Spring is a great time of year for taking photos of town and country. I was recently asked to to take a large number of photos of Hertford and Ware in the sunshine, for a brochure promoting social housing in the towns. This was a short notice job, with the client requesting the photos be taken in the sunshine that was forecast in the coming days. Here are some of the images that I produced:
It’s not often that one’s work gets preserved in glass.
I took an enquiry earlier in the month from a client who wanted a photo of Hertford’s iconic war memorial n Parliament Square so that it could be used on a floor-to-ceiling window in an office. The image was to be 1.2m wide by 3m tall – an aspect ratio of 6:15.
Being familiar with the location I knew that the best angle was looking east, so an afternoon shot with the sun in the west was best. A few days later the weather presented an ideal opportunity for the shot, with plenty of sunny intervals. It as just a case of waiting for the ideal opportunity – for the odd grey cloud to pass and commercial vehicles unloading to pull away. Eventually I got the perfect shot and after editing for exposure and cropping to the required aspect ratio I submitted my work.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on some panoramic shots for Discover Hertford Online, for use as banner images on web pages. This was an interesting project requiring views of the town with an aspect ratio of 3:1.
Composing panoramic views requires you to look at a scene in a different way. I find this easiest to do in the viewfinder as this imposes a frame on any scene – you then just have to imagine the top and bottom quarters missing. You can do this either in the viewfinder or when reviewing a shot afterwards.
Townscapes offer a number of good compositions – especially junctions, where you can have buildings running off in to the distance on both sides of the picture.
Panoramas give the eye plenty of scope to travel around an image, as opposed to more conventional aspect ratios that typically have a single focal point.
The shot above of Sainsbury’s supermarket also features the store in the middle distance with the old Hertford Brewery in the background and a public artwork in the foreground.
This view of Hartham Common gives a good idea of the space and it’s relationship with the river.
An interesting assignment for The British Legion to mark the launch of this year’s Poppy Appeal.
An image of poppies was projected on to the side of Hertford Castle, following a small buffet supper for local dignitaries and members of the armed forces, along with speeches.
I was asked to cover both the formalities and the projection, the latter of course being the talking point and focus of a subsequent press release by The Legion.
There’s no denying that snowscapes present some wonderful photo opportunities. They also present us with some issues – specifically exposure. If you allow your camera to control exposure in the snow the chances are you’ll end up with some distinctly underexposed pictures. There’s also a good chances you’ll see a distinct blue cast. This is because snowscapes aren’t average scenes, and when a camera calculates exposure, it’s expecting an average scene. It’s expecting the distribution of light and dark and the balance of colours to be somewhere around grey. In a snow scene however, the average is pretty much white. So the camera needs to be told. The simplest way to do this is to bump up the EV (Exposure Value), which either slows the shutter speed or increases the lens aperture.
The picture above was taken with exposure set to Program mode, which calculated an exposure at 200ASA of 1/250th at f8. You can see from the image that the snow is less than white. Compare this with the photo below.
In this photo an Exposure Value of +1 was dialled in, resulting in both a larger aperture and slower shutter speed, 1/160th at f6.3. The difference is quite pronounced and gives us a truer representation of the scene.
Almost all modern digital cameras from dSLRs to compacts allow you influence the exposure using EV. Many use a dedicated button on the back of the camera, usually signified by a +/- symbol. You can use this creatively for any number of not-so-average scenes, from snowscapes to shooting into the sun. So if you find that using the cameras n=built in metering gives photos that are to dull or missing shadow detail, think about using the EV control to adjust the exposure.
Every once in a while I like to get out in the evening and take some night shots. I particularly like this shot of a boat on the river near to my home. This was taken on my Nikon D40, a camera I love for it’s simplicity. I often use the D40 when I choose to leave the more expensive kit at home. It’s a highly capable camera despite its entry-level spec.
Needless to say I used a tripod for this shot, with the white balance set to tungsten. I also used a Nikon ML-L3 infrared remote to fire the shutter.
I recently took some publicity shots for a forthcoming pantomime, Robin Hood.
The photos featured the main principles and were taken outside the theatre company’s headquarters in front of a portable white background. The shoot featured both individual and group shots, including some posed action shots. I used one of the group shots to blend in a woodland background, reflecting the setting of the pantomime.
I already had a background that fitted the scene and taken from a similar angle, although the lighting was a little harder to match, both in terms of the direction and quality of light. However, I was quite pleased with the effect, despite the fact that many people would recognise that the image had been shopped.
After the overcast days and long nights of Winter, Spring is a welcome season of new life. For the photographer it’s a time of fresh new colour as the sun moves higher in the sky, flowers bloom and leaves return to the trees.
It starts with apple blossom and daffodils; pink, white and yellow. Sunlit against a clear blue sky these can give a picture of freshness, awakening from the hibernation of winter. As the weeks roll by, towns and the countryside turn greener, and again this green works well with the blue sky.
When taking photos of flowers you can get close up, allowing you to experiment with depth of field. Using a large aperture will give a shallow depth of field, allowing you to blur the background. However, you should carefully choose your focal point. At this point you may want to change the camera’s focusing mode from automatic to something more appropriate, either manual or single point focus.
Alternatively, you may choose to use a smaller aperture, meaning that more of the shot is in focus. The focal point becomes less important in this case but your surrounding and background might become more of a distraction.
Later in the Spring comes the blaze of colour that is rapeseed, or Canola as it is known in America. This can present some excellent photo opportunities, although photographers with a sensitive nose might want to pass this up.
If you are anywhere near a sheepfarming community, lambs and lambing can make good subject material, although it’s always important not to disturb the animals. There are invariably some great shots to be had of lambs running around the fields in the Spring sunshine.
Mayday is a good time to focus on seasonal celebrations, with May festivals and morris dancers providing good subjects.ckground might become more of a distraction.
This gallery features a small selection of photos taken with my Nikkor 35mm f1.8 lens. The large aperture affords a shallow depth of field as well as allowing held held photography in low light. Being a prime lens is is also extremely sharp.
The photos shown here demonstrate the depth of field and low light capabilities of this excellent lens.
Click on any image to see more information and then again to see a larger version of the photo.
This simple message can be found amongst the flowers and gravestones of Holy Trinity Church in Hertford Heath.
It seems somehow befitting for the peace of the churchyard and the memory of those that rest there.
The words are from a longer piece credited to William Shakespeare:
“Time is very slow for those who wait
Very fast for those who are scared
Very long for those who lament
Very short for those who celebrate
But for those who love time is eternal”