The Shire

Sometimes a funny old lens and a bit of photoshop make my pictures end up looking like a bit of a fantasy hobbit town, but beneath it all, I can just about recognise the common:








Alien on the common!

I posted some infrared shots from Dunorlan last week and now I am back again with the same, strange alien looking shots from the common yesterday.


An infrared camera for me works best with the pictures converted to black and white with strong contrast and the bizarre white of the infrared glow from anything living screaming loudly.


I am only just learning to do this properly after about ten years of trying- some of these I love- others are a bit too OTT, but that is what it is often like when I am in an experimental stage.


I’ll calm down soon.










Alien Experiments in Dunorlan

Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I head out to Dunorlan determined to take the most beautiful conventional shots I can, but on a cloudy day like today, I am just as likely to go freaky with a comedy camera or, as today, two.


The black and white shots today are with an infrared camera- this sees the light which is invisible to us and misses what we see. It works even better in harsh sunlight, but I thought it worth a try.


The psychedelic colour pictures are with a lens that I have modded myself- turning around one of the bits of glass at the back of the lens to stop it from focusing properly and to bring out its inner Monet. Although probably without his taste!


I’m not sure yet whether these have worked- I’ll probably look at them in horror in a few months, but for now, here they are.








Bedgebury Mess-ups

One of the joys of being a colour blind photographer is that I have the excuse to try out all kinds of nonsense with my pictures. In today’s selection from nearby Bedgebury Pinetum, I have tried a technique in photoshop where I first make a black and white image and then superimpose it on the original colour snap. I blend the two together to take the light levels (luminosity) from the black and white and apply them to the colour version:


And if you don’t like all that technical talk or the OTT look the technique creates (not always sure myself) I’ve included the monochrome ones as well:


These are also all long exposure shots – there was a lot of wind that day, so 30 seconds left quite a lot of blur in the clouds. All in all, it goes some way towards bringing out the beautiful artificiality I find in this place:


















Texturing the Tiles


I’ve been wanting to do a post about the Pantiles since I started doing this blog, but until recently I could never get my pictures of the place right. This may be the most iconic location in town, but I’d not really worked out what I liked about it visually.

Then a few weeks ago, I discovered the wonderful French photographer Jean-Michel Berts. He specialises in producing black and white cityscapes where he uses photoshop to paint on his images with different brightness levels- this is just what Ansel Adams did in the film days, but what Berts adds to the mix is that he also increases the contrast in the same bits of the image. It gives the old brickwork of these cities a slightly surreal glow.

When I started to study his technique, I realised it was perfect for the Pantiles, because visually they are of course all about those tiles. I’ve tried to use his method in the shots on this page, both in black and white as he does:



…and also in colour:





“You must have a really good camera!”


Every now and then, when someone has been nice about one of my pictures, they follow straight on with the phrase at the top. I don’t get too irritated by this, but I do occasionally remember the comment I saw from another photographer that this was a bit like following a really delicious meal at a dinner party by saying “You must have a really nice oven.”

For what it is worth, I decided a few years ago not to have any costly camera gear- I don’t even have an SLR at the moment. Expensive stuff tends also to be really heavy and the most important thing for me is to be able to have my camera with me wherever I go. When I do spend money on equipment, it is more likely to go on lenses or on quirky gear such as the infrared filter that allowed me to take the shots on this page:


More important than my camera is what I do with the pictures. This is partly to do with the effort I make to get the shot right when I am taking them, which I outlined in some earlier posts starting here.

More controversially I also use Photoshop pretty extensively.

There was a time when I saw Photoshop as cheating and did everything that I could to get the picture ‘right’ in the camera. More recently I have realised that this amazing programme allows me to be even more creative in the pictures I make. This is particularly true in black and white where ‘cheating’ with pictures goes back long before the invention of the computer. Ansel Adams, for example, said that 80% of his art was in the dark room developing of his pictures and spent the last years of his life taking no new shots but instead endlessly re-developing the pictures of his youth.

In my case with today’s pictures I have little choice as the original infrared shots that come from the camera look like this:


Once I have converted them to black and white, I do digitally exactly what Ansel Adams liked to do in his developing. What I am mainly doing in today’s shots is working on the contrast in the photo. I decide which part of the picture I want people to focus on the most and increase the contrast of this part and make it brighter. In the case of the picture of Trinity below, this was the area around the clock face:


At the same time I try to lead the viewer’s eyes into the photo by darkening other areas particularly at the edges of the picture itself or elements within it:


I also attempt to bring out the texture of the buildings by darkening or lightening individual parts of the brickwork- in this part I am working almost like a painter on the original image:


I may try to darken the sky:


I love cheating like this: