It has been nearly three years since my last update. There are lots of reasons for my absence which I won’t go into here. However, I’m back to wanting to be creative again and share my experiences so here I am.
Of course, I’ve still been taking photographs in the time since I last posted, it’s an important part of who I am. The Covid pandemic has certainly reduced my photographic opportunities over the last year but my camera has been with me on the all too rare occasions I’ve been able to get out. I’ve barely been outside of Leicestershire for a year now. There was one day trip to the Peak District in the summer of 2020, a short walk along the path up Kinder Scout next to the Grinds Brook with my daughter. I look forward to when such things are possible once again.
The photo I’ve selected for this post was shot on my last “proper” walkabout before England entered “Lockdown 3” at the start of January 2021. My daughter and I had been taking short trips into the local countryside when Covid restrictions permitted. One of our favourite places to visit is Medbourne in the south-eastern part of the county. It’s a lovely village with a stream running through it, a medieval packhorse bridge and a ford crossing the stream near the church. On this particular day, we spotted a robin hopping from bush to bird feeder and back again in a garden area down near The Nevill Arms pub.
Shot using my Canon 6D and 70-300ml lens.
I’ll be back with another post describing a project I have been able to work on from home, hopefully in the next few days.
This morning the sun was shining and as I ate my breakfast it looked like a great day to get out and take some photos. However I was suffering from my usual problem – not knowing where to go.
I had just about made up my mind to head into town and wander around aimlessly for a while when I got an SMS from my sister and during the exchange of messages she suggested I head out to Old John, a very well known Leicestershire landmark situated in Bradgate Park.
By the time I actually got in the car the clouds had blanketed just about all of the sky. But this was fine, I had my tripod and my 10 stop ND filter with me (Cokin Nuances) so I decided during the drive that I would try taking some long exposures.
As I set up my tripod for the first time I was soon regretting not having thought to bring gloves with me. It wasn’t long before I was fumbling with the controls of the camera and shoving my hands in my pockets did little to remedy this.
I stayed around the vicinity of the Old John tower for a couple of hours getting steadily more refrigerated before deciding that I’d done enough and that what I really needed was a huge mug of tea.
As I sat processing my photos in Lightroom and sipping my tea at home, I discovered that the sensors of both my X-Pro2 and my XT-1 really could do with a very thorough clean. Dust spots show up way more at smaller apertures and I tend to use smaller apertures when I’m shooting long exposures.
It’s maybe the one downside of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras that I can think of – more sensor dust. There’s no mirror so there’s nothing to stop dust falling right onto your sensor. I had given both bodies a good dust out using a rocket blower before heading out. Maybe it’s time I dug out the swabs I bought but have never used?
This is the reason I have used my X100T for most of my Fujifilm based long exposure work in the past. The X100 range are mirrorless but the lens is fixed so there’s no lens swapping opportunity for dust to get inside. But sometimes you just want to shoot some long exposures at different focal lengths so it’s time to suck up the dust.
If you like your photos nice and sharp and don’t like blur or softness then this might possibly not be the blog post for you. You have been warned.
With World Pinhole Photography Day approaching and seeing as how my previous post was all about feeling like I was stuck in a rut, I thought it might be an idea to make a pinhole to use with my Fuji bodies. It would be fun to do the make and having a pinhole to shoot with would offer some extra creative possibilities. I’d never made one before so it would be a fun learning experience too.
As I predominantly shoot using Fuji X Series cameras these days I decided to make the pinhole to fit my Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.
A pinhole is just that – a small hole through which the light enters the camera. There’s no means to adjust the focus and the aperture is determined simply by how large or small you make the pinhole. It’s very primitive stuff but there’s often a great satisfaction to using simple methods.
I decided I would make my pinhole using a spare body cap. I didn’t want to mess up an original Fuji supplied cap so I bought a cheap third party one from Amazon. It came as a set of body cap and rear lens cap for £3.99 including delivery.
I was expecting to have to wait a few more days for delivery but the caps arrived way sooner than expected on Saturday morning (today as I write) meaning I had the free time to get on with this little project.
