Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Views From Above

As usual, any photos seen here are for sale, even if they've not yet made it onto my website.

For my birthday last year, from my family, I received a helicopter ride over the Peak District - following the route of the Dambusters and taking in Chatsworth House. For someone who has never flown before in any way whatsoever, this was quite exciting.

There was the general feeling of flying which was one thing in itself, especially in something as manoeuvrable as a helicopter - but to see places I know so well, paths I've walked so many times, and imposing edges look so tiny - was quite amazing. I was lucky to have booked on a day with the most spectacular skies possible - with heavy showers and sun providing quite a show. In terms of photography - this was obviously a whole new challenge... I decided to take my 24-40mm lens and circular polariser - as I knew I'd be shooting through the windows of the helicopter - and this turned out to be a very, very good plan. You never get high enough to need more than 70mm and the polariser was a life saver regarding the reflections and glare in the windows. In the small space of the helicopter it's hard work to constantly be changing the angle of polarisation, composing around the window bars, avoiding unwanted reflections and still achieving a composition that works - but at least a few times I feel like I have achieved this.

Whilst the following images may change, and be updated, as I've rushed to get them sorted in time... here are just some of the views I was fortunate enough to take in.

Helicopter in the Peak District, Derbyshire
Before takeoff. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

A Weekend In Burtersett.

I was recently given the opportunity to go and spend a weekend in a holiday cottage in Burtersett, near Hawes - in upper Wensleydale, in return for a series of landscape photographs. Now, I know the area very well as it is only an hour away from Richmond, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be based there so I was happy to take this opportunity. There was no pressure on the photos, as we all know that at this time of year the quality (or even possibility) of any photos is highly dependent on the weather... but even for my own sake, there was an internal pressure to make the most of the weekend regardless of what the weather threw at us... and by god did it throw stuff at us. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Filter Or Bracket?

One thing that has just been brought to my attention, before I go on, is that I don't mean bracketing as in letting your camera do all the work... -2,0+2... I mean controlled, manual bracketing... 

An interesting question just came up on Twitter. It's a question that most photographers will 'know' the answer to - but I'd like to disagree. So these are my thoughts on exposure bracketing versus the 'proper way'... using filters (this isn't trying to get at anyone, by the way, you're all lovely - I've just always had the feeling that bracketing is a 'lesser' thing).

In general, I think it's fair to say that exposure bracketing is looked down upon in comparison to spending time on location setting up a clever filter combination to make the most of the available light - but I think this is largely historical - from the good old days of film.

So... here are the benefits to not using filters:
1) They cost money, why pay for something that could be done for free?
2) Is there any difference between filters and bracketing? Really? With filters you let a certain percentage of the total number of photons hit the sensor and 'light up' whichever pixels. With bracketing you do the same thing, the final image has no difference whatsoever.
3) Time. On location you have (usually) a set amount of time. The sun will rise, you have - for the purposes of argument - one 'golden' hour to take your photos in. Using filters slows this down. Whilst you're busy setting up filters for the difficult light the sun is throwing at you, you could be exploring new compositions. No matter how well you know a place, there is always a new view to be explored... so why not explore it? This is always the case for me - at most places in the Peak there is always one other photographer around who is spending an age on one shot... well done him, he got the one shot... but I got that one shot and 10 others to go with it. Who knows, maybe one of those will win LPOTY this year (wishful thinking...).

And the benefits of filters? (I may add to this list as people inform me of new ones)...
1) It's nice to get things right in camera... and saves time in processing the images when you get home.
2) It makes you slow down and think about each shot more.

Bonus thoughts:
Whilst some people will obviously abuse this, taking a hundred exposures of the same scene and finding the right one when they get home - it isn't fair to tarnish all bracketing with that brush. Personally, I'm fully aware of what I'm doing whilst on location and know exactly how I'll merge them when I get home. My mind sees only the final image and the ratio of photons hitting each part of the 'effective sensor'... exactly the same as anyone composing a shot 'in camera'.

I may not conform to the norm in photographer circles here... but I was brought up with 3 siblings. On any walk we had - which was where landscape photography took hold - I was in a rush due to having 5 other people hurrying me along. As such, I see compositions and I shoot them... there's no time to mess around with filters. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so - it means you have to be more creative with your initial view of a place. Of course it's nice to explore a place and get a feel for it, but that isn't always necessary. So... I've been brought up on a habit of shoot... move on... shoot... move on... shoot. If that means I get more good shots out of a single day, then that's a good thing. Using a tripod (which I do almost always now) is quite enough to slow me down... if you don't have enough time to think whilst playing with the knobs on your tripod... then there's something wrong.

This point doesn't apply to everyone, but Facebook. I have a Facebook page - so it's important to get plenty of photos to feed my adoring fans (they really are adoring, by the way).

Why must people always place quantity against quality? Why can we not have both? My general aim when I go out is to take a few quality photos and plenty of decent photos. I know the quality ones before I've even taken them - so it's not a scatter gun approach - but I do take a lot of photos. No piece of nature is really worth overlooking... who knows, in 10 years time when my tastes have changed I may appreciate a composition I previously hated and be glad that I recorded it and can find it on my hard drive.

And another thing... going back to the time arguments on both sides... filters take more time in the field, bracketing takes more time at home on the computer. I may not speak for you all, but as I mentioned right at the start - we have a set amount of time, dependent on light, in the field - but at home (ignoring work obligations) we have endless amounts of spare time.

