Some Days…

View looking towards Old John at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.
View looking towards Old John at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.

… Just don’t go according to plan.

I headed out to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire on Monday afternoon. It had been too long since I’d visited and I decided to take my tripod and have a stab at a panorama and maybe some focus stacked landscape shots.

It was a Monday afternoon in the summer holidays so I was expecting the place to be busy. And it was. The overflow car parks were in operation but I managed to get a spot quite near the entrance gate on the Newtown Linford car park. However, with a place this size (850 acres) I normally manage to find some isolation no matter how busy it is. The main tip here is just to set off away from the tarmac road which leads through the park to avoid the thronging crowds. So that’s what I did.

I was lugging way too much kit around with me. With my camera bag, tripod and big water bottle it came to over 10KG. I’ve written before about how liberated I feel when I shoot light. This was the opposite experience. Added to the weight I had the inconvenience of not having a way to strap my tripod to my camera bag so I was hand carrying that everywhere. I ended up with a rather sore thumb from the rubbing of the tripod leg I was gripping.

I’ve been watching way too many landscape photography vlogs on YouTube so I set out with that kind of shooting in mind. Slow, deliberate, planned. I had a composition in mind, something shot from the next hill to the east of the Old John tower, looking back at the landmark and using some of the rocky outcrops as a foreground.

(A few of the vlog channels I’ve been enjoying lately just in the order they appear in my subscription list : Thomas Heaton, Ian Worth, Henry Turner, Kim Grant

Camera setup to shoot at Beadgate Park, Leicestershire.
Camera ready to shoot at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire (snapped with my phone).

The photo at the top of this post was taken just a little further to the left of where I took the snap above. I shot it as a stitched panorama at the 24mm end of my 10-24mm zoom.

I think watching all those vlogs had me in a frame of mind to be experimental. Yes, I’d shot panoramas before going back to film days (3 or 4 frames of film to end up with one image was quite costly back then) but I also decided to try composing using the screen on the back of my camera rather than the viewfinder. I never normally do this but with my camera secured on a tripod then why not? It might help quite a bit when the camera is in a low position and looking through the viewfinder will mean getting into an uncomfortable position, yes? Well, because in bright light it can be difficult to see the image on the LCD screen, that’s why not. However, I stuck with it – I was having an afternoon of experimentation after all. And I can say right now, I’ll be going back to the viewfinder 99% of the time. 

So I shot my panorama and tried a few focus stacked images – focussing on the rock formation as my foreground and then on the hill in the background with a view to merging the exposures in Photoshop to have a sharp image from front to back. I’m not bothering to share the results here, suffice it to say that I wasn’t really happy with them.

The light was nothing special on Monday afternoon so after a while I decided to just sit on top of this hill for a while and take in the views. I’m a Leicestershire native and have been visiting Bradgate Park for longer than I can remember and yet, having felt that I’d explored the park thoroughly over the years, I realised that I’d never been up this particular hill before. So I sat there and vaped for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet and staring down towards Bradgate House where I could see all the crowds of people walking along the road like ants. 

On my way back to the car park I decided to head back down to that road near the ruins of the house, even though that meant picking my way through the crowds. I managed to nab a couple of reasonable (and obligatory) deer shots as I went and then spotted a family of swans near one of the waterfalls on the River Lin, momentarily invaded by a crow. These were shot hand held with my 100-400mm lens. 

The results from the afternoon were as follows :-

  • Worn out from lugging all that kit around. On the up side, probably good exercise!
  • A sore thumb from gripping that tripod all the time.
  • A sense of frustration at not really having achieved what I set out to do.
  • A determination to carry less equipment with me. Yes, having “everything” there can open up opportunities – but it can also remove them because you’re spending so long faffing about with bits of kit.
  • Realisation that I could have shot that panorama hand held and likely got  as good if not better results.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my perceived failures. It was great just to get out and see what I saw.


Pirates at The Donkey

Moody, high contrast black and white photo of Rob Jarram playing bass guitar for Lodestone Pirates at The Donkey, Leicester 28th July 2023.
Rob Jarram playing bass guitar for Lodestone Pirates at The Donkey, Leicester 28th July 2023.

On the evening of Friday 28th July 2023 I attended the debut gig of Lodestone Pirates at The Donkey on Welford Road, Leicester. I have been a friend of drummer David “Max” Millgate for more years than I care to remember so I wanted to be there to support him and his new band. I said I’d bring a camera along if that was ok with the band.

The band’s tag line on Facebook says “4 piece band covering everything from classic to modern rock… and doing it LOUDLY!!” and they’re not wrong. 

