Monthly Archives: November 2009

Canal bridge

Canal bridge, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Hi there. Again, many apologies for not updating the blog much of late. No excuse other than the day job is taking up most of my time and the pouring rain has not provided much (any) opportunity for photography. I am sure that none of you are sitting there hanging on my every post but sorry anyway – If you write a blog then it really is the done thing to update it on a regular basis otherwise what’s the point?

That said, I have been writing this for 8 months now and have found it really useful – tracking back through the photographs that I have posted at least tells me that I have improved and I have had some minor successes sprinkled in among the failures.

As a photo blog my instinct tells me that I probably should not write as much as I do. Less is more and all that and the focus should probably be on the photograph. I also realise that I have a tendency to ramble and, quite often, the text has little to do with the picture (or provides only a tenuous link). So, maybe in the New Year, I intend to have a bit of a rethink – perhaps taking pictures to match a particular theme that I want to talk about. This may mean posting less regularly, or some posts being very brief descriptions of the photo and how, when and where it was taken.

I think I am also going to take more notice of the comments I get on my Flickr photostream. Sometimes, it is very hard for me to step back and gauge what is good and what isn’t. There are pictures I am really quite fond off that get no views at all (even after I have added to specific groups – the Flickr equivalent of saying ‘hey look at me’). Other pictures that I think are just OK get lot’s of lovely comments. One such example of this is today’s picture. As a photographer, I find it very hard to second guess what is good and what isn’t – I do ask for opinions from friends and family and quite often get completely different answers from those I was expecting. One person’s stunning image is another’s dull and uninspiring one. This picture was taken on one my infrequent lunchtime walks along the canal tow path next to my office. People seem to like it but I’m not altogether sure why. Don’t get me wrong, I like it but not that much. The wide angle adds something and the moss on the under side of the bridge gives it some interesting colour but I don’t think it’s one of my best. So why do other people think otherwise? Answers on a postcard please.


Sun on sand

Sun on sand, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Hello readers. Many apologies for not posting recently but the blog has taken a back seat due to work comittments for the last week or two, it being possibly one of my busiest times of the year. Also, with the deluges of biblical proportions still continuing here in the UK I have not been able to get out much of late to take any photographs. This picture was taken in October in that little Indian Summer we had before the heavens opened and will hopefully provide a little respite from the awfulness of November. Promise to post some new images soon but as an amateur photographer I am afraid my real life day job is my current priority. Hope you understand!

Cheshire morning

Cheshire morning, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Another quick blog post for you as I snatch at time during lunch. This picture is my best picture, at least if you believe the users of the Flickr website, in that it has received more positive comments than any other picture I have posted. This is unusual. I love receiving comments on my images and leave them on other photographs I like but Flickr is so vast that getting people to look at your photos is almost a full-time job. I have had photos that have been viewed by 100s of people yet not a single person has commented (Glastonbury) and photos like this, which has only been viewed 38 times according to stats but has gleaned a large amount of positive feedback. Why? I don’t know…

I try my best to publicize my photos via all types of social networking – via this blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, through posting to groups on Flickr – but I have no idea how the majority of people come to be looking at them. Some just happen to be surfing when I post, some are directed by Google search (which is why naming and tagging photographs is essential, even though it’s laborious and time-consuming) but I can only assume that in the case of the few people who have seen this photo most of them have really liked it.

So on to the photo itself. It was taken last Monday morning on my way to work; ostensibly it’s just some farmland at the side of the road but being early morning I though the lighting was interesting and that it was ‘good sky’. A friend has told me that skies are my forte (as well as flowers apparently) so all I really need now is an opportunity to combine the two. Anyhow, its another of those happy accident pictures that turned out OK and justifies my often-laughed-at obsession of taking the camera with me to work every day. Hope you like it and maybe you can shed some light as to why, on a view:comment ratio, this picture is scoring so highly

Lit up. Chester Cathedral at the magic hour

Chester Cathedral at night, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Right then. Short blog post today as a) I am very busy and b) I think the photograph speaks for itself. Went out Saturday afternoon just as it was going dark – during what is known in photography circles as ‘the magic hour’ – to try and get some long exposures using a tripod and a timed shutter release. By sheer luck (it’s that serendipity again) I took this shot of Chester cathedral just at that point when the last light was vanishing from the night sky. This image has not been digitally enhanced in any way and that wonderful purple/pink sky is 100% natural capturing all the light over a 30 second exposure. Because it was early evening, the lights were still on in the cathedral itself as it was still open and this highlights the stained glass. It’s also pictures like this that make the investment in a wide angle lens worth all the money – without it I would not have been able to get all the cathedral in shot.

