Weston Park Cancer Hospital “Light the Night” Event with Jessica Ennis_Hill

Back in September I was delighted to be asked to photograph a very special event for a very worthy Charity.  The charity was very close to my heart as it helped in the treatment of my mother when she was fighting bladder cancer a few years ago.  Weston Park Cancer Hospital Charity is one of only four dedicated cancer hospitals in England and is recognised for its work worldwide.  Their profile has been raised further by their list of patrons and recently added the “Face of the 2012 Olympics” – Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sheffield’s very own World Heptathlon Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist.

Their work does come at a price and the charity embarks and a regime of fundraising events throughout the year and it was this years “Light the Night” event which I was asked to photograph.  Jessica Ennis-Hill was their special guest for the evening who was invited to start the event and also meet some of the charity fundraisers.  The evening event turned Ecclesall Woods into a torch-lit woodland wonderland with hundreds of people following the trail.  A video and full photo-gallery can be found on the charity website.  I’m sure they would love to see you at next years event.

It was a huge privilege photographing this event and gave me the opportunity to give a little back to the charity that helped my mother with her battle against cancer.  Sadly she succumbed to the illness in 2006 but with the voluntary efforts of all those involved and the huge amount raised the charity can continue their work for many more that need it.

If you would like more information about our photography check out our website.  If you are a charity and are holding an event or awards ceremony our attendance is very often FREE so please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Jessica Ennis-Hil_Weston Park-9474 2013-11-05_0001 2013-11-05_0002 2013-11-05_0003 2013-11-05_0004 2013-11-05_0006 2013-11-05_0007 2013-11-05_0008 2013-11-05_0009

Why so early? – Photographing the “Blue Hour”

I was asked the other day “why do i go out so early before sunrise” when photographing landscapes. Well, it was a simple question which i though deserved a little blog post to enlighten those not in the know.

ISO100 27mm f/13 90s Exactly 1 hour before sunrise

ISO100 27mm f/13 90s
Exactly 1 hour before sunrise

The blue hour is a term closely linked to the other term “The golden Hour” and together they represent the hour of light before sunrise and the hour of light after sunrise and conversely the hours before and after sunset. The light produced during these periods goes through some dramatic changes from soft blue hues to the warmer tones of orange and reds. The quality and direction of this light can make or break your photographs. The light and the quality of light at this time of day changes very fast so you need to be on location set up and ready in eager anticipation. Obviously it helps to know your location in advance because it will be very dark before you get those first hints of dawn light, there’s no point being witness to the most magical display of light yet not being on location with a shot composed because of poor planning/timing.

Many people never witness this wonderful display that nature puts on for us, especially in the summer months as the sunrise times are so bloomin early. There is something very calming and mesmerising while watching the light change before you, its very easy to become subdued by it and forget why you were there in the first place – to take some photographs of it, lol. Don’t get me wrong though, there have been many a mornings outing where there was nothing but a flat overcast sky after a 3 hour drive at sillyO’clock, the weather forecasts aren’t always accurate, so, you have to work with what you are given – nobody said this game was easy, its all part of the attraction, for me anyway.

I’ll leave you with a series of images that were all taken in the same location, Saltwick Bay near Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast and all within the hour leading up to sunrise. It gives you visual representation of how the light changes so fast – i hope you like them.

Please feel free top leave a comment and share this blog post if you found it interesting/useful. You can keep up to date with more of my image making and photographic exploits on my website or my Facebook page. Many thanks – Rob.

ISO100 24mm f/18 86sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 86sec

ISO100 24mm f/16 15 sec Even with a wider aperture the exposure time on this image has been drastically reduced showing how quick the light is changing.

ISO100 24mm f/16 15 sec
Even with a wider aperture the exposure time on this image has been drastically reduced showing how quick the light is changing.

ISO100 32mm f/16 6 sec

ISO100 32mm f/16 6 sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 3.2sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 3.2sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 5sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 5sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.8sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.8sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.4 sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.4 sec

ISO100 24mm f/22 1.3sec

ISO100 24mm f/22 1.3sec

My guide to Saltwick Bay

The three Icons of Saltwick Bay

Saltwick bay is a little gem of a location on the North Yorkshire coast, situated just south of the fishing port of Whitby.  It offers an abundance of photographic opportunities that are all compacted into a relatively small area.

