.