The Albion at night

The Albion at night, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Today’s photo is the second in an admittedly very loose series that I am calling ‘pubs at night’. Following on from my earlier photo of the Corn Mill in Lllangollen, here is another pub: The Albion in my home town of Chester. I probably should have posted this yesterday (for reasons that will become apparent) but since I didn’t take it until last night, that would have proved somewhat challenging.

So why the Albion? Simply because it harks back to a different era and makes no apologies about it. On first glance (and this is a mistake that lots of Cestrians make) it seems to be quite unfriendly and unwelcoming. There is a blackboard outside declaring that it is ‘child unfriendly’, that it doesn’t want anyone under 25… or groups of lads… or groups of girls. It has no music, it has no TV, it only serves one type of lager (and this is under sufferance – the landlord titles his sole lager as ‘I can’t believe it’s not piss’). Sounds awful doesn’t it? Yet it isn’t… or at least to me it isn’t. Stepping into the Albion is like travelling back in time to the 1910s or more specifically the years 1914-1918 (hence why I should have posted yesterday). It’s decor does not appear to have changed since then and it’s walls are adorned with paraphernalia form the Great War – an image of Kitchener looks down from one wall, from another a poster urges you to sell your scape metal to aid the war effort. Occasionally, if you are lucky, someone will play the piano belting out ‘pack up your troubles’ or ‘it’s a long way to Tipperary’ . Again, sounds awful… but it isn’t.

It’s a pub to go to with friends, to have intelligent discussion in front of the fire without being drowned out by music. A pub where no one fights and where you receive a genuine welcome (providing you are over 25 and don’t drink lager). A pub with a great selection of real ales and an even greater selection of whisky. It is a the original ‘local’ where regulars meet early doors and discuss the day’s events. And, in a world where our streets are dominated by vodka bars and Weatherspoons and neon palaces, it’s a haven.

When I was young (i.e. during my formative drinking years) I used to hate the Albion – it was exclusive not inclusive, it didn’t want me or my mates within its walls so we weren’t going to honour it with our presence. As I have got older I have realised that what the Albion was really saying was ‘this isn’t for you, but it will be – see you in 20 years time’.

I have a friend, Andy, who I see very rarely as he lives in Brazil, he often comments on my blog. This year he came over for one of his rare fleeting visits – just one Saturday night – and we spent a very enjoyable evening visiting old haunts in Liverpool. I waved goodbye to him on Sunday only to find him back on my doorstep an hour later after his train (the first connection in three) was cancelled. So, what to do on Sunday night? After a meal I suggested the Albion. Andy was initially dubious after reading (and laughing) about the blackboard outside but we spent a great night drinking good beer and (in Andy’s case) working through the single malts. At the end of the night, despite the fact that we were two of only about 10 people in the whole pub, Andy declared it ‘The Best Pub in the World’. And you know what? It just might be.

Variation on a theme

Llandudno crescent, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Following on from my picture of Llandudno pier and my ramblings on how I love the seaside in Autumn/Winter, here is another image from my recent visit to Llandudno in North Wales. Apologies for yet another picture on this subject but I haven’t been able to get out much with the camera of late thanks to inclement weather / work commitments / family commitmnets, etc, etc. Besides which I think it’s quite a good picture so wanted to share it with those readers that visit the blog but do not have a Flickr account.

For those unfamiliar with Llandudno it’s most famous as a Victorian seaside resort with most of the construction you see now completed in the mid-to-late 1850s. The crescent shaped bay next to the rocky outcrop known as the Great Orme is fronted by hotels and leads onto a shingle beach. There is another, sandy beach, on the other side of the headland where I took my earlier kite surfing picture.

For this picture I was able to use the wide-angle lens to full effect to get in the sweep of the bay and the crescent of hotels. I have no idea who the people are in the foreground but I think they serve to add a bit of perspective. I like the blueness of this image and think it captures a crisp Autumn day quite well. It seems that I am not alone in my love of the seaside out-of-season as evidenced by comments on my pier photo on my facebook page. One friend highly recommends going to the beach in the snow, something that I have been unable to do – not least because we have not had any snow for ages, and when it does snow the whole traffic system grinds to halt making it pretty impossible to get anywhere.

