This winter has so far been pretty mild with only a few frosts to really speak about, that changed this week – albeit very briefly.
My birthday is in January and so far, having just started my 29th lap around the sun I can only recall maybe 1 time it actually snowed on my birthday. After having a relaxed morning and a few calls with my family it started to snow, I didn’t really think much of it until after about an hour when I noticed it had started settling and getting a bit heavier. After checking with the MetOffice I saw that the snow was only going last until the afternoon where it was going to go back to traditional UK winters and be grey an rainy. I donned a lot of clothes (I actually got to wear my snow trousers in the snow!), grabbed my camera gear and set off with Skylar in tow to the Lonely Tree.
There wasn’t too much around at the bottom of the hill and so before Skylar went too bananas I got her to sit in the ferns and got some portraits of her. (Best to do this first else her tongue features heavily in all her photos! 😀 )
By the time I got out of the wooded area and almost to the top there was a lot more snow around, I was however nice and warm and dry in all my onion layers.
Once at the top I switched to my 24mm F1.4 lens, I haven’t had it for long and wanted to put it through its paces to see what I can get from it. Fair to say I wasn’t disappointed.
We played around in the snow for quite a while and after Skylar got bored of me taking her photo we headed back home. By the time we had got home the snow had stopped and was already melting in the light rain and by about 4pm it had all gone (the best kind of snow, snow that doesn’t hang around and cause issues).
Photo Tip: In snowy conditions you will need to dial in some exposure compensation or the camera will under expose your image leaving it looking dull and grey. I personally use my camera in manual mode so I can set the exposure I want, just keep an eye on your histogram to make sure those highlights aren’t clipping.
That’s all for this post, I will be trying to post more to the blog as I feel I’ve neglected it a bit. See you next time.
So I recently got myself a pair of Cactus V6ii triggers to that I can use off camera flash more easily in HSS (High Speed Sync – basically I can use a faster shutter speed when using my flash) these triggers work on a radio frequency so I don’t have to be in line of sight of the triggers which is ideal for when I am photographing in woods or if I want the flash behind or to the side of me. I also got myself a Neewer softbox flash defuser.
I have followed a lot of amazing dog photographers on instagram and am really inspired by the results that they get when using off camera flash with a softbox and want to do some similar photographs myself.
I briefly tested the triggers out inside and over the weekend at the bike park but wanted to do a proper test of them paired with the softbox, so I set everything up and grabbed my ever willing model and went into the field behind my house to try things out properly.
The set up
My Sigma EF630 flash mounted on one of the Cactus triggers and in the softbox
Cactus V6ii HSS Trigger
Neewer softbox – I love this thing ❤
Travis providing the stability
Once I had set up in the field my beautiful puppy dawg joined me, we were out shooting just after 7pm which at the moment is in the golden hour just before the sun sets. Unfortunately there was a fair bit of cloud cover so the colours weren’t as vibrant as I had hoped but I am very happy with my results 🙂
I edited the RAW files in lightroom and then removed some road signs in Photoshop to clean the background up.
I am so happy with the images I got, they came out exactly as I hoped they would (which doesn’t usually happen). I am excited to get out and use this new gear for more photos and hopefully with some more models, now I’ve got the setup I want I am going to try and pursue dog photography a bit more as I love it so much. #dogsrule
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.
Looking cool in my jersey
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
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!
So the title of this post may be a little enthusiastic on my part but I had an awesome time and the company that sells these bikes even used the images on their Instagram page!
Anyway, at Revolution Bike Park they have a fleet of hire bikes provided by Madison Saracen. In March the new fleet of Saracen Myst Pro’s arrived and I jumped at the chance to photograph these for Rev’s social media and website.
Before shooting the bikes I read up online about how to position the bike for the best possible image. Depending on what you are looking for side on with the drivers side towards the camera is best so it shows off all the components, also you want the pedals to be flat.
I set off up the hill to the Ffar Side track as this has some nice table top jumps in the top section and has a bit more light than some of the other areas on the tracks. I set up the bike by leaning it on a stick to keep it upright (which I later removed in photoshop) I used an off camera flash to light the front of the bike (this reduced the reflections that I had without it).