They played two 45 minute sets and they rocked! You wouldn’t have guessed that this was their first gig or that they’d only been together as a group of musicians for a few months.

I only took photos during the first set as by then I felt I had plenty to work with and I’m also conscious of getting in the way of other audience members and blocking people’s view.

Black and white photo of David Millgate twirling a drumstick.
David Millgate twirling a drumstick.

I was pleased to get the above photo of Dave giving it a twirl of the drumstick. I had been hanging around the side of the stage hoping to pick up a few photos of drumstick blur. I had to reduce my shutter speed to 1/15th to get this degree of blurring. I was leaning against a speaker stack but was shooting handheld with a 90mm lens at this point so I was grateful for the I.B.I.S provided by the Fuji X-H1. Dave’s hand is obscuring his face but at least I caught the moment.

As usual I was shooting in raw to give me maximum flexibility during post-processing. I did process a few as colour renditions but moody, high contrast black and white is my “thing” and tends to be what I have in mind whilst shooting.

I was fairly happy with my results. A couple more photos from the night can be found below.

Looking forward to future gigs from this four piece.

Black and white photo of Tom Webster on guitar and vocals.
Tom Webster on guitar and vocals.
Photo of Phil Jackson playing guitar for Lodestone Pirates.
Phil Jackson playing guitar for Lodestone Pirates.

A Bad Case of G.A.S.

It happens now and again. I get G.A.S. – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I already have too many camera bodies, I already have too many lenses and yet something appears on the market which I lust after.

Right now that something is the Fujifilm X-T5

But also right now, I am not working, haven’t been working for over a year. So, no, I really can’t just go out and treat myself. I am looking for work but meanwhile I’m living off my savings (which I’m fortunate to have some of) and I’m not claiming any state benefits so basically zero income (other than a very small amount of interest on those savings). No, I’m not in a position to scratch that itch.

So how do I quell the G.A.S.? Other than constantly reminding myself of the above inconvenient fact regarding lack of an income?

Well, in the case of the X-T5 Fuji have moved up to a 40 megapixel sensor. Only a few of my lenses would be capable of resolving the full resolution of that sensor. I’m sure I’d still get improved results from all of my lenses but it’s a niggle. Maybe only one for “pixel peepers” but try to understand, this is ammunition I’m using to convince myself I’m fine with my old 24 megapixel X-H1 (and older cameras too).

40 megapixels would be handy for producing large prints, A3 and bigger. But although I have an A3 capable printer then I’ve not actually printed anything larger than A4 with it as yet.

So, what is the best way of getting over G.A.S. for me? Simple : get out and shoot with the kit I already have! It all works beautifully and getting a new camera or a new lens will not make me a better photographer. I recently wrote about the pleasure I had in getting out with my X100T again. 16 megapixels, fixed 23mm prime lens – and a complete joy to shoot with.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Enjoying the cameras and lenses I already have and holding that G.A.S. in check, telling myself that when I have a job and a regular income again, then I can consider it.

Daisy at Leicester Botanic Gardens.
Daisy at Leicester Botanic Gardens. Fujifilm X-H1, 56mm @ f1.2.
Abstract sculpture by the fish pond at Leicester Botanic Gardens.
Abstract sculpture by the fish pond at Leicester Botanic Gardens. Fujifilm X-H1 35mm @ f1.4.
The Braunston-in-Rutland Goddess sculpture.
The Braunston-in-Rutland Goddess sculpture. Fujifilm X-H1, 35mm @ f8.
Light through a window at Canons Ashby.
Light through a window at Canons Ashby. Fujifilm X100T.
Rocking horse at Canon's Ashby.
Rocking horse at Canon’s Ashby. Fujifilm X100T.
Three panel window in room above the porch at St. Andrews Church, Stoke Dry, Rutland.
Three panel window in room above the porch at St. Andrews Church, Stoke Dry, Rutland. Fujifilm X-H1, 18mm @f2.8.
Alabaster table tomb at church of St. Andrew, Stoke Dry, Rutland.
Alabaster table tomb at church of St. Andrew, Stoke Dry, Rutland. Fujifilm X-H1, 18mm @f2.


A Return to “That Angel”

Angel statue at Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery.
The angel statue at Welford Road Cemetery that has been drawing me back for years. Fujifilm X-H1 and 56mm f1.2 .

It had been a few years since I was last at Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery, it would certainly have been before the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK. The place is only about 2 miles from home but I just hadn’t been feeling like visiting. I had suffered multiple bereavements in 2020 so maybe part of it was feeling like I’d had enough of funereal stuff for a while. But also it was a place I’d visited quite often anyway as it was close to home.