The first thing I did was to drink some beer!
This is usually a good idea anyway of course but I needed some metal that would be easy to work. The aluminium of a drinks can would be ideal. I will grudgingly admit that you can scrape by with using a soft drink can but the best results will always be obtained from a beer can… 😉
Having drank my beer and rinsed out the can I used a can opener to take off the top end and then a pair of scissors were employed to snip out a panel from the can. Looking at the interior space of my specially acquired body cap I thought a roughly 2cm square of the metal would do the trick.
The next thing I needed to do was to find the centre of the body cap as I would need to drill a hole through it. I marked out three chords over the circle and then drawing lines at 90 degrees from the middle of each I marked the centre of the body cap. You may want to look up a proper explanation of this method of finding the centre of a circle if you want to have a go at this yourself. I don’t think I did a very good job of it.
I used a 6mm drill bit and it was handy to have one with a point on it like this as I could use that to poke a small centre point hole before I actually drilled the main hole. Once the hole was made I used some 600 grit “wet and dry” paper to smooth the edges of the hole leaving something looking like this :-
The next task was to make the actual pinhole through the square of aluminium taken from the beer can. I held a needle using a pair of pliers and pushed down through the metal. I had read that it’s best not to poke a hole right the way through but just push down enough to make a dimple and then sand the dimple down to form the actual hole. I guess I pushed down too hard and made an actual hole. Oh well, nothing about pinholes is really an exact science so I decided to go with it. I then used the 600 grit wet and dry paper again to sand down both sides of the aluminium. Once I was satisfied it was all smooth I washed it under the tap and then used some rubbing alcohol to make sure that everything was really clean.
Next I used some gaffer tape to secure the aluminium within the body cap, ensuring that the pinhole was positioned at the centre of the larger hole in the body cap. The end result is shown below :-
I might want to paint that little bit of uncovered aluminium with some black paint to stop light bouncing around too much but this will do for now. Pinholes are all about serendipity so a bit of bouncing light doesn’t bother me too much. The pinhole is shown mounted on my X-T1 at the top of this post.
Having spent maybe 45 minutes to an hour making the pinhole this afternoon I wanted to pop out and try shooting with it. I took my tripod as the pinhole creates really quite a small aperture and I was sure that the end results would be blurry enough without adding camera shake to the equation. I was right on that score. The photos I took were quite a bit softer than I expected. I think maybe I need to try to make a smaller hole. Buy hey, this is all part of the fun and if I want to put a different pinhole into the body cap then it won’t be too difficult as it’s only taped into place.
I decided to go with the flow and edited this photo in Analog Efex to add some “distressing” – dust, dirt and a wet-plate look. When I feel like having another go I’ll see if I can make a smaller pinhole.
Edit : Evening of Sunday 19th March.
I just had to try creating another pinhole. With the body cap already prepared it took much less time. All I had to do was cut some more aluminium, make the hole, sand it down, clean it and stick it in place. I took a quick test shot of the kitchen table using the new hole and it appears to be sharper. I won’t really be able to tell properly until I get out and shoot somewhere with it.
I was born and have always lived in the same house in the suburban sprawl which lies between the “village” of Wigston Magna and the city boundary of Leicester. Despite having quite a rich history Wigston is perhaps not the most photogenic of places. Sadly many of its more interesting and attractive buildings were lost to the town planners of the 1960s and 1970s. However at the heart of Wigston are still some of the lanes which people of the village have used since medieval days.
I don’t often venture out with my camera so close to home (something I will talk more about at the end of this post) but today I decided to walk the old lanes and alleys of Wigston Magna with my Fujifilm X100T. At this time of year the sun never really gets very far above the horizon here so I had some extreme lighting to contend with but I think it was worth an hour or so of my Saturday and it was good to get out in the sun at all.