I had an idea in my head for quite a while which lead me to purchase a load of smoke grenades in December. I got the Enola Gaye wire pull smoke grenades (usually used for paintball and airsoft so they are not dangerous to use). I knew what colour the bikes were going to be so got some yellow and orange smokes to compliment the colouring. You can purchase these smoke grenades online and they are quite cheap.
With the bike still set up I set the smokes off and started shooting. It was a tab more difficult than I thought, as I didn’t have a smoke grenade assistant I was having to move the smokes and take photos at the same time, fortunately the smokes last for 120 seconds and I had a few! Below are my favorite of the smokes.
Yellow smoke suited the bike the best
Bit of both
Orange didn’t look to shabby either
Once I had finished up the top of the hill/ran out of smoke grenades, I moved to the tips at the bottom of the hill for some more standard photographs. Using the same method as before I let the bike up with a stick and started shooting. I used an aperture of about f4 to really defocus the background and make the bike stand out.
With Steggy in the background, love that mountian
Great addition to any bike the Revo mud guard
Really happy with the results I got from this experiment and I will defiantly be getting more smoke grenades for other product/portrait photos. Also it is really cool to see my photos on websites other than my own 😀
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.
The 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 🙂
For Christmas Tim got me a studio starter kit with 4 lights, softboxes, modifiers and a backdrop. Its such a great starter kit and so one day when it was really quiet in the workshop I decided (much to Skylar’s disappointment) that I was going to test everything out 😀
I set up a white backdrop along with 2 of the lights which I fitted the softboxes to. I also took some props with me – 2 sets of fairy lights and a gorgeous throw that Tim’s mum got us for Christmas which actually really matches Skylar well! I also used my flash gun on camera and bounced the light off the ceiling for extra light.
I first set up with Skylar on the floor laying on the throw, though she didn’t like this much so I moved her chair in and covered that and she just went to sleep!
Once she was settled on her chair I played with multiple exposures in camera. I photographed the fairy lights out of focus on a black background first and then took my second shot of Skylar. This took a fair bit of trial and error in order to not cover her entire face with fairy lights! (I’ve started following Brandon Woelfel on instagram which inspired me to play around with the fairy lights)
I had a really good time playing with new techniques and using continuous lighting. Its great to just be able to move a light and see straight away the parts of the picture it will effect. Defiantly going to get a load more props to next time!
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.
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!!)
I had an awesome time taking my photos and I think I captured some of my best ever photos today.
WOW is been 2 months since I last did a blog post! Can’t believe where the time has gone its like winter now! Anywho a lot has happened in the last couple months. I have finally got a flashgun to play with woop, its awesome and I will do a proper post about it soon.
So enough of my babbling on, today I managed to accomplish something I have been trying to do for a while. Photographing an epic sunset with Skylar dawg lit up with the flash in the foreground. My day wasn’t going great, I had decided to take an unscheduled day off (I normally work 6 days a week so I was looking forward to it) The day started fine then took a downturn when I wanted to do something on my computer which led to more than 2 hours faffing around trying to get my headphones to work before giving up at walking Skylar who was by now really really ready to go for a walk.
I had planned that we would have a wonderful day in the sunshine (which was forecast but the usually grey Welsh autumn/winter weather was in full swing as usual) and I was going to take loads of photos of my besty Skylar. Anyway even with the overcast sky I took the camera and off we went to the lonely tree. The area near the bottom of the hill is quite wooded but also really dark due to the overcast sky’s so we carried on up the hill, as we walked up it was getting closer to golden hour and the clouds were breaking on right side of the valley YAY!!!
When we got to the top I got to work getting all my gear set up and ready for shooting, I did a load of test shots to make sure I had my flash set up properly and not too bright and my focus point right – que bag in place of Skylar who was having a fun time running around like a hooligan. Once I had the focus right It was photography time, Skylar had other ideas though and I forgot the treats so we ended up both being in the photo :-D. I set the camera to interval mode so I didn’t have to keep running between shots to press the trigger again. It worked well doing it like this as I had it set to 10 shots 5 seconds apart to make sure we were in position for at least a few of them!
Needless to say even though I didn’t get any of Skylar on her own this time I am very pleased with the images I got and know what to do next time.
So I got to photograph race day at round 4 of the Borderline Events Downhill Race at Revolution Bike Park this weekend.
