2018 in Review

Gosh, where to start! What a strange year that was.

One of the more interesting aspects to this rather lovely thing called photography that I do is that you become very aware of subtle differences year on year. Usually these differences are confined to which particular flower has been favoured by the sequence of weather conditions that have prevailed over the last 12 months, whether it’s the spring Orchids or the Bluebells or the August heather. We rarely get weather events that are so extreme that they’re worth a separate mention but this year has come with two noteworthy interludes. Last winter sort of came on in a somewhat undemonstrative fashion with the first snows arriving in the middle of December but then it simply wouldn’t go away, with the cold intensifying as the early months progressed. A sequence of Easterly air streams brought by a contorted Jet Stream created prolonged cold and snowy conditions and not for the first time I found myself restricted to photographing places that I could reach on foot because we were snowed in. Thankfully I live in a very pretty place so being grounded does not carry the same frustrations for me that it perhaps does for town-based photographers. Spring came very late and was quite short and intense before more Jet Stream contortions brought a six week long hot and dry period where lots of things got a serious toasting. Autumn was very colourful as a consequence. Curious conditions create rare and curious scenes, however, and should not diminish the drive to get out and record with the camera things that perhaps occur only very rarely.

Due to circumstances I have run far less workshops this year. In part this has been due to the simple fact that I have been overworking. I have managed to go down with something unpleasant every year for the last few years at the back-end of November and the flu-like thing that I went down with at the end of last year laid me up until March. I wont be going back to the 40-50 workshops a year situation that I have been in before. 20 or so will be plenty from now on. I am sure that it will be to everyone’s benefit. I will have more energy and be able to apply myself better. Having more time has also allowed me to experiment a bit and I have been making progress on several photographic and non-photographic fronts this year. More about them sometime later next year, hopefully.

I also had the pleasure of illustrating another book this year, with Roly Smith’s lovely ‘Wonders Of The Peak: Then and Now’ coming out late in the summer. A very good and satisfying collaboration with one the Peak Districts leading authors.

Camera-wise the combination of ill-health, curious weather and experimentation has inevitably impacted on where I have gone with the camera and what I have done with it so let’s see – and I’ve cheated a bit this year because for some months I have chosen more than one image …..

January

01_jan_01
Easy. I only had one trip out with the camera worthy of note in January. A lovely wander around the upper reaches of Weardale which produced this very pleasing shot of the detail from one of the rapids. A very careful exposure made by resting the camera on top of my rucksack because I didn’t want to carry a tripod with me.

February

This was when the colder weather contortions of the Jet Stream started to manifest themselves. A visit to the frozen Kinder Downfall has been on my to-do list for years and the prevailing easterly finally delivered the right conditions for me at a time when I could actually exploit them. I wasn’t in ideal shape for the trek and found it a bit arduous but the rewards made the exertions very worthwhile.

I have put two images in here because the second, a black and white from a walk into the woods just around the corner from my house, was made on film. Ilford XP 400 shot with a Nikon F-301. I spent some time this year trying to retro-fit some of the techniques that I have developed for digital back to film to see if they work and of course they do. I haven’t invented anything new. It simply means that after all these years I have learned how to do photography properly. It’s not surprising that I can now create film images better than at any time before when I was only using film. The results are nonetheless very pleasing and I will do more film in future.

March

The snowy weather didn’t leave us until the middle of March, which was a bit of a worry because we finally got to run a photography holiday with our good friends at Plas-y-wern in Wales. In the end the A487 was cleared just in time for Martin, Colin, Catherine, Moy and Chris to get over the Welsh hills to Cardigan, at which point the sun promptly came out and suddenly it was Spring.

Two images again from March with the first one being the waterfall on the beach at Tresaith from the final day at Plas-y-wern and the second a shot across the fields at Parsley Hay in the Peak District, where I spent a couple of days working while the Visitor Centre in Bakewell was being refurbished. Not a bad view from the office window!