I headed down there on Saturday morning and took my Fujifilm X-H1 and the full kit of lenses because I just “grabbed the kit bag”. I ended up only using one lens (how often does that happen?), the 56mm f1.2 .

It’s a lens which is ideal for portrait photography. 56mm on the cropped X series sensors works out to 84mm equivalent field of view, great for some head and shoulders shots and the f1.2 aperture can produce some excellent subject separation.

I only stayed for a little while, stuck around my favourite area and only shot my favourite angel and one other. I need to go back later in the day when the sun will be shining more towards her face.

A few more shots from Saturday morning below. I wasn’t feeling too inspired to experiment, too much on my mind maybe. Everything processed using a mixture of Adobe Lightroom, DXO Photolab and DXO Nik Collection.

Angel statue at Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery, surrounded by wild flowers.
“That Angel” with surrounding wild flowers. These old cemeteries can be a haven for wildlife. Shot at f1.2 to increase background blur. I deliberately underexposed a bit, it was a very bright morning and I wanted a slightly darker feel – it helps to bring out the colours of the flowers too.
Angel statue at Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery.
I remember when she still had that finger, lost it a few years ago now.
Angel statue at Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery.
Angel statue at Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery.
Angel statue at Leicester's Welford Road Cemetery.
The only other statue I shot on Saturday. I was seeing the tree in the background as a dark halo around her head.

How Much?!?

Fujifilm X100 and X100T sitting side by side on a map.
Fujifilm X100 and X100T.

In my last post I wrote about my joy of shooting with my Fujifilm X100T. I have since then been out and about using it a bit more and appreciating this quirky little beast for what it is – a highly capable compact camera.

Earlier this evening I was just checking over some camera settings and noticed that there was a (minor) firmware update from 8 years ago which I hadn’t applied. Whilst noodling around online I thought I’d check out pricing for the current latest iteration of this camera, the X100V. Not that I’m in the market for a replacement, I was just curious.

WEX were showing the X100V at £1,349 which I believe is around the RRP, but out of stock. So I took a look on Amazon and very nearly choked on my tea when I saw it listed at £4,510. 

Amazon UK listing for X100V
Amazon UK listing for X100V

£4,510 for an X100V?

You could buy the medium format (Fuji are now calling it “large format”) Fuji GFX 100S for £4,799. Ok, you’d need to add a lens to that… but seriously?

Apparently the X100V has been trending on TikTok after somebody raved about it on that platform. Just goes to show what a powerful platform that is, not that I’d want to go near it. 

The X100V is a lovely little camera and it has a few features I would appreciate but you would have to have way more money than sense to pay £4,500 for one.

Come to that my X100T (two generations older) is also a lovely little camera and I’ll continue to shoot with it and enjoy it. Hopefully I’ll have more photos taken with it to share here soon.


X100T At Highfields Park

University of Nottingham Trent Building over Highfields Lake.
Clock tower of the Trent Building, University of Nottingham, viewed across Highfields Lake.

With a daughter studying at University of Nottingham I do often find myself visiting that city, often at short notice. Such an occasion occurred last Friday. I had recently had quite an extensive photo walk around this area lugging my full Fuji X kit with me. This time I just tucked my little X100T in my satchel for a less encumbered experience.

Tree sculpture by Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva at Highfields Park, Nottingham.
One of the two “golden trees” by Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva near Lakeside Arts at Highfields Park, Nottingham.

I’ve been a fan of the X100 series of cameras since the original model was released back in 2010. I still have my original X100 but I did “upgrade” to the X100T a few years later and I still use that model.

I love this little camera for several reasons. It has a fixed 35mm equivalent f2 lens. The viewfinder is unique to the X100 and XPro lines, a hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder, flick a lever on the front of the camera to switch between the two. There’s an integrated ND filter (which I didn’t use on this trip) and the fantastically quiet, very nearly silent, leaf shutter. There is also the option to use an electronic shutter which can be handy when shooting at f2 in bright conditions (as can that built in ND filter).

Small boats at the bank of Highfields Lake, Nottingham viewed through railings.
Boats waiting to be taken out on the lake viewed through the railings at f2.8 .

What I love most about it is the fact that it is compact and self contained. I can just sling it in a bag (or a coat pocket) and always have it with me. I have a wrist strap for this camera so when I’m out shooting with it I often have it constantly in my hand with my finger on the shutter release, ready to go.