One of these years I hope to spend Christmas or New Year by the seaside, hopefully in Northumberland, particularly Low-Newton-By-The Sea, which is one of my favourite places in the world. That may well be my best chance of snow…

So once again, sorry for yet another North Wales pic but I hope you like it nonetheless. Comments are welcome and I hope to get out this weekend and get some new images

End of the pier show


End of the pier, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Every day is like Sunday
Win yourself a cheap tray
Share some grease tea with me
Every day is cloudy and grey

So sang Stephen Patrick Morrissey in his song celebrating the English seaside out of season. I had a friend at university who was distraught when Morrissey filmed his video for ‘Every Day is Like Sunday’ in his home town of Southend. Primarily because the song advocates bringing nuclear war to such places, much as Betjemen demanded ‘come friendly bombs and rain on Slough’.

For me though there is nothing better than the English (or in the case of today’s picture Welsh) seaside out of season. I like the emptiness without the hordes of tourists, I like bracing walks along the promenade, I like roaring files as the wind batters the windows. In fact, I think that most places that attract tourists are best visited out of season. One of my favourite films of all time is Nic Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’, filmed in a chilly, wintry, out-of-season Venice. Even though I have never been, I can’t ever imagine visiting Venice in the Summertime.

So on to today’s picture. It’s Llandudno again and shows the town’s famous pier on a cold, Autumn day in October. It’s one of those photos where everything comes together. The pier really is painted that vivid blue, the sea really was that green and the sky really was that amazing colour – it was the magic hour when the sun had started to go down and all sorts of interesting things start to happen to the sky when the light fades.

Taken with a 10-20 mm wide angle lens, it is for pictures like this that the lens was designed for. Not only does it enable you to get everything in, you also get this amazing distortion of perspective – which is perfect for a subject such as a pier. Don’t get me wrong, the pier at Llandudno is very long but this picture makes it look even longer. Hope you like the picture and feel free to comment.

High as a kite

Allez oop, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

After the spooky diversion back to some ‘proper’ photography and a picture taken a couple of weekends ago on the west beach, Llandudno, the same location as the rainbow picture from a couple of posts back. Once again, this image has not been processed or manipulated and shows a kite surfer on a cold, wet, windy (obviously) Sunday morning in October.

There were several surfers taking advantage of the (what I assume were) perfect conditions and I was amazed at the heights that they achieved; let alone the strength that must be required to keep the kite under control. As I have said before sometimes an opportunity presents itself for a picture and you don’t have the correct lens on the camera – anticipating another rainbow I had the 10-20 mm wide-angle lens on the camera and had decided not to lug the camera bag down to the beach with me as we had been there the day before. As a result, I couldn’t really get any close up shots of the surfers. However, given the wide-angle lens I was able to get a lot of shots in which the surfer and the kite appear in the same frame (which would be pretty impossible with a standard lens given the length of the strings separating the surfer from the kite).

Later on I went back to the beach with a telephoto lens can got some close ups and the rest of the images can be seen here. I have not had the opportunity to take many action shots so this was quite a good test for me and all in all I am pretty pleased with the results. Sure the background is a little over-exposed but this is actually due to a hazy mist that was clinging to the mountains and I think it actually serves to highlight the silhouette of the server (who would probably have been lost against the black of the mountains on a clear day.

Hop you like it. Comments as always are very welcome

Most haunted

Ghostly Roman, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Morning blog followers (acolytes seems too strong a word). Something a little light-hearted to start this week and, dare I say it, a little corny and very amateur. I was on the Internet at the weekend and noticed that ephotozine (great community site for getting feedback on your pictures) were having a short competition for Halloween and asking members to send in their ghostly pictures. Today’s picture was my effort.

Now I don’t claim to be proficient in Photoshop, in fact I have had no training whatsoever, but I thought it might be a good opportunity to practice. The great thing about the invention of the Internet is that there is always a resource available to help and lo and behold I found comprehensive instructions as to how to add a ghost to a photograph in 5 or 6 easy steps.

First off I had to choose my background and since I had a load of pictures taken in the rambling cemetery in Handbridge, near Chester I thought that one of these would be ideal. Next I had to choose a suitable ghostly figure and settled on a Roman soldier – ghostly Romans are seen all over the city (if you believe the tour guides) and I had a good image from this year’s warriors and gladiators event in the amphitheatre.

So following the instructions I came up with the attached. Now I know that it’s not particularly great or accomplished – certainly Photoshop professionals will no doubt consider it laughably bad – but I’m pretty pleased with being able to do it all. Of course, if you are going to photograph ghosts then it has to be in black and white and fiddling with this image led me to revisit some of the first images I took with the camera when I thought black and white was ‘cool’. On reappraisal I thought 10 or 15 of these were actually OK and these have been added to my Flickr stream along with another ghost image that I abandoned (my son provided the ghost and he was a little too happy and unassuming). Comments welcome. Did my image chill the blood or make you laugh out loud at its ineptitude?