April

04_apr_02
I started doing some very interesting experiments with red filters this year and I must say that I think that the quality of even the digital frames created by using red filters is better than the simple black and white conversions available in photoshop. The red filter is now a permanent add-on to my camera bag – either digital or analogue. This shot is a detail of the Devonshire Dome in Buxton.

May

05_may_01
As expected, Spring was pretty intense but quite brief, with everything trying to make up for the late start. The Bluebells were pretty without being outstanding as was the wild garlic. In some places the orchids failed to show at all so it will be interesting to see what happens next spring. This month’s shot comes from near Fairholmes on Ladybower. One of the benefits of visiting places repeatedly is that you get past the sense of being overwhelmed by what you see and you start to see the details, where a lot of the more interesting photographs can be found. This process is called Accommodation and this shot is definitely a product of my brain accomodating the wider, impressive nature of Ladybower through visiting it many times. It’s not a composition that I had noticed in previous visits but it leapt straight at me when I saw it.

June

Well, someone definitely left the heating on in June ! We had a very pleasant trip to Snowdonia for our wedding anniversary but it was so hot we didn’t actually do very much. It was very enjoyable, though, and the area around the cottage in Nant Peris was lovely. Two photographs again for this month with one from Nant Peris and the Peak District shot taken in Water-cum-Jolly, just down from my house from a set of long exposure exercises in texture. I was very pleased with the Monet-like qualities of this one.

July

07_jul_01
The warm, toasted countryside continued all the way through July but there was really quite a lot to photograph. I was particularly interested in the extremely low water levels in the rivers, which revealed details thatΒ  you would not normally see. The water levels in the reservoirs of the Upper Derwent just fell and fell. July’s image is a pleasingly different study of the Weir in Monsal Dale.

August

08_aug_01
The drought somewhat held the heather back and it wasn’t as good as it has been in recent years but at least the rains returned in August, meaning that the late summer colours were actually very good. We enjoyed an excellent trip to Argyll and Bute where we were amazed by just how much wildlife the area supports. From our chalet on the shores of Loch Caolisport we regularly saw a local Sea Eagle. My favourite shot for the month is of a Sea Eagle and was taken on a trip out to the Corryvrecken, a famous maelstrom that occurs between the islands of Jura and Scarba.

September

09_sep_01
The autumn colours crept in gradually in September but the rains had arrived just in time to stop everything from simply dying off at the end of the summer and there was an awful lot of things to look at and shoot. Even so my favourite shot is from Howden in the Upper Derwent which reached amazingly low levels. A day out with Gill.

October

Commitments meant that I barely got out with the camera in October but just being able to look at the colours was a joy. We managed a couple of days in Venice, which is a photogenic marvel, but I also managed a trip out to Priddock Wood, somewhere that I hadn’t been to for years and was very glad to get back, particularly with the colours being so good. So, another month with two images.

November

11_nov_01
It was pretty much back to normal with the weather in November. Mild and wet. Windy. Mild, wet and windy. A bit of frost. Mild and wet again. November in a nutshell. November is also when I tend to hold my last workshop of the year, which is usually a moving water workshop and this year was no exception. It was an annual trip up into Crowden Brook. A really lovely location with lots of interesting detail to shoot.

December

It seems that we’re heading out of the year in a bit of a dull squish – at least in the Peak District we are. There has been some nice occasional light, however, and I have another month with two images. One from a beautifully lit Bolehill Quarry from early in the month and the second a shot of Broadway Tower that I took on Christmas Eve while on a short break in the Cotswolds.

So there we have it. It doesn’t seem like 12 months since I last did this but then it has been a very unusual year and despite the limited opportunities the product has been very pleasing.

Thank you for your company this year. There’ll be more fun in the New Year. Have a good ‘un πŸ™‚

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2019 Peak District Landscapes Calendar

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My 2019 calendar is now available to purchase. It features 12 of my favourite images from the last year or so. Calendars can be ordered from my web site … http://www.ravenseye.plus.com/ravenseye/calendars.html

Thinking of Returning to film ?

Is this a primer or a retrospective ? A return to something we already know but we thought was lost ? Or something completely new to you ?

