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Living, as I now do, in Worcester, the Malverns Hills are now a local place to visit.  Although they are called hills, some of the peaks are high enough to be classified as mountains.  Once such is Herefordshire Beacon at 1109 feet above sea level.  It’s the site of British Camp, a huge Iron Age earthwork complex.  The earthworks give a curious silhouette to the hill, and it looks very man-made.

The views from the Malvern Hills are wonderful.  Elizabethan diarist John Evelyn called it “one of the godliest vistas in England”.  There are three cathedrals visible on a good day, but it doesn’t always have be a good day.

On a recent trip there were showers amongst the sunshine and clouds.  By a stroke of luck they all missed me, but they made for fabulous skies and lighting effects.  This shower is about to land on British Camp.  I underexposed a couple of stops to make the sky darker, and to get solid blacks on the hill.

When the shower had cleared away the people on top of the hill reappeared from wherever they had been sheltering, and their silhouettes added an extra dimension to the dark hill and variegated sky.  Once again I underexposed to give more drama in the sky.

Turning to look the other way, there was another shower raining happily in the Pershore area.  The line of the clouds is like an arrow, and the cloud shadow in the foreground helps take the eye to the pouring rain. There’s a sort of reflected symmetry in the shapes at top right and bottom left.  I converted the image to black and white to take away the blue sky.

I’m glad the weather was so variable, and I look forward to many more trips up there.

Reflection and refractions

It’s well and truly autumn now and the sun, when it’s out, is at a much lower angle to things than at the same time of day in summer.  That lower light angle means that lots more photographic opportunities arise.

There are very busy spiders living on and around our window frames.  However often you clean off their webs, they spin new ones really fast.  The low angle morning sunlight picked up this one and gave fabulous refraction colours.  The hedge in shadow in the background gave good contrast.  I used a macro lens, and used manual focus with full lens aperture to have just a tiny bit of the web in focus.  The out of focus backlit highlights now look like multi-coloured barcodes.

Landscapes also benefit from the lower angled light.  Here at Sharpness on the River Severn, (no soft images here!), the muddy areas and the river have picked up some delicious reflections from the low sun.  It’s given good contrast.  In fact the contrast was so strong I had to use HDR processing to get some shadow detail back.

The sun’s position relative to a cloud bank meant that the Severn bridges and Oldbury power station were silhouetted against a bright sky.  The reflections off the river put some life into the otherwise just dark foreground.

Low autumn light?  Embrace the change!

A tale of three beaches

I recently had a few days down in the wonderful Gower Peninsular in Wales.  It’s justly famous for its wonderful beaches.  I did wonder, what with all these staycations and everything, that it might be a bit more crowded than usual; it wasn’t!  Sure, there were bits that were busy, but there’s so much space on the beaches that people can spread out a bit.

Rhossilli beach is a case in point.  When the tide goes out the sandy area is huge.  The wind was quite strong so the wave patterns were fabulous.  As the tide was still going out the beach was wet, giving great cloud and sky reflections.  You can see it’s a great beach for dog walking.  I isolated the section of beach I wanted by zooming my Panasonic TZ100 to its longest focal length.

When the tide goes out on these beaches it’s a long walk to the sea for a swim.  These two swimmers on Pobbles beach are taking the chance to have a chat as they walk.  I have placed them in the corner to emphasis the space.  It was a happy accident that they are in step.

One of my favourite places on Gower is Whitford Burrows.  There’s a really long beach with views over to Pembrokeshire in the distance.  It’s less visited than the southern Gower beaches.  It was a delightful surprise to see these Gower ponies running along the beach.  The lines of the seaweed, beach, sea and background have split the image into sections and there’s a nice bit of telephoto compression that makes the background seem closer.

A tale of three beaches.

It’s all about the light – again.

I have written previously about how important the direction of the light is in your photography.   Kodak’s advice in the early 20th century was to have the light coming over your shoulder.  That was all well and good in the days when film wasn’t very sensitive, but today we can do the exact opposite, and it brings your images to life.

Shooting towards the light, known as “contre jour”, can bring out translucency and transparency, and add a “rim highlight” to your subjects.  This passion flower leaf and fruit shows translucency on the leaf, and a rim highlight on the fruit.  I held the stalk in one hand, making sure the leaf and fruit were in the sun, and held the camera up to my eye with the other.  The background is a hedge in shadow, which has come out very dark.  It’s a useful technique for separating the subject from the background.

This dandelion flower has some light from the front, but the real interest is added by the out of focus highlights in the background where light is reflecting off a stream.  The spider is a happy bonus, as I did not see it when I took the picture!  I was holding the camera quite a way away from me and using the screen on the back.  It was too bright for me to see details and there were reflections off the camera’s screen.

Here the late afternoon sun is shining through some plants outside the window behind the bowl and making a dappled pattern on the table.  The bowl has a literal rim highlight, and there was enough reflected light to lift the colour inside the bowl.   I placed the bowl as close to the corner as I could to give the longest light line across the frame.

It’s always worth looking hard at where the light is coming from and using it to your best advantage.

Little things mean a lot

In our new garden in Worcester we are still learning about what plants and wildlife we have.  Putting to one side the squirrels that drop bits of part-chewed walnuts (and squirrel spit!) all over our cars on the drive, there are some interesting insects around, like this Bronze Shield Bug.

Some of you will know about Levon Biss’ fantastic “Microsculpture” exhibition where the utter beauty of insects was spectacularly displayed via huge prints.  I don’t have access to the kit he used, but I do have a macro lens, some extension tubes and a camera that does in-camera focus stacking.  This straight down shot, where I am parallel to the main body of the insect to help with depth of field, captures the textures of the carapace etc, but it’s a bit disguised against the wood of the garden table.

I went and got some black perspex to try and get a more neutral background.  The perspex still had its protective film on which was reflecting the sky.  It was a bit of a gloomy day, so I also had brought out my 64-LED light panel to help give me a shorter shutter speed.  The light reflected off the protective film giving me a white background.  The insect now stands out much more, despite the complication added by the shadows.

On another morning I spotted a pigeon feather that had been caught in a cobweb on a garden chair.  I moved the chair so that the morning sunlight shone through the feather, and so that the background was dark to give good contrast.  The strength of the cobweb, given its delicacy, is amazing, and the structure of the feather is likewise.

Just a couple of small things, but the beauty can be captured with a macro lens and a bit of light.