It is often the case, with photography as with other disciplines, that we overlook the places closest to us. They seem less interesting, less exotic than far-flung locations. In my case my home town of Wigston is rather unlovely and yet there are still photographic opportunities if I go out and find them. But it’s not just a case of overlooking what is closest to me. As I found today and on previous occasions when I have shot so close to home I seem to feel more self-conscious and conspicuous when I’m within a short stroll of home. I don’t think it’s because I feel I might meet somebody I know, that would actually be quite a nice thing to happen. It’s not that everyone knows everybody else in a town of this size either, Wigston has a population of over 30,000 so I’m as much of a stranger to most of them as I would be anywhere else. Maybe in my case it’s because the place where I live just isn’t really all that photogenic so I feel that people will be questioning my motives for walking around the place taking photographs. As I write I do feel that this latter reason maybe hits the nail on the head. If I was in some picturesque corner of The Cotswolds then people wouldn’t even stop to wonder what I might be pointing my lens at. As it was I took my rather unobtrusive Fujifilm X100T along for this walk and that was all but I still felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this.
Leicestershire is a “green and rolling” area of England. It doesn’t have the breathtaking splendour of Cumbria or Derbyshire and consequently the highest point in the county stands at just 912 feet (278 meters) above sea level (Bardon Hill). However 700 million years ago Leicestershire was volcanically active and to the north west of the city of Leicester traces of this Precambrian past are still in evidence around Charnwood Forest. It was in this area that the fossils known as Charnia were first discovered (and named after their location and discoverer). Before this discovery it was thought that the Precambrian era was devoid of a fossil record.
One part of this region which is easily accessible to the public is Beacon Hill, the second highest point in the county of Leicestershire at 814 feet (248 meters) above sea level. The hill features many outcroppings of Precambrian volcanic rock and was the site of a Bronze Age hill fort. Now it is a part of “Beacon Hill Country Park“. On a clear day there are excellent views all around so it’s a place I often visit when I need to “clear out the cobwebs”, take a walk up the hill, stand at the top, admire the views, take a few photos.
This is exactly what I set out to do on Sunday 20th March 2016. The weather was reasonable and I decided to head to Beacon Hill, primarily to shoot a panorama of the rocky outcrops at the summit. I wanted to see how Adobe’s new “boundary warp” feature in their panorama stitching module of Lightroom (and Photoshop) worked. The result is at the head of this post. I did also think I might shoot a time lapse, however the clouds were moving quite slowly and although I did take a 240 shot sequence it didn’t really amount to anything worth watching.
However I was glad to have a chance to get out there and shoot at all. There are two car parks at Beacon Hill, one just below the summit and one right at the bottom of the hill. I had planned to park up at the top car park, not out of laziness (honest!) but because as I approached along the road I could see the light was lovely over the summit area and I just wanted to get to work on it as soon as I could. However the top car park was fenced off and closed with a notice saying it would reopen the next day. So I continued along the road and down the hill to the lower car park – only to find a huge queue of cars backed up because the payment barrier wasn’t working. I drove on for a while trying to think where else I could head to as an alternative. By the time I’d turned around I’d decided I’d head to Bradgate Park which is not far away and would also offer some good panorama shooting scenery. But then as I passed the lower car park for Beacon Hill again on my way to Bradgate I noticed that the payment barrier was fixed and I could return to my original plan.
As the afternoon wore on the clouds became darker and more dramatic but there was still some pleasant early spring sunshine to enjoy so carried on snapping away. It was at this point that I happened to turn and face to the west and saw shafts of sunlight striking down out of the clouds right behind the trig point on the summit. There was a curious lighter patch in the clouds which seemed to fit the trig point so that it stood out in silhouette and I needed no further prompting.
I think I’d like to work on this image a bit more, bring out some more detail in the clouds, particularly the area to the right of the shot which just looks a bit too solid and heavy.
By now the afternoon was wearing on and the cloud cover was becoming more complete. There was still this dramatic patch of light bursting through the clouds to the west so before I headed back down the hill and home I tried to work a little more with that. I found another outcropping of rock a little way down from the summit which had one small tree clinging to the side of it and shot that in silhouette with the rays of sunlight bursting out behind.