The bay consists of a small sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs and flanked on either side by flat shale shelves. These shelves hold two local icons, ‘Saltwick Nab’ and the probably more well known, ‘Black Nab’.

Black Nab viewed from the beach

The ‘Black Nab’ is situated on the southern shelf.  It has a distinctive shape similar to that of a submarine coning tower and close to the base of this can be found the remains of the ‘Admiral Von Tromp’, a Scarborough based fishing trawler that ran aground in 1976 with the sad loss of two lives.  There is an abundance of rocks in this area that offer interesting abstract compositions and you may also find ammonite fossils which this area is also famous for.

The 'Whale shaped' Saltwick Nab

On the northern shelf you will find ‘Saltwick Nab’, a somewhat ‘breeching whale’ shaped rock prominence again surrounded by a shale shelf offering similar textured rocks, some of which have very bizarre patterns and deep grooves that seem almost unreal.

One of many abstract composition opportunities

The Bay has another trump card up its sleeve though.  The fact that it is North East facing makes it a very unique location because in the height of summer you can capture the sun rising and setting over the sea, quite novel considering you are on the east coast.

So, you could literaly spend all day here from dawn to dusk, tide permitting.  Talking of which the location really need to be photographed with a falling tide, there is little beach available at high tide, and to get close to the ‘Back Nab’ and wreck site you need the tide to be almost at low water.  Do not photograph the shelves or nabs on a rising tide, there is a real danger of being cut off by the tide.  I use the tide tables here http://www.pol.ac.uk/ntslf/tides/?port=0174 but always consult your usual reliable tidal references.

Now, how to get there.  The bay is located from Hawksker Lane which is the road that takes you to Whitby Abbey.  From there turn left up the lane to Whitby Holiday Park and then park in the layby by the park entrance.  To get down to the bay walk along the cliff top towards the holiday park and you will come across the path that leads down to the bay.  This path can be quite muddy and slippery in places especially after wet weather so take care and wear good suitable footware.

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Winter lifestyle photoshoot

Had a lovely Wintery lifestyle photoshoot in Clumber Park last weekend with Karina & Shaun and their fantastic family.  It was a very cold morning, in fact my car registered -6 deg C when i set off, and most of us were feeling the chill before the photoshoot started.

I soon had them warmed up though yomping around the park trying to find some scenic spots avoiding the harsh brigh light.  The sun was blazing and there was not a cloud in the sky so i found the metering a bit of a challenge.

Clumber park is a perfect location for outdoor lifestyle portraits with an abundance of different areas but this makes it very popular, even quite early in the moring, so carefull planning and patience is needed to avoid the populated hotspots.

Anyway, they all seemed to be having a fun time and we even managed to finish with a walk down the famous Lime Tree Avenue, which ended in snow ball fight which the parents lost. 

Clumber Parks Lime Tree Avenue is the longest of its kind in Europe, almost 2 miles long.  It was planted around 1840 an consists of 1296 common Limes planted in two double rows.  It makes a fantastic photo location year round. 

There were plenty images taken and this is just a small collection from the day.

LPOTY 2010 Entries

Well, after much thought and deliberation I finally decided to place some images in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.  It’s very difficult to know, or preempt, what the judges will be looking for and looking at the previous years winners it seems there is a mixed bag. 

So, I sat with my wife and agonised for some time which to enter and came up with a group of 5 images.  Yes, I like them and so do many other people judging by the comments I have received on them, but what will the judges make of them? 

Well, it’s my first ever photographic competition entry so I’m hoping for some beginners luck for starters.  Now I’ve submitted them though I kind of feel that I’m way short of the mark, in a self doubting kind of way.   Have I applied enough thought into which images to upload?  Are they exposed and processed correctly?  Do they stand out from the others?  Are they just run-of-the-mill images?  These are very difficult questions to answer.  Anyway, it’s out of my hands now and into those of the judges.  For now though, I’m treating this as a learning experience.  If I get some recognition of my efforts then BONUS!!  For me that’s a win!!  Yes, it would be nice to be crowned ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010’  but I know for sure that’s well our of my reach – maybe one day!!

Northumberland

A weekend Castles & Coastlines workshop in Northumberland proved to be a tougher photoshoot than I had expected.  You’d think that visiting iconic locations such as Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles the images would be in the bag before setting off.  Well,  I had to think again!  Thankfully I was on one of Doug Chinnery’s workshops again and he was there ready to offer guidance when the going got tough.

