An afternoon with Benji

So after telling you all I was going to post more regularly I have written no posts for 6 weeks…whoops. Anyway I shall change that by showing you what Benji and I got up to this week.

I met up with Benji at the Bike Park, he was with his Dad on the hill digging (well, Benji was actually asleep in the land rover) and off we went on our photographic adventure. I’ve been wanting to get some nice shots of Benji for a while and had a few ideas in mind, as Benji spends most of his time at the Bike Park I thought I’d get some of him there and it would be more sentimental for the family. We started out at a pile of stacked logs which I used as a back drop.

Once we had a few shots in the bag we moved onto a small ruined building a bit further down the hill. I was using my flash gun off camera with a softbox mounted to it to soften the light. The flash made the images pop helping to complete the image. 

We then headed back to the Land Rover to go to our last location of the afternoon. Whilst I was packing my stuff away Benji had a quick power nap – so I grabbed my camera out my bag and took a few photos of him in the Landy. I tried a different technique more commonly used in landscape photography where I took a set of 3 bracketed exposures to capture more information in the highlights and shadow areas of the image. I then merged the 3 images together in lightroom and edited the images as normal. 

Once Benji had caught up on some Z’s we moved onto our last spot. As we got there the sun started to pop out through the clouds and the sky cleared a bit which was great as it gave the images a bit more interest rather than just being grey.

I had a lovely afternoon with Benji and I am super happy with the images I was able to get with him. He was such a great model and was quite happy to sit and watch the world go past as I did my thing which was great and quite a difference from photographing Skylar who can’t sit still for 2 seconds!

Advertisements

Capturing the Action – HSBC National Downhill Series Round 4

So Round 4 of this years HSBC National Downhill Series was at Rhyd-Y-Felin which is just down the road from Revolution Bike Park. Ideal for me as I could just walk down the road and to get there.

The Rhyd-Y-Felin track (also known as the Bala Track) that was going to be raced was very similar to the Pearce race that was held there at the end of June so I sort of knew the track as I covered the Sunday race day. After walking 1 mile down the road to the race venue I found the media people signed in and collected a media Jersey that was all mine for the weekend.

Saturday was practice day and by the time I had walked down, got my jersey and then made my way up the hill it was on it’s way to 11 o’clock. I set up in my first spot and got shooting, I was just above the first fire road and the sun was out. This proved to be a great spot and I was here for about an hour and got some really awesome photos.

Ems.jpg
Ems from Rideio sending it in style

After this spot I ventured further up the hill a nice rooty/stummpy section. There were a few lines through these and one epic fly or fail route over one of the stumps in the middle of the track.

Joe
Joe Breeden riding for Intense Racing

After I spent some time in the stumps section I headed back down the hill a bit. There is quite a cool stump that almost everyone was sending it over. I had photographed there when I was shooting at the Pearce race so knew it would work.

Becci
Becci Skelton sending it

I was here for a while before making my way down into the woods section. I spotted a good place to photograph from on my way up the hill earlier in the day that I wanted to visit so headed there for a bit.

Gazzy B
Eyes on the prize – Gareth Brewin nailing the wood section at Rhyd-Y-Felin

I had to leave about 4 so I could walk back to Rev’s and get my lift home with Tim. This proved a good time to leave and it rained quite heavily afterwards!

Day 2 – Race Day

So on to day 2. It rained during the night, not a little bit of rain, A LOT of rain. On my walk down to the track on Sunday I bumped into George and Richard of Making up the Numbers Race Team and they were plastered in mud, head to toe. George said that it was carnage in the field and he was right. The field is the first part of the track you get to see and its a steep grass slope out of the woods. When I passed it looked to be a 90% fail rate, literally everyone was sliding off this way and that.

Wipe out
Wales is natures slip and slide!

I headed up the track to the first fire road as I had a spot in mind from the day before. I set up on the fire road and shot up at the stump jump, it also had a well placed tree that I could shelter under!

9163
Rider 335 sending it in the slop

I stayed in the same place for the end of the practice runs and then headed up the hill for seeding. It had got much brighter and the track seemed to be drying out much to the riders delight.

I headed to my spot in the stumps from the day before but had a different angle on it as there were less people around. I was shooting further up the track and getting some nice results.

Danny.jpg
Local shredder Danny Batemen negotiating his way through the mud and roots

During seeding the heavens opened and it smashed it down, proper welsh sideways rain! Fortunately I had brought my new umbrella with me yay! (I have upgraded my umbrella on a stick to a full on fishing umbrella!) with myself and my gear safely stowed away I was joined by one of the younger riders who was checking the track out after his seeding run – its a big umbrella!