With the ubiquity of Digital Photography one can be forgiven for thinking that film is dead but be assured that it still lives, breathes and thrives. It is inevitably diminished by the immediacy and availability of the digital medium but it’s still there for you if you want to go back and remind yourself of the journey contained in each canister of film you load. I thought I would write a short blog about the current route for those considering a reprise or a return. Perhaps you’ve never shot film before at all ?!

Cameras

35mm SLR Film Cameras

35mm SLR Film Cameras

Still lots and lots available through eBay and other on-line outlets at some ridiculous prices. You can get mid-90s state of the art film cameras for less than Β£200 in near mint condition. Nikon F4 ? Canon EOS-1N ? Yes please. No problem at all. There are also a lot of medium format cameras to be had, although interestingly these seem to hold their value more. The Contax 645, for example, an absolutely top-notch medium format system will still set you back a couple of thousand. Likewise a good Hasselblad. Most of the 35mm systems come with 50mm lenses so it’s worth keeping an eye open for slightly different focal lengths. Run of the mill focal lengths are fairly common and relatively cheaper. Curiously, a camera/lens bundle will often be cheaper than a lens only purchase.

Film

Fuji Provia 100

Fuji Provia 100

You can still buy both 35mm Black and White and Colour film from Boots, although the choice is slightly limited. If you want a wider selection then have a look at Fotosense or eBay. It’s worth doing your research here. Film behaves differently to digital. Digital ISO is only an approximation of film speed. Something that is not apparent if you have only worked in digital.

Processing

Again, Boots will (still) process your film for you as they always have but there are a lot of on-line providers that will do it for you. I use Peak Imaging in Sheffield, where the service has lots of options on development and printing, including Develop and Scan, wherein the developed negatives are also scanned and returned to you on a disk. This is a good option because it not only gives you a very quick route back to digital it also allows you to closely consider your negatives before committing to print, which they will also do for you.

Darkroom ?

Darkroom equipment

Darkroom equipment

If you want to go the whole hog and start your own darkroom then all of the material that you need can still be bought on-line. Buy a book before you start as it will give you an idea of what is involved. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be but once you start playing with the light path, the materials and how you can manipulate them you will probably be hooked.

A technical argument

I still haven’t really got my head around the artistic arguments for film but in that it is art that we’re talking about the arguments are probably moot. You do it if you want to do it and you don’t if you don’t. The digital and analogue end-products are equivalent visually so the emotion is probably in the process. Film is undoubtedly harder. The instinct to look at the back of the camera after shutter actuation is irresistible but there is no in-situ validation. You don’t get that until the film comes back from the lab so you need to know what you’re doing at the point of exposure. Technically there is an argument worth making, however. If you scan a 35mm transparency at maximum available resolution then you will get back a file that has as much information in it that you would get from a digital camera worth about Β£2500, and with a slightly wider dynamic range. If you do the same with a 120 frame then you would have to splash out about Β£25,000 for a digital camera that would produce the equivalent amount of data, with a slightly diminished dynamic range. So if you want good data cheaply then film offers an affordable – if slightly longer – route.

Another observation worth making here. I have found that I can take *hugely* better photographs with film now than I did before the arrival of digital. This is because the learning cycle is massively shortened by digital. Having spent the best part of 15 years being allowed to inspect and critique photographs immediately after they have been made has made me a better photographer. The compositional skills developed in the digital medium port back immediately to film. You just have to know what you are doing at the execution phase with film. There is no safety net. You can’t inspect and delete/repeat until correct like you can with digital. This makes the point of execution critical in film in a way that digital can never be without pointless self-imposed limitations.

Landscape Photography Courses in the Peak District National Park

Having a thing for Legacy Lenses

Nikon AF 24mm f2.8

Nikon AF 24mm f2.8

I like legacy lenses. Some of that has to do with the fact that manufacturers are continuously coming out with new – and expensive – equipment with the implication that the new one is much better than the old one. That is really not always the case.

While it is very true that the huge popularity/profitability of digital photography has allowed manufacturers to invest in the R&D of products in a way that they never could with film, new does not always mean better. Also the vastly over-priced nature of the UK camera market means that buying the best of the new stuff means having very deep pockets indeed.

I have always encouraged people to invest in lenses. The technology behind the lens will change and evolve continuously but at the end of the day the light still has to pass through a transparent lens-type thing and be focussed, somehow, onto the sensor or film and the more you spend on your lenses the better the medium behind it will perform and the higher the quality of the images that the camera will produce. This is especially true of entry level equipment where some of the basic lenses really are rubbish and stepping up to a more expensive lens allows the camera body to perform much better.

This remains true of legacy lenses. A lens that performed well 20 or 30 years ago will still perform well today – and that’s why I like legacy lenses. They have a degree of future-proofing about them, although the manufacturers really do their best to force you onto the new products by deliberately limiting backward-compatibility.

I also absolutely hate the idea of waste and making rubbish new lenses when there’s so many really great lenses still available irks me intensely. I also suspect that manufacturers deliberately make poor entry level lenses to encourage buyers to invest in more and better lenses when they realise how bad the one they’ve got is. Call me cynical here but I have seen some very good entry level lenses so I know it can be done.

I started investigating legacy lenses in the middle of the last recession when I was keen to extend my kit but simply didn’t have the money to do so. I still had some old film cameras kicking about and was interested to know whether it was possible to use these old lenses on the new digital bodies – it turns out that you can and it’s really quite straight-forward.

Nikon AF to Canon EF Adapter

Nikon AF to Canon EF Adapter

People are always finding new ways to do photography. Often in a manner that requires a degree of invention and it is logical that people have been down the legacy lenses route before me – probably for much the same reasons as myself – to the degree that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating new pieces of precision engineering that allow you to fit an obsolete lens, via a special adapter plate, onto a current body. Or even put the lens from one manufacturer onto the body of another. Some of these adapters are so sophisticated that they also offer electrical contiguity – where it is a part of the design – between body and lens enabling autofocus. Others incorporate a further corrective lens to accommodate the fact that the element->sensor spacing in the new camera might be different to that in the original camera. Whether this market is actually profitable I have absolutely no idea but the invention and re-use appeals to me immensely. Doing something like this just to see if you can is a good enough reason to do it.

My original legacy path involved seeing if I could fit my old Canon FD lenses onto a new(er) EF body. And it turns out you can. There is an adapter plate that you can buy that will provide the interface. That also got me looking into the whole legacy lens market and it turns out – unsurprisingly – that it is very healthy indeed. The point about a good lens always being a good lens is both well made and very relevant and it means also that they tend to retain their value. There’s a linear relationship in photography equipment between price and quality and it seems that extends backwards as well. Good old things are still more expensive than bad old things. My search got me looking at some more lenses and I was particularly interested in the Canon FD 20mm for landscaping but was actually quite taken aback at the asking prices. It was still expensive because it was highly regarded.

Nikon F-301

Nikon F-301

Business picked up and my search took a bit of a back seat until a couple of years ago when someone gave me a Nikon F-301 with a couple of lenses. I was particularly interested in the 50mm f1.8. A bit of googling revealed that I had been given a particularly good lens so I acquired a Nikon AF -> Canon EF adapter plate so that I could used the little Nikon on my digital camera.

(Interesting side note here – Not all makes of lens can be made to work with all makes of body. There is no retrofit, for example back from Canon EF lenses to Nikon AF bodies because the Nikon body aperture is simply too small to accommodate the Canon lens. Sidenote 2 – Sony == Minolta. Just saying…)

One of the interesting aspects of this conversion is that it puts the camera in fully Manual mode. Just like the old days, although focussing is made very easy and precise through Live View. The lens produces exquisitely sharp and clear images.

Eyam Delph - Nikon AF 50mm on Canon 6D

Eyam Delph – Nikon AF 50mm on Canon 6D

With my recently renewed interest in film photography the pursuit of Nikon legacy lenses for the F-301 does create an enjoyable convergence. Any Nikon AF lenses that I use can also be used via the adapter plate on my Canon digital camera, which is very pleasing and appeals strongly to my waste-not want-not philosophy. It’s like hoarding with a licence !