Using this camera makes me shoot in a different way. I feel liberated. With any interchangeable lens camera there are all the options for lenses to consider. With the X100 series you have what you have and you shoot to try to take best  advantage of that. It simplifies the experience which I find refreshing.

Chinese lion sculpture viewed through the legs of a companion lion sculpture. Highfields Park, Nottingham.I remember back in 2012 I visited Rome with my family and I had the option of taking my Canon EOS kit but I decided to just take my X100 (the original model) and I thoroughly enjoyed my shooting experience. Of course, you can rule out any telephoto shots – no zooming in to statues up high on top of a roof etc. Having said that Fuji do have a couple of add on lenses for the X100, the TCL-X100 resulting in a moderate telephoto angle of view equivalent to 50mm and the WCL-X100 which results in a wider angle, 28mm equivalent. I don’t own either of these conversion lenses, they simply screw into the filter thread of the fixed lens so they’re simple to add but for me it would take me back towards shooting with one of my system cameras – adding more options and more kit to carry about.

I’ve resolved to get out and about more with my X100T. It is ideal for street / city photography and also for taking along on a hike in the countryside. The 35mm angle of view is pretty good for both environments. Hopefully I’ll take it along on a photo walk around Leicester soon.

Small boats tied up ready for use at the bank of Highfields Lake, Nottingham.
Boats tied up ready to be taken out on the lake, Highfields Park, Nottingham.
Life jackets tied on to railings by the side of Highfields Lake, Nottingham.
Life jackets draped on the railings ready for use on the lake. Highfields Park, Nottingham.

Reaching For The Skies

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

About 18 months ago or so I bought myself a small drone, the DJI Mini 2. I thought it would be cool to get a new perspective on the world and be able to take some rather different photographs.

I’ve not used it much since I bought it so I decided to break it out and try to get more familiar with it this weekend.

I headed out to the Leicestershire village of Hallaton where I know there are the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

I had actually flown the drone here before in the early days of my ownership but I was really focussed on getting to grips with the basics of flying the thing and although I took some photos and video I wasn’t really concentrating on that at the time.

I need to practice way more. I want to learn to fly the thing smoothly so that I can capture better looking video. Taking stills is easy by comparison. Just fly the thing up there, point it towards your chosen subject and pick your moment. Video is a whole different ball game. Flying the drone around your subject without jerky movements whilst keeping your subject nicely framed – yeah, I need a lot more practice at that. DJI do help by adding a few programmed manoeuvres such as circling a subject or spiraling out from it but I want to learn to have that level of control manually.

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

The three photos above were taken on Saturday 22nd April 2023 at heights of between around 60 and 100 meters above local ground level. I shoot in both raw and jpg and then process the raw files in Lightroom (and whatever other bits of processing software I might feel like using at the time) as normal.

The video… Yeah, the video… Well, I managed to produce something but I do have a fairly steep learning curve here. Yes, I need to learn to fly the drone with more finesse but I also have never really done much video work of any kind. And it shows. But hey, I’m learning.

You can view the video on YouTube here.

Shooting Musicians – Again

Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.

On Friday 24th March 2023 I got back to something I have long enjoyed doing – taking photographs of musicians playing live at small local venues.

This was the first time I’d taken my camera to a gig since pre-covid days and it felt really good to get back to it. I headed down to The Soundhouse in Leicester where a variety of artists were performing that night (auditions for Leicester’s Western Park Festival this summer) . 

It was also the first ever time I’d visited The Soundhouse. I’ve been following the Leicester music scene for around 35 years so this seemed something of an omission. I’ve haunted The Musician and The Donkey frequently and go back to the days of The Royal Mail and the folk club upstairs at The Spread Eagle. I really enjoyed my visit to Soundhouse and I’m looking forward to returning.  

Ro Jordon playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Ro Jordon playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


I shot using my Fuji X-H1 and a variety of lenses. The 100-400mm to get right in close, the 90mm f2 for slightly wider shots (and I enjoyed using this lens in combination with the IBIS provided by the X-H1)  the 35mm f2 for something a bit wider and even the 10-24mm for much wider “whole stage” shots.

I love contrasty lighting so venues which employ spotlights make me smile. And at The Soundhouse they really put on an interesting light show for the size of the venue.

Daz Lynch playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Daz Lynch playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Why do I enjoy this so much? Many reasons. Of course, I love to hear the music and on an evening like this you get to hear a variety of styles. As I said, I like contrasty lighting. Not all venues employ a lighting rig like the one at The Soundhouse of course but when they do I like to take advantage of it. I’m also hopeless at posing people. When a musician gets up on stage they take care of posing themselves and then produce a variety of expressions invoking a range of emotions. Of course we no longer have smoke filled basement jazz clubs, but that’s the kind of venue I love to shoot. We still have the jazz clubs, just not the smoke filled ones since the indoor smoking ban came into effect in the UK in 2007.