Meg
Meg Whyte taking on the track in the downpour!

I moved up the hill to the highest point media was allowed to go to. I set up all my gear and just as the race runs had got started there was an accident on the track. The lad that had fallen off had dislocated his shoulder and we would have to wait for an ambulance to get him and the first aiders to be back in position before racing could continue. The track was closed for an hour and a half! This meant that I didn’t get to see any race runs as I had to get back to Revs for 4.30 and it was now 3.45pm.

I did managed to capture some images of the elite men and women winners from their seeding runs.

In the elite women National Champion Katy Curd won with a 3:51.891

Katy Curd.jpg
Katy Curd taking the win in the Elite Women

In the elite men local rider Joe Breeden won with a blazing time of  2:57.110, Joe also got the fastest time of the day by 5.2 seconds!

Joe 2
Local legend Joe Breeden taking the win in elite men

I had an absolutely amazing time at Rhyd-Y-Felin despite the rain and that I didn’t get to see any actual race runs!

Using flash when shooting sports

Just wanted to go into why I sometimes use a flash when I am photographing mountain bikers.

So as some of you may know there are many many trees at Revolution Bike Park – it being a wood and all! This is great for beautiful back drops but it does somewhat reduce the amount of light that gets to the tracks. The photos can be left looking a bit flat with the camera settings required to capture the fast action so I sometimes us a flash gun off camera to fill in some of the shadows and create a more dynamic image.

I place the flash gun so it is off to the side of the track and will not flash straight into the riders faces and then can change the settings in camera to add or lessen the light from the flash. I use a Sigma EF630 which is capable of High Speed Sync (HSS) so I am able to use the fast shutter speeds to keep the riders frozen as well as adding in some extra light.

Flash BlogThe 2 images above show the same rider on the same section of track (taken about 20-30 minuets apart). As you can see on the image on the right the rider stands out more than in the image on the left.

 

So that is why I use a flash when photographing some of the action 🙂

Winter Is Here

So for those of you that are out side of the UK, winter here is usually pretty poop with the norm being constant grey overcast rainy days. However Storm Caroline hit the UK on Thursday and brought with her strong winds on Thursday night but then also quite a large amount of snow! So Friday there wasn’t too much when I woke up but it hit hard Friday night – this meant the bike park was going to be closed Saturday.

I had been constantly checking my weather app (I highly recommend weather underground, its so accurate!) on my phone and the forecast for Saturday morning was a bit of cloud but mostly clear – result! My plan was to get up early and photograph the sunrise from the Lonely Tree.

I got up just before 7 am and put on a lot of layers (it was saying the temperature was going to be -1°C but with the wind it would be a bit colder – I know -1 isn’t that cold in the grand scheme of things but I’m soft! hahahah) and donned my head torch as it was still dark outside and headed off up the hill. (Skylar didn’t come as it was a) way too early for her to drag herself out of bed – she likes a lay in! and b) she is worse than me in the cold and i think she would have turned into a puppy shaped ice-cube!). It was an interesting walk to the Lonely Tree as it is rather steep! Fortunately I didn’t slide all the way down and was taking my first photo at 7:40 am in the blue hour just before the sunrise.

Blue Hour Panoramic

It was amazing up there, like a scene from Narnia! And best of all I had it all to myself!!!!

I wondered around a bit looking for a few different compositions while the sun started to rise and the golden hour began.

I took a few photos for panoramic stitching as well as bracketing some exposures for an HDR effect so I could capture the whole range of highlights and shadows.

As the sun started to rise I found another spot to shoot from (I did manage to walk into a snow drift at that point which was almost a deep as my welly boots are tall!!)

Sunrise

I had an awesome time taking my photos and I think I captured some of my best ever photos today.

Panning for blur

So I have been wanting to learn how to add the effect of speed and movement into action photography for a while and wasn’t 100% sure the best way to do this, fortunately I brought a camera magazine last week and there was an article all about capturing different types of movement woo!

My partner owns a mountain bike park and I am one of the uplift drivers so I have the perfect opportunity to try out what I had learnt. Basically a slower shutter speed and then pan the camera either on a tri/monopod or handheld, I went with the latter option. I finished first on the uplift so was able to grab the camera and get some shots of the people left riding.