I have recently added the Nikon AF 24mm f2.8 to the collection. Very reasonably priced for what is a beautifully made lens. Not quite the Canon FD 20mm that I coveted, and which incidentally would have to have been used on Manual also, but a very adequate substitute.

If there is one problem that the convergence does create it is that I can carry both the
digital kit and the film kit knowing that either can be deployed. It’s starting to look like we’re going to need a bigger boat ……

Landscape Photography Courses in the Peak District National Park

 

Cropping In Post

It happens many times. You stand in front of a scene, either unsure of the precise comp or the light is going to vanish imminently and you simply do not have the time to refine the scene before making the shot. Either way the final result at this point remains unclear.

Shoot around the crop

Rather than lose the opportunity in front of you completely, zoom back to a frame that is more-than-likely outside your ideal composition and record it. The idea is to crop back to your ideal when you get home.

Make yourself some crop masks …

Crop masks

Crop masks

They shouldn’t be too big because they need to fit inside the size of your computer monitor but they shouldn’t be too small either because they won’t work very well.

In the editor, overlay the masks onto your around-the-crop image. Using the editors zoom function adjust the size of the rendered image within the mask until a pleasing composition is revealed. The physical edge of the mask helps to identify the most important parts of the composition by taking away the distracting clutter of the un-masked image, allowing the brain to isolate the parts that matter most.

Square Mask

Square Mask

The ideal crop might not be achieved because the zoom function is usually non-linear but you can bring the mask toward the eye to make smaller adjustments that the zoom function cannot provide.

Multiple masks are good because they create options and get you away from the standard 4:3 frame. Of course a 4:3 mask should also be a part of the toolkit anyway.

Double Aspect Crop

Double Aspect Mask

The masks are just as useful for non around-the-crop shots and help greatly in tweaking the composition. Non 4:3 masks like the square and double-aspect are the most useful because they present the subject in a way not seen through the viewfinder, which tends to be 4:3.

This is based on a standard artist studio technique. I hope you find it useful.

Landscape Photography Courses in the Peak District National Park

2017 in Review

I’ve been a bit puzzled why it is over the last few years I have found it hard to Blog. It’s only really recently that it has occurred to me that I have simply been too busy ! 2017 has again proved to be an extremely busy year so it’s not that surprising that the Blog gets neglected. I simply don’t have the time to sit down and write one ! I’ll avoid making the empty promises of trying to do more next year πŸ˜‰

Like I say, another incredibly busy year with the workshops featuring hugely. A massive thank you to everyone who came along this year, faces both new and familiar. I totted up my diary and counted up 54 workshops, which is amazing. The popularity of photography shows no sign of diminishing – and why should it ? It’s such a fantastic thing to do and I look forward to more workshops in the new year – I should really get around to setting some dates !

Photographing The Peak District fotovue

Photographing The Peak District

Of course, the year’s biggest event for me has been the publication of Photographing The Peak District, the culmination of several year’s work and a great end result. Huge thanks to my co-author Mick Ryan and to Stuart Holmes, the two chaps behind the excellent FotoVUE books. I have copies of all of the books so far published and they are without exception superb works. I also have an insight of what’s to come and next year promises more goodies from the team. There may be more collaboration between us in the near future and I also have other works currently in-progress. Photographing The Peak District is available from a lot of outlets but it’s best if you buy it directly from either myself or from FotoVUE.

Photographically it has been a period of gradual change. The joint demands of Photographing The Peak District and of the workshops have meant that I have actually had little time over the last few years to consider where I am going with photography and where I want to be. Part way through the year, as the demands of the book began to slacken I started looking at what I was doing and where I was going and I think things started to change a bit. That process will probably continue.

I made a brief trip back into film this year, which I really enjoyed and will pursue further in 2018, although at the moment the reasons for that or the ultimate goal remains unclear. Two years ago I blogged about the probable move back to film and it is very interesting to see it’s resurgence – whatever the reasons are for it.

So to this years fave pics. Quite a variation this year, reflecting the confusion in my head !! πŸ˜€

January

Higger Tor

Higger Tor

With it being such an iconic Peak District location we really wanted an atmospheric shot from Higger Tor. You can never really predict exactly what the conditions will offer you when you go out but January served up a treat. I doubt that I will ever get a better shot from this position.

February

Church Rock

Church Rock

We spent a very enjoyable few days in South Wales with some friends and walked along the coast via Broadchurch Bay. This is a long exposure of Church Rock that sits in the bay. Talking of FotoVUE, watch out for Drew Buckley’s book on South Wales. It covers this part of the Pembrokeshire coast. It really is stunning.

March

River Westend

River Westend

Around this time I developed a deep and meaningful relationship with this bend in the River Westend on Derwent Reservoir. I think that this is a beautiful location and I ended up photographing it dozens of times last year.

April

Water-cum-Jolly

Water-cum-Jolly

My migration to longer focal lengths continued into April, where I was also experimenting with exposure blends. A wander through Water-cum-Jolly produced this interesting shot, which was my favourite in April.

May

Mine, mine, mine !

Mine, mine, mine !

I must admit that I have dozens of photographs from May that I could choose from but I have selected this one from a workshop. It is shot on burst mode with no chance to either compose or focus. You just hit and hope and see what comes out of the camera. This did ! πŸ˜€

June

Tall Trees

Tall Trees

Curiously I found June to be quite unproductive this year and a quick look through the diary confirms that I was really tied up that month. I still had time for a nice wander up into some of the older plantations around Ladybower for this one. Again, working on that longer focal length stuff and trying to move away from wideangle.

July

Millers Dale

Millers Dale

In July I found my way back into Water-cum-Jolly. I had imagined a particular shot but needed the light to fall in a particular way to make it work. Late afternoon produced this lovely shot.

August

Little Bumper Piece

Little Bumper Piece

The heather this year was fabulous. It has been quite a few years since I ventured out onto Little Bumper Piece at dawn and I really enjoyed being out there this year. I have yet to process all of the shots that I took that morning.

September

Leash Fen

Leash Fen

Another bucket list location this month with a misty morning on Leash Fen doing the business. What a great spot. This one was picked up by National Geographic as well, which is very pleasing.

October

Surreal Ladybower

Surreal Ladybower

October and November are always very colourful months up here so I am usually out most days, either on my own or with groups. We had surprisingly little morning mist this year as well but this pleasingly surreal shot is from a day spent with Tim. It’s always a good idea to nip up to Ladybower when the air is calm because it does this sort of thing !

November

Gardoms Edge

Gardoms Edge

I don’t recall ever running so many workshops in November as I did this year. The weather was kind and the colours excellent. This shot from Gardoms Edge is from a great couple of days working with Catherine.

December

Ladybower Birches

Ladybower Birches

Well, the snow is hammering down outside at the moment, making it one of the snowiest Decembers we’ve had in a few years. This shot is one from a couple of days snow we had earlier in the month. I’m off out with the camera this afternoon and while there’s always a chance of producing something better I’ll draw a line under this year’s review with this one.

So, a hectic but ultimately thrilling year. Thank you for being with me throughout and liking and sharing my work. It’s always appreciated. Here’s to a happy, healthy and successful 2018 to you all.

Best wishes

Chris

2016 In Review

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesA day of misty, long shadows today but shadows that are a tiny fraction shorter at this time of day than they were yesterday. That’s one of the nice things about doing an end of year review. The days have already started to lengthen, although in Oxford where we were for Christmas the Snowdrops were already out so it will be interesting to see how this Spring unfolds. It was all a bit crazy in 2016 and I suspect 2017 will be similar.

2016 was a very busy year, with lots of interesting projects on the go. All of it very enjoyable. As always the tuition side of what I do has been endlessly entertaining with some great workshops run and new friends made, some of which I have been lucky enough to see more than once this year. It is always a joy and this year I have run more training days than any other year since I have been doing this. The weather even co-operated occasionally.