Unfortunately the weather for Sunday’s race day was less than ideal! Literally rain all day, everything was so wet and muddy and the rain was relentless (in hindsight I probably should have swapped my work days and spent the nice sunny practice day on the hill instead of the minging rainy day and I would have been nice and dry in my workshop, oh well).
So the day started early and dressed head to toe in waterproofs I managed to get in the uplift with the marshals and was in position at my first shooting spot around 9am. My plan for the day was to stay in the woods as much as possible and work my way down the hill throughout the day. I started near the top of the hill was in the spruce trees which have great rain cover! And also a thick bed of old needles which was nice an comfy, though as I was so near the top I was also in the fog, but I think this worked out fine as it gave my photos a bit of a moody feel.
This section was so muddy and I got to see a lot of low speed crashes as people slid pass me. I felt so sorry for the racers as Saturday’s practice was pretty much perfect conditions, great weather and a dry fast running track.
Throughout the day I made my way done the track and got wetter and wetter as I went into the larch and less rain cover. I set up on a hip jump on Main Line when the race runs started and got some shots I’m quite happy with (given the conditions I was using a high ISO and slower shutter speed to get an image that wasn’t totally dark).
Just after 3pm when people were doing their second race run I decided to call it a day on the hill and work my way down in search of a hot drink. My new waterproof coat had got soaked though (really was not impressed by that) and even my camera bag was now soaked though to the inside! (and it was under a rain cover!!). I had spent 6 hours on the hill at that point also and needed some shelter!
All in all though I did have a fun day and learnt a lot about low light sports photography (totally buying a flash to help with that) and that I am totally not prepared for winter and need better waterproofing for myself and camera!
So since getting my Nikon D700 I have been wanting to go out and get some shots of the milky way. I have played with star shots before in the field at the back of the house but wasn’t able to find the right time or place for an epic milky way encounter.
I have been reading some magazines which mentioned the PhotoPills app and how great it was for planning sunsets, sunrises, milky way and star shots so thought I would have a look for it. On google play store it is about £10 and well worth it from the results I got. It took a lot of watching and replaying the tutorials to get my head around how it actually worked but I got there in the end.
In the middle of July I started planning my shot, I wanted to get a photo of the milky way at the top of the hill behind the house. On the app I had planned it all and wanted to double check I had actually done it right so took Skylar on a walk up to the spot I had chosen and using the AR function I could see that I had planned it right wooo!
All I had to do was wait until the new moon and a clear night! I had about a 1 week window to get the best results before the moon was too bright or high in the sky. I finally managed to get out on Monday 24th, I left the house about 10:30 in order to get set up and ready by 11pm. I did a few test shots and once I was happy with my settings got snapping away!
I stayed until 12 as I was starting to get cold (it was a bit windy up there which wasn’t helping) On the way back I saw a couple of badgers which was quite cool, and loads of bats under a bridge hunting.
Think this was my favorite shot of the night, it is a 6 image stack for noise reduction
Love this one also, it was taken later in the night so the milky way is clearer. (5 image stack)
This one is the last shot of the night and consists of 2 images stacked together
I processed my images in lightroom and photoshop on the Tuesday after work. I also got to use a technique I had been wanting to try of image stacking. I am very happy with my results and am definitely going to try and get out on the next new moon to get some more!
So a few things have happened since I last wrote a blog firstly I finally got a website set up! Woooo! Also I have been spending more time photographing at Revolution Bike Park rather than just driving the uplift.
So I wanted to get a website sorted out so I could sell my images to the riders who I photographed at the bike park. I did loads and loads of research as to which portfolio site to use and settled with Zenfolio (I did try a few others first but I found them difficult to set up how I wanted). It was quiet easy to set up, I set up an account on the 14 day free trial which was great as it had all the benefits of the package that I was looking at.
It took alllllllllll day to do but I am so happy with it 🙂
Eventually I want to do more dog photography and with this website I can upload client images to private galleries where the best can be chosen for download and also printed (need to look a bit more into the third party printers I can choose from). Also I would like to offer landscape prints and maybe greetings cards.
Anywhoo that’s it for now, if you want to check the website out for yourself then click here ——> www.lifeinraw.photos
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.
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.
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!
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.
Matt Walker winner of the Junior Men’s
Elite Women’s winner Tracey Hannah of Australia
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.
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!).
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.
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.