Water Abstracts at Daeda’s Wood


Here are the results of a trip to a local Woodland Trust site: Daeda’s Wood, near Deddington, Oxfordshire. It’s a young plantation of mostly willow and poplar, with a small river (the Swere) meandering along one side. Since the woodland isn’t mature, there are few opportunities for traditional landscape work, but the river and its overhanging trees provided good opportunities for abstract work of the water surface, using tilt with my 85PC-E to level the focal plane onto the surface of the water. (more…)

Traces of Botany

As featured recently in OnLandscape Magazine (4×4 Subscribers’ Portfolios).

The four images presented here are part of a growing series interpreting and evaluating my emotional connection and reaction to horticultural decay:

images of the relation between botanicals and the glass (or polythene) that controls, contains, or restrains them;

images reflecting my connection with, but also separation from, my ‘roots’.

These images seek out redemptive beauty in decay and the passage of time – the three shots beyond the Kew image that inspired them are details from my parents’ ageing Derbyshire horticultural business.

These images are also the beginnings of an (initially unintentional) response to my first year of shooting more self-consciously through glass with a 5×4 view camera and film. The Kew image was shot on 5×4 Ektar 100, while the others were with a Nikon D800E and 85mm tilt-shift.

Kew Waterlilly House Ektar

Kew Waterlily House Ektar

Backlit Botanicals

Backlit Botanicals

Backlit Botanicals Detail

Backlit Botanicals Detail

Hokusai Glass

Hokusai Glass

New Gallery Page

A quick note to say that I’ve created a dedicated Gallery page for my best shots on large format film, here.

Clicking on an individual image will take you into the slideshow, with technical details provided at bottom left.

All images processed by Peak Imaging, and scanned at home with a basic but very effective DSLR macro setup (D800E generally at 60mm, with four shots stitched in CS6, providing a basic file with long dimensions of about 9000 pixels, depending on how much overlap I dial in).



Porth Meudwy 

A couple of trips to North Wales – and in particular the Aberdaron area at the very tip of the Lleyn peninsula- in the last few months reminded me of its photographic potential – though I hadn’t visited in over 20 years it was all very familiar after childhood holidays every year.  It’s a four hour drive each way from home, and while I’ve done this a couple of times, it requires a 4am start and you’re also limited by tide times for coastal shots.    On this latest visit I decided to bring camping gear , and wild camp in the National Trust car park at Porth Meudwy.  On this occasion I stayed for two nights; I wouldn’t do this here in summer, when things are very busy with holidays, but it’s quiet out of season.  I put a significant investment into decent gear in preparation for a week in Glencoe last autumn, and while the kit I have is bulky overkill for one, I rest assured that it will withstand extremely bad conditions and will have enough room should my son come with me in future.  Here’s what I have:


Edward Burtynsky and Georgia O’Keeffe in London


Yesterday I visited London for 1) a work trip to a library; 2) a visit to the Flowers Gallery in Hoxton to see the exhibition of recent photography by Edward Burtynsky; and 3) a visit to Tate Modern, to see the new Switch House and to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. Here are my thoughts on the day, and the intriguing juxtapositions I felt.


After a pitstop at Senate House to drop off a couple of books, I headed to Hoxton to visit the Burtynsky exhibition at the Flowers Gallery. (Link to guardian interview and coverage here)

The plan was then to visit Tate Modern, which I hadn’t visited for a few years – and I’d in fact forgotten that the O’Keeffe exhibition was on at all: serendipity!

(Link to guardian review of exhibition here)


The Burtynsky exhibition was really excellent, though I have a few observations. There was no entry charge: classic gallery setup, you had to ring the buzzer to be let in, and were promptly rewarded with the gallery press release, and the price list for the photographs on display! The largest size for the recent Salt Pans series (an imposing 58 x 78 inches) were £42,000…


The Salt Pans prints were really very imposing, and were excellently printed and displayed. Lighting was both subdued and luminous, bringing out the saturation and painterly luminosity of the images really well. I bought both books on sale, and at the time wrote a note that I felt that the images on display in the gallery were more luminous than those in the books; having got the books home, the printing quality is excellent, so that tells you how well the recent images were displayed in the gallery.


Upstairs were a selection of previous images from the Essential Elements book. Some of these were really excellent (the cover image in particular), but I felt that here the printing quality was slightly less impressive. The Houston skyline image wasn’t as sharp in the print as it is in the book, for instance. Not sure what the problem was here.


Anyway, altogether an excellent visit. There were also selling limited edition books of each, including a roughly A4 size print (I think there was a choice of 3 prints to choose from). These books were over £200 each, but might be a good investment for someone with deeper pockets than me.


On to bankside and Tate Modern. For anyone who hasn’t been, this is a must-visit in London. It’s free (of course) and there are amazing things to see and explore, including the building itself, though the exhibitions are quite pricey (up to about £18, for the O’Keeffe).  Photography-wise, Tate Modern’s permanent collection is full of interest, including examples of William Egglestone, and series of typologies by Bernd and Hilla Becher.  I was then delighted to remind myself that the O’Keeffe exhibition was on, and was really impressed and struck by the juxtapositions with photography (they had quite a number of prints on show by Stieglitz, Strand, and Adams, including very famous works (O’Keeffe and Orville Cox; Moonlight over Hernandez – neither of which, I think, are included in the exhibition monograph, presumably because of image rights restrictions). For those in the know about 20th century landscape photography this was a real treat, especially as most visitors sped past the monochrome photographs, wowed by the saturated colour of the paintings. This was a missed opportunity for some, especially as I felt that the juxtapositions really spelled out a sense that the O’Keeffe work was one abstraction or colour removed from the contemporary landscape photographers’ work. What this says about O’Keeffe as a painter is open to debate (“a tension between observation and abstraction”, as the Guardian review puts it), but the exhibition at least strove to make this connection throughout, and it was a great strength.


When seen in juxtaposition with my earlier absorption into Burtynsky’s ‘canvases’, obvious parallelisms struck me (and whether Burtynsky felt O’Keeffe’s influence in any way is irrelevant to my point). I felt an affinity between the best photographs there and O’Keeffe’s most luminous and cardinal work (for instance, ‘Red and Orange Streak’), in their shared interest in the opposition between saturated colour and muted almost monochrome tones, and in their gestures towards abstraction. In both cases, I felt that both Burtynsky and O’Keeffe were at their best the closer to abstraction their works became, while maintaining a semblance of reality.


Burtynsky at the Flowers Gallery, Kingsland Road, runs until 29th October.

O’Keeffe at Tate Modern is on until 30th October. See them together!


On my way around I also took a few iPhone shots.  Here are the best of the bunch.





Gallery Pages!

Finally started to add some gallery pages!  Some representative images for the kind of photography I’m currently fascinated by.

XPan and iPhone


So my film reawakening continues, with new shots taken on 5×4, and also with the XPan.


I’ve returned from the family holiday to Scotland recently, taking all my cameras with me, but weather conditions and the season really didn’t fall together as nicely as I had hoped, so I didn’t shoot that much, and think I only managed two compositions on 5×4 and nothing else on film. I shot one or two on digital with the Nikon, but again nothing much. The weather was either too sunny or too grey, and the seasonal colours weren’t inspiring me; I was also hoping for some nice boatyard shots to match what I had last year, but again nothing turned up to jump out at me.


While I was pretty frustrated at the time, it was a correct decision, and I’m learning – slowly – that successful scenic photography can only be performed through a slow process of familiarization and reflection on what will work and why. Downtime is well spent absorbing insights from Onlandscape (continually excellent) from the likes of David Ward, Guy Tal, and Raphael Rojas. Ben Horne continually inspires too.


When imported Velvia 50 sheets of 5×4 film now cost about £5-6 each before processing, saving the resources is a good idea, and the days of shooting lots and lots even when I can’t think why are entirely behind me.


According to my flickr stats, I’m currently posting a solid 15-20 shots per month, about a third of which is on film. That is still quite a lot for a style that is increasingly contemplative.


What I really wanted to write about, though, is my first thoughts on shooting with the XPan, and how I’m gradually getting used to it.


I bought the XPan to complement the 5×4 outfit (I have the more highly-specked XPan ii version). After some juggling and decision-making, I’ve configured a ThinkTank chimp cage to carry the body with lens attached, spare lens, cable release, and film. This can be attached to the outside of my Lowepro Whistler backpack.


I’ve also bought (at no small expense) a new Gitzo 1545T traveller tripod kit complete with the 82TQD head, for when I’m using slower film and don’t want to take the 5×4 setup out. With the exception of one small but substantial design fault (the panning knob on the head is not captive and is easily loosened…) this is really excellent and compact and makes for an excellent substitute when I have zero inclination to carry my 3 series Gitzo and massive ballhead with me.


The XPan itself is a thing of wonder. So easy to use, with judicious automated features, and the lenses are fantastically sharp. So far I’ve had most success with Black and White (Delta 400) – I’ve found the Fuji Pro 400H a little grainy so far for my tastes though I like the colours. I’ve only shot 3 rolls on it so far, but have just finished one of Velvia 50, so we’ll see how that comes out (experimenting with and without using the dedicated centre filter, which I was lucky enough to find).


The only problem I’m yet to overcome is actually finding time to use the camera. Even though it’s compact and handholdable, I don’t yet have the confidence to take it everywhere with me as I do with my iPhone. I suppose this isn’t all that surprising given that even secondhand the XPan setup is more than 3 times as valuable as my phone, but I’m a little disappointed. I had an excellent day at Kew Gardens with my young son this week, but only took the iPhone. Hardly surprising, I guess, but what is remarkable is the quality of shots I continue to get from the phone. The only downside is the lack of resolution (even compared with 35mm film). I will have to go back for a solo trip in the autumn with the film gear. Meanwhile, I had an afternoon yesterday in Oxford Botanic Garden with the XPan and Velvia 50. The conditions were soft with overcast light, so hopefully Velvia has worked nicely without totally overdoing the saturation and making exposure relatively unproblematic.


I’ll have an update when I get that film developed, but meanwhile here are a combined set of recent shots from the iPhone and the XPan.


All XPan shots here taken at 90mm, with Fuji Pro 400H or Delta 400 with n+1 processing; scanned with 2 D800E/60mm micro frames stitched in photoshop.





London Bridge Vertical



Waiting for the Bus, Bakewell, Derbyshire



Peak Waste, Bakewell Derbyshire



Vegetable Gardening



Abstract steps (crop from Xpan with 400H, converted to B&W)



Behind the Waterlily House, Kew Gardens – iPhone



Eucalyptus Bark detail, Kew Gardens – iPhone



The Hive, Kew Gardens – iPhone




A note for future reference for when the XPan will definitely trump the iPhone is with pano shots. The pano feature on the iPhone is, I find, very unreliable – it frequently fails to line up its stitches properly, leaving shots ruined.


Additionally, I find B&W conversions from the iPhone least time-consuming to process. Colour works really well, as you can see, but all the shots posted here required very substantial photoshop work to return them to accurate representations of the colour of the subjects.


Finally, it’s my birthday today, and I’m the happy recipient of Chris Bell’s excellent Primal Places: Tasmania. Tons of inspiration here for the large format shooter. Can’t wait to get out to take more shots in the autumn.


Velvia and Digital 35mm compared


Messing around in Photoshop today, I thought I’d do a comparison test on a couple of shots of the same subject taken on Velvia (Canon A-1 with 35-70FD) and on digital (Nikon D800E with 85PC-E). (more…)

Early summer doldrums

Very little appears to have happened of late with my photography: extreme amounts of work and little spare time to devote have resulted in no images shot in June at all. But this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking photographically.

First, I’ve been thinking about the trips to Scotland later in the year, one for the family holiday and one for a dedicated photography trip sometime in the autumn. To this end I’ve picked up a few more pieces of equipment: for the large-format gear, a set of grads and a couple of new large format lenses: a Fuji 90 f/5.6 SWD (about 30mm equivalent on 35mm) and a Nikon M 300 f/9 (a really small and lightweight lens for that bit longer reach). The Fuji hopefully can be used without a centre filter on colour slide film (not something I’d really like to try with my Nikkor SW 75).   I’ve also decided to order some more Velvia from Japan (4 more boxes): the current exchange rate seems destined only to get worse in the short term.

I also picked up a cheap 50mm prime for my Canon A-1, so I can use that for some sharper film shots when I don’t feel like 5×4.


A trip to the British Museum in London recently yielded a couple of decent iPhone shots, which I post below.  Processed in CS6.  Please ignore the noise and artefacts and focus on the compositions!







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