One of this year’s highlights is a new working partnership with Plas-y-Wern holidays on the Cardigan coast. We’ll be running two new workshops with Alex and Ellen this year. One in Spring and another in autumn. It’s a beautiful landscape with so much to offer and – in my opinion – badly overlooked photographically although there is a small band of enthusiastic locals who do well to bang its drum. With Snowdonia just up the road and easier to get to the holidays will be a hard sell so it will be very interesting to see how things go. The images that I create when I am there are a key part of this.

Artistically I have sensed a change in myself this year and this has been down to my using my lovely 70-300 more as a landscape lens. It takes a while to learn a new tool but one of the reassuring things is that by applying the same composition principles that I do with shorter lenses the longer lens is just as straightforward to work with and in the process creates an almost entirely different look and feel to the shorter lenses. All very satisfying – but does any of the new work find it’s way into this year’s hit list ? …..

January
Another very mild winter, with a small amount of snow in January. We went through a spate of fairly cold and snowy winters in the early 2000s but that all seems to have gone away now. The shot I have chosen for January actually comes from a workshop. I do like to use the Roaches on workshops if I can because the landscape interacts really well with the weather as it approaches across the Cheshire Plains and so it proved. This black and white conversion really caught my eye …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesFebruary
I do like exploring. I’ve been exploring the Peak District since 1988 and still have yet to walk in some of it’s harder to get to and remote locations. Stanage North End Quarry is place that I took an instant like to many years ago. It isn’t really overlooked by anything else so it has a real out-of-the-way feel to it. It was a pleasure to be able to visit it again with the camera in February …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesMarch
We had another quick blast of snow at the beginning of March and everything was very pretty for a day or so. The weather then settled down and it was warm with quite a lot of misty days. My favourite is this dark study of Hope Valley cement works. I was struck by just how colourful the site was but of course this colour is only revealed by a long exposure …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesApril
My favourite April shot found it’s way onto my calendar for this year. I’ve been up to Bleaklow Stones quite a few times over the years since first visiting in … hmmm …. 1994, I think. You rarely see anyone up there. It can be approached in 4 different directions and this was the first time that I had followed the ‘Stake Path’ from Bleaklow Head. I wouldn’t want to be following it in bad weather, that’s for sure and as it was I only got 30 minutes at Bleaklow Stones to make a shot before I had to head back otherwise I wouldn’t have made it back to Snake Summit before dark. A 12km ’round trip bog slog with 30 minutes of photography in the middle. Worth every minute ! πŸ˜€ …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesMay
May was a very colourful month. April had been quite cool and a lot of the early flowers kept on going. At one point we had Snowdrops, Daffodils, Primroses and Marsh Marigolds all in flower simultaneously. Really quite something to see. This year’s Bluebells, while not the best we’ve had in the Peak District this year by some margin, still contrived to produce my favourite shot from the month …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesJune
We managed to get away for a few days in June and walked the Cardigan Coast Path, which is beautiful. We stayed at a farm called Plas-y-Wern and very quickly realised that my love of running photography workshops coincided very nicely with Alex’s plans to develop the site beyond simply being a place that people go on holiday. The germ for the Cardigan Photo Holidays was sown that week and this shot from Llangrannog perhaps illustrates the potential I feel the area has. As an aside, I was initially irritated when the girl walked into the composition at just the wrong time but then came to realise later that she is probably the most important part of it …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesJuly
Another break in July, this time to the far north west of Scotland on our annual trip to watch whales and dolphins from the Scottish coast. We were based at Melvaig and although the weather wasn’t particularly brilliant we did get the occasional break in the light and my choice for this month is from a lovely evening at Badachro, just near Gairloch. There’s a really good pub there and this was taken just around the corner from it…