Finally, none of this is to say that HDR in the usual sense is good. I try to avoid that (although, in certain circumstances it can be pleasing)... more that there is no real difference between the final image if bracketed images are merged thoughtfully. And, time is on your side if you're bracketing.

This is by no means a comprehensive answer to all of these questions/thoughts (as you might have guessed) - but I think it's a good starting point, whilst obviously going against the filters view.

I'd love any argument that can make me change these thoughts...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Bex: Behind The Scenes

I don't think I've ever had a plan that's taken as long to come to fruition as this one. I've wanted to shoot Bex for a long, long time and yet various things always seem to have come up to stop that from happening... until this week!

Myself and Ian (http://www.ianwallacephotography.co.uk/), who I know quite well from Twitter, had been talking about maybe renting a studio together and somewhere I'd always wanted to shoot in was Hallam Mill - an amazing building with loads of space, props, and - most importantly - the most wonderful windows in the world. This would mean going over to Stockport, which is pretty convenient from Sheffield, and fortunately is (I think) where Bex now lives(ish) - so it seemed the perfect opportunity. Finally things slotted nicely together.

Having never worked in a studio of any sort before - it was a good opportunity just to get a feel for this type of thing in a relaxed setting with people who, despite me having never met them before, I felt I knew quite well. Both Ian and Bex turned out to be every bit as friendly as I suspected - and with Bex it was especially nice to have someone experienced who just got on with things without any need for direction... allowing me to focus on getting my bit right.

So, I'm still in the process of finalising the 'proper' images, but here are a few outtakes/behind the scenes type stuff which I hope they won't mind me sharing! For the last image, if you can make it all the way to the bottom, I'll share a new 'proper' one too... so enjoy!...

Monday, 6 January 2014

People 2013

As most of you have probably already seen my 2013 Landscape Summary I thought I'd move quickly onto a second, shorter post... on a few of the photos I've taken of people this last year.

Whilst the vast majority of my time has been spent working out in the countryside, I have tried to include a decent number of people in my work - whether that be models, strangers, friends or work colleagues... and definitely have a few photos I'm happy with. So here are a few of them...

Harley-Dee and my first ever shoot indoors.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2013 In Pictures

Let me start by just reminding everybody that any image seen here can be purchased from www.matrobinsonphoto.co.uk.

As we're now a few days into the new year and I've finally had the chance to sit down for an hour so without too many distractions - I thought it was about time I got on with what I've been meaning to sort out for a while now - and do a blog post summarising my photographic exploits of 2013.
Cloud inversion at sunrise on Mam Tor and Lose Hill in the Derbyshire Peak District
Taken close to 4am, well before sunrise. Alone on Mam Tor - the most magical moment of the year as the full scale of the inversion and loneliness dawned on me. An amazing, quiet 20 minutes stood there - barely able to take photos as I took it all in. Mam Tor, Peak District.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Lost Amongst Trees

(Remember, as usual all these photos can be purchased on request at www.matrobinsonphoto.co.uk)

This year I've found myself getting fixated on certain locations or ideas at various stages - only moving on when I feel I've done the initial thought justice. I spent the early part of the year chasing a Mam Tor inversion, followed by an early summer really acquainting myself with Kinder Scout, then a long period around Higger Tor and Over Owler Tor chasing the heather, finishing(?) on an autumn spent in Padley Gorge.

The reason for the question mark after 'finishing' is because I'm not really sure I have finished here. Autumn is ending at that location but I'm not sure I can say that I'm fully satisfied that I completed what I set out to do. There's nothing that I know of that is as difficult to photograph as woodland due to it's inherent complexity, so to me it presented a challenge to see how far I've come in the last couple of years. If I could simplify the 3D mess that I see in front of me into a pleasing image to be shared in 2D then I'd be a happy man - and whilst I think in a number of instances I've come tantalisingly close to doing so, I've not taken that stand out photo that makes me step back (mentally, as I'm sat down) and think "bugger me, I've done it.".

I feel I've very much grasped (not that there isn't more to learn) the idea of landscape photography in terms of wide vistas with beautiful light - I look at my photos of these moments and often find very little I'd change about the image. But, inspired by the constant stream of work coming in from both my Twitter and Flickr contacts I felt that I still needed to focus on something more low key and personal, what some call (which I really don't like) 'intimate landscapes'. I will forever be in the camp of the wide views and spectacular scenery (and love nothing more than a well thought out 17mm photograph) as to me, a landscape photo should convey the feeling of being somewhere - and what better way to do that than grab as much of the scenery as possible and shove it into a wide angle photo (whilst still being well thought out and drawing the eye!). But in order to pass judgement on the smaller scale landscape it is definitely necessary to learn to do it myself.

I've learnt many things, and still have a long, long way to go in terms of perfecting this style of photography but one thing that has stood out so far is how it's changed my perception of certain situations - as even in very harsh, glaring light on Gardom's Edge the other day - thanks to the many weeks I've spent amongst trees I managed to rethink my approach and come back with a set of images I'm very pleased with. I now almost have two completely separate sets of rules in my mind when taking photos, compared to the limited set I had before - which ultimately has to be a good thing!

Anyway, here are the photos - I don't claim that any of them are anywhere near perfect, but from 4 visits to Padley Gorge over a few weeks these are a selection of what I found. I'll leave my personal favourites until the end.