I use aperture priority mode when shooting so set this to f8 and an ISO of 100 to decrease my shutter speed, then all I needed to do was wait for the riders to zoom past me at my chosen spot. This was on one of the big berms at the bottom of the hill. I got some good shots and it was great to practise a new technique.

I used continuous high burst mode so I could capture multiple exposures of each of the riders and it allowed me to pan more! The best images were shot at about 1/250 of a second.

After a while Skylar and I decided it was too hot so we went to the stream so she could cool off! All in all a great weekend.

Scotland 2017

So I am just back from our annual trip to Scotland (we’ve been 3 years running, sure it can be classed as annual now). We drove up and stayed at our usual spot on the Argyle coast, it took all day to drive up and we arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset. It’s a great spot for this as you can watch from the end of the damaged pier.

DSC_9038

The next day the weather was AMAZING! I got up before Tim and Skylar and I walked along the shore line of the loch. I brought a new filter for my kit, a Formatt Hitech Firecrest 10 Stop ND filter. I am so glad I invested in this as it doesn’t produce any colour cast and is just totally epic for long exposure shots.

I was out for a while and on the stroll back to the car the clouds were getting really moody and stormy looking and I managed to get some shots of Skylar looking majestic.

The sun  came out and again Skylar was my model looking beautiful (totally not bias at all…not even a little…)

We then decided to walk to the pub, this brought into play my inability to calculate how far anything is away. (It was Tim’s suggestion but I agreed) For some reason I had in my head it was just over a mile away and off we went. On the way we stopped so I could photograph a partially sunken boat. I took a couple shots here with the circle polarising filter and with the ND filter so I could capture a long exposure. It was sooooo windy I had the tripod set as low as possible and eventually got one I wanted. We did finally get to the pub, where we could use the Google how far we actually walked, it was 3.8 miles! Needless to say we ate loads so we could face the walk back to the car!

DSC_9240

The next day or so I took some more landscape photos which I am really proud of.

we then headed further north to Fort William where we had a trade stand at the second stage in the downhill mountain bike world cup. We did manage to get out of the stand on the Sunday to watch a bit of the racing which was awesome as I got to test my photography skills on some of the riders.

After the race we packed up and started heading back home.

Overall I am really happy with my photos and how much my skills are growing. Still need a bit more practice on the mountain bikes but I am looking forward to it.

 

 

 

Pawtraits

So as the title suggests this post is all about photographing our four legged friends. As it is spring time all the beautiful flowers are coming out, in particular my favorite flower the bluebell. I really love these beautiful flowers so the aim was to find a lot of them and try and get some snaps of the dogs in them.

It took a little walking around to find a patch big enough for what I wanted but I finally found some. Then it was a case of carefully walking through and around them to get  my photos. I went a couple times with Skylar to get the photos below.

I then borrowed a friends dog in a different location to get some portraits of him. It was great to work with another dog, especially one as relaxed as Alfie. Skylar has to do a lot of running before she stays still for an length of time – hence the tongue in all her photos!

For all of these photos I used my 80-200mm f2.8 lens. I love this lens so much, it gives such a beautiful blurred background and is pin sharp (when I get my focusing right!).

Rhiwargor Waterfall, Lake Vyrnwy

So as you may have read from my last blog I was supposed to be going here on the Bank Holiday Monday but had some car related issues. The car needs a new engine and is waiting to be fixed so in the meantime we have a higher car. I had Saturday off work so decided I would make attempt 2 at going to the waterfall!  After layering the hire car in towels to protect it from Skylar’s hair we were off. I got to the car park for the Rhiwargor Waterfall trail just after 10 am and there was no one else there – brilliant!!

We started off on our walk to the waterfall, it is such a nice walk to do and I really enjoy taking Skylar on this one. She is a bit funny about getting into water and will only go in if she can walk in and will never jump in (which is actually quite handy!). So she had a fun time on our walk up.

Once we got to the waterfall I set out climbing up to get some nice shots of it at all the different stages. I have never walked up it before, it is such a beautiful waterfall, and each stage looks totally different from the last. I don’t have any filters for my camera yet so had to make do with shorter 1/4 second exposures as it was so bright. I am quite happy with the results I got and am ordering filters asap! I also found a really helpful guide on long exposure shooting without filters, so I can practice that in the meantime.

DSC_7624
Us at the top!

On our way back Skylar had a fun time chasing birds and doing some more swimming in the stream. It was such a beautiful day, we were out for just over 2 hours and she slept most the afternoon! I will defiantly be going back here as soon as I can to practice what I have learnt.