The weather proved to be a very mixed bag starting with nice cloud cover and the odd light shower which slowly dissipated into clear blue skies for sunset – not ideal at all.  Anyway, i pressed on regardless but feeling a little deflated by the conditions.  I had to be more creative and make images from what I had, using the Lee filters 10 stop “Big Stopper” filter proved helpful in some situations but even this had its limitations in these condition.

Using the “Big Stopper” while contending with a rising tide can be a hazardous combination too!  I was shooting a series of images of Dunstanburgh Castle while balancing on some large boulders with water already lapping around my feet.  Engrossed in the setup and waiting for the exposures, some over 100 secs, I soon discovered that my route back to dry land was now awash, thank goodness for welly boots!  It certainly shows how easy and quickly you could be caught out by a rising tide so always be aware of your surroundings.  Those rocks were “Slippery When Wet” too – Bon Jovi song in my head now!! 

There was a beautiful sunset looking over the boulders to the West but so little cloud to give the sky some drama.  Never mind there was always tomorrow i thought.   Well, after just 3 hours sleep, tomorrow was here and  so was a sky full of cloud, a thick blanket of the stuff, damn, more difficult conditions.

Down on the beach at Bamburgh Castle it was drizzle, still cloudy and misty.  Sunrise never happened, well, it happened but I never saw it!  This morning marvel was happening somewhere else behind all that cloud.  I managed to get a few images in the diffused lighting but the drizzle was getting heavier and it became a constant battle to keep my lens and filter clean.  I lost the battle!

Beaten by the rain we all headed back to the B&B to dry off and then get a welcome full cooked breakfast.  The B&B, by-the-way, was fantastic, very comfortable, clean and run by a very helpful friendly couple.  Here’s a link, I thoroughly recommend it if you are planning a stay at Seahouses.

On the way home we stopped off at a few locations taking in views at West Burton Falls, where Doug introduced me to shooting panoramas, and other locations in the Yorkshire Dales.  Another stunning area that I must visit again sometime.

Well, that was my third workshop with Doug and it proved to be the hardest.  Blessed with fantastic light and conditions on the other two I suppose I got a little complacent thinking that the images would be in the bag.  Doug passed on many tips and techniques again but my biggest lesson learned was not to rely on the weather.  Knowing how to be creative when the conditions are not at their best certainly takes a lot of practice, so, I’ll be out in all conditions now trying to hone those skills.

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Indoor Sports Photography

Well, I had another go at shooting indoor sports shots last weekend.  It was my Daughters gymnastics competition at Rushclifffe in Nottingham.  The event went fantastic for her and resulted in her qualifying to represent Nottinghamshire in the East Midland regional Finals next month.  A proud dad to say the least!!!!

The photography was a different matter though.  The arena at Rushcliffe is a large windowless expanse of a building building lit by high flood lighting with a few skylights in the roof.  Not ideal lighting as I’m sure you can imagine.  This meant I has to use my Sigma 70-200mm wide open at f2.8 and only by ramping up the ISO to 800 was I able to get shutter speeds fast enough to capture some of the action.  Flash photography is not allowed at these events so as not to distract the gymnast.  I obtained some nice images but was somewhat disappointed with the noise levels which I though my 40d was able to handle a little better.  I’m  now researching as to my choice of camera setting to see if I can reduce the noise but I feel its something ill have to accept while shooing at high ISO’s  (Need to upgrade to the 5D MKII  –  hint to wife!!!).

Below are a few examples of what I achieved on the day, I’ve just adjusted the exposure in Lightroom slightly.  I know Lightroom has a noise reduction tool but I’ve no played with this tool as yet, that something I need to explore.  Ill have another opportunity to take some more shots at her finals in a few weeks down in Leicester.  Ill let you see the results of that day, and who knows, it may have better lighting at this venue.  Any advice then please drop me a line.

 Thanks for looking..

Book Launch

I’d just like to publicise a book launch by a fellow photographer Fran Halsall. Her book launch titled ‘Light & Shadow’ will be taking place at Waterstone’s Orchard Sqaure, Sheffield on 23rd February at 6.30pm.

There will be a slideshow and talk discussing the creation of some of the images in the book.

Tickets are £2 (available from the shop) and are redeemable against the book cost.

Check out her work at http://www.fran-halsall.co.uk/