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesAugust
As the summer started running down and autumn approached the weather was settled and warm and the Peak District colours came to life. It was really quite extraordinary and this year’s heather was absolutely lovely – which is why I have chosen a moving water shot ! πŸ˜€ This was on a workshop with Emma. It’s one of my favourite locations in Padley Gorge and on this occasion the combination of the long exposure with the gentle green light filtering through the trees above produced a very surreal version of this shot …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesSeptember
The wonderful conditions continued into September with some really great results. We had another visit to Cardigan to generate material for the photo holidays and I got a lot of really nice stuff but my favourite shot from the month was without doubt this one taken one golden morning in Winnats Pass.Β  Also very satisfying because it was taken with the longer lens …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesOctober
Another glorious month and one where for some reason I found myself loitering around Chatsworth Park quite a lot. I had run a very good workshop with Buxton Museum which had included a quick visit to Chatsworth and while we were there I spotted a composition that I liked. I went back several times to try and do it but never actually got what I was looking for but instead came away with this one, which is probably better than the one I had originally imagined ! …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesNovember
If in October I had been guilty of loitering with intent around Chatsworth then in November I
committed the same crime around Ladybower but the colours were just so incredible this month that it was really very hard to drag myself away. And so it seemed all the way through the month as the autumn gales never happened and the colours just simply carried on and on and on …

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesDecember
I’m going to take a flyer on doing a December shot even though the month is not yet finished. I may yet better this but the chances of doing so are diminishing. We haven’t had a huge number of frosty mornings this year but we got a great one quite early in December and I found myself overlooking a frosty misty Derwent Valley in the quiet calm of the morning and it was all really rather lovely ….

chris gilbert peak district landscape photography worklshops coursesSo there we have it. A small sample of images from a huge set with very few coincidences with this year’s calendar, which is actually quite pleasing. My top12 tends to be a bit esoteric while the calendars somewhat risk averse but I hope some of these make you smile πŸ™‚

Have a very happy and prosperous 2017 !

More gimcracks and magic boxes

One of the things that I find endlessly fascinating about photography is the number of peripheral and associated devices that the discipline inspires – tubes, cables, filters, flashes, clamps, plamps, reflectors etc – an endless stream of creative ideas designed to overcome specific problems that photographers have encountered. Think of a photography problem and someone, somewhere will have invented a device to solve it.

I like making my own gimcracks and have talked about them before. Here’s a new one. It’s a variation on a previous creation.

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Essentially it is a box that allows graduated filters to be used with a cameraphone. A lot of cameraphones – particularly the iPhone – allow HDR photography so this is not relevant to all cameraphones but in that HDR can flatten the colour and texture gradients this is a good route to preserving the dynamics of the natural landscape.

The box is made from 10mm foamcore. There are two slots attached to the leading edge and the whole thing is designed to take 10cm filters. The distance between the back of the box, where the camera sits, and the front of the box where the filters sit is enough to make the filtering effective. If the filters were closer to the camera then the filtering would be less effective. The inside of the box is painted matt black to eliminate reflections from the back of the filter. The base of the box has a hole through which it can be attached to the top of a tripod.

The rear place of the box is made from thick card to eliminate any intrusion into the frame from the edges of the hole, which is just big enough to expose the camera.

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The camera slots into a socket attached to the rear place of the box, again made from 10mm foamcore.

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The rear plane of the socket has a window cut into it to expose the screen and the controls to the camera. I haven’t yet seen a cameraphone that provides a histogram – I am sure that such a thing exists – but the Windows phone provides widgets for adjusting ISO, white balance and exposure. It also has a self timer enabling some pretty good photography, even in low light.

The results have been very interesting …

The coupling of the camera to the tripod is without doubt a great success. Images as sharp as the camera will produce and at the lowest ISO/Highest quality. My cameraphone isn’t really very good as far as these devices go – tiny lens, only 4MP – but it will produce something that will comfortably print at A4. Being able to bully a long exposure out of it for moving water is also good but with landscapes it is noticeable that the filters confuse the analogue-digital conversion process in the camera and produce a cast, which is a bit of a disappointment and quite unexpected. But then at the end of the day this is a phone, not a camera.

A very enjoyable experiment. Someone may like to try this out.

Landscape Photography Courses in the Peak District National Park