I’m hoping I’ll be doing more of this soon. For personal reasons I’ve been absent from many things which I enjoy so much and it feels great to finally be getting back to some of it. I’ve added this post to several blog categories including “projects” as I see shooting live music to be an ongoing, life-long project.

More photos from the evening below. I ended up taking over 700 shots so just a small selection!

Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Hugh McManners playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Ro Jordon playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Ro Jordon playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Daz Lynch playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Daz Lynch playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Paul, Olive & Sam of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Paul, Olive & Sam of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Olive of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Olive of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Paul of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Paul of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Olive & Sam of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.
Olive & Sam of Bellatones playing at The Soundhouse, Leicester. 24th March 2023.


Calke Abbey

Rocking Horse, dark and contrasty.
Rocking horse at Calke Abbey.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. Despite having lived just 30 miles away all of my life this was my first ever visit. I was inspired to visit by having seen photos taken there by a friend some years ago and the knowledge that the place had been “preserved” in the rather run down and shabby state that it was in rather than being renovated.

I took my entire bag of Fuji lenses and a couple of bodies, my X-H1 and my X-Pro2. As it turned out I used my 90mm f2 on my X-H1 and my 35mm f1.4 on the X-Pro2 for the entire duration. As they don’t like large bags in the place then I’ll know better what kit to take next time and leave the Think Tank Retrospective 20 camera bag at home.

I loved the lighting conditions inside the house and on this visit that’s all I did, explore the house. There are hundreds of acres of grounds and a church and heaven knows what else to explore and I’m sure I’ll be back regularly to seek out new photographic inspiration. 

The rocking horse shown above was in a room that was used as a schoolroom. I was loving the way the sunlight was pouring through the window to the right and creating the kind of localised contrasty lighting I enjoy so much. I did a quick B&W conversion using a somewhat modified “Film Noir” filter in Silver Efex. A couple of others shots from the visit are shown below.

Rocking Horse, dark and contrasty.
Rocking horse at Calke Abbey in black and white.


Lamp and books on a side table, dark and moody.
Lamp and books on a side table, Calke Abbey.
Light streaming in through an old window.
I’m always attracted to dilapidation and this old window certainly fitted that bill.


Eurasian Blue Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit visiting my bird feeder.

For some years now I’ve been actively trying to encourage more wildlife into my garden. I recently bought a new bird feeder as the old one was rather too narrow for the feed mix I wanted to use. The feed would get stuck in the tube and not fall down to the feeding positions.

Having hung up the new feeder and seen birds start to get used to it being there I thought I’d try to nab some photos.

I set up my EOS 6D with my 70-300mm lens on a tripod in the garden and aimed it at the bird feeder. I’ve had a radio remote shutter release for some years now. It needed a little repair and fresh batteries before I could start using it again. The radio antenna needed a spot of soldering.

With the repaired radio remote shutter release I could have the camera out in the garden and sit myself in the kitchen, watching for feathery action through the window. This gave a double advantage. Firstly I wouldn’t be sat out near the camera scaring the birds away and secondly, I would be sat right by the radiator in the nice warm kitchen with a big mug of tea and a vape. An important consideration during February in the UK.

Robin on bird feeder.
Robin perched on my bird feeder.

About 10 minutes after I’d been outside to set the camera up, birds started to visit the feeder again. I sat watching and firing the shutter whilst I drank my tea. Once the tea was all gone I went to retrieve the camera to see what I had.

The two shots I’m sharing here were the best from the session. The light wasn’t great so I had to crank the ISO up to 640 to get a reasonable shutter speed, enough to stop most of the blur from a moving small bird (they’re alarmingly fast critters).

I did feel that the sound of the shutter activating in “rapid fire” mode was scaring the birds away. I do have mirrorless cameras which I could set to use an electronic shutter so I’ll give that a go soon. In electronic shutter mode there would be no shutter noise. I did have to buy a wireless remote for my Fuji camera’s as the Fuji remote app for my phone, whilst pretty good, doesn’t support continuous shooting. Single shot only. The new Fuji compatible wireless remote has arrived so hopefully I can give that a try soon.

I’ll see what I can do with my X-Pro2 when I get a chance. It’s good to have a little project like this I can be working on in the back garden. In these days of “Lockdown 3” it’s one place I can go outdoors to as often as I like.

%d bloggers like this: