A walk in the woods…

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View from our balcony…

Our early autumn short break brings us back to one of my favourite places on Planet Earth – the Lake District. Specifically we are staying at the Brimstone Hotel, on the Langdale Estate, just outside Ambleside. Its a superb place – just 16 rooms, set aside from the main hotel here, but with full facilities and its own exclusive spa. Best of all is the ‘Reading Room’ – a kind of executive lounge with complimentary tea, coffee, snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks all day. Its a beautifully quiet spot, perfect for relaxing after a walk around the dales.

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Ready to shoot!

So yesterday I ventured out on my own for a couple of hours with my camera gear. The hotel is surrounded by woods, and there is a river (Langdale Beck) just behind. So it wasn’t exactly far to go, and my short stroll through the woods and along the river turned up several beautiful locations for photos. Although it was a fairly bright day, the shade meant using the tripod for most shots and there were opportunities for some nice long exposures of the water.  I didn’t need to use a ND filter at all – just a polariser to cut through some of the reflections.

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The weir at Chapel Stile

With my camera set up on the tripod and ISO set to 100, lens stopped down to f11 or f16, I was good to go. These photos are RAW files pretty much straight from camera, with the shadows lifted a little, and a little bit of ‘punch’ from adding clarity in Lightroom. I’ll probably tweak them a little more when I get them loaded onto my desktop as editing on a tiny 12″ laptop screen is never terribly satisfactory, but it gives me a good idea of how they should turn out.

All in all a very pleasant afternoon out and about, and a few photos I’m happy with. What’s not to like!

Gear used: Sony A7iii with 16-35mm or 24-70mm lens, Formatt-Hitec Firecrest polariser, Gitzo Mountaineer tripod.

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Lake District Tour….

This time last year, when I was still a Fujifilm shooter, I booked a Lake District workshop in November 2017 with Fujiholics.  Attracted by the location, a big draw also was that the workshop was to be led by Matt Hart and Paul Sanders, two great guys that I’ve known for some time and been on events with.

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Duke of Sutherland Boathouse, Ullswater

Fast forward 9 months and I had switched from Fujifilm to Olympus, so I joined the course with some trepidation! I needn’t have worried of course – although Paul and Matt are both passionate about their Fujifilm cameras (and are official Fuji ‘X’ Photographers) they were helpful and supportive throughout.

Based at the Premier Inn in Kendal in the south of the National Park (its tricky to find reasonably priced hotels that will take groups of 15, even out of ‘season’) we nevertheless covered all the main parts of the Lake District. 6am starts each day meant that we could get to locations and set up by sunrise.  With the obvious stops for breakfast, lunch and of course CAKE, we carried on right until nightfall each day, by which time we were happy to collapse back in the hotel for a well earned supper and drink or two… A chance also to review photos from the day, and confirm plans for the next morning.

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Kelly Hall Tarn, nr Coniston

We covered quite some ground in those few days – Kelly Hall Tarn, Coniston, Ashness Bridge, Surprise View, Watendllath, Blea Tarn, Bassenthwaite and Crow Park, Derwentwater to mention a few. I, for one, came away with lots of photos I was happy with, and I’m sure the other participants felt the same. It was also an enjoyable few days spent with like minded ‘togs’ and I would definitely recommend the Fujiholics events, whether you are a Fujifilm shooter or not. They may not have the swish marketing that other well-known photo-tour companies have, but they offer a professional and reasonably priced alternative. If you want to improve your photo skills, and get the chance to shoot in great locations, then definitely check out Fujiholics!

See below for a few of my photos from the week – all shot on Olympus E-M1ii or PEN-F cameras, mostly with the Olympus 12-100mm and PanaLeica 8-18mm  lenses and Nisi ND and ND Grad filters.

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It’s been a while….

Well, here I am again after a lengthy time since last posting.  Other priorities (mainly family) took over most of last year, but at least I have found time to take a few photos, so lets have a little update and take it from there…..

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Colwyn Bay Promenade – Fuji X100F

In terms of photo gear its been all change – I started 2017 using Fujifilm kit – X-T2 and X-T10 bodies, an IR modified X-E1 body, and most of the Fuji X series lenses then available. To be fair this was overkill, and I couldn’t sensibly carry it all around (too heavy), and then couldn’t decide what to take each time I went out…. Not an unusual photographer’s dilemma! I needed to simplify things – one main body, a backup which would also do for travel/family when I wanted to travel light, and just a couple of good quality general purpose zoom lenses. So the search was on for a more compact kit that would still deliver the quality I was used to.

Until then I’d been looking at getting an X100 series camera again (I’d had 2 before) and while on a touch and try day at Cambrian Photography (see the photo I took using the X100F) I got to also try an Olympus PEN-F. Instant attraction! It does pretty much everything the X100F does (and some more too), but has interchangeable lenses, so I could pop a small prime lens on and have a really portable camera.

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Sunrise – Bassenthwaite Lake

So, PEN-F and 17mm lens bought, and all my Fuji gear moved on… simple eh?  Well, not quite.  I still needed those zoom lenses (much more practical for landscape photos) and after a couple of false starts, ended up with the amazing Olympus 12-100mm Pro lens, and the PanaLeica 8-18mm super wide zoom. Both incredible lenses, but they don’t sit very well with the diminutive PEN-F body, which of course isn’t water resistant either – a bit of a worry when I was out in the rain.  So that resulted in the purchase of another Olympus body – the pro-spec E-M1 mkii.  What an incredible camera! – fast, tough, great quality images (despite the tiny sensor) and so many features its taken me a good few months to master all the options. Other than the occasional ‘wobble’ when I wonder if a full frame camera would give me better images (probably not, and too many other issues to contend with) this is my ultimate camera for landscapes. To be fair, its not a small camera, and my full kit with lenses, tripod and filters is still as much as I can manage, but at least there are no compromises.

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Duke of Sutherland Boathouse, Ullswater, Lake District NP

Still have the PEN-F, although I’m still pondering what lenses work best for me – the small primes are neat, but don’t have the flexibility of a zoom, and the ‘travel’ zoom I currently have (the 14-150mm) does have a few limitations, so watch this space…

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Roach End – Peak District NP

Despite time constraints, I have been out and about quite a bit with the camera in the last few months – I’ve been on several photo workshops and a ’tour’ in the Lake District, and discovered that the nearer parts of the Peak District are close enough to pop along for a few hours shooting, as is the North Wales coast.  I have images from both areas I’m happy with.  With more time hopefully available in 2018, visit plans include Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland, and maybe some more photos from Southern France, so watch this space!

It’s all about the light…

A flying visit to the Lake District this week yielded a couple of hours to get out with my camera.  The conditions were not, however, very encouraging – although the forecast was for ‘sunny spells’, it was raining when I parked at the Silverthwaite National Trust car park just off the Ambleside to Langdale road, and it was blowing an absolute hooley (the aftermath of Storm Henry.) Still, boots on and kit in hand I headed down to the path running alongside the River Brathay to see what was possible.

1602 langdale-14I had planned to try a couple of long exposure images using my new Hitech filter holder, but it was clear it was far too windy for sharp pictures, even with my heaviest tripod set as low as possible. The tops of the fells were shrouded in mist/cloud, but there were some brighter patches in the sky (nothing to actually call sun though…)  Anyway, I found a nice view with a fence as lead-in, and set up and waited. After about 10 minutes, it had pretty much stopped raining, and I was rewarded with a few breaks in the cloud. The foreground was nicely bathed in sunlight – only for a few seconds, but enough to get a couple of frames including this one.

1602 langdale-4Wandering along looking for another view point, I spotted this family of ducks, and quickly set up.  Within a few seconds they had moved into the perfect position in the frame, and as luck would have it, another fleeting moment of sunlight brought the scene to life. Time for one shot only before the ducks had moved on, and the sun had disappeared again!

In the time left, I managed another couple of shots, but as before it was a case of finding something interesting, setting up, and then waiting (and waiting…), and hoping the light would come good.  I had quite a few strange looks from walkers passing by, and even a few comments about me just standing there waiting – everyone expects a photographer to be shooting all the time, but there’s absolutely no point if the light isn’t going to make the shot work. Sometimes waiting until the light is right pays off, but so often its a case of returning when the conditions are better. Patience is rewarded (but only sometimes!)

Here are a couple more I managed that morning.  All photos taken on my Fuji X-T1 camera with 16-55mm lens, Hitech filter holder with 0.9 ND grad filter, and Manfrotto 055 tripod. RAW images processed in Lightroom, and Viveza 2.